Junior Mayor for the Day

IMG_7302Christian served as Junior Mayor for the Day last week. His parents won him the opportunity in the Ossining MATTERS online auction. What a remarkable young man! He arrived with a prepared list of questions. I think we addressed them all and much more.  We traveled across Ossining visiting many of the people who make our local government function so well, and admiring highlights of our beautiful Village.

 

Christian’s day as Junior Mayor began by joining in as members of the Baker-Collyer Christmas Cheer Fund and Rotary unveiled a new plaque in the lobby of Village Hall honoring 100 years of the Fund. Later in the day we had lunch with the Rotary, and Christian was presented with a plaque of appreciation. He asked to be the guest speaker. What 10 year old kid has the confidence and ability to stand up and speak to a room full of adults he doesn’t know? This kid! Afterward, he and I talked about the important contributions of so many members of our community that make Ossining a wonderful place.

 

Knowing that Christian is a strong math student with an interest in structural engineering, we headed to the John-Paul Rodrigues Operations Center, the epi center for that work in municipal government. Superintendent for Water & Sewer, Andrew Tiess gave Christian an in-depth understanding of how the Ossining Water System works. He now has a keen appreciation for how his love of math may be applied to a career that serves his environment and his community. This part of the day was a highlight for Christian. Village Engineer & Interim Manager Paul Fraioli talked about some of the big projects that the Village has undertaken.

 

Later in the day when I took Christian to the Joseph G Caputo Community Center, as soon as we parked, he took note of the pool building—as if seeing it for the first time because of the moment captured below where Paul showed him the pool building while it was under construction. At the Community Center, Christian showed me the football from his championship team, and he met with Superintendent of Recreation & Parks Chris Soi before we walked the Sing Sing Kill Greenway.

 

IMG_7340Christian learned all about the engineering feat that this remarkable public greenway is. When I told him that for many years people had thrown garbage into the Kill, and that though the Parks and DPW crews have done tremendous work to clean it up, still some people litter there. He was pretty disappointed by this behavior, asking why would people want to ruin something that is for everyone to share…something that is part of Ossining?

 

One of the next big engineering projects in the Village will be the repair of the Broadway Bridge—we’ll remove that ugly black net so we can fully appreciate Ossining’s iconic Double Arch from this new vantage point. And this young man will have a great appreciation for that work.

 

Christian had asked about the Harbor Square development, and thought it looked like a pretty great place to live, so we headed to the waterfront. Christian has an appreciation for the large sculptures in the Village. Dancing Milkweeds on the Village Hall lawn is one of his favorites. At the waterfront we talked about the giant wishbone sculpture. I acknowledged that it has been a little controversial, and that some people don’t much care for it. Christian likes it a lot, and was interested to learn about the process for creating it right in that location. In fact, he liked everything about the beautiful new Henry Gourdine Park, and is hoping that it will be officially open in time for the June 30 fireworks! (The plan is to cut the ribbon the week before. Stay tuned for details!)

 

Our last stop was to the Birdsall-Fagan Police Court Facility where Chief Kevin Sylvester gave Christian a full tour. He learned that the second floor which now serves as the briefing room, Detective Division, gym, locker rooms, and Chief, Captain and Lieutenants’ offices (including Coach Montague’s!) was once a bowling alley. Downstairs we visited the intake area (the only time Christian plans to visit there!) and courtroom, and found Christian’s home on the sector map. He lives in Sector 5.

 

Ossining MATTERS has asked me to offer this auction item again next year if I am still in office. Does your son or daughter have an interest in local government? Infrastructure? Parks? Law enforcement? Engineering? Public service?

 

I am grateful for the opportunity Christian provided me to see from a fresh perspective the contributions of the people who help us accomplish so much for this community we all love. Village government at its best goes unnoticed—residents are happy to have well-maintained roads, trash/recycling picked up, safe water provided, and a safe beautiful place to live, work and play. We strive to achieve those goals, a little more efficiently and effectively everyday.

 

2016 Priorities

At our first meeting of 2016 I reflected on what has been accomplished in the past year, and our goals for the coming year.

This Board of Trustees is united in our big picture goals:

  • Communication & Customer Service
  • Building Dept & Code Enforcement
  • Efficiency & Sustainability

Efforts toward efficiency & sustainability are happening on a number of fronts. The Solarize Ossining-Briarcliff and Community Energy Choice Aggregation (CCA) initiatives provide opportunities for financial savings directly to residents & small businesses.

12347673_902362783165144_3603113895730678789_nVillage infrastructure has been made more efficient with the LED streetlight conversion that is already well underway. This year we are looking to expand savings in our facilities with energy efficiency upgrades that will quickly pay for themselves with cost savings.

Later this year with the opening of the Sing Sing Kill Greenway, the public will be invited to experience Ossining’s iconic Double Arches in a way that few people have ever before. What began as a required sanitation sewer line project will become a local treasure.

The $100,000 NYPrize grant that the village got this year to explore the potential for a microgrid, is a smart move to help us make our community safer and more resilient during major power disruptions.

Ossining local business is growing and village government is supporting that success. This year we welcomed several new restaurants including Cravin’, El Manabita, Chow’s Caribbean, Casa de Campo and most recently DD’s Diner. To encourage shoppers to keep their dollars local, we had a holiday from feeding the meters for the month of December.

To foster new artisanal craft businesses to open in the village, we are voting later this month to amend a zoning regulation. This action is an example of the village’s responsiveness to local property owners who work with us to explore how we can expand opportunities for entrepreneurs to choose Ossining for their business.

Thousands have already viewed the Historic Downtown Ossining video created by Village Historian Dana White. You can still check it out at the Village’s YouTube channel. Understanding and celebrating our history is an important step in the decision making process for major plans including Market Square development and the Sing Sing Project.

The Downtown Development Fund Council will be making recommendations to the Board later this year for how to invest in the revitalization of downtown. There are two openings on that council. Residents interested in applying for those appointments are encouraged to send resumes and letters of interest to azambrano@villageofossining.org.

Our commitment to improving communication and openness began at the first meeting I presided over as mayor when we kept the cameras rolling throughout the Public Comments portion of legislative sessions. Weekly Open Office Hours that I have established every Tuesday at Village Hall from 10am-12noon have been a wonderful opportunity to connect with residents.

We have established a Village Facebook page as an additional avenue for getting information out to the public, and we have formed a Social Media Communications team to make effective use of talent across departments. A key goal on the communication front for 2106 is to create a new website that is more accessible and interactive.

In 2015 we said goodbye and good luck to several colleagues in Village government, including most recently Chief Joseph Burton. We have welcomed new exciting leadership in Village Management, Recreation & Parks, and the Ossining Police Department.

Fiscal responsibility is at the core of every decision this Board makes. We are very pleased to have passed a budget for 2016 that is $315,000 below the tax cap. We are dedicated to finding greater efficiencies and spending taxpayer dollars wisely to provide excellent service to residents.

2016 looks to be an exciting year for the Village of Ossining.

Leadership Changes

I ran for Mayor on a platform of change—and that has certainly been the case this year when it comes to key leadership positions in village government. In May we welcomed Village Manager Abraham Zambrano. One of the strengths Manager Zambrano brings is his experience in finance—and with budget season upon us, we are making the most of his keen eye for recognizing opportunities to spend tax dollars more efficiently. Selecting Lieutenant Kevin Sylvester to succeed Chief Joseph Burton as leader of the Ossining Police Department, heralds a new generation of leadership, with an appreciation for tradition. And most recently, we’ve have some unexpected changes on the Board of Trustees.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 5.17.04 AM On September 16, Trustee Rika Levin was sworn into office. She was appointed to the vacancy left by former Trustee Omar Herrera. Trustee Levin’s experience managing budgets in the business and nonprofit worlds will be a particularly valuable skill as we enter budget season. Her appointment is through the end of 2015. Rika Levin’s name will appear on the ballot in November as she seeks to hold her seat for 2016.

Trustee Robert Daraio announced he would be resigning from the Board effective September 30. Complicating the process of filling this sudden vacancy, was a long-planned vacation that Trustee John Codman had just begun the previous day. Now that Trustee Codman has returned, the Board will meet in executive session to discuss how we want to address this newest opening.

These recent changes may make the November ballot seem a bit confusing for Ossining Village voters. So here’s a guide to help you prepare for the November 3 election with regards to the 2016 Board of Trustees:

  • There are 2 seats up for election for a 2-year term, expiring 12/31/17. There are two candidates for these seats: Manuel Quezada & Quantel Bazemore. They are running unopposed. These candidates will appear on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families Party lines. The Republican and Conservative Parties did not endorse any candidates for these seats.
  • There is 1 seat up for election for a 1-year term, expiring 12/31/16. This is the seat that Trustee Rika Levin holds now. She was appointed by the Board of Trustees to fill the position through the end of 2015. On November 3, voters will go to the polls to choose between Rika Levin who will appear on the Democratic and Independence Party lines; or Luke Carbonaro who will appear on the Republican and Conservative Party lines.

The Village Charter instructs the Board to “appoint a qualified person to fill such vacancy; if an elective office, until the next Charter Election, when the vacancy shall be filled at said election for the unexpired term of such office.” Village government has seen a lot of appointments in recent history, including these familiar names: John Codman, Sue Donnelly, Bill Hanauer, Miguel Hernandez…

The Village Charter leaves the process for how to select the appointment up to the discretion of the Board. Each appointment is unique; one significant factor to consider is the amount of time remaining in the unexpired term. The process that led to the appointment of Trustee Rika Levin began with a public solicitation for resumes, followed by Board of Trustee interviews of the nine applicants. We chose Rika Levin knowing that, at the very least, she would be with us through the end of this year. Her experience managing budgets in the corporate and nonprofit world will be of great value during the budget season. It is our hope that voters support her continuing in this position. Her experience in marketing and branding strategy will be an excellent resource for this Board’s goal of improving communication and public outreach.

With less than three months remaining in the unexpired term created by now former Trustee Robert Daraio’s seat, the decision-making will reflect that different circumstance. We could appoint Quantel Bazemore. He is running unopposed to be in that seat on January 1, so an appointment now would essentially give him a head-start on the term. We could leave the seat vacant through the end of the year. We could appoint one of the candidates we interviewed last month when we selected Trustee Levin. We could appoint a community member who has contributed to Ossining over the years and may offer a helpful perspective as we enter this year’s budget season.

This week the Board of Trustees will meet in executive session to discuss how we will proceed with this appointment. Each individual who serves as Trustee changes the dynamic of the group. Whatever decision we make about whether and how to fill the vacancy for the final months of this year, it will be interesting to experience it with this newly established Board. One unifying characteristic among all the trustees I have served with, is our desire to look out for the interests of the people we represent. It is an honor and a responsibility we do not take lightly.

Welcoming a New Manager

Abe welcome pic    It is my privilege to announce that Abe Zambrano will be Ossining’s next Village Manager. We on the Board of Trustees know he is going to do a terrific job, and we are very excited for him to step into that position on May 27.
    Abe is no stranger to Ossining. Before advancing his career in our neighboring Village of Croton, Abe worked right upstairs in our finance department.
    During our search process we learned there are a lot of terrific managers. Thankfully we found Abe Zambrano, and he is the perfect fit for the Village of Ossining. He has demonstrated an incredible work ethic and a desire to work with department heads to improve efficiency and productivity.
    The process for selecting Abe to be the next Village Manager has strengthened the cohesiveness of this Board. We wisely hired Don Marra of Marra Consulting to guide the search process. Don met with 15 village department managers and key staff members to understand their experience and priorities.  And he also challenged the five of us on this Board to clarify our priorities. There were 17 applicants interested in this position—which is a testament to the desirability of our community. It also meant that we had an incredible group of candidates to consider for the position. The process was comprehensive and efficient. What is perhaps most impressive and reassuring is the result. The five of us are unified in this decision. Y es muy bueno que Abe habla espanol.
    We look forward to Abe’s leadership in furthering our goals of improving communication, government efficiency and a vibrant economy. The first three months of 2015 have been very productive and exciting for this Board. But no single decision will have as great an impact on our local government as the selection of Abe Zambrano to be our next Village Manager. We have great confidence in his success, and know that he will serve Ossining with integrity and dedication.
    We on the Village Board of Trustees look forward to Abe’s leadership in furthering our goals of improving communication, government efficiency and a vibrant economy. We anticipate great success in these efforts as Abe improves the day to day functioning of the village, and strengthens our relationships with residents, businesses and community organizations.

Vote on Tuesday, Move Ossining Forward

Headshot, fade 2, boost 1, warm, lgtElection 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:

  1. Downtown Economic Development
  2. Lowering/Slowing Taxes
  3. 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.

As Mayor, I will…

Headshot V MayFellow Ossining Residents,

As Ossining Village Trustee, I have witnessed many issues that are not being addressed head-on by our current mayor. At this pivotal point in Ossining’s history, it is vital that we have a change in leadership, and elect a mayor with the courage to address tough challenges and the openness to respect differing opinions. On Tuesday, September 9, I am asking my fellow Democrats in the Village of Ossining to cast their vote for me in the mayoral primary. I am proud to be endorsed by the Ossining Democratic Committee, the Westchester Independence Party and many community leaders including Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and County Legislator Catherine Borgia. As mayor, I will work to strengthen our community, grow our local economy, and continue to collaborate at every level so Ossining can reach its full potential. As mayor, I will focus on:

  1. Generating Greater Tax Revenue & Creating a Vibrant Downtown: Too many business owners have told me of the obstacles and frustration in their efforts to open and grow a business in Ossining.  We need to adopt a “Welcome. How can we help you?” approach at every opportunity.  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 great downtown restaurants?  I’ve heard enough excuses.  As mayor, I will prioritize generating greater tax revenue and improving our quality of life by growing a vibrant downtown.
  2. Improving Decision-Making with Smart Development: During this next term of office, critical decisions will be made about the development of Market Square properties at the heart of our downtown.  Before we ask a developer for his plan, Ossining’s talented and engaged community members need to craft a vision for the future of this key location.  As mayor, I will lead the effort to make this collaborative process happen, because we must make smart development decisions that honor our history and strengthen Ossining for future generations.
  3. Addressing Concerns Head-On of an Overburdened School System: 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. As mayor, I will recognize that collaboration between the municipality and the school district is an obligation I have to all our residents, whether their priority is from a tax perspective or a concern for quality of education. I’m in this for the long-haul—as a parent to two young children in our school system, I have a personal stake and firsthand knowledge of the impact of development decisions.
  4. Solving the Problems of Overcrowded Housing: For much of the last eight years the current mayor has not been willing 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.  The new laws that I have joined with two other trustees to promote, will provide our building department with additional tools to better enforce our zoning laws—but they are only a first step in the right direction. 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.

In my time on the village board, I have not seen the current mayor make sufficient progress on the issues above, and in some cases even create obstacles. This is what led me to decide to run for mayor. Ossining has seen a lot of ribbon cuttings and symbolic legislation.  It’s time for village government to go beyond this and work harder for the people we serve.

As mayor, I will improve communication with residents via better use of email and social media.  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.

The current mayor began his tenure after having been appointed to the position of trustee and serving less than one term. I have benefitted greatly from my experience these past two years as a Trustee and I understand how the “system” works and what it takes to run a municipality. I have also benefitted from watching how things can go awry, and how a change in governing style, to one of a collaborative administration, could have beneficial outcomes for all involved.

Democrats, I’m asking for your vote on Tuesday, September 9.  Voter turnout in primary elections tends to be very low, so your individual vote will have a big impact on the outcome.  Bring a friend to the polls and together we will help Ossining reach its full potential.

Sincerely,

Victoria Gearity

Action Steps for Improving Communication

Vic at work sessionI led a discussion at the August 13 work session  of how we can better communicate with Ossining residents.  I requested this topic be added to our work session agenda following the water-main break and subsequent boil-water-advisory that was issued.  Thankfully, the public’s health and safety was never in jeopardy during that incident, which makes this an ideal opportunity to address the gaps this event highlighted in our village government’s ability to communicate swiftly and effectively with residents.

You can view the meeting at the Village of Ossining website or on our new Village of Ossining YouTube channel, which now has all recent Village Board meetings ready for viewing.   The discussion about communication begins at 1hr 48 min.  It was a long meeting with several interesting topics discussed.

Finding smart solutions through collaboration is critical to the village’s ability to reduce expenses while remaining effective in service to the public.  Prior to the meeting, I asked community members for their ideas of how village government could do a better job sharing information with residents.  You responded via this website, social media and emails with many terrific ideas which I expressed to my colleagues.  This discussion also led me to come up with an idea for a new IMA (Inter-Municipal Agreement) that the village may be able to establish with the school district.

Listed below are my recommendations of actions steps for improving future communication from village government to residents.

Robo-calls  Having the ability to place a call to any resident with a phone was the number one suggestion.  Preliminary research by the village manager’s office and the OPD indicated that a service of this kind could cost upwards of $6,000.  As a parent in the school district, I receive robo-calls from my child’s principal that are specific to his school, as well as calls from Ray Sanchez to all parents.  The question our village manager is going to ask the school superintendent is, “Can we establish an IMA that would permit Ossining residents to sign up to be on a call list for information directly from village government.”

List of Community Connections  Creating an exhaustive list to have on-hand of organizations that can disseminate information to their members, website visitors, and email recipients, will increase our chance of reaching people through multiple points of contact.  The only cost for this effort is the time required to establish and maintain an up-to-date list of organizational leaders.  There were connections made with some organizations on the following list during the boil-water advisory, but there can be much greater outreach on this front.  This list includes, but is not be limited to, the library, the school district, the Town of Ossining, neighboring villages, daycare centers, recreation department, day camps, senior programs, Boy and Girl Scout troops, service organizations and clubs (Lions, Rotary, Moose, Elks, Columbus Lodge, Corinthian Lodge…), local business owners, Chamber of Commerce, Ossining Arts Council, BOMA (Briarcliff Ossining Ministerial Association) and individual churches.  What would you add to this list?

Alert the Media  You saw the result of this effort on News 12, newspapers and online media.  A press release was distributed before dawn on August 1, and the story was picked up by many local news outlets.  That said, we are somewhat at the mercy of news editors as to how and when information is presented, and how quickly it is updated.

Welcome to Ossining Signs  As drivers enter and exit the Village of Ossining, they read information typically about upcoming events on these community boards maintained by our recreation department.  These can also be updated with notifications of urgent health and safety alerts.

Collaborate with other Government Agencies  The village worked hand-in-hand with the County Health Department in preparing the press release about the boil-water advisory.  The Town of Ossining was also in regular contact with the County Health Department and the village manager’s office, and shared updates on their website and via email and social media.  Unfortunately, one commitment the county did not fulfill was the important step of making reverse 911 calls to alert affected residents.  Because the County Health Department was the agency that actually put the boil-water advisory in place, this would have been an effective way to communicate information in this instance.  While we must continue to make every effort to collaborate with all government entities, this experience reminds us of the importance of having multiple points of contact to ensure that all residents are well-informed.

Adopt a Senior & Tell a Neighbor  There are programs in other communities where senior citizens partner with neighbors who will check on them.  While any time there is a storm, we encourage residents to check on their neighbors, here’s a link to a nonprofit group in Minneapolis that has an organized Adopt a Senior program we may want to implement here.  I spoke with thoughtful Ossining residents who took it upon themselves to reach out to neighbors, particularly those least likely to receive emails, texts or social media updates, to let them know about the boil-water advisory.  Using a simple tagline like “Tell a neighbor” or “Please share” in written communications can be a helpful reminder as well.

Careful Messaging   In this case, there was initial confusion among some residents living in the unincorporated part of the Town of Ossining who believed that this was only a Village of Ossining concern.  Beyond the critical step of getting information to everyone who is directly impacted, we also want to be clear about who is not.  One way to support our local businesses is to make sure our messaging doesn’t inadvertently discourage the public from patronizing them due to a lack of clear information.  A little Monday morning quarterbacking may help us to be more thoughtful in this regard next time.  Perhaps we could have included a quote to the press from a local restaurant owner who says, “We are thankful to be in one of the neighborhoods that is not at all affected by the water-main break.  We are open for business as usual.  Please come on down.”

Sign-up  One of the best things each of us can do as a community member is sign-up for notifications in any form we have access to.  If you can receive a text on your cell-phone or tablet, please sign up for free Nixle alerts by texting 10562 to 888777.  To learn more about receiving emergency information visit NIXLE.com and click the “sign up free!” button.  Also, click through to this page to sign-up for a variety of email subscriptions from the Village of Ossining, including the weekly WebBlast, information on affordable housing, and board meetings.

Thankfully, Ossining residents were never in any danger following the water-main break.  The Village of Ossining water and public works department did an outstanding job of locating and repairing the break quickly.  Testing by the County Health Department confirmed the boil-water advisory was made in an abundance of caution, and residents’ water quality was never compromised.  The village manager’s office and OPD made a significant effort to notify community members via press release, email, social media, and Nixle, and most residents knew about the boil-water advisory.  This list of recommended action steps will help us to do an even better job in the future.

Many thanks to all for contributing to this process.  I encourage everyone reading this post to take two simple steps—if you do not already receive WebBlast emails and Nixle texts please sign-up right now through the above links!

 

Standing Strong

I posted the below message on Facebook yesterday.  The outpouring of support has been remarkable.  Encouraging statements have come from family, friends, supporters, and folks who are simply fed-up with village politics.  This week is certainly not a high point for transparency in local government.  The residents of Ossining deserve better.  I am grateful to be connecting with so many community members, and look forward to building a more open, responsive and engaging relationship between village officials and the public.

Last night it was alleged that ethics charges have been filed against me.  This action serves only to reinforce my dedication to becoming a mayor who reaches out to the community, encouraging transparency and public engagement.

I have not yet seen the “ethics charges” referenced during last night’s publicly televised Board of Trustees meeting.  However, other village employees have.  Trustee Bob Daraio stated that “ethics charges” impacted his vote to support granting preferred developer status for 200 Main Street to Interoceanic Corporation.

No effort was made to obtain my response to this allegation, or even inform me of the charge before publicly revealing it as a pretext to discredit both my husband’s business, Sing Sing Kill Brewery, and myself.  The village struggled to locate the said email and could not even provide me with a copy of it.

Does it seem fair and transparent that a trustee referenced “ethics charges” when casting a vote, while I am the accused and I have not even seen them?  Did all the voting members of the board have access to that same information when they cast their votes?  The vote itself was tainted, and such an important decision on a key property should have been tabled pending resolution of the issue—particularly given that the source of the alleged complaint is Daniel V. Remer, a supporter of my opponent.

This bullying tactic is consistent with the current administration’s practice of stifling public comments.

So proud to have co-founded this group dedicated to engaging the community on issues that matter.  Last night our topic was gun violence.  Our committee is pictured here with our outstanding panelists.
So proud to have co-founded this group dedicated to engaging the community on issues that matter. Last night our topic was gun violence. Our committee is pictured here with our outstanding panelists.  www.OssiningDocumentaries.org

My public statements regarding 200 Main Street were made with complete disclosure that I am a Village Trustee and a Candidate for Mayor, and that I have recused myself from all deliberations and decision-making regarding the village-owned property because my husband is an interested party.  The article I wrote in the Patch provided information and encouraged public engagement about a flagship property whose future will dramatically impact the vibrancy of our downtown economy.  I was heartened by the thoughtful and respectful public response that resulted.

Being an elected official does not mean I give up my first amendment right to free speech as a resident of this great nation.  Is expressing an opinion, while being completely open about my position in the village and in relation to the subject of discussion, unethical?

I have done nothing wrong.  I am troubled by the timing of these allegations.

I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have already received from friends and community members who recognize this tactic for what it is—bullying designed to discredit a candidate who seeks transparency and public engagement.

Governing with Courage

In discussions around the village, I’m finding that some community members misunderstand my position on preserving Ossining’s charter village status.

I have never advocated for dissolving the village, and I do not believe it would be good for Ossining.  Beyond the importance of honoring our rich history, there are powers and autonomy inherent in being a charter village that we would be foolish to give up.  I do, however, believe leaders should explore more opportunities for shared services to reduce redundancy and save tax dollars.

Carolyn Mackie Oss PicAs Albany pushes us to work harder at finding further opportunities for consolidation, village officials must hold the interest of the people of Ossining as our highest priority in all decision making.  Ossining already has over a dozen fiscally wise inter-municipal agreements that do not undermine our autonomy.

It is time for change in Ossining—time to shake up the status quo.

This mayoral race is about electing the person who will best serve our community.  I’ll always strive to work with political courage for the people of Ossining.

 

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