Problems Persist at Highland Hall
I’ve been a resident of Rye for close to four years and I live at Highland Hall. Most of the information in the news about the oil spill at Highland Hall is one-sided for our landlord, Bob Cohen. He is very wealthy and has people working for him to call reporters and the government. Meanwhile, we tenants were just trying to get our kids to school in the morning and to bed in the evening from a hotel room with no kitchen for over six weeks. And please know that the lower floors of Highland Hall still reek of oil and I had to relocate my children. Everything is not OK over there, even though the landlord says it is.
We are renters, but we do pay taxes. I don’t know why the City of Rye has paid so little attention to us. Mayor Doug French and Councilwoman Suzanna Keith were here with donuts to take pictures, then we never saw them again. Both my girls need a roof over their head where the ground doesn’t have oil fumes and where I have a kitchen to cook them healthy food. I don’t want to feed them donuts.
We have not been reimbursed for all the money we’ve spent to live in the hotel either, but this letter isn’t just to criticize. I want to thank the people of Rye for their kindness. Thank you to the most beautiful woman I ever met, Laura Slack. Thank you, Susan Gould, who worked day and night trying to furnish this apartment before I had to leave the hotel! Thank you, Kimberly Mahrara, who got my little girl Alyssa ready for her first day of kindergarten. Kimberly and the Wales family brought us delicious gluten-free food. The RMS/RHS Caring Committee came to our hotel and served hot food and made us feel like we were a part of Rye. These women are awesome and they remind me, when things seem most discouraging, why I moved here.
Steve Otis has been very kind and Josh Nathan came to our tenant meetings. His own home burned down, so he knows how we feel. Judy Myers called Bob Cohen to get him to agree to pay for my hotel room. I hope I haven’t forgotten anybody. I’m so overwhelmed by how good people are.
Indian Villagers Did the Trick
Members of the Rye Presbyterian Church Youth Group spent a recent Sunday evening “trick-or-treating” for canned goods and other non-perishable foods to be donated to the Carver Center, for an event we call Spooky Soup. The neighborhood we chose was Indian Village, and we could not have had greater success.
I wanted to publicly thank the residents of Indian Village for their generosity and sense of good fun. Their participation enabled us to donate a huge amount of goods to the Carver Center. So, on behalf of the Rye Presbyterian Church Youth Group: Thank you, Indian Village!
Emily Foon, Director of Christian Education and Youth
Laura Brett, Fair and Objective
I have known Laura Brett for over ten years. Although I stand as a registered Democrat, I wish to let your readers know that she is without a doubt one of the most fair and objective individuals I have ever known. More importantly, Laura stands out as someone who thinks for herself at every occasion. She would be an ideal City Council member, who I know would work tirelessly for Rye. She is adept at collaborating and will work to find solutions for the common goals of governing Rye.
Ms. Brett stands for objectivity, fairness, and real independence. What more could we want for Rye? I urge people to vote for Laura Brett.
Leigh Alderson Smith
Joe Sack, an Independent Thinker
I live in Rye and have gotten to know Joe Sack very well, especially since our children are the same age and play sports together. On November 8, residents would be well served to consider reelecting Mr. Sack to the City Council.
His viewpoints are not the only reason I am advocating his candidacy. I have disagreed with Joe on an issue or two over the years and he has always made himself readily available to explain and/or defend his position. He has gone against the Council majority on a number of issues that he felt were not in the best interest of the people of Rye. He is an independent thinker who doesn’t just “go along to get along”.
In a day and age in which so many politicians in this country seem to have their own agenda, Joe Sack serves as the antithesis to them. He is a man of character and integrity. Men like him are hard to come by these days.
Josh Nathan Has the Experience to Excel as a Councilman
I offer this letter in support of Josh Nathan’s candidacy for Rye City Council. Please know that I am non-partisan and I mean no offense to the other candidates. Instead, I write because as a parent and a member of the Friends of Rye City School District, I have personally observed his effectiveness as a results-oriented leader on the Rye City School Board of Education. While I know that Mr. Nathan will be missed as a member of the School Board, for three important reasons I believe we are lucky he is willing to put his shoulder to the wheel as a member of Rye’s City Council.
Without question the most serious issue facing Rye as a city is flooding. If you live in Rye there is no doubt you have personally witnessed flood devastation whether it occurred to your own home, to the homes of friends, to Rye businesses, or to the school grounds. Mr. Nathan has intensively researched and studied the flooding issues and he has already offered a concrete “do-now” plan for solving the flooding problem. (See http://ticketofexperience.com/ Rye-Flood-Mitigation.html). Mr. Nathan has vowed to make flood mitigation his No. 1 priority and I know he will work to get it done.
During his tenure with the Board, and despite the economic crisis, Mr. Nathan led the School District through successful collective bargaining, the effort to resolve decade-long and expensive tax litigation, and engaged in sound fiscal planning without cutting teachers or programs. All of this was achieved against the backdrop of repeated top academic recognition for Rye Schools, for example most recently in U.S. News & World Report (eighth in the nation for math and science among all open enrollment schools and 12th overall among all open enrollment schools).
We are lucky to live in Rye where intelligent and dedicated people serve as volunteers on both City Council and School Board. Especially in these economic times, coordination and communication among these decision makers is critical. Given Mr. Nathan’s experience on the Board, he can offer important insights for Rye City and the Board regarding how to improve coordination, project future needs, save costs, avoid duplication of effort, evaluate cost-effective options for much-needed recreational and other improvements, and navigate the financial and legal complexities for municipalities at the county, state, and federal levels.
For these reasons I support Josh Nathan’s candidacy for City Council and I sincerely hope he is elected. We have been lucky to have him on our School Board and we will be lucky to have him on our City Council.
BOL Must Work Together for Taxpayers
We were surprised to read The Rye Record and see Judy Myers say there is “tension …between the executive and legislative branches”, but suggest that the Board of Legislators (BOL) is a cohesive group and “all 17 work together…with 90% being done in a bipartisan fashion and unanimously passed.” The problem is that the 10% is the hard stuff – the spending cuts! When it comes to those, the bipartisanship ends and the Democratic supermajority overrides those looking out for the taxpayer time after time. If the BOL is so bi-partisan, why does the majority employ a Communications staff of three that services only the Democrats? Why is the sub-Committee on Capital Projects a committee of one Democrat holding up 36 public works projects that could bring 381 jobs and $43 million of worthwhile projects to our communities?
Knowing all this, Ms. Myers uses her time to completely misrepresent the record of our County Executive, Rob Astorino.
On Mr. Astorino’s record, Ms. Myers suggests he is sending jobs out of Westchester because he sends out RFP’s broadly. Her statement that, “Section 8 Housing is now administered in Florida, County Health care now handled in Tennessee” is wildly inaccurate. If she read her numbers correctly, she would notice that the County no longer loses $500,000 per year administering Section 8 and the State now rents space from the County for the Section 8 employees for about $500,000 per year. That’s a net positive of about $1 million to the taxpayer. The fact that the 800 number callers initially dial for service happens to be a call center in Florida is irrelevant. And the County Health she refers to is actually health care for inmates provided by a company headquartered in Tennessee; does she really think that we fly the prisoners to Tennessee? This company provides services for $500,000 less than the previous contractor, Westchester Medical Center, and totally indemnifies the County for any medical malpractice. Those are the kind of good decisions we want to see.
If Ms. Myers can’t get on the train to more efficient government and lower taxes in Westchester, she should get off. Don’t let her and her supermajority of 11 fellow Democrats put together another budget without consulting even one of the Republicans or the County Budget Director. Is that why it included phony revenue projections and raided the County Reserve Fund, resulting in Westchester being put on credit watch? Or are the Republicans so smart they only needed 23 minutes before the vote to evaluate a $1.8 billion budget? Even the sharpest mind couldn’t make a good decision on a $1.8 billion budget in 23 minutes. We don’t care what party they are from, but we want 17 BOL members working together on our hardest problems, not just the 90% that are easy to agree on.
We ask voters to change things in White Plains and vote for Suzanna Keith for County Board of Legislators. Help her to break the Democratic supermajority so we can have 17 people working for the taxpayer and not 12 against us!
Gary and Julie Killian
So Many Good Reasons To Vote for Laura Brett
I am writing to support Laura Brett for City Council. I have worked closely with Laura on the Board of Trustees of the Rye Historical Society for several years. She is a dedicated and committed public servant. Her thoughtful and collaborative approach to problem solving is vitally important to the City Council. What I value the most about Laura is her openness to multiple viewpoints. She is an excellent listener and works hard to find common ground among diverse opinions.
Laura is also an energetic supporter of Rye’s history and its future as a vibrant community. Her work on Walk Rye History – an upcoming permanent walking tour of Rye’s historic sites – demonstrates her creativity, vision, and ability to work as a team player with others to bring a project to fruition.
I wholeheartedly support Laura’s candidacy and urge all of your readers to vote for her for City Council.
To comment on a public official’s character is to put her in focus, not to smear her. Character is the test of a candidate, and observing a lack of it is precisely what voters are called on to do.
During a time of real crisis in our community, when the Rye Teacher’s Association attempted to hijack our School Board during contract negotiations, Suzanna Keith maintains that she was neutral, which is craven at best. In truth, she was anything but neutral, having actively supported the teacher’s union.
Let me provide a little background for those unfamiliar with this chapter in our city’s very recent past, one on which I’m sure Ms. Keith would prefer you not focus as she makes a run for County Legislator, her third race in four years.
Ms. Keith was co-president of the PTO at Midland School in 2009. A slate of candidates was recruited from that school to run for School Board in a union-backed effort to elect members who would vote for a contract more favorable to the union. Josh Nathan and Laura Slack were up for reelection, and they along with Ray Schmitt had drawn the line at salary and benefit demands.
After weeks of relentless, ugly, and very public abuse of our board by the union and their supporters, our community packed a School Board meeting to say that kind of character attack had no place in Rye. Ms. Keith did not speak on the Board’s behalf. Her peers all spoke up for decency.
Ms. Keith now says that PTO guidelines required her to “remain neutral”. There are no such guidelines. In fact, more than a dozen past and present PTO co-presidents — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — took a stand.
People who sit out a choice between children and convenience aren’t leaders and shouldn’t hold leadership positions.
Perhaps Ms. Keith didn’t speak because she was already thinking about her future race for City Council, which she announced within weeks of the election. Now, less than two years into her four-year Council term, she is running hard for a paid seat on the County Board of Legislators.
As for her record on the Council, she failed to meet her one campaign promise – a zero budget increase — despite stating she did in a recent Journal News interview. Perhaps Ms. Keith wants to leave the City Council because it’s clear that this year’s budget, only her second as Councilmember, will require a tax cap override.
In White Plains, she’ll be in the minority and have a ready excuse — it’s the Democrats’ fault — for failing once again to make good on her campaign promises. Our Rye Council and its Republican majority won’t have that luxury when they raise taxes, as they most certainly will, this year.
Here’s the tricky thing about those taxes. Taxes pay for repairing crumbling sidewalks; they pay for roads and bridges and … flood control. All the tax increases for which Ms. Keith now accuses her opponent of being responsible during her entire time in public service would be dwarfed by the hit Rye would have taken on our property taxes had the teacher’s union sat on both sides of that negotiating table for one contract settlement.
Keith Is the Reformer Westchester Needs
The 2011 election finds Westchester County at one of history’s rare crossroads. There is a large gap between the demanding world in which the County finds itself and the Board of Legislators’ outmoded policy framework that remains stuck in a receding past.
Big challenges abound. The County is suffering from the fourth consecutive year of having the nation’s highest median property taxes. Its unfunded health care liability continues to grow. The difficult long-term fiscal outlooks for the Nation and State portend an inevitable decline in federal and state funding that currently accounts for a quarter of Westchester’s budget.
Westchester County finds itself in this predicament, because a Democratic supermajority on the Board of Legislators grew detached from the public and has increasingly put power preservation ahead of the County’s interests. It has acted in lockstep to form an impenetrable firewall against reform.
The supermajority has repeatedly evaded tough fiscal choices by regularly draining the County’s reserves. The supermajority tried to fund 38 Section 8 positions that no longer existed. The supermajority refused to back the County Executive in fighting to protect the County’s taxpayers and municipalities when HUD introduced demands related to the 2009 affordable housing settlement (voted in place by the supermajority) that threatened to double the County’s costs and undermine local zoning authority. The supermajority overrode 247 of the County Executive’s line item vetoes aimed at making a down payment on taxpayer savings and reform.
The supermajority’s evasion of tough choices has laid the groundwork for a fiscal crisis. The nation’s top-ranked property tax burden, Westchester’s declining General Fund balance, and the negative outlook assigned by Moody’s are the early symptoms of a future fiscal crisis that would harm all of Westchester’s businesses and residents.
That crisis is still avoidable, but only with new leadership on the Board of Legislators. New leadership can transform the Board into a partner for reform that would benefit the County’s residents, businesses, and stakeholders. In District 7, Suzanna Keith is exactly the reformer the Board needs. In Rye City, she has worked with Mayor French, her colleagues on the City Council, Rye Board of Education, civic leaders, and people from all across the community to tackle the kind of problems that confront the County. Her record shows that spending reform and tax relief can be achieved without sacrificing essential services, the quality of life, or environmental sustainability. Her abundance of vision, energy, and persistence allows her to get things done.
Throughout her public life, she has been an example of someone who truly cares about the community and its people, not through words, but through concrete actions. Those are the hallmarks of an outstanding candidate and person. Suzanna Keith will make an exceptional County Legislator. On November 8, each of us has the ability to shape a better tomorrow.
A vote for Suzanna Keith would be a sound investment in reform. The return on that investment will be a healthier Westchester and a brighter future.
Frank J. Adimari