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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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!


Progress You’re a Part Of

Do you have a good idea for what could be done better in Ossining?  Do you ever feel people in village government aren’t listening to you?  Whether it’s economic development, collaboration with schools, safe streets, parking, parkland, recycling, trash, or taxes—everyone in our community has something they think could be better.  And the best ideas for improvement may already have been figured out by community members.  Please take a moment to complete this survey and tell me how we can better serve Ossining.

None of us knows as much as all of us.

This phrase was offered by a speaker at last month’s Pace Land Use Annual Conference of 2013.  This simple truth was at the core of every successful initiative discussed that day—initiatives already happening in other communities.  Borrowing ideas that work for other municipalities can save us money and make us stronger.

When I was a trustee-elect, Eric and I traveled to Washington, DC to attend a conference led by the New Organizing Institute.  I immersed myself among grassroots organizers who dedicate much of their lives to fighting for issues.  The message that most strongly resonated with me then as I prepared to take office for the first time was…

Do not seek elected office so you may wield power over the people you represent, rather, seek elected office so you may empower the people you serve.

Have you driven through the Avalon development on North Highland?  The fences are down and a good chunk of the buildings are up.  Please share your thoughts on development in the survey...
Have you driven through the Avalon development on North Highland? The fences are down and a good chunk of the buildings are up. Please share your thoughts on development in the survey…

Together, these two themes inspire and guide my work for the village.  Can you help me in this effort by spending a few moments responding to this brief survey?…

Keeping Connected…

Do you want to know more of what’s going on in village government?  Do you want more opportunities to impact decision making in the village?

Sign-up here to receive emails of upcoming meetings and community events.

Follow Victoria Gearity, Trustee on Facebook.

Get Nixle Alerts with emergency messages by texting 10562 to 88877.

Receive an email with any new post I put on my website by adding your email address to the “Follow this Blog” box in the upper right corner of

If there is a particular village committee/council/board where you would like to serve, contact Assistant Village Manager, Christina Papes ( and ask if there are any available seats.  Even if there are none currently, you can submit your letter of interest and resume to be considered when a spot becomes available.

Come to a Village Board of Trustees meeting.  We meet Wednesdays at 7:30.  The 1st & 3rd Wednesdays are at the Birdsall-Fagan Court, 86-88 Spring Street.  These are legislative sessions and the public is invited to speak on camera to make organizational announcements or to comment on any resolutions the board will consider that night.  When the camera goes off, the public is invited to comment on any issue of interest to them.  The 2nd & 4th Wednesdays are at Village Hall, 16 Croton Ave.  These are work sessions.  This is when the board members ask questions about potential upcoming issues/initiatives, and we decide what will be the next steps.  You can also watch meetings on tv or online.  Let me know what we can do better.

If you are one of the many folks who has contacted me this year to share an idea or concern, thank you.  If you haven’t already completed this brief survey, please do.  Perhaps I’ll see you soon at a Wednesday meeting!

Vic’s Votes

Lawn signs 2013Do you realize next Tuesday, November 5 is Election Day?  Do you know who and what is on the ballot?  There were many years when I stood in the election booth feeling hesitant to complete my whole ballot because I didn’t know the candidates—especially judges.  For today, I offer my thoughts on candidates for the county, judicial and local races.  (My next post will be about proposed amendments to the NYS constitution—there are six of them and my support is split.)

Being active in local politics has many benefits, including a familiarity with the candidates.  In the interest of helping my fellow voters prepare for Election Day, I waive my right to a secret ballot—offering you my opinion and providing links to help you read more on the candidates and issues.  Clearly I am not impartial, but the League of Women Voters is.

County Executive:  Noam BramsonI’m a big fan.  Here’s a link to a closing statement he made during a debate earlier this month that sums up well the reasons I support Noam.  This Journal News article and video offers an in-depth comparison of the two candidates.  Taxes are the first question asked in the video interview—a must watch.

County Clerk:  Tim Idoni is running for re-election—and that’s great news for taxpayers.  He has saved us $5M by reducing staff without layoffs, made county government more efficient with innovative electronic systems, reduced operating expenses by 18%, and eliminated document backlogs with active daily management.

County Legislator:  Catherine Borgia—hardworking, responsive to her constituents, and reflects my family’s values.  In her first term Catherine took the lead on several important pieces of legislation designed to keep Westchester families healthy and safe, and to increase opportunities for small business to succeed while making smart environmental decisions.  She understands the importance of finding balance in the triple bottom-line:  people, profits & planet.

I’ve spent enough hours at Democratic Committee meetings and the endless political fundraiser circuit to have spoken with each of the judicial candidates I’m highlighting here.  I’m not a lawyer, and I hope I won’t personally be in front of any of these judges.  But as I consider offering my public support for their candidacy, I imagine if I, or someone I loved, were ever to find themselves in front of these individuals, would the judge be fair?  These are the candidates for various judicial positions who pass the test…

The NYS Supreme Court 9th District covers Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange and Rockland counties.  NYS Supreme Court Judges are elected to 14 year terms.  These are the 9th District candidates I enthusiastically support.

Janet Malone

Maria S. Vazquez-Doles

John Colangelo

Victor Grossman

County Court Justice is a 10 year term.  David Everett will do a great job.  He’s an incredibly decent guy with a wealth of experience.

Kathy Davidson is running for re-election as Westchester Family Court Judge.  She is running unopposed and is very well regarded by all who know her.

Nancy Quinn Koba is running for re-election as Ossining Town Justice.  Nancy is widely recognized as smart, fair and well-tempered for her role as Town Justice.

And on to my friends running for positions on Ossining boards…

Sue Donnelly is running unopposed for Town Supervisor.  I find Sue to be collaborative and accessible.  I greatly admire the Town Hall meeting format that she initiated which demonstrates her commitment to engaging the public on issues that matter to our community.

Northern Wilcher is running for re-election on the Town Council.  Northern serves our community with a kind and soft-spoken smile.

Kim Jeffrey is seeking her first term on the Town Council.  When the primary election posed a bit of challenge for these seats, I wrote this glowing endorsement of my friend Kim.  We share a lot of values, and yet sometimes disagree with the best way to achieve them.  I believe our ability for disagree while continuing to listen and be challenged by each other speaks well for our ability to collaboratively serve Ossining from our distinct roles in the Town (Kim) and Village (Vic).

Manuel Quezada & Bob Daraio, my colleagues on the board, are seeking re-election as Ossining Village Trustees.  I hope you will join me in welcoming them each to their second term.

Local and county elections matter.  In fact, on a daily basis they have significantly more impact on our lives than national or state elections.  I implore you, please vote.  Bring a friend to the polls.  Encourage your neighbors and co-workers to vote.  And if anyone needs a ride to the polls, let me know.  Volunteers have already signed up to help get voters out on Election Day.

Vote! Tuesday, September 10 is Primary Election Day!

VOTE logoDemocrats & Independence Party members get a bonus election day this cycle!  On Tuesday, September 10 Ossining Democrats & Indendents, go to your polling place between 6:00am and 9:00pm.  Not sure where your polling place is?  Visit the Westchester Board of Elections website.

If you are a registered Democrat in the Town of Ossining—that includes all of us in the Village of Ossining, and nearly everyone in the Village of Briarcliff Manor—I hope you’ll join me at the polls today in supporting Northern Wilcher and Kim Jeffrey for Town Council.

I encourage Independence Party members to support Catherine Borgia in her bid for re-election to serve as our Westchester County Legislator.  Catherine has been a leader on issues that matter deeply to me—in particular by protecting us from toxic hydrofracking waste, and making it easier for local contractors to install solar panels.  Earlier this year, I attended a meeting of the Government Operations Committee as Catherine chaired the discussion on whether and how the county will implement a Complete Streets program.  Catherine works incredibly hard on behalf her constituents and I am grateful that she represents us.

The race I’ll be watching most closely is for Town Council.  There are two seats up for election, and three candidates seeking the Democratic Party endorsement.  No Republicans are running for these seats, so the election will be decided by Democratic primary voters.   I’m supporting Kim Jeffrey and Northern Wilcher.  Northern Wilcher is seeking re-election.  Kim is running for her first term.

Kim Jeffrey is a friend of mine.  Still, we disagree and argue pretty regularly.  We both express our opinion and listen to each other, yet we don’t necessarily come to share a perspective.  And that’s ok.  We just move on to the next topic.  I really admire and enjoy people that can disagree with me on a particular issue, and not let that determine whether we are friends, and not deter us from working together on another initiative.

Kim and I have a lot in common—sons nearly the same age, we’re soccer moms, and we have a lot of mutual friends.  I met Kim when we were both working with Ossining Citizens for Schools on campaigns to pass school bonds and budgets.  Since then I’ve served on a fundraising committee that she chaired for the Ossining Town Democratic Committee, and supported her remarkable leadership in gathering our community together for a vigil in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

Kim is bold.  Kim is dedicated.  Kim will be a great public servant.  I look forward to more opportunities to work with her when she is on the Town Council.

Honoring the March Continues Tonight

BROTHER OUTSIDER DVD coverTonight we continue our community’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with a screening of Brother Outsider.  Please visit the Ossining Documentary & Discussion Series website ( for details about the impressive panelists who will help us explore more about Bayard Rustin, the latest recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and organizer of the historic march.  We look forward to seeing you at the Ossining Library’s Budarz Theater at 6:30 tonight!

Last night’s event honoring the landmark civil rights event had a great turnout, passionate participants, and an enthusiastic audience.  We had moved the venue from the beautiful waterfront to the community center because rain had been predicted to continue on and off throughout the night.  In hindsight, we might have gotten wet while setting up and people’s blankets would have been damp, but the rain ending up being done in time for the event.   Darn.  But thanks to social media, and help from friends, we were able to get the word out on the new location and the gym at the Caputo Center was full.  Helping to organize this event gave me an opportunity to meet and work with so many people in our community, and there are so many people to thank.  For now, here are a few pics…

Vance Gilbert was funny, engaging, and so talented as our special musical guest.
Vance Gilbert was funny, engaging, and so talented as our special musical guest.
The Star of Bethlehem Choir opened the program with two rousing selections.
The Star of Bethlehem Choir opened the program with two rousing selections.
It was a delight meeting Velda Lowery, Pastor of Greater Love AME Zion Church who offered the benediction for the opening program.
It was a delight meeting Velda Lowery, Pastor of Greater Love AME Zion Church who offered the benediction for the opening program.

GOTV captured the whole event on video which should be available to watch soon.  Meanwhile, a couple of folks that weren’t able to attend last night’s program asked to read my remarks.  I’ve included them below.

My sons are 5 and 6 years old.  They have only ever known a world where their president is Black, their mayor is gay, and their classmates are teaching them to be bilingual.  Their hearts and minds are more open to “judging others by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin” than any generation before them.  So when will that translate to economic justice?

Fifty years ago when Martin Luther King gave his I Have Dream Speech the unemployment rate for Black people was twice the rate for whites.  It still is.  Thankfully it can no longer be said that people of color live “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”  There is an African American middle class today that did not exist half a century ago. 

And yet the disparity between rich and poor is greater than it has been in a hundred years, and it is growing.  And people of color continue to disproportionately be poor.

Before Congress left for their summer break, they passed a Farm Bill that for the first time did not include funding food stamps.  Many Republicans in Congress felt that food stamp spending had grown too large.  I agree.  I believe the solution is to pay workers a living wage.

This summer we’ve seen fast food and Walmart workers go on strike.  Tomorrow fast food workers across the country are striking to demand $15/hr and the right to unionize without retaliation. (

If the tea party Republicans have their way and continue to block food stamps, they may be in for a rude awakening.  If the millions of people who are just barely getting by because of food stamps suddenly don’t even have food in their bellies, the frequency and size of these strikes might start to grow.  People who have nothing to eat, have nothing to lose.

Food stamps are not welfare for the poor.  Food stamps are welfare for corporations.  Food stamps enable fast food restaurants and Walmart to pay workers less than a living wage.  Food stamps enable Nestle and Kraft to sell poor quality food to poor people using cheap ingredients subsidized by taxpayer dollars thanks to legislation written by Monsanto.  Food stamps enable JPMorgan to earn billions of dollars as the largest processor of food stamps in the country.

We can have an in-depth discussion about the degrees of privilege we experience because of our color, where we grew up, and who are parents are.  There are very real differences.  But I suggest, as important as that discussion may be, it is not the primary reason that the extremely rich are growing richer and one third of people in our country are at or near poverty.

While we are arguing amongst ourselves, corporations are writing our laws and deciding what news we will watch and read.  Many of us take the easy road of hatred and blame; the one laid out for us by mainstream media; the one that tells us if a McDonald’s worker gets paid a living wage we won’t be able to afford a Big Mac.  Why is it that the freehand of the market can only be trusted when corporations want deregulation?  Don’t Big Macs always cost exactly as much as McDonald’s number crunching geniuses have figured out the market will bear?

Jim Crowe laws would never have taken hold if plantation owners hadn’t been able to convince poor white people that they had more in common with rich white people than poor black people.  What if instead, poor people of every color had recognized that they shared more with each other than any of them did with rich plantation owners?  Now it is time for individual people to unite.  Corporations are not people.  We are the people.  This nation is by us, for us and of us.

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