Why I Support the Non-Partisan System And You Should Too

getting alongThis is the opinion of Scarsdale10583 site founder Joanne Wallenstein:

What used to be the exception has now become the norm. Scarsdale’s unique non-partisan system of government, which was designed to prevent divisive partisan elections, is being challenged at every opportunity. Each year seems to bring contested elections, undermining a system that was formerly the envy of many other communities.

As most of you already know, Scarsdale’s system to elect candidates to the school board and village board calls for candidates to be vetted and nominated by committees of elected representatives from each of Scarsdale’s five elementary school neighborhoods. In the case of the school board nominating committee, the nominators are elected to serve three-year terms. By design these candidates have no specific agenda or party affiliation. They are nominated to do what they believe is best for the children and taxpayers of Scarsdale.

Since the nominators three-year terms are staggered, each year brings ten new members to the committee, with ten completing their service. This process ensures that the committee is infused with new blood and new points of view each year. That committee of elected representatives is charged with reaching out to the community at large to identify willing and capable residents to serve.

The process served Scarsdale well for decades. Talented and collegial people stepped up to lend their expertise to the board of education and help the school administration to uphold excellence in our schools. Yes, challenges from opposition candidates arose from time to time, but they were few and far between.

But recently these challenges have become so frequent as to undermine the entire system.

Why now? It’s really not clear. Is something amiss at our schools? Is the budget out of control? Have college admissions rates declined? Is the district losing faculty or administrators? Has morale fallen? The answer to all these questions, at least from my observations, is no. Yes we’re in a pandemic, but the district has been responsive, flexible and has designed an e-Learning program that is already being modelled by other schools. The proposed budget increase is de minimis, kids have been admitted to the colleges of their choice and the district maintains its stellar reputation.

So again, what’s the opposition about? The School Board Nominating Committee did their work and vetted and nominated two worthy candidates to join the board in July. I haven’t heard a word against the credentials or reputations of either. They appear to have just the right skill sets to complement the board.

The truth is we can’t identify a polarizing issue or policy that’s dividing the community and would spur opposition to the non-partisan candidates. In fact, all three candidates support the school budget and urge you to vote yes.

All that’s dividing us is a highly active political campaign by the opposing candidate who is sending out emails, letters and flyers and advertising to support her campaign. As a result, those who support the non-partisan system and their candidates are forced to spend time and money defending the candidates nominated by the SBNC. These same volunteers could be doing more to move the community forward and help those in need in these perilous times. Instead, they are asking for contributions to wage a full-scale campaign, simply to defend Scarsdale’s unique form of governance that ironically is supposed to prevent divisive politics.

For the rest of us, who live here because the village is well run, it’s truly tiresome to be on the receiving end of this hoopla. We all have a lot on our minds. The COVID pandemic, illness, death of loved ones, the resulting economic crisis and anxiety about our future all weigh heavy on my mind. I am sure you have your list too.

I don’t need divisive politics in the place of refuge I am fortunate to call home; Scarsdale.

So when my ballot for school board and the school budget arrives in the mail sometime after May 27, I am going to vote for the two candidates nominated by the School Board Nominating Committee, Amber Yusuf and Bob Klein, and vote YES for the school budget.

Scarsdale is one of the only places I know where things are going in the right direction. Let’s cast of a vote of confidence in the non-partisan system of governance for the Village we all love.