City 2.0 Classes Confront Superstorm Godzilla
- Category: Around Town
- Published on 21 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
A March snowstorm that closed schools on Tuesday March 14 and caused a late start the following day, didn't undermine the simulation of a much bigger storm for the City 2.0 classes at Scarsdale High School on Wednesday March 15.
With a major storm, Godzilla, bearing down on New York City in only 48 hours, students divided into five groups for pre-storm planning, to define an action plan during the storm and to clean up following the big event. The five committees were formed to figure out how to confront a life-threatening event – and to consider many variables critical to saving lives, maintaining public order and allocating resources.
City 2.0 teachers Maggie Favretti and Fallon Plunkett assigned students to one of the following groups:
Safety and Security
Shelter and Recovery
Representatives from real-life public organizations such as the Coast Guard, Fire Department and Port Authority assisted the groups with their planning and analysis. Students were told to define priorities, identify obstacles, consider how to best use and distribute resources, manage transportation, communications and more.
In their first briefing, the committee managing utilities announced that power lines in low-lying areas would be disconnected. The shelter group discussed plans to evacuate 300,000 people to schools where they would need to be fed during the storm. How could they force people to leave who wanted to stay in their homes? If people chose to stay, would emergency personnel save them if they were at risk? How would they get medicine to those who needed it? What would happen to those who were too sick to be removed from hospitals in the storm target? Who would take the pets?
These were just a few of the many difficult decisions the students were asked to confront.
An hour into the simulation, SHS Social Studies Department Chair John Harris appeared to act as the mayor. After receiving a briefing from team representatives he conducted a press conference in order to provide the public with vital information. He put the students on the spot with some thorny questions – about evacuation routes, the 911 system and the capacity of the city's shelter system.
It was clear that the exercise caused the students to realize the complexity of the problems and the challenges of coordinating between agencies.
The teachers and professionals helped the students to recognize the myriad issues confronted by public officials during public emergencies.
Commenting on the success of the day, Margaret Favretti said, "Storm Godzilla was better than ever this year...strong student outcomes, positive response, and the Coast Guard guys totally enjoyed themselves."
Think About What Your Vote Means
- Category: Around Town
- Published on 17 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Letter from Evelyn Stock: I am writing to encourage the citizens of Scarsdale to vote for the candidates of the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party on March 21. My opinion is based on my experience serving for 25 years on the Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee and on 47 years of residency during which I have been an active community volunteer.
For those unfamiliar, the Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee was established in 1990 to respond to charges of unfair practices made by candidates against their opponents. The Committee is active in both the fall and spring for any election held in Westchester, except for US president and US Senator. What I have witnessed in neighboring communities (including communities similar to Scarsdale): false information, personal attacks, self-aggrandizement, charges and counter charges, anger and mistrust, continues from election to election and tears apart the fabric of the community has made me grateful for our non-partisan system which has provided overall good honest government.
Of course, not every Scarsdale trustee or mayor has been excellent. Mistakes have been made (including the reassessment of 2016). But mistakes can be corrected. That our non-partisan system continually enlists new people—people who generally have made significant community contributions-- also serves us well. (Trustees serve no more than two two-year terms; mayors only one two-year term.)
During my 47 years in Scarsdale, I have served on the Citizens' Non-Partisan Party caucus, the Citizens Nominating Committee, at least three times, the last just a few years ago. (I have also served on the School Board Nominating Committee.) The system has undergone many changes. For years, nominees did not appear before the Committee. They often did not even know they were being considered. The fact that one person selected declined the nomination led to having nominees approve their bios and agree to run if selected. Nominees are selected on the basis of their performance in various Village activities which includes their ability to relate to people. This is true for the Citizens' Non-Partisan candidates this year.
This is not to say, however, that the system is perfect. Fewer people are willing to run for the Nominating Committee. Reasons they give—no time, reluctance to run against friends and neighbors, unwillingness to lose. (The first time I ran, the district did not conform as it does now to the elementary school districts. My small section of Heathcote (yes, actually) met with those who lived in Quaker Ridge. I received four votes. Amazingly. I survived....and did better when I was redistricted to Heathcote.)
This last time on the CNC, very few people were willing to run for Trustee. Most said "another time, another year." For the system to work, this too must change, and we need everyone to be part of that change. In the past, several citizens who failed in their bid to run against the system continued their civic involvement and went on to be candidates of the CNC and served Scarsdale well. Everyone is welcome.
But the repairs to the non-partisan system come after March 21. First we must save it.
Evelyn Stock is a 47-year resident of Scarsdale and a former winner of the Scarsdale Bowl.
Your Letters: Ken Rilander and Jonathan Lewis Support the Non-Partisan Party Candidates
- Category: Around Town
- Published on 08 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
From Ken Rilander, former Trustee of Scarsdale Village:
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter because of my family's passion for the lifestyle offered by the Village of Scarsdale and the possible threat of relatively short term and inexperienced residents possibly winning a contested election without the skills to guide Village governance as successfully as it has been managed historically. We are on the eve of an important election on March 21st where our governance and lifestyle within our Village may change. Every vote in a contested election is important. It is critical that you read this letter, go to the polls and cast your vote.
Typically, in a regular Scarsdale election there is apathy because of our historical CNC pre-approved non-partisan selection of candidates. Therefore the number of votes cast is not important to the outcome of the election. In contested elections turnout is critical and where hundreds of votes is the norm in a Scarsdale election , thousands are expected to vote on March 21st. The only other instance in the past 35 years of a new party and full slate of candidates was when there was a single issue, the building of a bridge over the railroad tracks and the obstruction of a limited number of home views. This time it is decidedly different. This time a small group of residents who tried and failed in having their voices heard loud enough by the Citizens Nominating Committee members to secure their endorsement and a nomination.
The new political party, Scarsdale Voter Choice Party's (VCP) members' and candidates' and surrogates have posted claims of Village fiscal mismanagement which are simply unwarranted and untrue. These claim reflects the members' and candidates' lack of involvement in Village governance or any formal governance at all and their naive (academic like-non real world) understanding of municipal fiscal management. For most understanding our fiscal management process begins with participating in our lengthy and detailed Village budget process.
This process begins with a public notice of the lengthy and detailed budget proposal to the Village Manager, Mayor and Trustees on how each department runs fiscally and how cash needs changed over the past year. This proposal is made months before the budget is adopted allowing ample time for Village Board and public review. Full transparency (supported by public television broadcasts that are available on the Village website and offered free to the cable television operators) is provided during this lengthy process and is easily accessible by the public.
Our successful fiscal process (a model for many municipalities) and years of successful fiscal results are discussed in detail in the publicly available review of the Village's finances by Moody's, the major independent rating agency focusing on municipal debt. Applicants for a rating like the Village are required to pay a rating agency fee for its review. The Village engages only one agency, and is a sign of its credit strength and modest fiscal prudence to pay for a single and the most highly respected rating agency in municipal finance. Moody's regularly (since 1986) reward the Village (and its residents through lower borrowing costs) with the highly coveted and rarely received Aaa rating, which is particularly unique nationwide for a Village of our size. The reason the Village tax levy exceeds the NYS tax cap (albeit modestly) another of their poorly understood claims has more to do with array of quality services the Village provides its residents. This ranges from an active recreation program for children of all ages, a well attended community swimming pool which one can join at modest cost, summer camp for hundreds of children and a high quality library system that is the envy of other nearby communities. There are many more high quality Village services too numerous to mention. The Village could easily comply with the NYS tax cap, but we would live in a very different Village with fewer and/or lower quality services which most of us don't want. At the extreme this might cause some residents to leave and home values to fall as the Village loses its appeal to our traditional constituency.
Inexperienced VCP Candidates
The VCP again displayed its members' lack of experience and involvement in our system by flip-flopping positions on major issues when they found themselves out of step with the community. This occurred recently with their position on our approved highly innovative public/private partnership for the renovation of our public library. Months ago VCP candidates were highly critical and suggested the library renovation project should not proceed because of cost. Since the Village Board approved the plan and donations to the project have increased rapidly they realized their mistake in judgment diametrically switched their position to avoid their embarrassment of appearing to be out of touch with community sentiment during this election.
Highly Qualified Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party (SCNP) Candidates
I've intentionally kept the most important part of this letter last. The strength of the SCNP candidates. Their experience and demonstrated history of success in Village governance is the reason each and every resident of our Village should vote for all of these candidates.
I don't know of any candidate for Mayor in my tenure in the Village who has the skill, experience and a desire to commit time to a better Scarsdale than Dan Hochvert. I had the distinct pleasure of serving 3 years on the Village Board with Dan. We were lucky we had a great Board that had the objective of getting it done" right" every time. We accomplished a great deal. Among many other accomplishments our Board helped put the finishing touches on the most successful public/private partnership in Village history, the Christie Place parking garage and condominium development. Without any Village capital committed, it provides a significant regular annual cash flow to the Village through both parking permit revenue and property taxes. It also provides residents with highly desirable commuter parking (inside-warm and sheltered on the worst snowy and cold winter days-unique in Westchester) with close proximity to the train station. As a result applications for parking permits (the most expensive in our system) are oversubscribed and wait-listed annually. It also offers high quality condominiums for those who desire low maintenance in the downtown Village lifestyle.
Dan regularly stood out among a group of talented Trustees as a person who asked the best questions, wanted to listen the hardest to all regardless of their issue, researched each issue well beyond normal detail and looked for the "ideal" solution for all involved. He is not a lawyer, but can read and write with the best of them. On quantitative issues, Dan absorbed and processed information at among the quickest pace and anticipated multiple outcomes.
I currently have three generations of family members living in the Village. It is my hope that my grandchildren will have the same great experience my children did growing up in Scarsdale.
Help me deliver a better Scarsdale to my children, grandchildren and all future generations of Scarsdalians. More than any recent election every vote counts!
Please get out and vote for Dan and the SCNP slate on March 21st and assure all residents of the lifestyle they deserve!
Scarsdale Village Trustee 2005-09
Chair, Scarsdale Village Board Finance Committee 2007-08
Chair, Scarsdale Village Board Law Committee 2008-09
Scarsdale Fire Commissioner 2007-08
Scarsdale Police Commissioner 2008-09
Citizens Nominating Committee 2010-12
35 year resident
(From Jonathan Lewis: former member of the Scarsdale School Board)
Why I Support the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party
I will vote for Dan Hochvert for Mayor and the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party slate of candidates because I believe voting for them is in the best long-term interest of Scarsdale. The non-partisan process is fair, thoughtful, and is in the best tradition of New England town hall democracy. Candidates are chosen by our neighbors in a technocratic manner based on their skills and ability to serve us. Our system does not pit neighbor against neighbor, or promote mud slinging, or exaggeration (so common in politics), but asks the best in our community to serve in the common interest. Voting for the Citizens' Non-Partisan Party is a vote for these values.
In our non-partisan system, each neighborhood votes to send delegates to a meeting to select the candidates for Mayor and Village trustees. In this democratic process, the chosen delegates are generally those who have demonstrated commitment to the community on many levels and have the background to evaluate a candidate's fitness for a particular role. Certainly, it would be better if more people volunteered to participate in this stage of the process, running to be a delegate, but the process remains open and fair. As a former President of the TVCC, now the Scarsdale Forum, I had the honor to chair those meetings in a prior election and I was deeply impressed by the seriousness of the debate. Our neighbors take these duties seriously. The dialogue was respectful and well considered.
At the same time, I applaud Bob Berg and the candidates running for office on behalf of the Scarsdale Voters Choice Party. It takes courage and commitment to stand up for one's beliefs in a public manner and Bob deserves our respect for his effort. He has devoted a great amount of personal time arguing for what he believes is best for our village and everyone should thank him for this service.
While I believe the non-partisan system serves us best, I think we must acknowledge that to those unfamiliar with its thoughtful selection process, it can feel like a closed system. I hope that the candidates' meetings that are being held by the Citizens' Non-Partisan Party this year and the open houses that are being offered by the party candidates at their own homes, remain a part of our electoral landscape for years to come. These changes enhance the sense of open New England town democracy that is so wonderful in our village and underscores the mutual respect that exists between voters and candidates.
I encourage all of my neighbors to support Dan Hochvert and the Scarsdale Citizens Non- Partisan Party because it is the best way for us to show our support for the unique form of government that makes Scarsdale great.
Greenacres Residents Discuss Plans for the School, Extended Day and Recycling at Town Hall Meeting
- Category: Around Town
- Published on 14 March 2017
- Written by Josie Blatt
On Thursday, March 9, 2017, the Greenacres Neighborhood Association hosted its 19th Annual Town Hall Meeting at Greenacres Elementary School. Approximately 100 Greenacres residents gathered to hear a panel speak on various aspects of the community and the school, and to ask questions. The meeting was moderated by Greenacres Neighborhood Association president Andrew Sereysky.
Panelists present were Mayor John Mark, Village Manager Steve Pappalardo, Police Chief Andy Matturro, Fire Chief Jim Seymour, Recreation Department Superintendent Brian Gray, Volunteer Fireman Ken Mazer, School Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, Greenacres Principal Sharon Hill, Board of Education President Lee Maude, and Greenacres PTA President Joey Silberfein.
First, each panelist spoke for three minutes about recent highlights in their respective fields. Greenacres Principal Sharon Hill spoke on the school's new wellness program: "This year, students in grades K through 5 participated in yoga classes where they learned a variety of yoga poses and breathing practices that they can access for enhancing stress reduction." The elementary schools, along with the middle and high school have all focused on wellness this year.
Mayor John Mark discussed Greenacres resident Michelle Sterling's food scrap recycling program, and demonstrated how to use a composting kit. Fire Chief Jim Seymour spoke on the Fire Department's new technical rescue trainings. Board of Education President Lee Maude discussed upcoming topics for school board meetings which included next year's extended school day and mapping out construction for 10-15 years. School Superintendent Thomas Hagerman mentioned that engineering will start to become part of the elementary school curriculum next year. He also mentioned the noteworthy retirement of Middle School Principal Michael McDermott at the end of this school year. Rec Dept. Superintendent Brian Gray invited meeting attendants to an information session on the Scarsdale Rec Camps on March 16, at 7:00 pm at Village Hall.
There was not much discussion of the possible building of a new Greenacres School, except one question was asked about what Greenacres residents and parents can do to help in the decision making process. School Superintendent Hagerman answered that there's not much that can be done until the architects are further along in their work. He added, "There will be ample opportunity to have everybody a part of this community have an opportunity to respond, and hopefully we won't find ourselves at the onset being completely polarized. Hopefully we can start somewhere closer together, and we can make those conversations a little bit easier." Hagerman also stated that a decision about the school would likely be made either late this spring, or early next fall.
A concerned Greenacres parent asked what the rationale behind extending the school day for elementary schools. The parent said she understands the value of the extra time for older children, but thinks that for younger kids the extra time would only add stress. School Superintendent Hagerman explained that there is a minimum number of instructional hours required per day, and Scarsdale Schools have not been meeting those requirements. Moreover, science and social studies curricula have been short changed in elementary schools, and students should be having daily physical education classes.
A Walworth Avenue resident asked what it would take for the cracked curbstones on Walworth Avenue to be fixed. Village Manager Steve Pappalardo responded, saying that it would take several million dollars to accomplish that, thus he does not see the curbstones being fixed anytime soon.
Another Greenacres resident asked about the findings of the investigation surrounding the armed robbery on Donellan Road in January, and why it took three hours to officially alert the community. Police Chief Andy Matturro "We determined the person didn't follow the victim from the train, we determined that they were in a vehicle, and that's an active investigation, at this time we have no DNA evidence. We could have done a better job reaching out to the community, and we will, that's something we learned from this."
Additionally, there were a number of questions asked related to traffic and road safety. One question was about adding stop signs, one about preventing speeding on Gorham Road, one about criteria for deciding what roads to fix, one about adding a crossing guard at Huntington and Putnam roads, and one about informing pedestrians to run/walk against traffic, not with traffic. Responding to the last question, Greenacres PTA President Joey Silberfein said that nothing is currently done to address that issue, but that it could be included in a safety assembly at Greenacres School.
At the end of the meeting, attendants were invited celebrate the volunteer service of Kathy and Bob Steves, who will be honored at the Scarsdale Bowl dinner on Wednesday, April 26, at The Fountainhead in New Rochelle.
LWVS Encourages You to Attend Candidates' Forum on March 7 and to Vote on March 21
- Category: Around Town
- Published on 27 February 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
To The Editor:
The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale encourages informed and active participation of Scarsdale citizens in our local government and election processes. This year, the Scarsdale Village election is contested, and the LWVS is hosting a Candidates Forum on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 from 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm in the Scott Room of the Scarsdale Public Library. Two candidates are running for the position of Village Mayor, and six candidates are running for three Village Trustee positions. All eight candidates for the upcoming Village election will be participating in the Candidates Forum. We encourage all citizens to come hear from the candidates and provide questions to be asked of them. For those who cannot attend, the event will be recorded for playback on Scarsdale Public Access TV.
We also encourage all registered voters to vote in the Village election on March 21 at the Scarsdale Public Library from 6:00 am – 9:00 am and 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Absentee ballot, registration, and voter information can be found at www.lwvs.org .
LWVS, Candidates Forum/Voter Services