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Village Election Highlights the Need for a 21st Century Election System in New York

votingmachineDo you know what you're missing when it comes to your right to vote under the current NYS election laws – or what do about it? Most of us don't, and now is the time to get educated and let your state representatives know what changes you want them to make, like early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, electronic voter rolls, Election Day registration and automatic voter registration, to name a few.

Fortunately, there's an upcoming local opportunity to get informed and to engage directly with a panel of experts on NYS voting and elections, as members of the public are invited to the League of Women Voters of White Plains forum on "Voting Issues and Reform in New York" on Wednesday, April 19th at 7 pm. For the event flier, click here.

Following the last month's Scarsdale village elections, the Mayor justly praised our Village staff for their efficiency and professionalism in handling the historic voter turnout. But how much more quickly and efficiently could staff have processed the lines of Scarsdale voters at the Library using electronic voter rolls? And how many more Scarsdalians might have participated in this and other elections had New York State allowed early in-person voting on multiple days, including weekends, Election Day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and "no excuse" absentee voting?

"New York has long been a bastion of democracy," says New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, "but our state's current system of registration and voting is an affront to that legacy." For example, when it comes to efficient, fair and accessible voting, New York currently lags well behind the District of Columbia and many other states, including:
• 37 states that already allow early in-person voting; and
• 27 states that already allow "no-excuse" absentee voting.

When it comes to voter registration modernization, according to state data compiled by NYU Law School's Brennan Center, New York trails the District of Columbia and many other states, including:
• 34 states that use electronic voter rolls to process voters at the polls;
• 14 states that allow 16-17 year-olds to pre-register to vote before turning 18;
• 14 states that allow Election Day voter registration; and
• 6 states with automatic voter registration of eligible citizens thru interaction with government agencies, unless they "opt out."

New York voter turnout also ranks among the lowest in the nation, with only 57.3% of eligible New Yorkers reportedly casting ballots in the 2016 general election – the tenth-lowest voter turnout among all states.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the New York Votes Act, a comprehensive reform bill, drafted to simplify the voting process and increase New York voter registration and turnout. Governor Cuomo also indicated support for reforms such as early voting and same-day voter registration; however, he has since postponed addressing New York's outdated voting laws until the April-June legislative session, after the state budget has been adopted.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization working to promote civic responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government.
The right of every citizen to vote has been a basic principle of the League since its origin in 1920, and the League has been fighting for equal access to the polls ever since. Nationwide, we register voters, provide nonpartisan election information, and fight for elections systems that are fair and accessible.

On Wednesday, April 19th at 7:00 pm the League of Women Voters of White Plains welcomes the public to learn about "Voting Issues and Reform in New York" and what can be done to bring the election process in New York into the 21st century.

Sally Robinson, Vice President of the League of Women Voters of New York State will moderate the discussion with three expert panelists: Tomas Lopez, Counsel for NYU's Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program; Jennifer Wilson, League of Women Voters of New York State Director of Program and Policy; and New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald, Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement.

The event is free and takes place at the Church Street School Auditorium, 295 Church Street, White Plains. For the event flier, click here. For more information, email: stephen435@optonline.net.

Mary Beth Evans, Advocacy Chair
Deb Morel, President
League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

Fire Strikes on Stonewall Lane

stonewall1The Scarsdale Fire Department responded to a residential fire alarm at 34 Stonewall Lane on Friday afternoon, March 24 at 2:28 pm. They found heavy fire in the attic and additional pockets of fire in the walls of the basement, the first and second floors. The fire was burning in space in the walls for ductwork for air conditioning. Smoke was visible on the roof near the chimney. At the time of the fire, work was being done on the house.

The Scarsdale Fire Department called for mutual aid and trucks from Hartsdale and Greenville arrived to assist with units from White Plains and Fairview stationed at Scarsdale Fire Headquarters in case there was another emergency at the same time. Con Edison and SVAC were also on the scene.

stonewall2

The main body of fire was knocked out within the first 45 minutes of the incident, Afterwards, units continued an extensive overhaul of the fire areas. Volunteer members were directed to the first floor for salvage operations and water removal. Salvage and overhaul operations continued under the direction of the Westchester County Cause and Origin Team who investigated the cause of the fire. The Scarsdale Building Department responded to perform a check of the structure and to touch base with the homeowner.

Firefighters remained on the scene until just after six pm.

This was the fourth major house fire in the area in just four months.

Photos by Jon Thaler – see more here.

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Think About What Your Vote Means

yourvoteLetter 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.

City 2.0 Classes Confront Superstorm Godzilla

godzillamaggieA 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 Plunkettgodaillaplunkett assigned students to one of the following groups:

Untied Command
Safety and Security
Transportation
Utilities
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?

godzillabriefingThese 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."

godzillamayor

Greenacres Residents Discuss Plans for the School, Extended Day and Recycling at Town Hall Meeting

compostingOn 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.

townhall2

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