Letter to the Editor: My Problems With the Non-Partisan System

Here in Scarsdale, we have a unique non-partisan party that dominates our politics. They nominate candidates with their elected nominating board (CNC), and then put them up for usually uncontested elections. They believe that taking all of the politicking out of running for village office will make better people to run for office.


However, there are a couple problems I have with the non-partisan party. One of the problems I have is with their nominating process. Each candidate is only given ten minutes to sum up their accomplishments and civic service record, no CNC members can ask candidates any questions, and the candidates are not allowed to talk about their positions on pressing issues at all. And there are pressing issues in our Village- the revaluation, keeping taxes under the state tax cap, improving our roads, and other issues. This is representative of an overall trend of the CNC and their candidates- a pressure to come to a consensus. The fact that the CNC doesn't ask candidates to stake out a position on issues is because the CNC doesn't want to be "divisive," which is, after all, the reason that the party was founded. However, this leads to a false consensus on big issues in the Village. Trustees feel the need to be in agreement, so that they don't seem "agenda-driven" or out to cause trouble. This mentality is toxic for our political system, and ultimately, our village. 


The other problem I have with the party is the lack of accountability. The nominating committee for the non-partisan party is made up of 30 elected Scarsdalians, 2 elected every two years for three-year terms in each elementary school districts. However, election turnout for these delegates are abysmal. This means that there is no accountability on these officials. Furthermore, the nature of the entire CNC nominating process is designed to be shrouded in secrecy. CNC members are not supposed to talk about any proceedings or anything going on inside the CNC, and the meetings are not open to the public. The CNC is simply not accountable to the values that they supposedly are there to protect. 


Unfortunately, the non-partisan party almost always wins in an uncontested election. This means that the nominees of the party will almost be guaranteed to win our elections. Because the process that we pick these candidates is so unaccountable, and then these candidates will almost always win, this means that our elected officials are essentially unaccountable. The last contested election in Scarsdale was in 1999. This is unacceptable. Our elected officials need competitive races to hold them accountable and scrutinize their policies. However, we can make this happen. A new slate of candidates are offering a competitive challenge to the CNC slate. The Scarsdale Voter's Choice Party is running on a platform of reforming our politics, making our system more transparent and accountable, as well as promising to go back to basics when it comes to Village functions. They will make sure that, unlike under the current non-partisan administration, the basic functions of the office of the mayor and the trustees are filled. Visit https://voterschoiceparty.com/ for more information.