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Challenge to the Non-Partisan System Increases Civic Engagement at Candidates' Forum

trusteesAt the end of the League of Women Voters of Scardale Candidates' Forum on Tuesday, moderator Karen Schatzel paid Scarsdale a big compliment, saying, "The level of civility tonight has restored my faith in the American system."

This year, a test of Scarsdale's Non-Partisan system has increased voter awareness and engagement. A new political party dubbed "The Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party" is running a full slate of candidates for Mayor and Village Trustees to challenge the four candidates vetted and selected by the Citizens Nominating Committee. There was fear that rancor would result from a full-blown political campaign in a Village election that usually only draws about 300 voters.

But on Tuesday night March 7, everyone behaved.berg hochvert

The LWVS Candidates' Forum is not a traditional debate. Participants make opening statements, respond to questions and end with closing statements. There are no direct attacks or rebuttals. The format worked well this year and allowed all eight candidates to present their credentials and their views.

The Citizens Non-Partisan Party ticket is led by Dan Hochvert for Mayor, with Matt Callaghan, Carl Finger and Seth Ross for Village Trustees. Hochvert is a former Village Trustee who remained active in Village affairs since his 4-year term ended in 2010. Callaghan and Finger are both currently serving as Village Trustees and running for second terms in office. Seth Ross served and chaired on both the Zoning and Planning Boards for ten years and has many other volunteer activities on his resume. All were vetted and selected by the 36 members of the Citizens Nominating Committee who themselves were elected in a general election in Scarsdale Village.

The newly formed Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party was created inbrice the wake of Scarsdale's 2016 tax revaluation when a group of residents questioned the validity of the revaluation, the competency of the vendor who conducted it and the oversight by the Village Assessor, Village Managers and Trustees. These residents called for the Village to void the revaluation and return to a prior tax roll. When the Village failed to do so - for a host of reasons – 151 petitioners named the Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments sued the Village. Two people who signed the petition for the Article 78 are among the four candidates running on the Voters' Choice Party ticket. That ticket includes Robert Berg for Mayor, with Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Carlos Ramirez and Robert Selvaggio for Village Trustees. Both Kirkendall-Rodriguez and Selvaggio signed the suit that contends that the Village bungled the revaluation and is poorly managed.

Among the themes that emerged from Tuesday night's forum were the value of experience, the fiscal health of the Village, government transparency, the merits of partisan and non-partisan systems, the role of the mayor and trustees in Village management, sustainability, roads and taxes.

baylormorelDuring the trustee candidate's discussion, the Non-Partisan Party candidates emphasized their experience in Village management and their ability to make the best decisions for Scarsdale based on input from residents and qualitative and quantitative information. Trustee Finger said, "If I had made campaign promises I would not have had the freedom to make the best decision based on the information I received."

The three trustees from the Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party had less experience with volunteerism in Scarsdale so they emphasized their professional credentials and willingness to serve. Selvaggio touted his skills in finance and modeling and credited Mayoral candidate Robert Berg with bringing 'fiscal discipline" to the school budget by organizing a successful campaign to vote down the first school budget in Scarsdale in 49 years.

In terms of the current state of the Village, the candidates differed. Trustee Callaghan credited the Village with a triple AAA rating from Moody's, low debt, a wealthy tax base and healthy reserves. However Brice Kirkendall Rodriguez pointed out, "It's important to understand economic issues. 40% of Scarsdale residents have a household income of under $200,000. There has been a 4% decline in household income over the last two years. Budgets exceed the rate of inflation. I have served on community boards in other locales. My understanding and compassion will help." Selvaggio added, "Village taxes have risen 69% over the last 12 years. Our residents' earnings have not kept pace with inflation. We must reduce the rate of tax increases."

According to Village Manager Steve Pappalardo, the projected Village budget for 2017-18 calls for a tax levy increase of 2.19%, all of which is due to a 12% increase in health care costs for Village employees. He says that if health care costs had not risen, the Village budget would be flat. This budget will mean, on average, a $223 increase per household.

In discussions about the 2016 revaluation. Selvaggio called it the Ryan-gate affair and said, "It was recognized to be faulty." He continued, "I joined the Article 78 and this issue of a conflict is going to come up. I will consult with my fellow trustees about recusal from that issue." He later said, "We're going to undue that damage and get it right." Answering a question about the revaluation, Finger said, "The 2016 revaluation has been statistically confirmed to being close to actual sales. We need to look at the true situation. We are governed by what we can legally do. We can look at the process and look at how we got to a point where people felt disenfranchised. We want a community that is satisfied with the process and understands that we did the right thing."

The Voters' Choice Party has complained that the Village government lacks transparency and that it is undemocratic in that residents have no choice on candidates for trustee and cannot vote on the Village budget. Seth Ross answered those claims, saying, "I would like to see more people take advantage of the opportunities to engage. The Village Staff and trustees are happy to engage... Meetings are open and televised. If you're frustrated – get your voice out there and it will be heard." Kirkendall Rodriguez said, "I don't want to do away with the system....I prefer a system where the voters can determine who has merit. ... More people will come to the polls. When you see your school taxes and county taxes you will see the increase. The civic mindedness of the Voters Choice Party will have a place as well as the opportunity for choice.

The two candidates for Mayor, Robert Berg and Dan Hochvert were asked similar questions.. Berg credited his party with the large audience, saying, "We have accomplished a lot. There's lots of interest and people who want to hear our views."

Hochvert introduced himself as "a doer," who changed Village code, walked the watercourses and made decisions that benefitted Scarsdale.

Both candidates agreed that the Mayor's role was to lead and keep an eye on Village staff – without meddling in the day-to-day work.

When asked for priorities, Berg said "Roads, roads, roads. The state of the roads is atrocious!" He advocated the purchase of 10-year bonds at low interest rates to repair all of Scarsdale's roadways. To that, Hochvert responded, "We have plans to bond the library, and a bridge over the Heathcote Bypass. Bonding roads would make it "interesting" to stay under the cap. Our debt service rises from all the projects that we will bond. We can't just focus on bonding for roads. We can't ruin our rating by exceeding debt service targets by spending $28 million on road repair."

In response to a question about the trade-off between tax rates and Village services, Berg said, "Taxes in the village are going up twice as fast as inflation. It is morally wrong that people can't afford to stay here. We have to get our tax rate under control. If not, we'll go into a death spiral. Too many empty nesters will move out and we have to build more schools. We have to stop hiring consultants. We have to cut programs like the Teen Center." (Note – school district enrollment in the Scarsdale Schools has been almost flat for the last ten years. Demographers do not anticipate a surge in the school population.)

Hochvert explained the use of consultants, saying "The Village has decreased its staff since I left a few years ago. You hire consultants because it's more economical for a temporary study. You don't have to pay benefits."

Both candidates appreciated the way public comments are handled at Village meetings. Though the official time limit is 5 minutes, the Mayor often lets residents speak at length and answers their concerns. Hochvert said, "When I was on the board, the 3 minute limit was observed. Now the mayor and board has some dialogue with the speaker. It builds trust! I would not limit speakers' time – I think the dialogue is good."

Berg who is a frequent speaker at Village Hall meetings, agreed, saying, "I am a veteran of public comments. I usually cannot restrain myself. I get cut off after 3 minutes at the school board. At the village, they listen and don't limit speech. It's the right policy. People want to vent and you need to hear your comments."

Concerning the Village in a Park, preservation of trees and homes, Berg said, "There is a certain character that needs to be preserved. I used to like trees before two fell on my house. Now I am concerned with trees that are close to houses. We need to preserve the trees to the extent that we can. We need to make sure that the developers preserve trees. We need to look at the FAR (floor area ratio code) and eliminate FAR loopholes that allow big houses on small lots."

Hochvert added, "When I was on the planning board we convinced developers to save trees. I am not sure that FAR is the best way to limit development. We should also look at lot coverage to prevent homes from covering almost the entire lot." At another point in the discussion, Hochvert said, "We need to maintain the tree canopy that absorbs much of the water. I made code changes that have been effective in preventing flooding and planted hundreds of trees in Harwood Park."

Summing up, Hochvert said, "I believe that working with the board and staff cooperatively is the best way to ensure the best decisions. Experience and knowledge counts."

Berg told the audience, "Your attendance here shows that you want choice. You can have a choice and make your village your village. If you're happy with the status quo, vote for the CNC candidates. My slate is skilled in finance, technology and law. We recognize the problems. I have the leadership skills – I know this village intimately and we would love to serve you."

You can watch the Candidates' Forum on Scarsdale Public Television here.

The Village election will be held on Tuesday March 21st at Scarsdale Library from 6 am to 9 am and from 12 noon to 9 pm. The last day to register to vote in the election is Friday March 10.

In order to register with the Westchester County Board of Elections to vote you must:

  • Be a U.S. Citizen
  • Be 18 years of age by the date of the election
  • Live at your present address for at least 30 days before the election
  • Not be in jail or on parole for a felony conviction; and
  • Not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

For more information, click here

Mayor Explains Village's Defense Against Article 78 and Laws Regarding Financing Road Repair

tarynIt's a curious situation: Those who filed the Article 78 against Scarsdale Village are now grousing about the cost to the Village – and therefore residents - for the defense. The Article 78 called for two remedies – one to void the 2016 revaluation and reinstate the 2015 tax roll – or if not, to reimburse the 155 petitioners for the difference between their taxes on the two rolls.

When the Mayor and Village Attorney explained why neither option was practical or legal, the petitioners then urged the Village to settle the suit. At the February 28 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Scarsdale Mayor Jon Mark offered the following explanation as to why the Village filed a motion to dismiss the Article 78:

He said:
1. This Board represents all of the Village residents. The petition ignores the fact that the vast majority of those residents have not formally complained about the revaluation for a variety of reasons.
2. Reinstating the 2015 roll, even if legally possible, would deprive those who did not grieve in 2015, but who might wish to do so, the inability to pursue
that remedy. We have made this point before and it was also part of an observation made by a resident during the public comment portion of a prior Board of Trustees' meeting.
3. The central element of the relief sought -- an order directing this Board to void the 2016 reassessment roll is not an action the Board is legally authorized to take on its own.
4. Even if the 2015 assessment roll was reinstated, the administrative chaos it would create is potentially enormous. It would require not only the Village, but the School District and the County to re-set their tax rolls. For the County, that process would implicate not just Scarsdale, but would involve recalculating the allocation of County taxes among all 43 other municipalities in the County. It would also involve refunds and re-billings to virtually all residents at the Village, School District and County levels. The administrative complexity would likely be costly for all taxpayers including those already claiming hardship. The fiscal chaos that such a process could create is a factor to be considered in light of the alternatives already provided by the law.
5. Specifically, there is a clear, well-outlined statutory remedy available to property owners who believe they have been over-assessed -- that is, the grievance process. For those who do not presently have unresolved grievances pending, a 20-day period during which grievances can be filed will open on June 1, 2017.
6. The Board understands that the grievance process does not address a sense of unfairness in the case of properties that may be perceived as being under assessed.
7. However, there is a straightforward means for addressing that issue and the other issues raised by the 2016 revaluation. Do another Village-wide revaluation, even if some may still be unhappy with the result. I have no doubt that that will occur and be executed in a thoughtful and transparent manner. However, until some organizational assessment of the functioning of the Assessor's Department is done, it is likely that community confidence in another revaluation would be undermined. This Board met earlier this evening to hear a presentation of such an assessment and has taken under advisement whether and how to proceed with such a project.

There is a belief among some that not defending against the Article 78 would somehow bring closure to the issues raised by the 2016 revaluation. We disagree. To the contrary, since this Board lacks the legal authority to do what the petition seeks, the pendency of the petition will simply prolong a period of uncertainty in
the real estate market in Scarsdale and for residents trying to make financial plans. There is simply no legal authority for what the petitioner seeks in the way of relief.

villageboardThese matters have cost us all an inordinate amount of time, effort and money. Time that might have been spent focusing on other Village issues – such as land use and sustainability to name two. To date, the Village has incurred $12,350 in legal expenses with respect to the Article 78 matter. It goes without saying, but I will say it: this is not what I would have wished for us all when I started my term as Mayor. But here we are and it is still my hope that we can work through this difficult issue together.

In the Public Comments section following Mark's statement, Robert Berg, a candidate for Mayor who is sympathetic to the opponents of the 2014 revaluation questioned the Village's decision to defend themselves rather than settle. He said, "I am not involved in the Article 78 but now I am saddled with paying the village's defense. Why has the village hired two separate law firms? How much has the Village budgeted for the defense of the action and how much has it spent defending the action?"

Mayor Mark responded, "We have spent $12,350 per date.. that's roughly $2.12 per property owner."

Berg then pressed for the hourly rate for each of the attorneys and was first told to file a FOIL request, but then Village Attorney Wayne Essanason volunteered that the fee was about $225 per hour and that billing is done on an hourly basis.

Berg then wanted to know, "Is that fee capped? Most firms agree to cap fees. How much will this cost?" Village Attorney Wayne Essanason then explained that it was difficult to predict how much the defense would cost because it would depend on the judge's decision. Essanason said, "My budget each year is $200,000 and we usually don't spend that. We do a lot of the defense in house. In instances where there is a specialized skill involved we hire outside counsel."

Later in the meeting Trustee Bill Stern defended the Board's actions, saying, "The court should decide on the lawsuit. It would be irresponsible and reckless if we did not respond to the lawsuit." Referring to the 35,000 FOIL requests for emails filed by opponents to the 2016 revaluation, Stern said, "The sheer number of FOILS cost us south of $100,000. While we support the idea of FOILS, people should bear in mind that they come at a cost. We tried to do what we could about the reval under the law."

Road Repair

A discussion about the repair of Scarsdale roads, brought more confrontation.

Mark answered critics who had asked the Village to post bonds to do a full repair of all of Scarsdale roads. He contended that NYS local finance law limits the term of the bond to the useful life of the project. Therefore, since roads last only ten years, the term of the bonds cannot exceed ten years and the debt service would be steep.

He said:paving

".....First, let me be clear. None of us are satisfied with the condition of some of our roads, including the ones we hear about from residents. In considering what to do about the situation, the principal issue to be addressed is a budgetary one. Secondarily, there are logistical issues as to how much – how many miles – of the roads can be re-surfaced in one season.

Turning to budgetary matters first. There are approximately 79 miles of Village- owned roads. Note that certain roads that run through Village such as the Post Road, Weaver Street, the Heathcote By-pass and Palmer Road are state and county roads and so the Village does not have control over repairs on them. Note also that most of our roads are not in horrible condition. Sweeping statements that imply all 79 miles of Village roads are presently in need of re-paving tend to overstate the problem. Therefore, for hypothetical purposes, let us assume we wish to re-surface 10 miles of the roads most in need of attention.

The estimated cost of repaving a mile of road ranges from approximately $350,000 to $500,000. Among the variables affecting the cost include the condition of the underlying road bed – whether due to its age it has to be re-built or not – and whether the road has curbing that needs to be re-set, or have new curbing installed. For purposes of example, using the lowest average cost mentioned above, it would cost $3,500,000 to resurface 10 miles of roads. Assume then, that funding would be provided by a $3,500,000 Village bond. Under the New York State Local Finance Law Section 11.00, the term of the bond would be limited to the probable useful life of the project being financed. In the case of the Village roads, the applicable period is a maximum ten years. Thus the term of any such bond could not exceed ten years. What would be the impact of the bond issue on the Village budget? Municipal debt is required to be amortized on a straight-line basis. For ease of calculation in this discussion, let's ignore the interest portion of the debt which would otherwise have to be factored in. Amortizing the ten-year bond would therefore add approximately $350,000 per year of debt service cost to our Village budget – actually, somewhat more than that when interest is included. That amount equates to approximately 1% of tax rate to put it into context.

For those who remind us of the importance of long-term financial planning, it is noted that it is not considered good planning to borrow long to solve a currently recurring problem. Pot holes, road restoration after utility service repairs and more general road deterioration are on-going annual maintenance issues. While the degree of deterioration varies year-to-year, road repair can be counted on as a hardy perennial."

Berg is running for Mayor on the Scarsdale Voters Choice slate and has made road repair a campaign promise. On the party's website it says, "Repaving a road to last thirty years is a capital project. The only way we will ever make headway to improve our roads is to issue municipal bonds to pay for this fundamental Village service." Berg has also promised to keep the tax increase below the tax cap, which would make it difficult to take out bonds to finance road repair.

After listening to the Mayor's remarks, Berg challenged Village Manager Steve Pappalardo to produce a report on the condition of all Village roads. Berg said that the NY Thruway Authority issues bonds for road repair and said he thought we should embark on a strategic program for road repair using low cost municipal bonds to make headway.

The Mayor responded to Berg repeating the fact that NY State law differs from the laws governing municipalities.

It was clear from the Mayor's remarks, that issuing bonds for road repair would cause the Village budget to far exceed the tax cap or necessitate the elimination of other services.

Watch the entire meeting here.

Almost, Maine On Stage at SHS Friday and Saturday

almost5The Scarsdale High School Drama Club will present Almost, Maine in the SHS auditorium on Friday night January 20 and Saturday night January 21 at 7:30 pm. Written by John Cariani, the performance includes nine short plays that explore love and loss in a remote, mythical almost-town called Almost, Maine. It premiered at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine in 2004 where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. There are eleven short scenes: the Prologue (which continues in the Interlogue and Epilogue), Her Heart, Sad and Glad, This Hurts, Getting It Back, They Fell, Where It Went, Story of Hope, and Seeing the Thing. Almost, Maine is directed by Ellis Jones and Tali Lesser, and it's a show you don't want to miss!almost4

The performances will be in the Scarsdale High School auditorium on Friday January 20th and Saturday January 21st at 7:30 pm.

Tickets are available here or at the door.

Photos by Jon Thaler: See more here:

almmost3almost2almost1

CNC Taps Hochvert for Mayor and Callaghan, Finger and Ross for Village Trustee

nomineesDan Hochvert, a long-time Scarsdale resident, former Village Trustee and dedicated volunteer has been tapped by the Citizen's Nominating Committee as their candidate for Mayor of Scarsdale. On Sunday night January 22, 2017 the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party, announced the slate of candidates selected by its publicly elected caucus, The Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC).

Here are the nominees:

  • Dan Hochvert, Mayor
  • Matthew J. Callaghan, Trustee
  • Carl L. Finger, Trustee
  • Seth Ross, Trustee

In addition to Hochvert, two standing trustees were re-nominated; Trustees Matt Callaghan and Carl Finger, and Seth Ross was nominated to fill the seat that will be vacated by William Stern who will complete two terms as Village Trustee. This is Ross's second nomination. He was first nominated in 2016, but a glitch with his paperwork prevented his name from appearing on the ballot. A write-in campaign ensued in which Trustee Deb Pekarek won the election and was seated for a second term.

Here is some preliminary information on the candidates. More information will follow when it is available:

Dan Hochvert has lived in Scarsdale for Hochvert37 years and served as Scarsdale Village Trustee from 2006-2010. He has remained very active in Village affairs since that time. Dan was appointed to the Scarsdale Planning Board in 2012 and ultimately chaired the board in 2015/16 when it deliberated on issues such as the moratorium on the use of gravel surfaces to meet lot coverage requirements, the new condominium project at 2-4 Weaver Street and many subdivisions. He has promoted conservation and sustainability and worked with the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks on an ambitious project to reclaim several acres of land in Harwood Park, between the library and the high school. In conjunction with the Village, the group mobilized volunteers to pull out invasive plants and plant 250 native trees. He also served as a volunteer at the Scarsdale Teen Center, where he helped to build the outdoor deck, co-chairs the Scarsdale Forum Education Committee and previously served twice as the chair of the Citizen's Nominating Committee, (2012 and 2013) the group that nominated him for Mayor. He is a former President (2012) and Vice President of the Scarsdale Forum.

Trustee Matt Callaghan has been nominated to MatthewCallaghanserve a second term as Village Trustee. Callaghan is a semi -retired- safety management consultant for the hospital and hotel industry and a trustee of the Fire Safety Directors Association of greater New York and a trustee of the International Code Council's New York chapter. He has been a volunteer firefight in Company #1 since 1982 and had 33 years of active duty as of March 2015. HE served on the Scarsdale Zoning Board of Appeals, the Scarsdale Bowl Committee, the Scarsdale Forum and on a screening committee to select Village Manager Al Gatta. In the past two years, Callaghan has been present at many Village events and has been an advocate for firefighters. He was recently the lone vote against plans to renovate the Popham Road Fire Station as he felt the renovation did not go far enough to meet current requirements and address the needs of the firefighters. He also voted against the plans to renovate and expand the Scarsdale Library, due to reservations about securing the pledges from private donors. Callaghan feared construction cost overruns would be paid for by the Village. Instead, he favored funds going to the renovation of Fire Station #1, calling it a "life and death matter."

CarlFingerCarl Finger, a lifelong Scarsdale resident and real estate attorney has also been nominated to serve a second term. Coincidentally, Trustee Callaghan lives in the house where Finger grew up. Previous to his term as Trustee, Finger served on the Conservation Advisory Council and the Board of Architectural Review. Finger has been an engaged and vocal member of the board on issues including the revaluation and the library. His mother, Dorothy Finger, is a former Village Trustee. In an interview in March 2015, Finger was asked why he would recommend a move to Scarsdale and said, "I can't think of a better place to live. In additional to the obvious draws, the schools and proximity to NYC, the small town feel that we have where the local merchants know the customers, the elementary schools and parks provide walking distance resources, the recreation department, the Scarsdale Pool, the library, and the welcoming nature of the community are without comparison."

Seth Ross is an attorney with years of legal experience and an impressive resume of volunteerism in Scarsdale. He has worked as a partner at Jaspan Schlesinger in Garden City since 2002 and was previously aross partner at Ross & Ross LLP. In his second career as Scarsdale community volunteer he has served in a variety of capacities. He was the Chair of the Planning Board, Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, as a Trustee of the Scarsdale Foundation, Chair of the Scarsdale Bowl, Chair of the Procedure Committee and on the CNC as well as the Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Department. He is a graduate of Boston University School of Law and Duke University. In January 2016 Ross said,, "In the course of my community service I have become familiar with the workings of various aspects of community government and with many of the people whose work, whether volunteer or professional, enable the Village of Scarsdale to function as it does." Ross expressed a "desire to see (Scarsdale) retain its special character while evolving to meet the changing needs of its residents."

About the selection of the candidates, Lena Crandall who chaired the CNC said, "The CNC searched for potential candidates and deliberated over the course of two months diligently following up with hundreds of references from throughout the Village. While deliberations and reference conversations are not shared publicly, the thirty-member CNC considered and researched carefully the background, experience, and qualifications of each candidate."

"It is the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party's privilege to support a candidate that has the experience, temperament, judgment, and character to lead. Mr. Hochvert possesses a level head and a steady hand with exceptional community and leadership experience. It is a mark of Scarsdale's excellence when volunteers of Mr. Hochvert's caliber will serve," stated ML Perlman Chair of the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party.

Though the CNC's slate of candidates often runs unopposed, other candidates can run if they submit an independent nominating petition with the signatures of at least 100 registered voters to the Village Clerk by the deadline of Tuesday February 14, 2017 at 5pm.

The general Village election will take place Tuesday March 21st 2017 at the Scarsdale Public Library, 54 Olmsted Road.

Have a comment? Please include your first and last name. Inappropriate comments will not be posted.

SHS Debaters Excel at Three Weekend Tournaments

debate2The weekend of January 7, students on the Scarsdale High School Speech and Debate Team attended three different tournaments around the country.

On Saturday, January 7, 2017 the Scarsdale High School Speech Team brought 50 students to the annual Chaminade Invitational Tournament in Mineola, NY, the highest number of students the team has brought to a tournament all year. Students competed in seven speech categories: Junior Varsity Oral Interpretation, Varsity Oral Interpretation, Junior Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, Dramatic Performance, Declamation, and Original Oratory.

In Oral Interpretation (OI), students alternate every other round between performing one prose piece and one poetry piece. Prose pieces that SHS students are currently competing with include "Mick Harte Was Here" by Barbara Park, "Out of My Mind" by Sharon Draper, and "Swallow the Ocean" by Laura Flynn. Poetries include "Shark Girl" by Kelly Bingham, "Perfect" by Ellen Hopkins, and programs of poetry on topics such as social anxiety, feminism, and LGBTQ rights. Competitors read from a small binder, and are prohibited from moving their feet, so they can be judged solely on their vocal variation, hand gestures, and facial expressions.

debate1

Overall, students like to describe OI as "competitive acting". OI is one of the more popular speech categories, because it is one of three that freshman on the team start off learning. Freshman joining the Speech Team can select to get their initial training in either Oral Interpretation, Declamation, or Extemporaneous Speaking.debate3

Extemporaneous Speaking is a current events based category. Before each round of a tournament, competitors draw a question they have never seen before, related to an issue in the news. They are then given 30 minutes of preparation time before they have to give a 7-minute speech, without notes, answering the question. To prepare for tournament, "extempers" file articles, keep up closely with current events, and give practice speeches. Example extemp questions from a tournament this weekend include: "How much influence does Donald Trump have on whether businesses build here or overseas?" "Should Montenegro be allowed to join NATO?" and, "How has the push for legalized marijuana in America affected the drug war in Mexico?"

In Dramatic Performance (DP), another "competitive acting" category, students cut and perform pieces from a book, play, or short story that are either humorous or dramatic. DP is similar to OI, but it is memorized and you are allowed to move your feet, so competitors are also judged on their movements.

In Declamation, students give speeches that have already been given, and are judged on their delivery of the speech. For example, competitors often perform Ted Talks, Commencement Addresses or Original Oratory speeches from previous years.

debate4In Original Oratory students write and perform their own 10 minute speeches on a societal issue that they are passionate about, and offer solutions on resolution of these issues. Competitors are judged on the delivery of their speeches, along with the writing. Josie Blatt's (17') oratory this year is about how we've lost the wonder that we had as young children, and why we need to regain it. Other examples of Oratory topics include Natalie Rosier's ('18) speech on society's over reliance on predictions, and Emily Schwartz's ('17) on the fear of being alone, and how we can see being alone in a positive light.

The structure of a typical one-day speech tournament consists of three preliminary rounds, where students give their speeches in rooms with five other competitors. They are ranked on a scale from one to six, and the students with the lowest cumulative ranks move on to either a one room final round with six to eight competitors, or a two room final round with 12-16 competitors. However, this Saturday students were informed after the first preliminary round that the final round was cancelled due to the snowstorm, and the team left immediately after the third round. Although there was no final round, students were still awarded half qualifications to the New York State Forensics League Championship, at Hofstra University in April, based on their ranks in the three preliminary rounds.

The following students from Scarsdale High School received half qualifications: In JVOI, Julia McMurray '19 and Emma Glaser '20, and Christina Coco '20. In VOI, Jocelyn Weiss '19. In JVEX, Eve Mainster '20, Adina Mistry '19 and Abhinav Vittal '20. In Declamation, Katia Jacovides '19, and in Oratory Josie Blatt '17. Mainster and Blatt are now fully qualified for the State Championship, and will join around 20 other speech team members who are already qualified.

On Friday, January 6, and Saturday, January 7, 2017, 16 students on the debate side of the team attended the Newark Invitational tournament at Science Park High school in Newark, NJ. The Lincoln Douglas resolution for January and February is "Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict constitutionally protected free speech." Students must argue the affirmative and negative sides on this resolution.

Students competed in Varsity Lincoln Douglas Debate (1 on 1 debate), Novice Lincoln Douglas Debate, and Novice Public Forum Debate (2 on 2 debate). In Varsity LD there were six preliminary rounds, and the tournament broke to partial double octafinals. Natalie Isak '18 and Michael Landau '17 were double-octa finalists, Lauren Singer '17 was an octa finalist, Gillian Zipursky '17 was a quarterfinalist, and Zack Gelles '17 was a semifinalist. Zipursky and Gelles received bids to the Tournament of Champions, making it Zipursky's third bid of the season, and Gelles's second, completing his qualification to the Tournament of Champions. Zipursky was also ranked third speaker and Gelles was ranked fourth. In Novice LD, there were five preliminary rounds and the tournament broke to quarterfinals. Nikki Lerner '20 was ranked 8th speaker.

On Saturday, January 7 and Sunday January 8, 2017, Zach Kapner '17 and Keshav Rastogi '17 attended to the Montgomery Bell Academy Extemp Round Robin in Nashville, Tennessee, an invite-only tournament for competitors in Extemporaneous Speaking. Invites to the tournament were based on performance at major circuit tournaments in both the prior season and the first semester of this one. There were ten rounds of Round Robin competition, with four competitors and three judges per room. There were only 16 competitors invited, so it was an impressive achievement just to be a participant, but Zach Kapner '17 also placed sixth in the highly competitive tournament.

January is a busy month for the Speech and Debate Team. Next weekend, January 14-16, students will be attending the Sunvitational Tournament in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the Fr. Rippon Memorial Tournament at Regis and Loyola High Schools in Manhattan, and the Lexington Winter Invitational in Lexington, MA. Later this month, the team will be attending the Columbia Invitational at Columbia University in Manhattan, and the Convent of the Sacred Heart Tournament in Greenwich, CT.

The team is coached by physics teacher Joe Vaughan, and assistant coach Will Maldarelli, a middle school social studies teacher. They chaperone and help run almost all tournaments that team attends. However, on a weekend with more than two tournaments, the team brings parent chaperones. The team also must provide a certain number of judges at each tournament, depending on how many students it brings. The judges are typically trained parent judges or SHS alumni. In addition to judging tournaments, parents of team members also help run the Scarsdale Invitational Tournament, hosted at SHS in November.

This year's Speech and Debate Team is the biggest it has ever been, with 138 members. With a team so large, the mentorship training program is incredibly valuable. The team's 19 junior and senior officers, and other upperclassman, work closely with underclassmen at practices twice a week. The team has been very successful this year, and is looking forward to a great conclusion to the season.

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