Your Letters: Ken Rilander and Jonathan Lewis Support the Non-Partisan Party Candidates
- Around Town
- Published on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 11:20
- 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.