Letters to the Editor from Michele Braun and Norman Bernstein
- On Our Minds
- Published on Thursday, 09 March 2017 12:14
- Joanne Wallenstein
(This letter was written by Michele Braun)
Democracy, Disillusion and Choice
I welcome the alternative that the Scarsdale Voters' Choice party offers to Scarsdale's status quo. Here's why: We are entitled to choose representatives.
Shortly after we moved to Scarsdale, we voted in our first local election. It seemed unusual that none of the positions were contested but sometimes there are just enough candidates. Over time, I learned that there were only ever "just enough" candidates, not choices.
For a variety of services, I have been very impressed with Scarsdale: I've never lived anywhere that plows the streets so rigorously, nor anywhere that collects bulk trash weekly. Regular trash pickup is excellent. But:
The system suppresses democratic process.
Periodically over the years, my husband or I have attended meetings of the Village Trustees and spoke up on issues of particular concern. We wrote letters to the Village Mayor and Trustees and to the Editor of the Inquirer. I understand that I won't agree with every Village decision. But in Scarsdale I have not had the option to express my dissatisfaction through the traditional route of democracies: at the ballot box.
Officials not accountable to the public.
I have attended or watched almost every Trustee meeting in 2014-2016 at which the revaluation was discussed. Village officials—Mayor, Trustees, and staff—were openly dismissive of residents. Although they sat through the public comments, they repeatedly and offhandedly ignored Village citizens and failed to respond with even a modicum of respect. For example: In advance of letting the no-bid Ryan contract for the 2016 reassessments, thoughtful residents questioned the purpose and the process but their concerns were ignored. When the results of the reassessments were revealed, residents with real technical expertise provided insightful comments and contributed many hours of their time to rigorous analyses, which the contractor had clearly not bothered to do. Although the contractor's work was unsupported and unsupportable, both elected leaders and staff dismissed these thoughtful analyses out of hand. I sat at Village Hall and watched senior citizens in tears because their incomes would not stretch to the higher, unjustified assessments. It was appalling!
Good governance is missing.
At the same time and based on the analyses contributed by the same taxpayers, Village government is (1) withholding payment to the contractor, (2) considering legal action against the contractor, (3) planning to use Village funds to pay for a consultant to evaluate the Assessor's office when we already know it doesn't work, and (4) using taxpayer money to fight a taxpayer lawsuit in which the Village has no financial interest because the Village will collect the same dollar value under the 2014 and 2016 assessments. This wastes taxpayer money.
Adding insult to injury, a candidate seeking reelection and endorsed by the "nonpartisan" party admonished the taxpayers that we should "keep an open mind" about the amount of taxes we pay each year (Scarsdale Inquirer, February 17, 2017, page 3). Open mind or open wallet?
I welcome the choice to vote for the Scarsdale Voters' Choice party, for people willing to discuss issues and who are against continuation of the status quo.
(This letter was written by Norman W. Bernstein)
To the Editor: Scarsdale 10583.com reported on March 2, 2017 that Mayor Jon Mark and the Trustees decided to use taxpayer money to defend the Article 78 proceeding seeking to roll back the Ryan 2016 revaluation and reinstate the 2015 values (based on the 2014 revaluation).
The Village, however, appears to have no interest in the outcome because whether or not the Ryan revaluation is rolled back, the Village will ultimately receive the same amount of money – the roll back is revenue neutral.
General Municipal Law Sec. 51 prohibits the waste of municipal money. Whether that law has been technically violated is not the point. The Mayor and the Trustees have now made two fundamental misjudgments. First, they failed to stop the implementation of the Ryan revaluation when it became perfectly clear that that is what should have been done. (It is no answer to say the Village would have been sued anyway, just by others. A roll back might not have resulted in a suit and, based on the obvious deficiencies in the Ryan revaluation, it would have been far easier and less divisive to defend a roll back than to defend staying with the 2016 revaluation). Second, they have decided to use taxpayer money to defend a suit in which the primary defendant is the Village Assessor and in which the Village itself does not appear to have a financial interest in the outcome - thereby compounding the first mistake.
Reasonable people may differ on many issues. Hopefully, in this case, most people will agree that the Mayor and the Trustees need to be held politically accountable in the March election for the judgments they have made.
Norman W. Bernstein
14 Wakefield Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583