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In Support of Dan Hochvert and the Non-Partisan System by David Irwin and Carl Pforzheimer III

letter-to-the-editorTo the Editor: As someone who served with Dan Hochvert over a three year period on the Scarsdale Village Board, I had the opportunity to work closely with Dan and to observe how he performed as a Village Trustee. I am writing this letter to state why, based on my experience with Dan, I think Dan would be an outstanding Mayor for Scarsdale.

Dan was a first rate Village Trustee. He considered carefully every issue before the Village Board, and he listened attentively to the views of his fellow Trustees, the Village staff and members of the public. As indicated below, he made himself knowledgeable on every issue before the Board, and he exercised what I always considered to be excellent judgment in addressing those issues. He worked well with his fellow Trustees, persuasively expressing his views but always seeking to build consensus wherever possible. I felt that the Village Board was significantly stronger because of Dan's presence.

Moreover, Dan displays additional qualities that I feel would significantly enhance his performance as Mayor. Dan is someone who will go the extra mile to research and learn about an issue, never being satisfied with taking a position on an issue that he does not fully understand. One of the best examples of this relates to the almost unprecedented eight inch rainfall that occurred in the spring of 2007, causing major flooding throughout the Village. Following the storm, Dan was soon to be found in the Village examining the watercourses where the worst flooding occurred – he correctly felt that this would put him in the best position to assess what steps by the Village would be most effective in mitigating future flooding and what the Village's priorities should be in implementing mitigation measures. It wasn't sufficient for Dan to go out alone – he insisted that I join him so that I too could share in the knowledge he was gaining. This was typical of Dan's approach as Trustee throughout the time that I served with him.

Dan also possesses to an unusual degree a knowledge about the Village. He seems to know more people in the Village than just about anyone else whom I am aware of. He appears to know what every neighborhood association is doing and what the concerns of its members are. He keeps himself informed on the activities of the various organizations in the Village and has served on many of them over the years. As a Trustee, this knowledge gave Dan an unusual sensitivity to the interests, needs and concerns of Scarsdale residents and how they might best be addressed by the Village Board. I believe this in depth knowledge of the community would greatly enhance Dan's effectiveness as Scarsdale's Mayor.

Dan is as strong as any candidate for Scarsdale's Mayor whom I have seen over the many years that I have lived in Scarsdale. I urge residents to support his candidacy for Mayor with their votes on March 21.

David Irwin
Drake Road
Scarsdale, NY

(from Carl Pforzheimer III)

Nonpartisan System – Scarsdale's Strength

In 1911, before Scarsdale had incorporated as a village or women had won the right to vote, this community grew tired of local political fights and decided to choose its public officials by having Republican and Democratic party leaders endorse a single bipartisan slate.

 

Four years later when the shift from town to village government occurred, a nonpartisan caucus was convened to nominate candidates for the new Village Board. The nonpartisan system was a political innovation. The big question then (and today) was whether the adversarial two-party system really serves a small village well.

 

From the outset, residents felt that high caliber candidates with no need to campaign would more readily agree to serve the Village. And with a two-term limit and no party identification, Village Board members could ignore political considerations and deal with issues on their merits, as they arose.

 

The system resulted in tangible benefits, including top-grade municipal services and investment in public infrastructure that gave us, among other things, our extraordinary recreation facilities and programs and our school system's reputation. Scarsdale was the first municipality in the State (other than New York City) to adopt zoning, which accounts in large part for the high property values we enjoy today.

 

Residents proud of this community have had an enviable tradition of civic volunteerism. Political comity and sound administration have contributed greatly to the sense of well being that has been a Village hallmark.

 

This, then, is an important moment for citizens to step back and ask themselves if they like the kind of village Scarsdale has been.

 

Supporters of the system believe that it consistently produces high quality officeholders. Opponents of the system argue that it is too entrenched, not sufficiently "democratic". Let us consider the changes we might expect from a deliberate return to party politics as usual:

 

1. Before each annual election, we will have to listen to the static of campaign rhetoric, a phenomenon which has made many Americans cynical about their governments and doubtful about whose statements to believe and what campaign promises will be kept.

 

2. Fundraising, which has tainted legislatures at higher levels of government, will be inevitable for each election. Contested elections require money. Moreover, will we have to wonder whether contributions from developers, for example, are made to influence zoning or building regulations?

 

3. We will have to find candidates for public office who are willing to campaign. Will capable people volunteer to sacrifice the extensive time it takes to serve the Village if it entails facing the poisonous atmosphere of political campaigning? Or will "party professionals" fill up the slots?

 

4. Greatly at stake is our pride in our community. It is the sine qua non of party politics for one party to attack or seek to undermine the positions of the other party. As well, the contesting party has to generate a sense of dissatisfaction among voters about the elected officials they are trying to unseat. Do we want that attack mentality to influence the thinking and the decisions of our Village Board?

 

5. Adoption of a system of competing parties will almost certainly diminish Scarsdale's ability to hire top administrators. Truly able professionals are not attracted to places where their tenure is at stake as a result of elections that shift power from one base to another. Moreover, village managers cannot carry out their administrative functions efficiently when policy makers are divided.

 

Some of these conditions are already visible here. Confrontational tactics have begun to dictate the outcome of issues. We have seen issues (e.g., "The Reval") substituted for painstaking study of issues. We have seen attacks on the Village staff entangle administrative function in politics, feeding the impatience and alienation that such roadblocks to action beget. Nothing gets done while people argue.

 

The nonpartisan system is not perfect. For over a century it has been a work in progress. In its earliest stages the nominating process was tightly controlled. As anointed policy makers, Trustees often discussed issues and made decisions in the Board room out of public hearing and took pro forma votes at public sessions.

 

The system has evolved in the intervening years to the point that:
• elections are held each November for seats on the Citizens' Nominating Committee that nominates candidates for Mayor and Trustee,
• meetings of the Board and its committees are open to the public under the "sunshine" laws,
• the system's inclusive nature today belies its reputation as a home for the "establishment". More than 130 different citizens presently sit on its boards and councils, including many who are young or relatively new to the community, and
• the term limit tradition means a steady succession of new faces on the Village Board.

 

I am persuaded that the nonpartisan system has worked well for Scarsdale, and that the reasons we live here are worthy of strong defense through a constantly evolving, nonpartisan process of government.

 

It is important to support that process whenever possible and not just assume its continuation, or those who oppose it will triumph. I will be voting in the elections for Village Board members and the mayor on March 21. And I will be sure to choose those candidates who have not heretofore expressed dissatisfaction with the nonpartisan system, and reject those who have engaged in relentless personal attacks on the current board and Village staff.

 

Carl H. Pforzheimer III

 

Brownie Sullivan, Father of Michelle Lichtenberg, Passes Away at 99

brownieBelow is an obituary for Robert Browning Sullivan, father of Michelle Lichtenberg of Scarsdale:
Robert Browning Sullivan, known to many as Brownie, died peacefully in his Bethesda, Maryland home of 55 years on February 24, 2017. He was 99, and was born on August 2, 1917 in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C. home of his parents, Esther Price Swett Sullivan and Robert Young Sullivan, M.D. Brownie attended John Eaton School, and Western High School, where he was the football team captain.

Brownie was a 1939 graduate of Dartmouth College, 1942 graduate of Dartmouth Medical School, and a 1944 graduate of Georgetown University Medical School. Brownie was also a two year "graduate" of the Trudeau Sanatorium in the Adirondacks as a survivor of tuberculosis.

After two years of a pediatric practice, Dr. Sullivan went on to pursue child psychiatry. In addition to his private practice that spanned five decades, Dr. Sullivan was the Director of Child Center of Catholic University during the 1950's and was on the Georgetown Medical faculty for over 25 years. During the last ten years of his professional career, Dr. Sullivan was the Psychiatric Director of Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents (RICA) in Rockville, MD. Dr. Sullivan retired at 75 years of age.

During his psychiatry residence at the University of Minnesota in 1949, he met Leone Mary Stevens, who would become his beloved wife of nearly 55 years. They married November 3, 1950, and Leone passed away June 30, 2005.

Brownie had lifelong friends, stemming from his boyhood in Cleveland Park which developed into the "Poker Boys" and "Les Savants". An avid athlete, he particularly enjoyed football and tennis. He was a 50-year member of the Edgemoor Club and retired from tennis at 91. As a youth, Brownie played the trumpet and was the bugle boy for President Hoover, playing taps during the Civil War ceremony in 1930 in Washington, DC, and for several summers played reveille and taps at the Lantern Hill Boys Camp in Connecticut. A self-taught pianist, Brownie had a mean stride-style in the tradition of Art Tatum.

Dr. Sullivan is survived by his children: Mark Gregory Sullivan of Bethesda, Timothy John Sullivan of Washington, D.C, and Michelle Sullivan Lichtenberg of Scarsdale, NY and two grandsons Andrew Browning Lichtenberg of Brooklyn, NY and Alexander Robert Lichtenberg of Brooklyn, NY. One son, Gregory Stevens Sullivan, predeceased Dr. Sullivan.

An armchair philosopher and theologian with a twinkle in his eye and a playful sense of humor, Brownie was a gentleman and a scholar and much loved by his family and friends.

Memorial contributions can be made to Montgomery Hospice, 1355 Piccard Drive, Suite 100 Rockville, MD 20850 or montgomeryhospice.org.

En Garde: Scarsdale Fencer Heads to Junior Olympics

rezamerchantScarsdale High School Freshman, Reza Merchant, age 14, has qualified for the Junior Olympics in fencing and will compete in Kansas City, MO, from February 17 - 20.

Reza says his strategy for success at the Junior Olympics is to "go in and fence hard, fence smart and leave it all out there!" He fences with a weapon called a foil in the U17 (under age 17) category.

We asked Reza for his thoughts on fencing and here is what he shared:

How did you get introduced to fencing?

I grew up loving "Star Wars," light sabers and also playing with knights, so the idea of fencing was very cool to me. Fencing seemed mysterious and interesting too. As soon as I tried it, I instantly fell in love.

What do you enjoy about it?

I enjoy fencing because it has a balance of tactical and physical skills. No two touches (points scored) are ever alike. Also, my experiences at my fencing club have been absolutely amazing. I have been fencing at NAFA North in Portchester since I started and the club is like a family to me. We all have each other's back and we help each other become better fencers and more confident people.

What kind of fencing do you do – please describe it?

I do Epee. The sword is the heaviest one used in fencing. The entire body is valid target area, so you can hit wherever, anywhere from head to toe. Much of Epee is tactics. It seems like the slowest of the three weapons at first but as soon as there is an opportunity to hit someone strikes.

Do you meet people from all over the country?rezafencing

At big tournaments I see people from all over the country. It's really fun and interesting to meet all these new people and develop competitive relationships with people I never would have had a chance to meet. I remember at a Regional Tournament in Connecticut I fenced against a kid who was two years older than me and I found it hard to keep up. About a year later at a National Tournament in Texas, I fenced against him again and had a very competitive bout. The mutual respect for all the other competitors is always present and it's amazing to feel that environment.

How do you balance school and fencing?

One of the hardest parts about fencing is balancing schoolwork and training. I train for about 14 hours a week. Sometimes it feels overwhelming to go straight from intense fencing training right into studying for a big test. The most important parts are focus and commitment. Putting in the work and staying true to myself are the only ways I can handle it. During my frees in school I'll try to do as much work as I can. Sometimes I just have to take a breath and relax; fencing actually helps me do that. Even if I am in an intense fencing bout, I feel more relaxed than when I'm doing anything else. As soon as I put on my mask, it's like I'm a different person, I can be anyone I want and it's all through my fencing.

Anything else you would like to add?

A lot of people and parents are scared of fencing because they're scared they'll get hurt or it's not safe. Fencing is one of the safest and most amazing sports and is completely worth the investment of time and effort. I have become so much more confident and passionate because of my fencing. I owe a lot of that to my coach, Joe Fisher, and my friends at NAFA North.

Commenting on Reza's success, John Gonzalez, NAFA North club owner and coach and a former champion fencer himself said, "We're so proud of Reza and our three other Junior Olympic qualifiers. Our club is unique in that recreational fencers train right along with our competitive fencers with everyone contributing their experience, learning from each other and cheering each other on."

Congressman Eliot Engel to Visit Scarsdale on Thursday March 2

eliotengelCongressman Eliot L. Engel will be the featured guest at the March 2 meeting of the Scarsdale Forum that will be held at 7:30pm in the Scott Room of the Scarsdale Public Library. This event is free and open to the public.

The Congressman, who represents portions of Westchester and the Bronx, will present "A View from Washington." Engel is the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee including the Subcommittee on Health, and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. He is the founder and Co-Chair of the House Oil and National Security Caucus, which is seeking clean, energy efficient alternatives to America's over-reliance on oil. He also sits on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, the Bipartisan Task Force for Combatting Anti-Semitism, the HIV/AIDS Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Animal Protection Caucus, among others. Residents may learn more by visiting Congressman Engel's website here.

Forum members will have the opportunity to vote on a previously released report: "Proposal of the Education Committee for a New Paradigm of Resilient Community Problem-Solving and Development of a Long Range Financial Plan in Support of the Scarsdale Schools as Its First Design Challenge." All reports are available on their website at www.scarsdaleforum.com.

Statement from Carl Finger: Candidate for Village Trustee

CarlFingerTrustee Carl Finger has been nominated by the Citizens Nominating Committee to serve a second two-year term as Trustee of Scarsdale Village. We asked Carl questions about his background, his experience and his views on village government and here is what he shared. The election for Village Mayor and Trustees will be held on Tuesday March 21st at Scarsdale Library.

From Carl Finger:

As a sitting Trustee for almost two years I have become intimately familiar with the various issues facing the village including the budget, the legislative process, and the general functioning of Village staff and government. That knowledge has permitted me to progressively advocate and legislate as a more effective trustee and that experience cannot be replaced. Prior to my service as a Trustee I served on the Board of Architectural Review, the Conservation Advisory Council, two subcommittees of the Westchester County Board of Legislatures, among other committees. As part of my professional responsibilities I have lobbied before the New York State Assembly, New York State Senate, and County Board of Legislators, as well as the County Executive, and various town boards and city councils. I have litigated against municipalities in challenging their procedural and substantive actions and thus gained singular familiarity with many of the requirements of law under which municipalities operate. I also represent numerous boards of associations and regularly review budgets, financial statements, capital budgets, bid procedures, labor issues, and other matters similar to those which come before the board of trustees. This varied experience gives me a broad perspective of government functioning.

I am a long term resident of Scarsdale having grown up in Scarsdale and lived in Scarsdale for the last eighteen years. This has provided me longer term and a broader view of many issues. It has enabled me to reach out to the community and seek opinions from those that have resided here with me since 1969 and with whom I attend school and from more recent residents whom I've gotten to know since 1998. Such history also provides me with a level of credibility when I deal with many of these citizens because of my long term relationships with them and permits me to have candid conversations. I keep in mind the transitions that Scarsdale has undergone over the years as well as those projects that did not materialize as I evaluate projects and issues that come before the Board today. I continue to envision the Scarsdale of the future as well as the Scarsdale of the present and past. As a member of the Board of Architectural review I endeavored to bring a sense of openness and availability to the community. I welcomed the public's comments and I genuinely appreciate the participation and voices of the community. I offered a sense to those appearing that while the result in any situation may not be as they sought, the process resulted in serious consideration of the points they may have raised.

As a trustee I continued to welcome and in fact seek out community participation. I encouraged the community to share their feelings and positions with me in private, by email, by phone, by letter, and by attending public meetings. I met with citizens outside of formal meetings whenever possible. The different voices lend color to the actual impacts of our decisions. I often shared the information provided to me by village staff and at meetings with people who could not attend. These efforts helped people to understand my perspective even if they did not agree. I found that more often than not, armed with the full information, people came to the same conclusions as I did. I have attempted to both represent the citizens and lead the community in appropriate situations.

As a Trustee, however, I found that perhaps the most important skill I could bring to the table was to properly and seriously question myself, the other trustees, and the staff. For instance, in questioning why we could not obtain greater reimbursement from Con Ed for repaving streets impacted by Con Ed work, I found that there was a legislative solution which would increase the Village's reimbursement from Con Ed. We subsequently enacted the required legislation which will pay substantial dividends going forward. On another occasion I questioned why Scarsdale had not audited certain aspects of Cablevision's services and this resulted in our engaging a consultant and ultimately receiving a settlement of almost $100,000.00 together with increased payments ongoing for the foreseeable future. The key was not only asking the right questions, but also an awareness of what is happening in other communities. I have sought to keep abreast of other trends in other communities which may assist Scarsdale, such as described above.

We will need to be cognizant of these and other issues as we proceed in the future. From deciding what type of technology to use for parking meters (I encouraged and voted in favor delaying a commitment of over $450,000.00 in the coming budget year in favor of what will be a cost fee or nearly cost free pilot program with individual meters), to the replacement of the Heathcote Road bridge, to the Freightway Garage, to the rehabilitation of the Ardsley Road Water Tank, to the Hutchinson River stormwater mitigation project, to overseeing the Library renovation, experience, critical thinking, financial prudence, and awareness of the history of the village, and cognizance of surrounding communities will all be necessary.

I have sought to keep an open mind from beginning to end and to make decisions that best represent the trust which the community has placed in me. I provided my thoughts and decision making process to the community in the hope that in so doing the decision will engender the understanding and respect of the citizenry. Over the past two years I have found working with the Village Staff, Trustees, and Community to be cooperative and overall an amazingly rewarding experience. I hope that I will have the opportunity to continue to serve the community as a Trustee.

Trustee Finger invites Scarsdale residents to call him or email him at carl@fingerandfinger.com at to discuss any issues of importance to you.

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