Straight out of the Yonkers' political play book, the Village of Mamaroneck is now embroiled in a debate about extending term limits. The Yonkers City Council voted last week to extend the role of Mayor Mike Spano to an unprecedented fourth term. Despite protests and public hearings, the City Council had the last word. In a move that was seen as self aggrandizing, the term extension applied to the City Council members also.
On February 13th, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees held a meeting in regards to extending term limits and a change in voting dates.
The woken have spoken and the old guard calls it Kabuki theater. It is now up to the people to decide.
The purpose of the meeting was two fold. The primary proposal being to extend the term of both the mayor and the members of the Board of Trustees to four years. The secondary issue is what years the elections would be held.
The seating area for members of the community to speak was full. Comments from both Mamaroneck Village residents and Mayor Tom Murphy were strident. The dialogue between the two camps became a debate between the logistics of how the proposal would be implemented and the perceived forceful tone of both the Mayor and board members.
Mayor Murphy argued that the three newly elected board members, i.e. Young, Yizar-Reid and Rawlings, ran on a platform that included the change and that they were simply fulfilling the mandate of the people that elected them.
In regards to the issue of the logistics of enacting the proposal into law, Murphy explained the dynamics of a permissive referendum. It is a legal tool whereupon the Village Board of Trustees declares the proposal of a law. The voters would then have the option of voting on that law and determine if they want to allow it to pass into the final stage of an active form of legislation.
The alternate method of deciding the proposal would be a ballot initiative. In this instance, twenty percent of registered voters would have to sign a petition to force the ballot initiative. Initiatives are proposed laws that are put on the ballot for voter consideration through people collecting signatures. If the initiative receives enough votes, then it becomes law. If the initiative fails to receive enough votes, it is considered rejected.
Murphy expressed little faith in the later stating, “Although there's a lot of people making a lot of noise, I don't think they would do the work to get the twenty percent.” “Therefore, we as a board are going to make it a referendum.”
“Once the Board of Trustees adopts the local law, anyone wishing to have the voters decide the matter must organize a petition drive, collect at least 2,388* signatures of registered Village voters, and present the completed petition to the Board of Trustees within 30 days of the law’s adoption. The Village would then have 60 days to call for a referendum for voters to decide whether to extend the terms of their local elected officials. “ - Mamaroneck Observer
The public hearing bordered on mundane legalese punctuated with the occasional spat of verbal exchange. One public speaker stated in response to perceived bullying, “ A number of people who wrote you emails were concerned about coming in person .”
That speaker proposed a referendum on anti bullying. .
Although Murphy accused her of “going of topic”, trustee Nora Lucas echoed her sentiments stating “I don't think Amy (Amy Siskind) is incorrect.”
Murphy went further to state that “This is very apparent that this is a part of an orchestrated political attack.”
The Mayor was not the only board member on the defensive. Both Yizar Reid and Rawlings opined about the rigors of the job and campaigning. Board members are salaried at $28,144.00 per year.
Although the job is part time, Manny Rawlings stated that his duties were in excess of his allotted hours. The extra time was spent on answering emails and helping constituents. He in agreement with Yizar Reid, lamented the toll a campaign takes on both body and soul. In addition, the difficulty of the learning curve inherent with the office according to Rawlings is daunting. He feels that it takes a minimum of two years to become adept at understanding the inner workings of government.
Yizar Reid also lamented on the volume of work stating: ”Honest to God, do you think I want to be up here all the time? The amount of work it takes to do this job? I did not know but I appreciate it all.”
She echoed Rawlings' sentiments in support of a four year term, again, citing the rigors of campaigning every two years and the toll it takes on her physical and mental health.
At the conclusion, both the people and their representatives have spoken.
There are approximately 20,000 people in the Village of Mamaroneck. Sixty five percent are White, twenty seven percent are Hispanic, five percent are Asian and three percent are Black. Ten thousand residents are registered voters. Historically, approximately five thousand voters go to the polls in Mamaroneck Village elections. Will a change in frequency of those elections lead to greater participation or will it widen the gulf between those in power and the people that put them there?
The sub text to the hearing was how the hearing itself was conducted. Murphy used it as fodder to bolster the bid for the four year election cycle presuming it would lessen the board's exposure to controversy.
Mayor Murphy stated “I wanna thank everyone who came to speak at the public hearing. But at the end of that, you saw a kind of illustration of Kabuki theater of blatant political attack This is what we deal with all the time.”
Former Deputy Mayor and newly elected Village Trustee, Lou Young bolstered the Mayor. “Talk about bullying? There were bullies at the podium tonight.”
Stay tuned for act 11.
Recorded meeting can be viewed at this link https://lmcmedia.org/show/village-of-mamaroneck-board-of-trustees-meeting-2-13-23/