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SamwickAfter Scarsdale Village was forced to comply with a FOIL request to release a list of 4,318 resident email addresses to a candidate running for office, Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick is appealing to state legislators to amend the FOIL law. Below find a letter dated September 14, 2020 that Samwick sent to Scarsdale's Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Scardale's State Senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousin that urges the legislators to introduce legislation to "exempt from release under FOIL any personally identifiable information, such as an email address, contained in a governmental listserve used to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making."

Dear Assemblywoman Paulin:

This letter is being written to request your support in advancing an amendment to the NYS Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) such that email addresses contained in official governmental subscription-based listserves are no longer required to be released upon public request.

Public education and engagement are keystones of democratic governance, helping to shape laws, inform public policy, and plan for the future. Within the structure of democracy, effective communications between governmental entities and those governed constitute the mortar, holding the building blocks of democracy in-place. Most importantly, public trust constitutes the foundation, without which the otherwise strong and resilient structure is subject to decline.

To facilitate public education and engagement in an increasingly digital world, governmental entities often develop subscription-based listserves to disseminate official news and information. Such communication tools serve a vital public purpose in educating, informing, and engaging the public, helping to cultivate public trust and maintain faith in government as a partner in supporting public safety, maintaining quality of life, and planning for our shared future.

In subscribing to such official governmental electronic communication lists, community members have a reasonable expectation of privacy; unlike subscribers to commercial email lists, government listserve subscribers expect and trust that their contact information will only be used for the specific official purpose authorized. To make the personal contact information contained in a governmental subscription list available to third parties through FOIL violates public trust and significantly jeopardizes the ability of government to disseminate important information to the public, as potential subscribers may object to their personal contact information being shared with third parties and therefore choose not to subscribe, or to unsubscribe once it becomes known that their personally identifiable information is not appropriately held in confidence.

The decline in public trust arising from breach of one’s expectation of privacy in connection with granting public access to a subscriber’s private contact information through FOIL has very real implications for government; arguably, for democracy itself.

The NYS Committee on Open Government and associated case law, as guided by the existing FOIL regulatory framework, direct and require governmental entities to release subscriber email addresses contained on a subscription-based governmental listserve to a requestor, but for an exception where solicitation is the intended use of the list. The Village of Scarsdale asserts that this mandate cultivates an unintended outcome, one that effectively forces an egregious error in weighing the public interest in gaining access to private contact information against the governmental interests embedded in the ability to cultivate an engaged and informed populace.

To be clear, the Village of Scarsdale firmly supports open and transparent government. That is precisely why we chose to implement a subscription-based listserve – to provide the public with opportunity to learn about and understand governmental affairs, all the while enabling and encouraging public participation in both formal and informal decision-making. We agree with and fully support the legislative intent undergirding FOIL.

The FOIL legislative declaration is concise and on-point.

The declaration opens powerfully, “The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions.” Yes, government is most accountable when the public is aware of governmental actions and, in our view, has the opportunity to learn about issues and influence decisions before they are made, as well as to examine all government records in accordance with the intent of FOIL.

When an interpretation of FOIL leads to the perverse outcome of chilling governmental efforts to inform, educate, and engage the public in decision-making, the underlying cause for the unintended outcome must be remedied.

Importantly, a simple list of subscriber email addresses, as such, has absolutely no influence on governmental actions or decisions of any kind. Furthermore, providing public access to the email addresses of governmental listserve subscribers has no discernible linkage to FOIL’s stated purpose. However, when combined with content, subscription-based listserves enable governments to inform, educate, and engage the public, i.e., to advance the critical legislative intent of FOIL. It should also be noted that all content thus distributed is publicly accessible, by design.

Any perceived governmental transparency and accountability benefit associated with mandatory public release of an email address subscription list, and it should be noted that we struggle to identify any such benefit, is clearly – and significantly – outweighed by the government’s need to use every tool available to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making.

By forcing disclosure of a subscription-based contact list, FOIL is undermining the fabric of free society. If community members refuse to subscribe, or withdraw their subscriptions to such lists out of concern for their privacy, cybersecurity exposure, unsolicited messaging, or any other personal data concern, the laudable public purposes fully embraced by the Village and mandated through FOIL are severely undermined.

Regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which strictly prohibits the release of one’s email address, demonstrate that individuals, organizations, and governments are deeply concerned about protection of personally identifiable information, particularly electronic information. At this time, the State of New York lags behind other entities in forward-thinking personal data privacy protections. Mandating release of governmental subscription-based email address lists, which have no public transparency value in the context of FOIL, exhibits a sharp departure from best practices in the data privacy arena.

The State of New York is a global leader. Our data privacy protections should be at the forefront of information technology and security. Not only are we compromising public trust in government, the foundation of democracy, but we are also potentially placing residents and businesses at elevated risk of harm in connection with potential cybercrimes by disclosing their private email addresses and providing an otherwise trusted electronic relationship that may be exploited.

Please develop and introduce legislation to exempt from release under FOIL any personally identifiable information, such as an email address, contained in a governmental listserve used to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making. It may also be a worthwhile endeavor to examine New York’s overall approach to data privacy protections for purposes of their appropriate and necessary modernization.

With High Regard,

Mayor Marc Samwick

SCNPSlate3trusteesRandy Whitestone, Lena Crandall and Justin Arest are running for Scarsdale Village Trustee.This letter was written by Justin Arest, Lena Crandall and Randy Whitestone, SCNP Candidates for Vilage Trustee

To the Editor: 
At the root of the word “trustee” is the word “trust.” Village trustees are entrusted with faithfully representing the people they serve, namely, village residents. The three of us were honored to be nominated by the Citizens Nominating Committee for the office of Village Trustee last January. We pledge to never take that trust for granted and to work hard to deserve it. We pledge to be faithful to our duty to fight for what we believe is best for Scarsdale, even if at times we disagree with one another. We pledge to debate each other respectfully in a fact-based manner with the goal of getting things done for you, our neighbors.

We’ve had a record length of time as nominees because the pandemic postponed the March election. However, during these eight months we have demonstrated our dedication to serving you – Lena and Justin, as trustees, patiently grappled with tough fiscal, service, small business, and public health issues, and Randy, as an attendee at every village board meeting and work session, spoke as an engaged and thoughtful observer. Each of us has volunteered our time on a variety of boards and committees over the years, and shown, as others have attested in numerous letters, that we can work well with others, build consensus, and achieve results.

The world has changed since March in an eventful, uncertain and tragic year the likes of which we hope never to see again. But we’re not through this crisis yet, and more hard work is needed in these uncharted waters. We seek your vote for village trustee because we love this community and we believe we offer the kinds of skills, experience, knowledge and temperament to merit your vote.

Each of us was subject to a careful vetting process by 30 elected neighbors from every neighborhood in Scarsdale. We chose to run because we believe strongly in the Scarsdale schools’ motto of non sibi, serving not for ourselves. For us, public service is not about drawing attention, it’s about the dedication of time and hard work necessary to achieve the best outcome.

We are a village filled with smart residents, who represent a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds and who value innovation in service to our beautiful, stable village. This cognitive diversity makes Scarsdale a wonderful place to live and build community. We pledge to listen to all voices and engage in caring, civil discourse and be open to new ideas on what kind of village we together want to be in the future. We will do everything we can to make it comfortable and easy for residents to voice their ideas to ensure a process-driven government of openness and transparency.

We respectfully ask for your vote September 15. But most importantly, we ask you to vote, period, and engage with us on the many important issues facing our village.

Sincerely,

Justin Arest
Lakin Road

Lena Crandall
Fox Meadow Road

Randy Whitestone
Sprague Road

engagementScarsdale High School sweethearts Caroline Simon and Bryan Gertzog, both age 28 and both 2010 graduates of SHS and 2014 graduates of Cornell University, have announced their engagement. They are the children of Linda Wolk Simon and Joe Simon and Lori and Gary Gertzog, who all live in Scarsdale.

The two started dating during senior year of high school when they both were admitted to Cornell and went to the prom together. Check out the 2010 photo of the two with Dean Michael Hiller. They met in Hiller’s Civ Ed section in ninth grade. The two remained a pair at Cornell. After graduation, Simon moved to Washington to work for Deloitte while Gertzog pursued a career in private equity and is now a Vice President at Stripes a growth equity firm based in New York. Simon is now in her second year of the MBA program at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gertzog popped the question on Gibson Beach in Sagaponack on August 7. When Caroline said yes, the two families celebrated the long awaited engagement with dinner at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton.

Caroline explained, “While COVID has certainly disrupted normal life in many ways—school, internship, and work all went virtual, and we moved in with our parents—we have gotten to live together for the past several months when we would have otherwise been apart (Caroline in Philly, Bryan in NYC). We’re moving to Philly together in September, which wouldn’t have been possible under normal circumstances.”

Share your news. Send your lifecycle announcements to: scarsdalecomments@gmail.com.

promCaroline and Bryan with Dean Hiller at their high school prom in 2010

Mark MunguiaThe 2020 Scarsdale Foundation Bowl Dinner, already rescheduled from April 22 to September 24, is unfortunately now canceled because of health and safety concerns due to COVID-19. Instead, a small private ceremony will be held to honor Scarsdale Bowl recipients BK Munguia and Jonathan Mark. The outstanding couple will be honored again at next year’s Scarsdale Bowl Dinner on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Everyone who has already purchased tickets for the now-canceled 2020 dinner will be contacted with further details by email.

The money raised by the Scarsdale Foundation supports grants for deserving Scarsdale college students in need. The 2020 Scarsdale Foundation Bowl Dinner was planned as a fundraiser for the first time, and as it happens, financial need this year was higher than usual due to economic stresses caused by the pandemic. Funds are very much still needed to support these scholarships. Anyone wishing to give may do so by visiting www.ScarsdaleFoundation.org. The Scarsdale Bowl Committee is grateful for the community’s support of the Scarsdale Foundation.

Lane4Photo by Mary Blumenthal LaneAs of the morning of Sunday August 9, 1,438 customers were without power in Scarsdale with Con Ed projecting restoration by Monday August 10 at 3 pm, making the outage almost a full week for over 1,000 Scarsdale residents. By 9 pm that night, Con Ed had made significant progress, reducing the outages to 780 customers, about 12 percent of the Village’s customers.

Scarsdale waited a long time for help. After five days of almost no progress, on Sunday morning, the following update was posted on the Village’s twitter feed: “Con Ed reports that there are eight crews working in #Scarsdale today. Five Line Crews working on area restorations and three Line and Ladder crews, which resolve issues on individual properties.”

Commenting on the long delay for restoration, Scarsdale Village Trustee Justin Arest, shared the Village’s Tweet, “We are fuming over the Con Ed response in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias. At the same time, we continue to work collaboratively to move toward full restoration. There is no good excuse for the repeated extended outages the Con Ed territory experiences.”

He told Scarsdale10583, “Right now the focus is getting power back to all of our residents. But, I believe we need to get various levels of government in front of us right away to get answers as to what happened but perhaps more importantly, find out how we can exact actual change. Their previous assurances that “next time will be different” were obviously empty and we must not ask for better but demand it.

This is not the first time that Con Edison has held the Village hostage. After each storm, lengthy meetings are held with public officials, decisions are reached, promises are made and then forgotten. During Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, much of the Village was without power for 12 days. In March 2018 a Nor'easter knocked out power to half the Village and some were without power for 12 days. After both storms, residents waited for days while Con Edison said trees and debris needed to be cleared before power could be restored. Then they waited for crews to arrive from the South, Midwest and even Canada to repair the power lines. The utility agreed to make changes after both of these debacles, but it seems their response to this storm is an instant replay of previous performances.

We reached out to Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick, who said, “I have heard many heart wrenching stories from dozens of residents about the power outage’s impact on their health conditions, causing poor sanitary conditions, causing struggles for the elderly, causing discomfort for new born babies and, sadly, even more difficulties.”

“I have also seen the best of our community come out of this darkness. I was speaking with a line crew from Michigan this morning when a woman dropped off bagels for the crew. I have seen neighbors helping neighbors with a place to stay, power-up, clean up, wash clothes, get out of the heat and more. The generosity of Scarsdale’s spirit and its sense of community are once again on vivid display and I couldn’t be more proud to call Scarsdale home.”

“The fact that Scarsdale is again dealing with a wholly inadequate response to storm damage and power outages is appalling. The repeated shortcomings of Con Ed in storm after storm are infuriating and the company has to be held accountable. Substantive changes to storm preparation and response must be made. Proactive tree work must be completed. The Village will be very clear in its communication to the Public Service Commission, our State representatives, and Con Ed about the lackadaisical response to this storm and about changes that must finally be implemented to Con Ed’s storm response policies and actions.”

Patience had worn thin for some of the residents who suffered through almost a week without air conditioning, during a week that temperatures soared to the 80’s and 90’s.

Greenacres resident Mary Blumenthal Lane vented her frustration. She explained, “My husband needs a medical device to sleep at night and when he called Con Ed to find out what the story is they told him to call 911.”

She continued, “It is hot and I have a freezer full so of meat that I will lose at this rate. The one thing I really miss is ice cannot get a cold drink at home now. The dog is unable to cool down I am worried about her. My patience has run very thin I am bitching at people I do not know just because they have power and we do not. Six days (without power) is unacceptable. It is hot and humid and we have neighbors who have power who keep lighting smoky fires in their yard every night and since we have our windows open to try to cool down the house at night the smoke comes inside and makes it difficult to breathe.”

“Oh and I think the worst part is trying to sleep at night with all those loud generators going in the area. There needs to be a noise ordinance enacted. Not to mention you cannot sleep at night so you try to nap during the day and those damn leaf blowers are busy.”

“The first time we reported the outage we were told the power would be back Saturday, lip service. Still no power on Sunday. I saw some workmen in a Con Ed truck Thursday who got power back to two houses on Brite Avenue. When I asked about Donellan Road where there are 8 houses in the dark they told me that a crew would be over later that day -- again lip service. They do not care.”

It is time for someone to dismantle the monopoly and find a company who cares. But unfortunately I think all states have this same issue.”

Susan Fromer in Heathcote agreed. She said, “Five days and counting, out of power. This is one of the wealthiest counties in the country and even here the electrical system is woefully antiquated. If we do not support our infrastructure, the integrity and function of our society will surely fade. All roads used to lead to Rome until the roads crumbled.”

The Lyons family in Greenacres also had a long week. They said, “Con Ed knew that the storm was coming and had no plan in place for how to handle the outages from the storm, and if they had a plan, they did not communicate it or execute it. Once we lost power, Con Edison could not communicate to us our estimated time of power restoration for several days. When they finally communicated that our power would be restored by Monday 11pm, we made hotel reservations, and at that point, there were not many rooms available. We were happy that the power was restored earlier than projected, but we had to deal with the hassle of getting a refund from the hotel. We did get a full refund. It is time for Con Edison to bury our power lines so this does not continue to happen.”

We reached Melanie Spivack, who is the President of the Quaker Ridge Neighborhood Association who had lots to say:

“As the neighborhood President, I have always believed that aside from meeting your neighbors and making new friends, the most important role I can play is communication for and communication by the residents of the association. Through our monthly SNAP meetings, all the Presidents hear the Mayor’s report of up-to-date information about Village actions and activities. We also have an opportunity to speak with the Mayor about Village issues pertaining to our residents. Aside from the Mayor, we meet with various other Village staff and organizations including the school Board and exchange ideas and information.

Unfortunately, once again our Village was hit hard by a storm. But, once again, all the preparedness our Village takes, has no effect on the response by Con Edison.

I have lived here for 27 years, and Con Edison’s response with their lack of preparedness, lack of equipment, lack of technology, lack of organization and most of all, lack of communication, has not changed. Each and every storm that affected our power, has had an inadequate response by Con Ed. They don’t respond to homeowners, and they do not have the technology to know what poles and wires are affected by a storm and are solely relying upon their customers to call them to let them about an outage. They send personnel out in cars to visually look at each and every pole to determine any damage. This has been going on for all the 27 years I have lived here, nothing has changed. Con Ed has demonstrated that they are not accountable to anyone, least of all their customers. For that reason, I have been encouraging the residents to reach out to our elected officials, providing phone numbers, email addresses and twitter handles, as I believe that the only impact we can have on Con Ed is through pressure from our elected representatives. And, our elected representatives should know that they are responsible for representing us and if they cannot, we will make our voices heard at the ballot box. I have also been encouraging residents to reach out to the NYS Department of Public Service to and file a complaint. I don’t believe in sitting back and complaining, I believe it’s our responsibility to take action, even if it means getting in a car, searching for a Con Ed truck and getting information from the crew foreman.

The good news is that I can communicate to approximately 125 homes in the neighborhood by email and social media. The majority of these homes have been without power since the storm on Tuesday and are not expected to get power back before this Tuesday or Wednesday. I believe that having information, whether it be good or bad, is better than being kept in the dark (no pun intended). I have been able to pass on any up-to-the minute information, sometimes multiple times per day, from the Mayor and from other neighborhood Presidents. We have organized food trucks across neighborhoods and now we have organized a buddy system. We are teaming up those residents who have power with residents who do not. We are cognizant of restrictions due to COVID, so Wifi access and power outlets are being offered from front porches and back yards. I have been so impressed by the outpouring of help from neighbor to neighbor. Unfortunately, it’s times like these that bring out the best in people. Scarsdale is a close-knit community, with residents who care.

Sarah Bell who heads up the group of neighborhood organizations has been heartened by their response in this time of crisis. She told me that one man in her neighborhood set up a charging station in his driveway so that neighbors could recharge all their devices. In West Quaker Ridge a resident arranged for the restaurant Hiill Country Barbeque to send a food truck to serve dinners to residents who had no power to cook. The neighborhood associations managed traffic issues due to road closures, handed out ice pops and ice packs, and even arranged an informal buddy system to match those with power to those who do not to see how they could help.

Bell said, “The SNAP Presidents as a group are an incredible, caring, hard working and responsive network of communication and resources for the community and the team work within the group this past week has been nothing short of admirable.”

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