A New Chapter Ahead

It is with a heart full of gratitude for the people of Ossining that I announce I will not seek a fourth term for mayor in 2020. After thoughtful consideration, I have decided that I will start a new chapter. During my time as mayor the village has become greener, stronger, better connected, more welcoming to all, and economically thriving.

In this final year of my third term as mayor, I will continue to be progressive on the environment, housing and social justice policies; conservative on taxes; and transformative on how we communicate with the people we serve.

Doing the right thing for the environment can also be the smart financial choice. Installing LED streetlights throughout the village produces six-figure savings every year for taxpayers. Further, our decision to become one of the first municipalities to opt-in to 100% green energy through community choice aggregation, expanded Ossining’s impact on transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy. My role as a member of the steering committee that created Sustainable Westchester, and as a board member of the Northern Westchester Energy Action Coalition before that, has kept Ossining at the forefront of energy saving programs.

I have led an innovative and comprehensive approach to economic development that honors our commitment to preserving cultural and socioeconomic diversity. The program we created to establish affordable housing units within existing buildings is the first of its kind in New York. Long before the county released the results of their recent study, village policy has been influenced by our own housing needs assessment.

My commitment to make everyone feel welcome in our community, led to Ossining’s first raising of the LGBTQ rainbow flag for pride at Village Hall, as well as becoming the first community in New York to pass a gender-neutral bathroom signage policy. As an advocate for our undocumented residents, I championed the campaign to allow all drivers to be eligible to be licensed in New York State.

Holding the line on taxes is one of the most significant ways that we can keep Ossining relatively affordable. During the budget negotiations my first year as mayor, I introduced the idea of a 0% tax rate increase. The suggestion was unheard of at the time. We weren’t yet in a fiscal position to keep it totally flat, though we came close. That mindset put us on the right path. This week we will vote to have a 0% tax rate increase for the fourth year in a row.

I have transformed village communications. Initiatives like Open Office Hours, the Monday Mayor’s Message, Weekly Walks, and our redesigned website and social media presence have been effective ways to reach the people of Ossining. I began holding Tuesday Open Office Hours my first month in office, and it has proven to be a valuable opportunity to connect with residents one-on-one. The Monday email I send has been a consistent means for letting folks know the latest happenings in village government from the convenience of their inbox.

Thank you to everyone who joined me on a Weekly Walk as I experienced every block of the village on foot. The journey was about much more than exercise, or even the personal connections with residents who took the time to tell me what their neighborhood means to them. The experience continues to serve me in decisions about how zoning and planning changes will impact residents for generations to come.

Headshot forced smileWhen I took office, my sons were in pre-k. Today they are in middle school, and college is right around the corner. I will be exploring opportunities for a job that contributes financially in a significant way for my family. Though it will be difficult to find another position as rewarding and meaningful as mayor, it is time for me to start thinking about what is next.

Serving in local elected office is personally and professionally fulfilling, and perhaps I will again some day. For now I am excited to work with a new village board, dedicated staff, and our highly engaged community for a productive 2020.

 

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.

 

Can Reassessment Help Effective Enforcement?

Carolyn Mackie Oss PicThere is a lot of discussion town-wide about the reassessment and how it is creating a new financial situation for many homeowners. The Village is not a tax assessing authority, which is why our Board was not part of the decision of whether to undertake the revaluation. Anyone looking to learn more about the Town’s process and the data collected by Tyler Technologies, can click here. While the Village Board did not have any role in the decision to reassess properties, we do now have an opportunity to learn from the unbiased data that was collected.

Ensuring safe housing conditions is very much the responsibility of Village government. This Village Board has overseen the restructuring of a new Planning & Building department. We recognize that stronger management is needed to take on the challenge of years of ineffective code enforcement. We are reaching out to departments throughout village government to work through solutions to alleviate this growing problem. Our goal is to first gain access to properties that have been objectively identified as likely overcrowded. We must then be able to follow through with a legal process that enables us to effectively enforce Village codes.

It will come as no surprise to members of this community that some landlords exploit every avenue the court system provides to avoid compliance. This behavior by disreputable landlords is perpetuated regardless of the safety risks their negligence or active defiance poses for their tenants, our community, and our first responders.

This Village Board is committed to making the most of taxpayer dollars by encouraging departments to work collaboratively to achieve our core goals of effectively enforcing Village codes, expanding communication with the public, and improving efficiency.

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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.

Tuesday Elections!!

Want lawn signs at your home? Email me your address and I'll come by!
Want lawn signs at your home? Email me your address and I’ll come by!

What is more patriotic than voting? What better to celebrate the foundation of our democracy than to vote for our neighbors who represent us in our local government?

There are two particular candidates for local office that I’d like to draw your attention to…

Trustee Rika Levin is looking to keep her seat on the Village board. Click to read why we appointed her to the BOT last month. Here’s a 10-word summary:

intelligence, marketing skills, MBA, corporate & nonprofit experience, brings so much!

Please also join me in voting for Dana Levenberg to be our next Ossining Town Supervisor. Dana is already contributing to Ossining’s future economic success and energy resiliency. As the Chief of Staff for Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Dana was a driving force in getting local entities to seek a $100k NY Prize grant for a feasibility study to explore how Ossining can be at the forefront of energy independence and storm resiliency. We won that grant and are already learning more about our local resources and their potential.

Dana also recently led the coordination of municipal, private and nonprofit groups in a coalition of Ossining parties who are seeking funding to fuel our local economic development–in this case as part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative just introduced by the NYS Regional Economic Development Council. Dana’s work ethic and depth of knowledge of how to navigate opportunities from NYS are a huge asset to Ossining.

I know she will bring that same collaborative spirit and dedication for making big things happen to her work as Ossining Town Supervisor. I am excited to partner with Dana and her colleagues on the Town Board to expand opportunities to better serve the people of Ossining.

I will be voting for the whole Democratic line of candidates this year. But you can also find Rika, Dana and other outstanding local candidates, including County Legislator Catherine Borgia, on the Independence Party line and often also on the Working Families Party line.

Parents, Tuesday is not just Teacher Conference Day–it’s Teach Your Kids Democracy Day…bring them with you to the polls!

Whatever line you vote on, please be sure to vote on Election Day Tuesday! Bring your kids to the polls! Bring your neighbor! Host a lawn sign to let your neighbors know: Election Day is here, and your vote matters!

 

OPD Leadership

FullSizeRender (1)In anticipation of last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, Chief Joseph Burton invited the members of the Ossining Police Department to attend and provide him moral support. He didn’t say why. After 24 years as Chief of Police, Joseph Burton announced he’ll be retiring at the end of the year. Click here to watch the Chief’s moving comments which begin around 19 minutes into the meeting. Following the Chief’s comments I had the honor of announcing that Kevin Sylvester will lead the department beginning on January 1, 2016.

Below are my remarks, written pretty much as I delivered them. Chief Burton determined the way that news of this transition would roll out. Following my remarks, we all took a break to shake hands and snap pictures. Then the dozens of OPD members that had filled the courtroom, headed around the corner to OFD headquarters for pizza. When our meeting finished, the Trustees and I, along with new Village Manager Abe Zambrano joined them for a slice.

Chief Joseph Burton began his career with the Ossining Police Department in August of 1967—before three members of this Board were even born. He considers himself to have had “two careers” in the department. The first was twenty four years as a Patrolman, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and then Captain—working in the Patrol, Records, and Youth Divisions. It was during that first career the he became a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy.

Joseph Burton’s second career spans twenty four years as Chief of the Ossining Police Department. During his tenure he was instrumental in implementing the D.A.R.E. Program in our schools. The relationship he has established with our schools is perhaps his greatest work in crime reduction. In a conversation I had with the Chief very soon after I became a trustee he told me, “once a crime has been committed, we’ve already failed.” A big part of Chief Burton’s effectiveness, and the reason Ossining keeps finding itself on the list of safest places to live, comes from the 40 years Chief Burton has dedicated to our young people as a coach for the Ossining High School Football Program and as an active member of the Ossining Police Athletic League, which supports various youth programs. Chief Burton plays the long game. He recognizes that preventing kids from beginning a life of crime is the only real path for crime reduction.

For relative new comers to village government, it’s hard imagine the Police Department and Court were all squeezed into 16 Croton Avenue together. Chief Burton oversaw the construction and transition of department headquarters from Village Hall to the Birdsall-Fagan Police & Court Facility. No doubt the business degree he earned early in his career as chief, was a big help to the making this facility function so well today. This building is a testament to his incredible leadership, his ability to think big and effect real positive change for our community, and his very high regard for the members of this police department.

Chief Burton is Ossining’s longest serving chief. And we are grateful that he has put in place a plan for a smooth transition to the next leader of the department.

This board, in our capacity as the Board of Police Commissioners, underwent a thorough deliberative process to determine who would be the next Chief of the Ossining Police Department. In fact, our process mirrors the approach that Chief Joseph Burton has implemented for recent promotions to sergeant and lieutenant. In doing so, we had the opportunity to speak with many members of the department, including all of the administrators at length. We were so impressed by the leadership team that Chief Burton has assembled—the dedication, skills, and insights of the captain and all the lieutenants was beyond what we even imagined. Ossining is incredibly fortunate to have this core group of leaders in our Police Department.

This Board has asked Lieutenant Kevin Sylvester to become the next chief of the Ossining Police Department. Following the timeline and the manner recommended by Chief Burton, on New Years Day Kevin Sylvester will be sworn into office at the inauguration. I hope you will all join us for this community event.

Kevin Sylvester’s rise to this leadership position is a testament to not only his intellectual capabilities, but his remarkable leadership skills and work ethic. Each day Lt Sylvester dedicates himself to finding ways to better serve the Ossining community, and in doing so he inspires his colleagues on the police force.

For Kevin Sylvester, simply accomplishing great things during his full time job as a patrol officer, sergeant and lieutenant in the Ossining Police Department, was not enough to satisfy desire for achievement. His drive for personal success led him to become the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Training Division for the United States Marine Corps Reserve. And after completing his Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice, the then-Patrol Sergeant Sylvester began working on his Law Degree, which he earned this spring. We wish Lieutenant Sylvester the best of luck on his bar exam in July. When that’s over, he’s going to start studying for the Chief’s exam which he will take next spring, so that we can make his provisional appointment to Chief permanent.

This Board is united in our vision for a police department that continues to deepen community connections through innovation and a dedication to a local police force. Lieutenant Sylvester demonstrates an ability to be fair and consistent; he leads by example; and he has a clear vision for the future of this department.

I have been reminded many times during this process that the relationship between politicians and police has not always been one of openness, trust and a shared sense of duty to our community. That is changing, at least for Ossining. At a time when the news is filled with tragic stories of violence, anger and mistrust, the Ossining Police Department is recognized for its heroism and dedication to community policing. We know that the “storybook department” as we were described during an accreditation report years ago under the leadership of Chief Joseph Burton, will continue to thrive with Kevin Sylvester at the helm.

We thank you both and this entire department for your incredible service to Ossining.

100 Days

On day 1 of my term as mayor I spoke of big initiatives. There is much to do, and it is reassuring to see all the progress that has been made in just the first 100 days of my term as mayor. Before I list some of the accomplishments of this Board of Trustees, please indulge me as I briefly reflect on what I’ve learned so far. I’ve learned I am a hands-on mayor. I’ve also learned that I can work with anyone in village government because I respect their position and their commitment to serving our community. And while shifting the culture of village government to be more open is not a quick process, everything I do is with a smile because I am so thoroughly enjoying each moment of it.

On April 7 the Board of Trustees announced our decision to hire Abe Zambrano to be the new Village Manager.
On April 7 the Board of Trustees announced our decision to hire Abe Zambrano to be the new Village Manager.

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. The search process was comprehensive and efficient. Abe will be leading an outstanding team of department managers. We on the Village Board of Trustees look forward to Abe’s help in furthering our goals to improve communication, government efficiency and a vibrant economy. We anticipate great success in these efforts as Abe focuses on the day-to-day functioning of the village, and strengthens our relationships with residents, businesses and community organizations.

This Board is committed to improving communication and accessibility. At our first legislative session, this Board of Trustees agreed to keep the cameras rolling throughout the public comment period, reversing a practice of the previous eight years. Thank you to all of the residents who participate in these public meetings.

Open Office Hours with the Mayor are a success. Every Tuesday from 10am to 12noon, I am in the Board of Trustees office, located on the first floor of Village Hall. No appointment is necessary. Occasionally a line forms, but not usually. By meeting with residents in this face-to-face manner, I’ve had the opportunity to hear big picture suggestions as well as address immediate individual concerns.

Improving energy efficiency is another goal of this Board. Last year we identified LED streetlights as a priority. At the March 11 work session we had a lengthy presentation from the group that has installed LED streetlights in other Westchester communities. This initiative allows us to benefit from the work begun by nearby municipalities to reduce our electricity cost for street lights by more than half, and improve the quality of our lighting.

At the March 25 work session we heard from Sustainable Westchester about two significant energy related programs that cost the village only minimal staff resources and no financial commitment. Community Choice Aggregation will immediately provide energy savings for Ossining residents and small business owners, and we are moving forward with the legal process to make that a reality. We are also moving forward with the first stage of positioning Ossining to take advantage of NYPrize funding for a community micro-grid that could provide the Village of Ossining with a reliable energy source even during a widespread blackout.

Proactively making smart development decisions is critical to Ossining’s economic viability and quality of life. On January 28 we hosted a community meeting at the Ossining Public Library to learn about the experience of two other municipalities regarding Green Building Codes. You can read a post about this initiative or watch the video from the meeting where Yonkers and Hastings presented us with their approaches and experiences. If this is a topic that interests you, visit the village website to apply to be on the Green Building Codes committee.

The Ossining Bank for Savings at 200 Main Street is the gateway to our downtown. We have issued a new Request for Proposal, with a bit of a twist this time. We are now open to considering public-private partnerships that could make it a success. The business or organization that breathes life into this historic building will be a powerful force in the revitalization of our Main Street.

MindMixer Ossining is an example of the dedication of this Board to engage the public. We are excited that this new online platform enables us to hear from the community in a quantitative way. It is an easily accessible ongoing series of questions that will focus this year on what Ossining wants to see happen at the heart of our downtown–the Market Square Properties.

Will I see you tomorrow as the JCYS Baseball Season kicks off with their Opening Day Parade? Or perhaps next Saturday, April 18 at Green Ossining’s Earth Day Festival at our waterfront. The theme of this year’s festival is Solar, promoting the Solarize Ossining-Briarcliff program which is a public-private partnership to bring low-cost high-quality solar to our residential and commercial property owners. After this long winter, we could all us a little more sunshine!

Between parades and festivals, I look forward to working with my colleagues in village government on these and so many more initiatives to improve our community and the lives of Ossining residents.

Ways to Get Involved & Informed

Attend a legislative session on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Meetings are 7:30pm at the Birdsall-Fagan Courthouse, 86-88 Spring Street. There are three opportunities for visitors to speak on camera: Organizational Announcements; Comments on Village Board Resolutions; and Visitor Recognition when you may speak on any subject relevant to the common good of the village.

Serve on a village committee. Currently there are positions available on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Landlord Tenant Relations Council, the Mid-Hudson Ambulance Committee, and the Green Building Guidelines Committee. Visit the Village of Ossining website for details on how to apply.

Watch BOT meetings on Ch 78 or FIOS 43, or anytime online at the village website or the Village of Ossining YouTube channel.

A couple of media outlets where I’ve shared village news are the Cablevision program Meet the Leaders, and on the second Monday of each month I spend an hour as a guest of Westchester On the Level. I look forward to talking with online radio host Hezi Aris again on Monday, April 13 at 11am.

Beyond Tuesday morning office hours, residents can also reach out via email gearity@villageofossining.org or call 914-941-3554. You can email the entire Board at BOT@villageofossining.org.

 

Citizen Advisors Please Apply!

Seek elected office not to hold power over the people you represent, rather to empower the people you serve.

Blitz TeamThat is the message I heard loud and clear at a conference I attended weeks before I took office as Village Trustee. As I prepare now to take office as Mayor, one way that I am fulfilling that guiding principle is to encourage community members to attend the Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference hosted by Pace Land Use Law Center on December 5. This year’s focus is “Transitioning Communities.”

If your schedule may allow you to attend this day-long conference, do not let the cost ($150 general admission, $85 student/nonprofit/government) be a barrier to attending. You can apply to receive one of the three scholarships that are available for Ossining residents from Friends of Victoria Gearity. Money raised by that fund continues to serve the mission of my campaign for mayor by empowering people who want to make a difference for our community. Helping people become well-informed community advisors is a worthy investment.

I’ve attended several conferences and leadership trainings at the Pace Land Use Law Center, and am always impressed by the caliber of speakers and participants who attend. It is sure to be a valuable experience for any Ossining resident who is interested in helping us address our changing demographics and community needs; understand the impact of development; and identify how we may transition toward sustainability, disaster recovery, and economic revitalization.

If you or someone you know would like to apply for a scholarship to attend, please complete the form below by November 30. Recipients will be notified on Monday, December 1. Remember, anyone can register on their own. But the date is approaching, so do not delay.

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.

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