Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, and I am asking for your vote to become the next Mayor of Ossining. The resounding Democratic primary victory was one big step, but now I need all Village of Ossining voters to make your voices heard so that together we can move our village forward.
I will lead our village government with a bold new vision for economic development and a dedication to face our challenges head-on. I am a collaborative leader, which is not the most simplistic approach to leadership. It may seem more expedient for a small group of people to make big decisions, only inviting comment to the degree necessary to check the “public input” box. But I believe Ossining needs a leader who is dedicated to making smart decisions, informed by the due diligence of officials, as well as valuable contributions of community members.
Before I even announced my candidacy, I created an online survey asking residents for their ideas and opinions about Ossining. The survey, circulated on social media, through my website and other online media sources, prompted responses from a broad spectrum of community members. The top three priorities were not surprising:
- Downtown Economic Development
- Lowering/Slowing Taxes
- Illegal Housing
Generating Greater Tax Revenue & Growing a Vibrant Downtown: While Ossining does have a core group of successful businesses as our foundation, we continue to lag far behind other river towns. And I, for one, have heard enough excuses about why we aren’t seeing the kind of vibrant downtown economies that our neighbors are. Eight years ago, who would have thought that Peekskill, a river community with perceived hurdles greater than ours, could become a mecca for art, live music, and downtown restaurants? As mayor, I will prioritize generating greater tax revenue and improving our quality of life by growing a vibrant downtown.
As mayor, I would incorporate many of the successful strategies I have learned from visiting other communities who have revitalized their downtowns. Peekskill hired a downtown development director from the business sector who led an aggressive campaign to partner local businesses with municipal investment and grant funding. Tarrytown fostered growth on their Main Street as well as their waterfront, and they are now seeking innovative ways to implement Complete Streets best practices to connect these two hubs. Yonkers established Green Building Guidelines and already they are finding that developers are designing a higher caliber of buildings, which are more desirable to retail and residential tenants.
It is critical that we make the most of our available commercial properties. Retail businesses have a greater potential for income, and therefore pay a higher tax rate, than office space. My vision for our downtown is to maximize first floor retail with second floor offices contributing to a daily workforce. I recently had a conversation with Jessica Irons, a community member who told me, “I have wanted to open up a business downtown since we moved here… Taking my investors on a drive through Ossining a little over a year ago–empty store-fronts, dilapidated buildings–they couldn’t see what I could imagine.” Last week Jessica reported that it is the excitement of my campaign for mayor that has inspired her and her investors to move forward with opening a theater school. Her architect is making plans as she negotiates a contract for a space in downtown Ossining. I look forward to cutting the ribbon at her grand opening!
Tough Budget Decisions, Facing them Head-on: Listening to my opponent rail against the unfairness of the tax cap, I have to ask the question, “Who in this village thinks the answer to our challenges is raising property taxes?” During last year’s budget process I came to develop an appreciation for the intention of the “2% tax cap” initiative—flawed and misleading as the formula may be. Having a fixed target of a maximum recommended tax increase commands our attention to each expense we consider. Here is a post I wrote last year reflecting on our 2014 budget.
The greatest local tax burden we feel is our school taxes. My efforts as Trustee have already begun to build stronger communication between our planning department and the school district. We must take advantage of the opportunities for school district concerns to be addressed during the planning process, while exploring more ways to ensure that our school buildings have room for the children of Ossining without overburdening taxpayers. My outreach to our village planner, planning board, school administration, and board of education opened up a dialogue for a better understanding of how development impacts our school system. I am currently exploring how developers may be able to help fund future capital projects, like constructing classrooms for our increasing enrollment. This suggestion could become a reality as the school district considers working with our NYS representatives to permit a special fund to be established allowing proactive collaboration between developers, planners, and the school district.
Solving the Problems of Overcrowded Housing: For much of the last eight years many in village government have been unwilling to even acknowledge that our overcrowded housing problem is real. Overcrowded housing creates unsafe conditions for first-responders and residents, and it unfairly taxes law-abiding property owners by creating too much stress on our municipal services and schools. We need a Mayor with the political courage to find comprehensive solutions by inviting all stakeholders to the table—firefighters and housing advocates, police officers and planners, code enforcers and property owners.
I am proud of this campaign for mayor that I have led. I am honored to have the support of such a broad and enthusiastic coalition, including elected leaders in our local, county and state government. Because I realize that no single group of people has a monopoly on great ideas, as Mayor I intend to lead a series of community meetings to help us address our greatest challenges head-on. Through my work with innovative leaders from across Westchester and the Hudson Valley, I understand how to lead a collaborative process that takes advantage of all the skills, talents and passion of our residents. With this approach, we will marshal the best ideas from the Ossining community to move us forward.
As mayor, I will improve communication with residents via better use of email and social media. Here is a post I wrote in the wake of the boil water advisory. I solicited input from the community and led a work session discussion with village colleagues providing recommendations for improving communication during an emergency. To promote greater access for in-person conversations, I will hold weekly office hours so that residents can meet with me with no appointment necessary. And I will work to once again keep the cameras rolling throughout public comments at village board meetings.
My excitement about leading an inclusive village government comes from my ability to listen to differing opinions, and a confidence that Ossining will grow stronger the more that people have constructive opportunities to help our community. Ossining is ready to move forward. I hope I can count on your vote on Tuesday, November 4.