Rye City mayoral candidates: Joe Sack

Joe Sack

Photo/Ashley Helms

Photo/Ashley Helms

Age: 45

Political Affiliation: Republican nominee

Political experience: Two-term city councilman

party Endorsements: Independence and Conservative

Years lived in Rye: 12

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Regis High School in New York City; Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA; and Fordham Law School in New York City

Birthplace: Born in Boston, Mass., raised my whole life in Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County.

Family: Wife Kerri and three daughters who attend Rye schools

Community involvement: Rye Little League and Resurrection CYO basketball coach

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “I love Oreo cookies.”

Q: It is the city attorney’s legal opinion that, if approved by the Board of Legislators, the Sustainable Playland proposal, particularly as it relates to the construction of a 95,000 square foot fieldhouse, will come back through Rye’s land use boards. However, Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin cited case law that disputes that. How concerned should residents be that it’s too late for the city to act?

A: There have been concerns raised by the neighbors, all equally legitimate concerns, so you look at the people who are at this point in favor of the fieldhouse and you say you’re right, and then you hear these other people who are complaining about the fieldhouse. They’re both right. The role of the mayor and the City Council is to bring those people together and try to listen to both sides so we can work out the best solution. Once we decide what the best solution is, then we can go to the county and SPI and say: Look, this is what we’re trying to do. Can you work with us? I suppose it would be preferable to do it that way as opposed to bringing some sort of lawsuit, whatever the answer ends up being on whether we have final say on what can go there from a legal standpoint.

Q: Do you think Whitby Castle can become successful as a city-run facility? 

A: Unfortunately, we may never get the chance to find out. It’s really had its issues this year and it’s unfortunate too because the performance was so bad this year on the heels of all the other problems, we’re kind of in a position where, whether you want to or not, we’re going to have this RFP thing because it’s become the most viable path forward based on the current state of affairs. We’re sending out RFPs and we’re going to see what we get, but if we don’t get anything that is appealing to us for whatever reason, we’re still going to be in the position of having to run the place.

Q: Do you think the City Council’s performance suffered due to too much attention being devoted to the Rye Golf Club scandal?

A: I think that the council made a big mistake by not holding the city manager accountable for his actions with regard to the golf club. Not just the mismanagement issues, but also the issue where the city manager made significant mistakes at a time where we were searching for the truth. It’s now like when you have a broken arm, if the bone is not reset properly, it heals, but it heals in a deformed way. And that is the analogy that I would use here. Time is the healer of all wounds as they say, but this wound didn’t heal in the right way.

Q: In 2010, the administration decided to promote Scott Pickup to the city manager position and eliminate the assistant city manager position. In retrospect, do you think this was a mistake? 

A: I don’t like the context in which this issue has been raised by certain people, like it’s almost raised as if, well, if we only had an assistant city manager, none of this would have happened. Well, that’s a bunch of baloney. Having an assistant or not having an assistant has no bearing on whether you can tell the truth, and if you are so overworked to the point where you can’t do your job, then you need to tell somebody that. I actually would be open to a discussion about having an assistant city manager mainly, though, in the context of succession planning.

Q: You were supportive of promoting Scott Pickup to the city manager position from his assistant city manager role on two ocassions, when did your relationship with him begin to sour?

A: I had very high aspirations that Scott would be able to step into the job and do a terrific job. Unfortunately, I may have misjudged that situation. For some reason, the current city manager just seemed to favor some council members over others, and that’s just a recipe for disaster. So that was my experience early on, and I think it finally just came to a head with the Rye TV situation. So it is one thing to feel that certain council members are getting preferential treatment and access over others, but it is a completely different thing when you feel that you are actually not being told the truth.

Q: How would you grade the performance of the city manager since being promoted to the position in 2010? 

A: Poor. I have nothing against him personally, and I enjoy talking sports with him, and he has done some things well as far as getting out budgets that are relatively in shape, but all of that is just so overwhelmed by the other problems and issues that he has had that it is really hard to judge his performance in any other way. It is just so overshadows everything else that he may have done, and that is really unfortunate for him and for the city.

Q: Name one way in which you differ from each of your opponents.

A: With regard to Mr. Jovanovich, one thing I will not do is question that he wants what is best for Rye. I take that as a given, I think it is unfortunate that his attacks on me have actually questioned my good intentions and motives, and that’s too bad. One way we differ is in our approach; that I don’t do that and I would never do that to any of my colleagues. I think my approach is to get to the bottom of things and figure out what’s really happening and, if there is a problem, we can address it right away and move on so that it doesn’t linger. My opponent’s approach seems to be to not ask so many probing or critical questions and, when problems do arise, to try to gloss over them so that there isn’t any turbulence.

Q: Councilman Jovanovich has accused you of missing a significant amount of Rye Golf Club Commission meetings while City Council liaison beginning in 2008. How do you respond?

A: The things that the golf liaison had traditionally worked on, even before I got involved, were dealing with membership-type issues like, for instance, trying to work for a senior citizen discount. Quite frankly, if I did have access to [financial] information and I was made privy, I would have put a stop to it. And then, look what happened when I did start asking very pointed specific questions about RM Staffing: I got stonewalled. So what question would Mr. Jovanovich have had me ask?

Q: Recent reports show police enforcement statistics are significantly down from previous years. What is the reason for this?

A: They are about $100,000 lower than they were this time last year, and last year it was probably about $100,000 lower from the year before that. So it’s in a spiral, and that lack of productivity from the police force is probably connected to their lack of a contract. We need a different approach. We need to engage with the police. There’s an expression you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Q: Why did you vote against the $1.7 million infrastructure bond in November 2012? 

A: When we had the bond discussion, we had an almost endless laundry list of capital projects that we can do in Rye, all of them extremely worthy, that would cost millions and millions of dollars to do. We can’t do them all, and we certainly can’t do them all at once. And that was the conversation that I tried to walk the council through when the bond issue came up last year and, as a result of that conversation the initial bond proposal was scaled back with the explicit consent of Jovanovich and everyone else on the council. My point was that we had to prioritize. We either need to go out for a bond for everything that we really need right now, or we need to cut it back small enough where people aren’t going to be upset when we come back the next time for the next bond referendum.

Q: If elected, what would you do to address the train station? Where on your list of priorities would this be and what would be your course of action?

A: All of us on the Rye United Team are either currently or have been commuters or have commuters in our family, so we see the train station plaza all the time and it’s in disrepair. But it’s one thing to say I want to do something about it, but you have to set yourself up to do that. A couple of meetings ago we were talking about station plaza and the MTA and I turned to the mayor and said, “When was the last time you talked to the MTA?” And he kind of blinked and said, “I haven’t.” In four years he hasn’t spoken to the MTA.

Q: What would be your next step to address the issue of flooding? 

A: Back in March and April, we were talking about doing a peer review study to reconcile the two different reports and sets of numbers that we had from our consultant and the consensus of the council was to do that, but it hasn’t happened and I don’t know why. So I think that the current administration has kind of lost focus on that and I think the new administration is going to have to get that back on track. There needs to be more urgency.

-Reporting by Liz Button

This entry was posted in News, Vote 2013 on by .

About Liz Button

Liz Button is a staff reporter for Hometown Media Group’s The Rye Sound Shore Review. Previously, she covered Bedford and Mount Kisco for The Daily Voice, an Internet-based, hyperlocal publication. She’s also written for Patch in her hometown of Trumbull, Conn., as a freelance reporter and fill-in editor. Preceding her time there, she worked in publishing in New York City. She is a 2008 graduate of Bowdoin College with a degree in English. Reach Liz at 914-653-1000 x20 or liz@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @ryesoundshore.