The 2017 Election and Thanks to Residents: The Village experienced a record level of participation in last Tuesday’s election. I thank the Village staff, particularly Village Clerk Donna Conkling and Police Chief Andrew Matturo and their staffs, for the efficient and professional manner with which they handled the voting logistics and process. They served with grace under pressure and provided a very public demonstration of the hard work the Village staff puts in every day in serving the residents of Scarsdale. For that they have our gratitude and appreciation.
I also want to thank all the residents who participated in the campaigns and who came out to vote. The extraordinary turnout was heartening. More broadly, thanks to all the residents who made their voices heard over the past two years -- both those who supported our decisions and those who criticized them. Making decisions that affect all of us is hard. Members of the Board agonize over the tough ones -- and we have had several in the last two years. It may not always seem that we listen to you, or take your comments into account. We do. Some of our work takes place during public meetings of our Board committees or during our public agenda meetings. But sometimes it takes place during permitted executive, closed door, sessions when we are getting legal advice or are discussing personnel matters. Either way, the comments we receive from residents make us think harder, focus more intently and are an indispensable part of our critical thinking. I thank all residents who took time to raise their voices or send us emails. While the process may not have produced decisions satisfactory to all, there is no doubt in my mind that all who did comment were heard and taken into account.
One other point: I read in the paper this morning the following observation attributed to the great jazz pianist John Lewis: “If you start off too loud, you can’t converse.” Our dialogue on community issues is on-going. Let that dialogue be a conversation, not a shouting match. The decision making process is well served when many points of view are expressed. As I conclude my term, we still have much to converse about. It is my hope that residents’ interest in our local government prompts them to continue to participate in the conversation in a civil and informed manner -- and to volunteer to serve. That is a large part of what makes Scarsdale work and maintains our shared sense of community.
Freightway Site Redevelopment Project: One item of business on the agenda tonight that will be included in our community conversation for a significant period is worth a mention here. That is a proposal to retain a consulting firm to provide planning and community engagement services for the Freightway site redevelopment. This Board had a public meeting last Tuesday with the consulting firm – BFJ Planning – and had an opportunity to question them about their experience and proposed approach. The meeting was part of a vetting process in which the Village staff had engaged and conducted through the issuance of a request for proposal to which a number of planning firms responded. If the Board approves entering into the agreement, a process contemplated to take place over eleven months will be initiated in order to produce a proposal or proposals on how the Freightway site might be redeveloped. This effort will take into account an analysis of the Freightway site that was done more than seven years ago and include input from the community collected with the help of a Steering Committee of residents also proposed to be appointed this evening. This will be an important project that will unfold over a number of years and it is hoped that this time around the effort will result in a project that will benefit the Village both economically and aesthetically.
Concluding Remarks and Thanks: And so I come to the close of what has turned into a seven year journey starting in 2010 with my first term as a Trustee on the Village Board. It’s been a bumpy ride these last nine months with the fallout from the 2016 Village-wide reassessment dominating the public discourse and the time of this Board and Village staff. Life does not always turn out the way one hopes and that comes with the territory. However, I would like to think that we have tried our best to balance competing interests in serving all residents, giving all those who wished to speak or write a fair hearing and making good faith judgments along the way. My expectation is that the incoming Mayor Dan Hochvert, Trustee-elect Seth Ross and the rest of the new Board will listen as we did, make the best judgments they can based the circumstances presented and be prepared to deal with the unexpected which while not known in its particulars can always be expected to arise.
What I will clearly miss is getting together with my colleagues on this Board generally on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. So, a few parting words of thanks for each of you.
Turning to what I consider the passionate arm of this Board, those seated on my left:
Trustee Jane Veron: Jane, you have thrown yourself into your first term as a Trustee with enormous energy and drive. Your initiatives have included organizing interested residents into an ad hoc committee whose efforts, along with those of Village staff, have already greatly improved how the Village communicates with the community; engaging with Village center merchants and staff to focus on steps to be taken to revitalize the downtown; becoming an effective liaison to the Greenacres Neighborhood Association; and your tireless efforts as Chair of the Board Personnel Committee personally interviewing scores of residents who responded to our call for volunteers to fill openings on Village boards, councils and committees. There should be no doubt among residents that you care deeply for this Village and the actions you have taken are in furtherance of your effort to be of service to all. Thanks for all you do.
Trustee Matt Callaghan: Matt, you too have brought passion to your role as Trustee and Fire Commissioner. Of particular note is your willingness to express your independent judgment on issues of importance that have come before this Board. In those instances when you expressed a view in contravention to that of other Board members, the fact that you were willing to do so provided a useful check for other Board members. It required us to think harder about the conclusions we were coming to and to make sure we were comfortable in the judgments we were making. It is noteworthy that in doing so you always managed to convey your thoughts in a civil tone and in a manner that moved the discussion forward. For that I thank you. Your service as Fire Commissioner was enhanced by your 35 years a volunteer firefighter. This brought an additional depth of understanding of the Department to your role as was recently demonstrated by your moving remarks at the swearing in of three new probationary firefighters. I am very pleased that your contribution has been recognized by your being voted in for a second term and extend my congratulations to you for that.
Trustee William Stern: Bill, passion might be your middle name. If there is a stereotype for PhD electrical engineers as technical nerds, you blast it out of one’s consciousness. The proposed library renovation project, Scarsdale Public TV, the Cable Commission and sustainability became your issues. You supported these projects and programs with forceful certainty because you believed that implementing them would be in the best interest of the Village and its residents. To that end you were uninhibited in expressing your opinions. No one was ever in doubt on where you stood on the issues you cared most about. I will miss the candor with which you expressed your opinions and the verve with which you did so.
Turning now to the right side of the dais and what I think of as the analytic members of this Board:
Trustee Carl Finger: I could never have guessed that I would wind up serving on the Board with a former 5th grade student of my mother at Edgewood (more about Mom later). Carl, it has been a pleasure. You have brought your legal analytical skills to your work on the Board to great effect. Whether you were explaining in depth – and at length -- your vote on a particular matter, or simply helping us all think through any given topic your approach to breaking down an issue into its constituent parts helped us all in coming to consensus on a variety of issues. Congratulations on your election to a second term. It was well deserved and I look forward to observing your continued service.
Trustee Deborah Pekarek: Deb, you among us are the embodiment of the openness of our system of government. Last year you rightly fought for your position as a Trustee based on your record and were appropriately recognized with a vote awarding you a second term. One can see why from the dedicated effort you put into serving. As liaison to the Ad Hoc LED Committee, the Conservation Advisory Council, and the leadership you have shown in the past few months with respect to the County’s plan to extend the path along the Bronx River you have contributed perceptive guidance. You and I go back to the days when I was Board liaison to the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, some six years ago at least. It has been a pleasure working with you over that period and my thanks for your dedication and commitment to the Village.
Trustee Marc Samwick: Marc, we had not met until we served on the Board together. In that brief time, I have come to appreciate how you have applied your financial skill in analyzing a variety of budget matters that have come before us. More than that, you look for practical solutions to questions presented always with the goal of moving toward a solution. It is clear you care greatly about the Village and there is never any doubt that each judgment you make is made in good faith with the best interest of the Village and its residents as your preeminent focus. Your commitment to service as a Trustee is also exemplary and I could always rely on you to be available at any time as a sounding board to discuss Village issues. I will miss your professionalism, your focus, your good cheer and working with you as a colleague.
Village Staff: I would be remiss if I did not also thank the hard working members of the Village staff who deliver services to residents every day. It would take a long time to name them all so I will convey my thanks to the two staff members who sit beside me at every meeting: Village Manager Steve Pappalardo and Village Attorney Wayne Esannason. Over the years it has been impressed on me that Steve and Wayne come to work each day with an unwavering sense of obligations to serve our community. I believe the same can be said of the rest of the Village staff. Your dedication to the Village and its residents comes through in how you and your colleagues go about the job of keeping our Village in the Park running. Our heartfelt thanks for all your hard work.
Two final personal notes of thanks.
Ruth Friendly: I said at the outset this was the culmination of a seven year journey. It may have been more accurate to call it a 66-year journey that began when my mother Ruth Friendly, then Ruth Mark, and my father Sandor moved to the Village in 1951. They came as so many residents still do -- attracted by the fine schools (there were two School Districts in the Village then) and the beautiful setting that is our Village. It is quite clear to me that but for that decision on their part, I would not have moved back here with my family in 1992. So thank you Mom for that move more than 60 years ago … and thanks for watching most of these meetings on line. I did my best to smile as much as this position and circumstances allowed.
BK Munguia: Last, thanks to my wife, my partner, BK Munguia. She too played an instrumental role in prompting my service on the Board. As many of you know, BK has been a tireless volunteer in the Village almost from the day we arrived. Whether it was gardening at Heathcote School, the High School or the Girl Scout House; organizing a Girl Scout troop and a Cub Scout troop; working for the Teen Center; leading the Scarsdale Forum; and serving on the Scarsdale Foundation Board -- BK is a well-known figure for her hard work in the Village. In fact, the first time I appeared before the CNC in order to explain who I was I simply said “I’m BK’s husband.” I thank her for her years of service to the community which among other things included putting up with the sleepless nights I spent worrying about Village matters. BK, going forward, my Tuesday nights will be free.