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Your Letters: Residents Voice Support for the Non-Partisan Slate

We received many letters this week in support of the Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party slate of candidates for Village Trustee nominated by the Citizens Nominating Committee. The election is on Tuesday September 15 and you can vote at the Scarsdale Congregational Church at 1 Heathcote Road, Scarsdale from 6 am to 9 pm.

Here are the letters:

Diane2Diane Greenwald
Support Candidates who Give Back, not Give Grief
To the Editor: Justin Arest, Lena Crandall and Randall Whitestone each exhibit an abiding sense of service that comes when decent people are inclined to give back. It’s no wonder they received the nomination for Village Trustee by the Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC), the body of 30 elected residents entrusted to nominate candidates for us.

Scarsdale runs well under a non-partisan system – meaning no one is elected to the Village or School Board based on Democratic or Republican affiliation. The premise is that many excellent volunteers may be deterred by partisan campaigning. The CNC hears individuals present their qualifications, then reviews their history of volunteerism and references in lengthy deliberations over many meetings. This due diligence is confidential, not furtive, to broaden participation and facilitate candid conversations, but transparent protocols are followed.

It’s more thorough than relying on a self-serving campaign ad, and more respectful than the mudslinging.

For a small, well-run town of busy residents, having a dedicated committee empowered to make educated nominations is an efficient approach. Voter turnout can be lower, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair contest. Of course, individuals are allowed to challenge the CNC nominations, as is happening now. But we shouldn’t pretend this is actual party politics or that open campaigning improves the quality of our already strong leadership.

Non-partisan committee membership and leadership changes annually, yet challenger Bob Berg with Selvaggio and Cohen, and campaign manager Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, bad mouth the process as rigged, seeking to erode our trust in our neighbors’ integrity.

They are running as a slate of the “Voter’s Choice Party” (VCP) that Mr. Berg and Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez appear to have founded, though there is no leadership board or nomination process disclosed. It is hard to figure what the ‘choice’ is with Mr. Berg always on their ticket. Without these few individuals driving efforts, it’s unclear how their ‘party’ would be sustained.

The VCP frequently dismisses complex issues as debacles, disasters and fiascos absent balanced consideration, and they leap to blame, or worse, to sue the village, instead of to problem-solve. I often wonder, where do they live?

I live in Scarsdale. We work hard to be here and are grateful for it. I support the non-partisan system not because it’s perfect, but because it’s fair, efficient, dynamic and encourages civil civic engagement.

We know that decisions are better when diverse viewpoints are considered. We should be working together to improve diverse representation by welcoming participation. That objective is thwarted when a handful of furious, disgruntled residents relentlessly blame and falsely accuse qualified, decent volunteers of wrongdoing.

The divisive, self-aggrandizing rhetoric disseminated by the VCP is simply counterproductive to building community.

We are Scarsdale. We are all in this together. I encourage residents to run to be elected to the CNC and the SBNC. In the 15 years I have lived here, over 450 voting residents have served. Give it a try. (learn more about Citizen’s Nominating Committee and School Board Nominating Committee.)

Trustee Arest, Trustee Crandall and Mr. Whitestone were nominated based on character and good judgment. Let’s get them back to work for us by voting for Row B. Vote now by absentee ballot or in person on September 15 at Scarsdale Congregational Church at One Heathcote Road. Where your mask, please. (Link to more info about the candidates and voting.)

Respectfully,

Diane Greenwald
Oak Lane

JonathanLewisJonathan Lewis
I support Randy Whitestone, Lena Crandall, and Justin Arrest for Village Trustees because I believe in them and I believe in the non-partisan system that nominated them. For nearly two decades I have lived in this village in a park, and I’ve had the honor to serve as President of the Scarsdale Forum, a Trustee of the Scarsdale Board of Education, and as a current Trustee of the Village of Scarsdale. I understand and value the system that nominated Randy, Lena, and Justin.

In my years of service, I have been impressed by my neighbors’ commitment to service in support of the qualities that maintain Scarsdale as the special place we all believe it to be. Randy, Lena, and Justin represent the values of Non Sibi that are at the core of our shared community heritage, and have demonstrated in their volunteer service a willingness to engage in the kind of debate so necessary for our village government to evolve and respond to the changing demands of our time.

It should be clear that Randy, Lena, and Justin, were chosen after careful deliberation by our neighbors. Thirty independently elected volunteer neighbors compose the Citizens Nominating Committee. These thirty neighbors meet on multiple nights and weekends to evaluate and consider candidates for office, the neighbors they believe are most qualified to sit on the Board of Trustees at this time. Randy, Lena, and Justin were chosen by our neighbors because their skills and temperament suits them to a non-partisan style of government where we may disagree with each other, while respecting each other’s views in debate.

In these uncertain times, we need debate now more than ever and it’s important we elect trustees who can both express their views respectfully, and at the same time hear other voices. Debate is an essential part of the process that allows us to refine policy ideas and to arrive at better outcomes. We should not expect trustees to agree at all times, or vote unanimously at all times - that would be groupthink. When I voted against the budget this spring, and as I have debated my fellow trustees to adopt a more conservative approach with more frequent planning workshops, I have never doubted that my colleagues are well intended in their viewpoints though they may differ from my own. This cognitive diversity is good for the board so we can learn from each other and arrive at a better outcome. We need Randy, Lena, and Justin on the Village Board to ensure that the debate continues, respectfully, and that once solutions are identified, they are implemented collaboratively.

We are in a crisis. We need steady hands. I support the non-partisan system and Randy, Lena, and Justin.

Jonathan Lewis
Woods Lane

JonMarkJon Mark

To the Editor: With regard to recent criticism by their opponents that the non-partisan candidates lack “a platform,” it may be helpful for residents to understand what the non-partisan system is and what it is not. The non-partisan system, Scarsdale’s longstanding consensus approach to nominating and electing Village and School Board Trustees, is not issue-based. It is a system premised on the precept that we share a community and many community-wide values. The system seeks clear thinking, open-minded individuals who demonstrate that they are able to put aside their personal preferences, consider input from a variety of sources and points of view, and make reasonable judgments in the best interest of the Village as a whole. No system is perfect, but the non-partisan system is meant to be inclusive -- and over the years has grown more so. Residents who serve as Board members volunteer their time. Day-to-day Village operations are delegated to a paid professional staff.

On the subject of long-term financial planning: Scarsdale is a mature Village, mostly built-out, and is about 98% single-family residential. We are known for our schools and to a lesser extent, for our well-maintained appearance. Each year the Village operating budget and the capital budget (which looks several years ahead) are prepared in a public process that extends over many months. Underpinning that process is a well-defined long-term financial plan, namely: delivery of the municipal services – police, fire, water, sanitation, public works and recreation -- residents expect year to year at a cost they are willing to pay.

Long-term financial planning positing a variety of “what if” hypotheticals is useful in managing businesses as they develop and grow – or prepare for downturns. On the other hand, the long-term financial objectives for Scarsdale are well defined by years of experience. While the details and scope of the services provided may change over time in response to residents’ desires, changes are always vetted against the issue of affordability.

Scarsdale clearly has a good plan, as folks continue to move here -- and apparently increasingly wish to do so as some abandon the City in the face of the pandemic. Resident turnover is a natural result of the occurrence of life-cycle events in residents’ lives and more recently for some, as a result of the harsh economic impact of the pandemic. It is still the case that more than a majority of residents are empty-nesters -- evidence that staying here is an attractive option for many.

Scarsdale is a community that is at its best when we work together for shared goals in the preservation and enhancement of our Village in the Park. I urge residents to support continued good governance in Scarsdale by voting Row B for the very strong non-partisan slate nominated by the Citizens’ Nominating Committee: Justin Arest, Lena Crandall, Randy Whitestone and Joaquin Alemany.

Jon Mark,
Co-Chair: Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Campaign Committee
Brookby Road

JohnMccannJohn McCann
To the Editor, Since the original election day we have all learned and experienced many things, some expected, most unplanned. More importantly, I think we all know we still have much more to learn. This continuing journey has shown us the kinds of skills we need in our Village Board of Trustees. Justin Arest, Lena Crandall and Randy Whitestone have those skills.

The impact of the pandemic will be long lasting. Randy, Lena and Justin are thoughtful, work efficiently, are open to innovation, ask the right questions and are team players. These attributes will be imperative as the Trustees examine and balance all the benefits and costs of every village service and program.

On a personal note, I have known Randy for more than 20 years as a friend, neighbor and fellow Edgewood resident. In the years ahead, his common sense, streets smarts and inclusive demeanor will be a positive addition to the BOT and all its deliberations. BTW, Randy has already rolled up his shirtsleeves and has been attending every Board meeting and work session and offered on the record insightful public comments.

As we move forward as a community, the Village needs people like Lena, Randy and Justin.

Please remember to vote on September 15th!

John McCann
Edgewood Road

spivakMelanie Spivak
To the Editor: A volunteer is someone who dedicates their time and energy towards the goal of helping others, without compensation but rather for the joy and satisfaction of making a difference in someone else’s life. Scarsdale is very lucky to count Lena Crandall as a Village volunteer and Trustee.

Lena has dedicated her time living in Scarsdale, for the past 28 years, to her family and to our town, most recently as a member of the Board of Trustees. Looking at the myriad volunteer activities she has chaired over the years, Lena focused on her love for children and senior citizens, the environment and our town at large. Lena was a dedicated leader even before she was elected as a Trustee. Her time serving and chairing local committees such as Friends of Scarsdale Parks, Scarsdale Adult School, Scarsdale Forum and PT Council, enabled her to gain important knowledge and experience that she uses as Village Trustee today, serving on many of these same committees representing our entire community.

She is a Trustee who listens to the residents. As an attorney, she knows how to ask the right questions to help bring about rational answers, especially during unprecedented times like these. Trustee Lena Crandall, and the rest of the board have been responsive to the needs of our community in the wake of the pandemic, weather emergencies, electric outages and social change. They have steered our budget through rough waters, and shown a steady hand in bringing our village through unsettled times. Most importantly, Trustee Lena Crandall has taken the time to get to know many of the residents of Scarsdale, making her a more effective leader. I have personally worked with Lena on neighborhood association concerns and saw first-hand that her quiet, methodical demeanor was a key to solving issues in the best interest of all the residents. I support Lena Crandall along with Trustees Justin Arest and Randall Whitestone for re-election in September. Vote Row B, Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan slate.

Melanie Spivak
Bradford Road

Steve Pass
The candidates of the “Voters Choice Party” imply that by electing them to office they will lower our taxes. Their pitch is to everyone, but they especially focus on empty-nesters who have seen their taxes rise dramatically since moving here many years ago.

For some background, our taxes are split into three parts: village, school, and county, and each are controlled by separate elected bodies. The Village Board is responsible only for the village budget, which makes up 19% of our total taxes and covers essential services such as police, fire, and sanitation. Roughly 80% of the village budget is allocated for employee compensation and benefits, most of which is subject to union contracts.

Rising taxes is not just a Scarsdale phenomenon; property taxes have risen dramatically over the past 20 years in every town in Westchester, largely driven by increases in the cost of healthcare and retirement benefits for public employees. A review of percentage tax increases of village taxes by town since 2002 shows that some towns have gone up a bit more than us, and some have gone up a bit less, but Scaradale is not an outlier.

The “Voters Choice Party" had never indicated how they planned to lower taxes until a few months ago, when they claimed to have found over $2 million in “easy” cuts to the Village budget and furiously circulated emails and a petition with their proposals. Many of these proposals were impractical and indicative of a lack of understanding of how Scarsdale works. Four examples:

First, their biggest cut called for defunding the budget by $1 million by removing overtime expenses for our professional fire department. They suggested our volunteer firefighters (residents) work the overtime shifts instead. This “easy” proposal would be challenging for Scarsdale in the best of times, but completely overhauling our fire department at the height of a pandemic -- which their proposal would have necessitated -- could have endangered lives.

Second, they called for reneging on $500,000 in raises to our police officers promised in a pre-crisis negotiated collective bargaining agreement between the village and Scarsdale's police union. This would surely have led to litigation, and probably ended up costing quite a bit more than $500,000. (Agreements and contracts aside, one may assume that our police officers are already the highest or close to the highest paid in New York and therefore should not have been offered a raise to begin with. This is not accurate; per Empire Center's "What They Make 2018-19," at least twenty police departments in just the Mid-Hudson region in NY have a higher average pay than Scarsdale's.)

Third, they suggested we ask our hard-working Village Justice to donate his salary to the village because he is a "wealthy and generous man."

Fourth, they proposed we cut $29,000 on resources for the village attorney, because "We do not have one anymore; we have an outside law firm." This is wrong; we still employ a full-time deputy village attorney (which helps bring down the expense of the outside law firm).

These were not “easy,” creative, out-of-the-box ideas. They were ill-conceived, impractical ideas, some of which, if enacted, would have put the health and safety of residents in jeopardy.

If you think that by voting for the “Voters Choice Party" your taxes will go down and you will continue to enjoy the services you currently receive, think again. We don’t need them to “ask the hard questions” since the hard questions are already asked during the many hours of budget meetings (all public) where trustees grill staff and make them justify expenses at a granular level.

Our community needs steady leadership focused on prudent solutions that balance values and resources, not a disruptive force offering empty promises. Please vote Row “B” for Arest, Crandall and Whitestone.

Steve Pass
Shawnee Road

ArtRublinArt Rublin

To the Editor:

There are many reasons I support CNC nominees Arest, Crandall and Whitestone, but I feel compelled to write today about their character and temperament. I have gotten to know each of these three nominees and have been impressed not only by their ability to think through community issues, but also by their ability to work well with others. Interpersonal skills are critical to the work of a Village Trustee.

One of the worst things that can happen in any campaign is when “they go low.” We have seen on the national stage how corrosive and destructive coarseness in politics can be. Perhaps we are numb to the impact of ugly personal attacks at this point, but I don’t think we should be. In fact, it is an understatement to say that Scarsdale is better than that. We all expect in our community that disagreements can and should remain about issues, and that lively debate can and should remain civil. We are neighbors, volunteers, colleagues, and often friends.
Trustees Arest and Crandall and Mr. Whitestone, nominated by elected representatives through a robust and time-tested process, are facing a contested election this year, and we are experiencing the campaigning right now. In recent days, and as a pattern over the years, the VCP challengers have demonstrated that they do not play well in the sandbox. They are running a campaign that lacks decency.

I will not dignify the VCP’s approach or their hyperbole and misinformation by repeating examples in my letter, but what we see is wholly inappropriate, including jaw-dropping personal attacks that have no place in our small Village. The VCP’s ‘go low’ tactics show us something about the character of the challenging candidates. If Messrs. Berg, Cohen and Selvaggio sling mud in the course of campaigning, how would they govern?
I hope that voters turn out to demonstrate the priority that our Village places on good character and civil engagement. Residents can vote either by absentee ballot (applications by mail need to be sent by Saturday September 5th to be received by the Tuesday September 8th deadline for receipt of absentee applications by mail) or in person for Row B – to reelect Trustees Arest and Crandall, and to elect Mr. Whitestone. For decency, civility, and good government.

Arthur Rublin
Donellan Road

BillSternBill Stern
Why The Scarsdale Voters Choice Party Is Not a Choice In The Village Election For Trustee

The spokeswoman for the VCP has always criticized the Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party for not having a person of color as a nominee for Trustee and she claimed that is one reason why their role as elected selectors of Trustee candidates is flawed. The VCP does not have a person of color for any of their nominees! This smells of the hypocrisy of the VCP.

The same spokeswoman mobilized an article 78 lawsuit against the village and lost. The village has spent tens of thousands of precious tax dollars defending the lawsuit. The lawsuit is being appealed wasting additional taxpayer's money.

One VCP candidate Bob Berg is an inappropriate choice because of his temperament and one-sided view of issues. He has lost two elections but keeps coming back. Unlike the SCNP, which rigorously vets all candidates, the Party's spokeswoman said that the voters will vet the candidates. They already have. Bob lost twice by a good margin in two previous elections.

Mr Berg was quoted in the New York Times by Joseph Berger on Jan 26, 2015 in an article called the "Appraisal," and not out of context; “Mr. Berg, of Scarsdale’s assessment review board, said older mansions like those on Heathcote were hit hardest because they had not been assessed in decades. They deserve to be hammered,”

Hammer Scarsdale residents? Is that governance and fairness? Is this a quality we want in a Trustee. I don't think so.

As recently as May 12 2020 Bob Berg said at a Board of Trustees meeting that "loan shark late fee payments are a pretty despicable practice" something he has said before despite the fact that he had been informed that this penalty is stipulated by the state and county and are implemented by all government entities in the state. This type of aggressive, insulting judgmental approach is not befitting a trustee.

If the VCP can choose a candidate so inappropriate as Mr. Berg then it makes me wonder about their other two candidates.

On the other hand the two Trustees Arest, and Crandall, chosen by the SCNP have sterling records of dedicated service and leadership during these trying times and have earned re-election. The third, Randall Whitestone has been extensively vetted as an even-handed, clear thinking, smart choice. Judge Alemany, candidate for reelection as Village Justice has shown his masterful and Solomonic leadership of the Village court.

Scarsdale is a precious gift which should not be put in the hands of disgruntled , inappropriate VCP candidates.

Keep Scarsdale as the Village we all love and vote for the SCNP Row B Trustee slate of Arest, Crandall ,Whitestone and Judge Alemany for Village Justice. The election is at the Scarsdale Congregational Church, 1 Heathcote Road on Sept 15 from 6 am to 9 pm. Absentee ballots are available by mail at from the Village Clerk at Village Hall.

Bill Stern
Rural Drive

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