Paulin Sponsors Legislation to Combat Gerrymandering
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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Assemblymember Amy Paulin and Senator James Skoufis, joined by Scarsdale Mayor Jane Veron and members of the League of Women Voters of Westchester and Scarsdale held a press conference at the newly re-opened Scarsdale Library on June 23 to announce the passage of legislation to require all counties to follow fair redistricting standards.
The legislation is aimed at preventing counties from gerrymandering for political gain and from disenfranchising voters by dividing villages and towns with common interests. It requires the 23 counties in New York that operate under a charter to follow the same redistricting standards as all other counties in New York. Their bill modernizes those standards to further ensure towns from being divided for unjust purposes and to bring the standards in line with generally accepted best practices for redistricting. Importantly, the updated standards include ensuring that equal weight is given to all residents in the allocation of representation, that districts are not drawn to favor voters of one political party, that districts are compact and contiguous, that districts are formed to promote the orderly and efficient administration of elections, and that districts are not drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minority groups to participate in the political process.
"Representation matters, and for those living in self-chartered counties such as the three I represent, this legislation takes us one large step toward preserving the will of the people by standardizing how legislative districts are drawn and redrawn,” said Skoufis. “Just shy of 20 years in the making, this is a bill with serious teeth and I call on the Governor to sign it so that these reforms are enacted just in time for the 2022 once-a-decade county redistricting proposals. I am grateful to Assemblymember Paulin for her partnership and years of dedicated leadership on this issue."
The passing of this legislation represents the culmination of 20 years of work by Paulin who first fought for fair county legislative districts as president of the Scarsdale League of Women Voters (“LWV”) in 1991. At that time Scarsdale was split into two separate districts, and the Town of Scarsdale, along with the Scarsdale LWV, sued Westchester County on the grounds that the state Municipal Home Rule Law (“MHRL”) prohibits towns from being divided. The Town of Scarsdale’s lawsuit was dismissed due to lack of standing, and although the Scarsdale LWV lawsuit proceeded it was never decided by the courts.
Scarsdale, a small town of only 6.6 square miles, was then split into 3 districts in 1993. At that time Paulin, who was now the President of the County LWV, again sued the County over unfair redistricting. The case went to the NYS Supreme Court, and then to the appellate level. Ultimately the NYS Appellate Division upheld the lower court decision that Westchester County was not required to follow the criteria in the MHRL because it operates under a charter form of government and is bound only by the redistricting criteria in its charter.
The County had two subsequent redistricting cycles in 2001 and 2011, when fair districting was restored.
Henry Neale, a Scarsdale resident and the attorney who represented the LWV in its lawsuit, said, “All counties in New York State should follow the same standards for redistricting—something I have been advocating for a long time. It is not logical and clearly unfair that voters in a chartered county can have their votes diluted by splitting towns or packing members of one political party or another into a district, when voters in the rest of the state are protected.”
“This legislation will prevent towns like Scarsdale from being split into multiple legislative districts, which dilutes the vote of residents and leaves them without a clear, singular representative to advocate on their behalf,” said Paulin. “With this legislation, the integrity of cities, towns and villages in Westchester and other chartered counties.
Veron, also a former President of the LWV of Scarsdale thanked Paulin for her excellent representation and the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale and the LWV of Westchester voiced their support for the new legislation.
Will Marijuana Dispensaries and Smoking Lounges Be Permitted in Scarsdale?
- Written by Sammy Silberberg
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Marijuana, cannabis products, dispensaries and even smoking lounges are legal in New York State, but are they going to be a fixture in Scarsdale’s future? That is a question the Board of Trustees tackled during this week’s highly anticipated work session on Tuesday, June 15.
The new Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act (MRTA) was signed into law in March 2021, legalizing the possession and use of marijuana. As of March 31, 2021, anyone over the age of 21 may possess, display, and transport up to 30 oz of cannabis and can transfer up to 3 oz of cannabis without compensation. It is also legal to use, smoke, or inject cannabis products, purchase cannabis paraphernalia, and plant or cultivate cannabis in a personal residence. You can find a complete overview of the law HERE. The framework of MRTA is similar to alcohol regulation and will be managed by the NY State Cannabis Control Board. Similar to liquor stores, sales will take place at retail dispensaries, which are anticipated to open in late 2022 or early 2023.
Public consumption of cannabis products will be treated the same as tobacco and will be banned in areas such as workplaces, food service establishments, public and private educational intuitions, commercial establishments, hospital grounds, public libraries, and indoor areas.
While most of the law’s implementation is decided by the state, individual municipalities have some agency over the sale of cannabis within their borders. By December 31, 2021, towns must decide if they want to "opt-out" of the sale of cannabis by passing a local law banning the practice. If no law is adopted by that date, retail cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption businesses can open. A municipality can also choose to allow dispensaries but not on-site consumption centers, or vice versa, if that is the preference of the community. If a town chooses to opt-out, they may repeal the provision and “opt back in” at any time. If a town opts out, it will forfeit the highly anticipated tax revenue that comes from these sales. By state law, MRTA will add a 4% tax to all retail sales, of which 1% will go to the county and 3% will go directly to the town.
If Scarsdale permits dispensaries and consumption sites, the village can govern the time, place, and manner of operation of these establishments as long as such provisions do not make the functioning of those facilities unreasonably impracticable. Local governments can also implement additional smoking and vaping restrictions on property owned by the municipality, such as parks and playgrounds. In addition, these retail shops and consumption sites cannot be located within 500 feet of school grounds or 200 feet of a house of worship.
Given these restrictions, Village Planner Greg Cutler identified only two possible sites for cannabis retail stores or on-site consumption facilities in Scarsdale. In the maps below, the orange zone represents the 200-foot buffer from houses of worship, and the red zone represents the 500-foot buffer from schools. Within these parameters, only certain areas of the Village Center and the Golden Horseshoe Shopping Center would be potential areas for these businesses to operate.
After the presentation by Village Attorney Pozin and Village Planner Cutler, Board members shared their first impressions before opening the discussion to public comment. Trustee Lewis pointed out that the village is currently facing severe fiscal challenges, and that Scarsdale could collect cannabis revenue while further restricting facility locations. He also stressed the need for the Board to consider how this issue will affect the downtown revitalization plan.
Trustee Whitestone raised his concern that substance use is increasing among teenagers. He stated that while social views on marijuana have evolved, revenue cannot be the paramount concern. Wendy Gendel, who later spoke as the Chair of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force, also emphasized the need to educate our students on the dangers of marijuana.
Sharing his thought process, Trustee Arest explained that he was originally against the idea of permitting cannabis sales. While he remains opposed to an on-site consumption facility, he now recognizes the economic value of a dispensary. Because consumption, delivery, and home-grown cannabis are legal, there is little the Board can practically do to limit the drug’s use. For this reason, Arest said we must be cognizant of the possibility that other towns, such as Eastchester (on Garth Road) and New Rochelle (in parts of the Golden Horseshoe), might take advantage of this opportunity. For example, if Scarsdale opts out but New Rochelle chooses to permit dispensaries, a store could potentially open on the border of two towns and Scarsdale would not gain any of the tax revenue.
Attorney Pozin shared what he knew so far about the neighboring towns. Mamaroneck, Briar Cliff, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Tuckahoe, and Rye have started scheduling public sessions to get community feedback on the issue. New Rochelle is most likely going to permit the sale of cannabis in retail shops, while Eastchester is leaning towards opting out.
Trustee Brew urged the Board and the public to keep an open mind and evaluate the situation with facts. She said, “my gut reaction was to no, and I am still in my gut thinking no to on-site consumption lounges, but I’ve really started opening my mind to dispensaries… I hope we can look at this with information, data, and logic rather than emotion.” She later added that she would never look at the situation strictly from a financial perspective, but based on her own experience with her two daughters, “marijuana use is thriving” at SHS. She reported that rates were skyrocketing even when cannabis was illegal, so now that it is legal, it would be a safer and more secure to sell it in a licensed location that will be strict on IDs. If Scarsdale outlaws sales but a dispensary opens in a neighboring town, Trustee Brew speculated that this may increase rates of people driving while under the influence of drugs.
Trustee Crandall shared that she lost her 39-year-old brother in a car accident where a driver was under the influence of substances. She is sensitive to possible marijuana addiction and the dangers of driving while impaired, and for this reason, she is "strongly against on-site consumption." That being said, Crandall stated she is open to allowing a high-end dispensary.
Many residents spoke during public comment and voiced a wide array of opinions. Similar to Trustee Crandall, Susan Douglass declared that she is against an on-site lounge, but is open to the idea of an upscale retail establishment. Resident John Schwarz had the opposite perspective and said how dangerous drug use can be. He stressed how impressionable children are, and said that he doesn’t want marijuana use to be a habit that kids witness. Mr. Schwarz also said he would rather raise our taxes by whatever it takes than permit the sale of cannabis. This sentiment was echoed by Carol Silverman, who stated that she’s against all marijuana sales and that taxes should be raised to whatever extent necessary to prevent the legalization of a retail shop or consumption site.
Resident Anne Hintermeister was concerned that people will be smoking on sidewalks, outside of restaurants, and in their backyards. She worried especially that in the backyard, cannabis smoke will bother neighbors. Attorney Pozin clarified that to a large extent, streets and sidewalks are village property and the Board can regulate that. With regards to neighbors, while it may be unpleasant, legally you must treat cannabis use the same as tobacco products. While smelling a neighbor’s cigarette smoke is not ideal, there is nothing the village can do to regulate it.
Resident Kevin Broom took a practical approach, and said that “however you feel about it, the state law is there.” He proposed the Scarsdale align to the greatest extent possible with the surrounding communities. If neighboring towns are permitting these sales, he believes it wouldn’t be practical or wise to exclude Scarsdale. Resident Andrew Sereysky had a similar thought process. He stated that “the cat is out of the bag. Pot is here. Anyone can walk down the middle of Scarsdale and smoke a joint, it’s perfectly legal.” He also does not think White Plains or Hartsdale will pass up this revenue opportunity, and while it is important to protect our children, we also must consider what the financial disadvantages will be if Scarsdale is one of a small number of surrounding towns to opt-out. Mayor Veron added as a clarifying point that under MRTA, the municipality would not need to pool revenue with neighboring towns, and therefore a higher portion of the tax revenue generated would go directly to the village as compared to other types of sales.
While the meeting did not end with broad consensus among the trustees or the public, the conversation was the first of many that Scarsdale will have about this topic. Cannabis sales are coming to New York soon, and Scarsdale must decide whether to opt-out of the retail system by the end of this year.
At the work session, Mayor Veron recognized the significance of Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated on June 19th to mark the freedom and emancipation of African American slaves in the United States. The holiday commemorates the day in 1865 when union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, two months after the fall of the confederacy, to enforce the emancipation proclamation and ensure that all slaves knew they were free. Mayor Veron emphasized the need to recognize the importance of this moment, honor and celebrate the day, and work towards building a better future for all.
Locals Pay Tribute on Memorial Day
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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Though this year, Scarsdale’s American Legion Post 52 was not able to host their traditional Memorial Day Parade, our war heroes were not forgotten, On Monday May 31, Commander Adamo, members of the American Legion, boy scouts, a Police Color Guard, Village officials and Mayor Jane Veron participated in a small socially-distanced ceremony at the memorial garden on Mamaroneck Road.
Here are Mayor Veron’s remarks:
Good morning, Legionnaires, friends, neighbors, Scouts. I am Jane Veron, Mayor of Scarsdale, and on this Memorial Day, I have the great privilege to pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives to defend our freedom.
When I received Commander Adamo’s invitation to speak, I felt lucky that I would be the one to convey our community’s enormous gratitude, respect, and awe. Your brothers and sisters who died in combat, as well as many of you here today, answered our country’s call for service. You all stared down fear and bravely left the comfort of your hometown to join our military. From quotidian life, you all marched into uncertainty and carried out the duties required to protect our homeland. Some of you were barely out of school; others left your jobs. You answered the call, donned a uniform, and took up arms, feeling the pull of national pride and the desire to protect our liberty. Without much warning, you were on the front lines, and many laid down their lives to afford generations hence the freedoms we enjoy today. There are no words that properly express our appreciation.
Today, Memorial Day, we mark together the weighty sacrifice of our local heroes. Their names are inscribed on the carefully crafted plaques, whispered on our lips and carried in our hearts.
It is all the more meaningful that we take stock today as we slowly emerge from our own year of struggle and hardship. While the challenges of the pandemic differ from those in wartime, they share the similarity of a complete upheaval of life as we know it. Since March 2020, we had to abruptly shelter in place, separate from people we love, and combat an enemy we knew little about. We were all doing battle and had a window into the stresses our armed forces regularly endure. Our medical professionals, public safety officials, and essential workers became our warriors, and they risked their lives to save others. Yet there were still casualties, and we lost family and friends to a disease that took us unaware.
I know this COVID year has been hard on Legionnaires as many of your friends succumbed to the virus, but it also shined a light on the strength of your community. Under Commander Amado’s leadership, you continued to lift one another up. You’re the quiet force that rescues your brothers and sisters in trouble. From your earliest days when Scarsdale Post 52 American Legion was formed, you’ve delivered on your mission: to be there for veterans in any way you can – financially, spiritually, emotionally. As Commander Amado told me, “we’re the ones who made it back. We owe it to those who did not.” Today let us pay our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and carry on their legacy with dignity and honor.
(Photo Credit Rob Cole)
State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins came to Hartsdale to join elected officials, veterans, and Gold Star families for a Memorial Day Ceremony.
Cousins said, "We must always reflect on the service members, who laid down their lives for the American ideals that carry us forward as a nation today," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "We honor and pay tribute to these selfless heroes, the men and women who defended the freedoms we hold dear. While we honor the fallen, we also recognize they did not serve alone. May the recognition we give today, allow Gold Star families some healing, and allow the legacies of their loved ones to live on for future generations."
Eleven Receive Girl Scouts Gold Awards
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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Eleven young volunteers were recognized for their service projects with Gold Awards from the Girl Scouts on Sunday June 6, 2021.
This is the highest award granted by the Girl Scouts and acknowledges a girls’ time, effort leadership and creativity which is required to complete a service project which fulfills a need within the community creating change and continues forward. Girls spend over 80 hours on their projects.
Girls from 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 were recognized at an awards ceremony outside the Girl Scout House on Sunday, June 6th.
The 11 girls recognized worked on projects ranging from anti-bullying, developing a local natural trail, helping the homeless in various ways, the environmental impact of the fashion industry, promoting golf to low-income children and the importance of incorporating ways to de-stress in our lives etc.
Dignitaries and family members were in attendance.
Here are this year’s Gold Award recipients from Scarsdale and Edgemont:
Sarah Jane Traumer
Scarsdale Mourns Beloved Teacher Marianne Madoff
- Written by Jordi Wiener
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The Scarsdale community is mourning the loss of Marianne Madoff, a gifted middle school math teacher who passed away at the age of 53. Madoff began her career in Scarsdale as a third grade teacher at Heathcote Elementary School in 2006, and then became the Teacher in Charge. She moved to Scarsdale Middle School to teach mathematics in Fountain House.
Madoff battled leukemia since June 2019 and received a liver transplant in September 2019.
She is survived by two children, Dylan and Mykaela, and her husband, Michael. Her oldest child, Tyler, died in 2012 at the age of 15 when he was swept out into the ocean during a summer trip on the Big Island of Hawaii.
He had just completed his sophomore year at Scarsdale High School and was a member of a crew team.
About Ms. Madoff, an email from School Superintendent Thomas Hagerman said, “She was an extraordinarily dedicated teacher and respected professional and all those who knew her will certainly miss her. Marianne was a generous spirit who never hesitated to lend a helping hand to those who were in need. She was particularly committed to helping other parents who have suffered personal tragedies, and she served as an inspiration for overcoming adversity for us all.”
Heathcote Elementary School Principal Maria Stile said, “We are all saddened by this tragic loss. Marianne had a brilliant mind and a beautiful smile. She was an amazing Mom and a fantastic teacher. She was a mathematics wizard and helped both adults and children to learn and grow. She taught us all so much. She will be missed.”
Meghan Troy, Principal of Scarsdale Middle School was saddened by the loss. She said, "Marianne had a beautiful spirit and was an incredibly kind and caring educator. She was the type of person who always thought of others, even when she was faced with her own challenges. Marianne's relationships with her students and colleagues were genuine. She helped children become stronger math students but, more importantly, she helped them become more compassionate and caring people. She will be missed by all who were lucky enough to know her."
She was also a favorite among students.
Carrie Ortner, now a senior at Scarsdale High School said, “Math has never been my favorite subject, but I always looked forward to going to Ms. Madoff’s class. She was one of the kindest and most helpful teachers I have ever had, and always knew how to make everyone smile.”
And Samantha Wachs, also now a senior said, “Throughout both elementary and middle school, Mrs. Madoff was always a guiding light for me. Her kindness, openness, and passion for teaching will forever be remembered by both her students and the surrounding community.”