Letter from Bob Selvaggio: Why We're Running

SelvaggioBob SelvaggioThis letter to the editor was written by Bob Selvaggio, candidate for Village Trustee:
Laura Halligan captured very nicely the Samwick-Berg dialogue about the Freightway consultancy costs recently made public as a result of Mr. Berg’s FOIL request, as well as the competing Samwick-Kirkendall-Rodríguez viewpoints about the relative merits of the competing parties in the upcoming Village election. Had I been present I might have added the following from one candidate’s point of view.

Why in the world would a busy financial professional or a small business owner or an attorney with a successful practice mount a run for a seat on the Board of Trustees? The answer, I think, is, “if not us then who”?

There is a quiet desperation among many Scarsdale residents who find themselves stuck between the rock of extremely high property taxes that are no longer shared 30% or so by Uncle Sam and the hard place of property value losses that approximate the present value of the future stream of those lost SALT deductions. We are damned if we stay and damned if we go. And we ask, “why has nothing been done about the inexorable trend of rising property taxes? Does anybody really think that the solitary effort made, the lawsuit joined by the Village Board arguing that property taxes are charitable expenses, has even a ghost of a chance of succeeding?” Someone has to work to do “something” because “nothing” is unacceptable. Our long-time residents deserve not to be driven out of Scarsdale by never-ending annual tax increases.

More than 850 residents signed a petition to put a halt to the secretive process that was leading to a disastrously wrong outcome for redevelopment of the Freightway area. Many of these residents crowded Village Hall in December to make the case that neither of the two finalist proposals was acceptable to all but the group sitting at the dais. People have asked, “what criteria are being used to determine what makes for acceptable development and if there are any why have they not been articulated?” Well, many smart people believe that fixed and definitive acceptance criteria should be articulated. I believe that in the case of Freightway development these criteria should be at a minimum: 1) the certainty of positive fiscal impact, i.e., the present value of revenues exceeding the present value of costs such that single family homeowners receive property tax relief; 2) no additional crowding on our Metro North train platform and trains; and 3) no additional crowding in our schools. If any of these are not met, we should simply float a parking revenue bond to repair the garage and poll the community to assess types of nonresidential commercial development we want on Village property. But members of the Board of Trustees have to be willing to argue for and vote for these acceptance criteria or they will never be adopted.

With few exceptions Scarsdale residents believe that government transparency, unfettered information flow and credible competition enforces discipline in elected office holders. Our residents don’t want to have to file FOIL requests to peek behind cloaks of secrecy anymore. Scarsdale voters should never be asked to waste their time voting in an uncontested election, and I am not surprised that voter turnout is so low and characterized by those few exceptions. By staying away from the polls, our residents have been voting for choice. And they want to choose candidates who are eager to apply their expertise in open and transparent decision-making processes.

So why are Bob Berg, Sean Cohen and Bob Selvaggio running? We’re running to effect change and to demonstrate to others who might consider an independent run that it’s simply a civic responsibility of those who yearn for the best for Scarsdale.

Best regards,
Bob Selvaggio