Rye City Council candidates: Jason Mehler

Jason-MehlerAge: 48
Status: Challenger
Political affiliation: unaffiliated, running on Independence line
Party Endorsements: Independence
Occupation: realtor, Better Homes & Gardens Rand Realty, former accountant, auditor
Years in Rye: 13
Family: Wife Carin, a teacher at Osborn School in Rye, children Rachel, 11 and Emily, 9
Community involvement: Currently serving second three-year term on Rye Town Park Advisory Committee; c urrently on Rye Recreation Commission; soccer programs; volunteer for school district
One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “When I went to high school in New Rochelle, I played varsity football with current Rye City School District Athletic Director Robert Castagna.”

Q: Considering the financial scandal at Rye Golf Club uncovered last year, one of the City Council’s main priorities next year will be making sure nothing of the sort ever happens again. How has the city been doing so far on this in terms of increasing oversight at all levels?

A: With the recent re-election of the golf club commission chairman John Duffy and newly elected commission members Leon Sculti—who should be credited tremendously with bringing the RGC scandal to light—and Mack Cunningham, a former Rye City Council member, I fully support and believe the expanded commission will continue to implement new policies, procedures, internal controls and make the much-needed changes to make the club its very best.

Q: Considering City Manager Scott Pickup’s role in signing the majority of the golf club purchase orders alleged to be fraudulent, as well as his role in the Rye TV controversy, there has been much speculation on whether he is still the right person for the job. What steps should be taken when a new administration is elected to deal with the general loss of confidence of the city manager?

A: We need to review and evaluate the city manager’s performance in the past and see what can be done going forward to make the many necessary changes and improvements. It is extremely important that the new mayor and City Council members as of Jan. 1 work closely together with the city manager. I will be open to discussing all options with the new mayor and council members and discuss if they want to make any changes and just make improvements as well.

Q: With news that William Connors is resigning as police commissioner in January, how should the city go about hiring a new commissioner? Should it be handled before or after the election?

A: I would like to see an interim commissioner. I think the next mayor and council should be part of the discussion for all decisions made, including the selection of the search firm. At the last City Council meeting, Councilman [Joe] Sack suggested that we wait until the new council is in place before starting the search, and I am in full agreement with that. I believe that the new council should be part of the process to select the search firm that we use for picking a new commissioner. I believe we should put an interim commissioner in place and start looking for a search firm in January, which is against what the current council decided to do.

Q: How do you grade the current administration and why? Please give a letter grade.

A: The current council has achieved many successes but overall, I would suggest a grade of NI, needs improvement. They are trying their best, but it’s not getting it done.

Q: Do you feel the city is currently understaffed? Would you add personnel?

A: We need to look at all different departments, but I can tell you that the Rye Police Association is doing an excellent job, the fire department is doing an excellent job, the public works department is doing an excellent job, and the current city employees are outstanding. But we need to look and analyze all different options going forward.

Q: Do you support Sustainable Playland, Inc.’s plan for the county-owned amusement park?

A: There are a lot of aspects of the SPI plan that I’m in favor of, but there are a lot of aspects that still have not been answered. One of the concerns that I have is the 95,000-square foot field house. I still have a lot of unanswered questions about how that would impact the community, and I think we are still waiting for those questions to be answered. Residents are very concerned. They are in favor of open space, they are in favor of having the rides there, they are in favor of bringing in the children’s museum and restaurants and improving the ice arenas, and maybe putting in a water park, but I have not heard a lot of residents who are in favor of the field house.

Q: The train station has been an issue talked about for awhile. Is it time for the city to work with the MTA to refurbish Station Plaza?

A: We definitely need to fix the infrastructure of the train station and do what is necessary to make that a safer place for pedestrians and for the community. I’ve been campaigning at the train station. I’ve been over there every morning at 6 a.m. and we just need to keep up the infrastructure. We need to make sure it is safe for pedestrians, motorists; for all Rye residents.

Q: With numerous district attorney investigations centering on the city, what do you think is at the root of the problem and how should the city address it?

A: We need to set up additional controls so what happened at the Rye Golf Club doesn’t happen at any of the facilities that are collecting revenue and have expenses. We want to make sure that everything is looked at and the proper internal controls are put in place in all different departments.
The residents of Rye want to get answers to what’s going to happen with the manager that stole all the money, they want to know if that money will be reimbursed by the club’s insurance, and they want to make sure that going forward that we restore trust and make sure these types of things never happen again, and I believe that the new commission role will be very positive for this going forward.

Q: What will be your three most important priorities in office, if elected?

A: Keeping home values  high and property taxes low will be my main concern during my first term on the Rye City Council. That may sound like something that everybody wants to do, but it’s extremely important.
We need to try not to waste money and spend it wisely. Like what they have done in the past by making certain investments for the city that have not worked out, like when they bought the Lesters building in Rye for $6 million and were planning on selling it for $3 million. That may not have been the best investment, so we want to look at everything going forward and make sure that the community is involved in making those kinds of decisions.
Second, pedestrian safety; safe sidewalks and crosswalks with an emphasis on child safety issues.
Three, I support and have tremendous respect for the Rye Police Department and the Police Benevolent Association, fire department, public works employees and all Rye City employees. We must urge the city manager to negotiate a fair and amicable agreement with the Rye Police Association.

-Reporting by Liz Button