Your Letters: Elect Work Horses not Show Horses for Village Trustee

Foley1This letter was written by Tim Foley:

To the Editor:

As a professional political organizer and government staffer, I’ve seen the up-close workings of many state and local governments, large and small, across seven states and in numerous communities here in Westchester. Year in and year out, Scarsdale can boast of an embarrassment of riches. Scarsdale has generally been able to boast of “work horses, not show horses” for its elected officials at all levels of government, from federal to local.

The non-partisan system that successive generations of Scarsdalians have developed for ourselves is an unusual break from the way politics is done elsewhere. The “non-partisan” part in which neither the Democrats nor the Republicans put up candidates is surprisingly common in municipal elections. But more notable is the emphasis the 30 elected volunteers who make up the Citizens Nominating Committee each year place on a candidate’s temperament, record of volunteer service, willingness to listen to all sides, and commitment to roll up his or her sleeves and get to work. That focus de-emphasizes particular policy pledges and produces Village Trustees who take office understanding their job is to represent not their own reflexive leanings or an inflexible platform, but the whole village.

I’ll admit, as an advocate more used to the partisan parry-and-thrust, it’s not the style of politics where I personally feel most comfortable, but it fits Scarsdale like a glove. It’s hard to argue with results. This year, the CNC put forth as candidates for the Village Board Justin Arest, Lena Crandall, and Randy Whitestone – dedicated volunteers with exactly the temperaments and the skills we need.

In his years on the Board, Justin has developed a well-earned reputation of digging into the nuts-and-bolts of governance, wrestling with the best outcome and best process to achieve that outcome. He hasn’t been shy about disagreeing with his peers when he’s unpersuaded or grabbing a good idea to help this community no matter its source. Throughout the pandemic, he has been tireless in his efforts to get good, usable updates and information out to the community.

I’ve known that Lena has a matchless ability to invite others to join the dialogue, pitch in, and challenge our community to make it better. After all, she literally walked up to me in the middle of the street one day to encourage me successfully to get more involved myself. I’ve seen her quiet, calm, and unrelenting ability to prompt the best out of others and find the teachable moments, even within a crisis.

It’s clear that Randy’s “black belt in communications” will be valuable for a Board that will continue to face unknowable challenges in the months and years ahead. His openness to innovation and emphasis on inclusion are traits that so many other great Scarsdale leaders have possessed and will serve us well now.

We’re still in the early innings of dealing with this pandemic and economic downturn, but we can take pride in the fact that Scarsdale has done as well or better than neighboring communities in keeping the Village moving forward during uncertain times. Crisis reveals character. Justin, Lena, and Randy have been revealed to be the steady hands and the “work horses” our village needs now. Vote Row B to elect them this year.

Tim Foley
73 Brown Road

From Jeff Blatt

JeffBlattIn recent ads, the VCP candidates — Berg, Cohen and Selvaggio — take credit for a long-considered split tax-payment plan recently enacted by the Village Trustees intended to help residents with their cash flow management. The idea of split tax payments, as old or older than the Magna Carta, was carefully considered by the Trustees, who weighed community input, including some resistance, and then, working with village professionals, delivered this option (not the VCP, who have no authority over policy).

To be clear, though this small policy provides a one time cash flow benefit, it ultimately costs taxpayers, as any foregone interest the village would have earned on the delayed cash receipts will need to be made up in the form of future taxation or budget cuts. The option to pay in two installments does not provide tax relief and the VCP should not present this as some panacea. The Village Board certainly has not. Furthermore, Berg calls state-mandated Village fees for late payment of taxes “extortion,” which is trumped up nonsense. We’re all aware that late payments have consequences in all walks of life And any revenue earned from fees goes back to taxpayers in the form of municipal public services or lower taxation than would otherwise be needed to fund the budget.

Community members should be concerned with Berg’s preferred tactics. Petitions instead of suggestions. Hyperbole instead of reason. Blame instead of collaboration. And a lot of personal grand-standing. This all seems predicated on the VCP’s absurd fundamental notion that all those currently serving — and likely who have ever served — are incompetent and corrupt. It is a sweeping insult to the decent volunteers who serve our community.

The VCP’s other main theme, if we can call this a platform, is to describe affluent Scarsdale as a place divided and they seek to fuel the flames of resentments between these mysterious factions. For example, Berg recently identified ownership of a generator as the “us vs. them” wealth line. This distorted assumption is disconnected from the realities of our hardworking, grateful and often risk-averse community. More nonsense.

Bob Berg has a very long history of challenging even the smallest of public expenditures. When I was on the Board of Education in the 2004-2010 period, Berg would pride himself on searching for every last dime that he thought was unnecessary in a $100 million+ budget. He’d find 100-200 people who would greatly admire him for his appearance of frugality, but his suggestions were often disconnected from student needs or community values. As the School Board would consider the details with care, Berg would only be happy with less. Berg ignored the fact that our proposed school budgets consistently pass with 75%+ public support, often more. Regardless, he knew best.

Regarding Village taxes, community members are consistently willing to pay for the many services that we value. It should be concerning that Berg assumes empty nesters (like me) only seek reductions. His calls for cuts would impact our first responders, or health and safety, and enjoyment of this beautiful Village.

Like most in Scarsdale, I moved here for the schools, but I stay here for the community. In the upcoming years which are sure to be challenging, we need prudent, balanced consideration — decidedly not the VCP brand. Vote for Arest, Crandall, and Whitestone, Row B, nominated for their open-minds and good judgement.

Jeff Blatt
Walworth Avenue

From Janet Han and Peri Zelig

To the Editor,

As Heathcote representatives on the Citizens Nominating Committee, we enthusiastically support all three of the Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party’s (SCNPP) candidates for election as Village Trustee and are proud to have been part of the robust, thoughtful, deliberative nominating process that put forward the SCNPP slate. Moreover, we enthusiastically write this letter in support of Justin Arest’s reelection as Trustee.

Since moving to Scarsdale and meeting Justin, we have been impressed with his unyielding commitment to our community. He is eager to engage both new and long-term residents in conversation about civic affairs and to encourage us all to give back to the community.

Some qualities that we look for in our leaders and that we think Justin exemplifies as Trustee:

Dedication and strong work ethic: Justin puts extraordinary time and energy into his work as Trustee. He goes above and beyond what is required in order to serve our community effectively, which is particularly striking given his other work and family commitments. A recent example of his dedication to serving the community was during August’s extended power outage, when Justin worked around the clock to ensure that all members of the community received Village updates and at-least-daily notifications not only through traditional emails, but through innovative social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

Intelligence, pragmatism, and open-mindedness: Justin is deliberative and believes in being fully informed about the issues. He does his homework, including independent research, asks questions, and is an active listener. He is fair and strives to take differing viewpoints into account before coming to his own opinion on a given issue, all while remaining respectful of others.

Steady temperament and patience: Justin has demonstrated a keen ability to maintain a calm, respectful temperament, even in the face of loud (and personal) attacks. He is unflappable and believes that civil discussion and debate help promote a shared sense of community even/especially when there is disagreement on an issue.

This is the type of person we want as Village Trustee. Often, competent leadership is taken for granted. Justin will continue to work on behalf of the community and he will not let you down if reelected for another term. He is committed to making Scarsdale the best it can be for all of us.

Peri Zelig (Lakin Road) and Janet Han (Lawrence Road)