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.

 

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.

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.

 

Was Martin Luther King, Jr. a President?

Last week Levon ran into the kitchen and asked, “Was Martin Luther King, Jr. a president?”  Levon is five.  He knows MLK was an important leader in our nation’s history, so it seems reasonable in his mind that someone that important was president.

Until recently the fact that Presidents Day fell during Black History Month was either ironic or irrelevant.  But now, in the minds of children that never knew a world before we had a black president, perhaps this coincidence seems appropriate.

Presidential PuzzleIn honor of Presidents Day, Paxton and Levon asked questions like, “How many presidents have been shot?” and “When are the presidents’ birthdays?”  All questions easily answered with a quick Google search.  They also asked, “Why can’t Dada be president?…Why can’t you be president?…”  That last question was followed with this observation, “There haven’t been too many women presidents.”  I told them we may soon have a woman president.  Which lead to a brief discussion of Hillary Clinton.  Still my mind is drawn back to Levon’s question about MLK.

For Presidents Day we again completed the jigsaw puzzle depicting all the US Presidents.  Maybe this time Pax and Levon will internalize the fact that all 43 faces preceding Barack Obama were white.  (Also, as just clarified, all male.)

Recently I’ve had a chance to reflect on Ossining’s events honoring the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.  My brother Barrett Hawes is an editor, and he just completed this short video of highlights that I asked him to create.  Recognizing local voices discussing civil rights—what a perfect way to celebrate Black History Month.

On the second night of events honoring the historic march, the Ossining Documentary & Discussion Series hosted a screening of Brother Outsider, a film about Bayard Rustin, the march’s organizer.  Panelists Walter Naegle and Denis Parker were excellent.  Walter Naegle was Bayard Rustin’s partner and recently accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Rustin’s behalf.  Denis Parker is the director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program and he lives in Ossining.Panelists August

The speakers and panelists that participated in the two days of events honoring the March on Washington demonstrate the wealth of intellectual and impassioned people who live in Ossining.  I felt great pride when my brother watched the event footage and was thoroughly impressed by the number of interesting and charismatic voices in our community.  Barrett spends much of his work day trying to make celebrities and reality tv “stars” seem interesting and charismatic.  For him it was refreshing to have the challenge instead be to select only highlights from great material.

There are many heroes to celebrate during Black History Month.  Since I’ve spent a good part of the last year reading MLK’s work, I will end a bit of wisdom from him.  Like all his statements, it holds true today.  And it is one of the biting quotes that dispels the softer gentler version of King that is often portrayed.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

Music—An Ossining Community Value

There is no greater place for a music lover to live than Ossining.

The richness of music in Ossining is a huge part of what makes this community ideal for raising our family.  Last Sunday we walked down the hill to our public library to attend a free Guy Davis concert.  Paxton and Levon listened, sang and clapped along with their fellow concert-goers.  Afterward, we bought a CD and the boys joked around with Guy as he signed it and dramatically engaged in high-fives with his youngest audience members.

Mike Risko taught me a chord so I’d look like I know what I’m doing for this pic!

There are so many ways to love music—playing, singing, listening, dancing, learning the history…  Growing up I learned a little piano, performed in every school musical and chorus concert, and sang in my college’s gospel choir.  I’m playing the piano more today than I have in decades, as I help Pax and Levon practice.  And Thursday evening I’m going to learn a little guitar at the Rockin’ Moms Night Out.  It’s a fundraiser for the Friends of Victoria Gearity campaign for Ossining Village Trustee, hosted by Risko Music.

Of course, any party is an opportunity to celebrate local Ossining businesses!  We’ll sample treats from Bellina Chocolates and Sterling Sweets, munch savory snacks, and taste selections from Ossining Wine & Liquor (85 Croton Avenue, 914-941-2733) as well as local craft brewers.  Please join us!   The Rockin’ part of the night is thanks to The Mike Risko Music School who is hosting the event and will break out some guitars and provide a mini-lesson to any musically inclined or curious party-goers.

Where else can kids meet and joke with professional musicians on any given Sunday afternoon?

The Mike Risko Music School received a big shout-out at the Guy Davis concert because of the school’s support of the free series.  Alan and Ellen Marzelli are the founders of the Ossining “Words & Music” concert series.  That series is an integral part of what makes Ossining the greatest place I can imagine for raising my family.

This summer Paxton and Levon performed before a live audience for the first time.  They each played a song they learned in their piano classes at Risko.  My boys were the opening act for the Rock Band Campers who composed and performed original pieces in a live outdoor concert at the music school.  How cool is that?!

I lived in OH for six years, so will never take Ossining’s gorgeous sunsets for granted!

So many of us gathered to enjoy warm Friday evenings at the Ossining Waterfront.  There is no more spectacular venue for live music than sitting on a blanket with friends, picnicking, listening, dancing and watching the sunset over the Hudson River at Louis Engel Park.  We have the Ossining Waterfront Vision Committee is to thank for that free public concert series.

When my boys are at Claremont, I look forward to them learning to play violin, viola or cello.  Mike & Miriam Risko demonstrated their profound connection with our community by offering a free Intro to Strings workshop for the new string players before the school year began.

Another terrific live music event is the Ossining MATTERS Benefit Concert.  That’s one ticket I’m happy to pay for.  Last year when audience members were invited to come together in front of the stage, I danced with friends, students, parents, administrators, school board and community members.  It is no wonder that this annual spring fundraiser is such a success in Ossining.

Maybe someday Pax and Levon will form a band—Blue Pizza is the name they’ve already selected.  (If there’s any garage that deserves its own band, it the gorgeous one my husband Eric built!)  Maybe someday my boys will march in the OHS band, or even play Carnegie Hall.  Or maybe they’ll just sing in the shower.  What I do know, is that the rich role music will play throughout their lives is in no small part thanks to the creativity, generosity and dedication of so many wonderful people in Ossining.

Individual contributions are limited to $1,000 and are not tax-deductible.  Please make checks out to Friends of Victoria and mail them to Friends of Victoria Gearity, 57 Prospect Avenue, Ossining, NY  10562.

Event attendees can make donations at the door.  Thanks!!

Supporting Local Businesses with Fun Raising

The Craft Beer Tasting & Pool Party was a big success thanks in large part to the generosity and hard work of our hostess County Legislator Catherine Borgia and several local businesses.  Supporting local businesses is a core value for my family.  It reinforces our goals for preserving our environment, growing our local economy, rewarding ingenuity & customer service, and just old-fashioned looking out for your neighbor.  Some of the local business that directly supported this event were:

The Mike Risko Music School    Sterling Sweets   Charms by Amy  and  The Pastures Grass-Fed Free Range Beef  (at the Ossining Farmers Market)

Bill Hanauer brings such passion to his work as Mayor of Ossining.
Catherine Borgia was such a generous hostess. She’s a fantastic cook and throws a great party. One more terrific reason to become active with the Ossining Democratic Committee!
Life-size lawn signs will be ready in October. Will you post one at your Ossining home? Send me a message below if you can!

David Carlucci made at least four trips across the Tappan Zee on that Saturday. He’s working hard to get to know the Ossining voters he seeks to represent now that his NYS Senate district includes Rockland and Ossining.

I’m not sure what Sandy Galef and I found so hilarious, but I love this picture. She takes her role as public servant seriously, but is joyfully light-hearted about the rest of life.

Swinging Left: A Day Dream…?

“I hope Huntsman does well.”  That’s what I said to my husband yesterday shortly before the NH returns started coming in.

“Isn’t that bad for Obama?”  He replied.

“Yeah.  But good for our country.”

Let’s just imagine what might happen to our political discourse if the leading Republican voice were an actual moderate.  Someone who acknowledged that evolution is science and creationism is religion; that global warming is a fact; that the way to solve our budget and deficit crises is to use a combination of taxing and cutting.  Just imagine…what might happen to the “center”?

When beloved “liberal” Justice John Paul Stevens retired from the bench in 2010 he made the observation that when he was appointed in 1975 he was the “moderate”.  And every appointment since then, with the possible exception of Justice Ginsburg, was more conservative than the justice (s)he replaced.

The “right” has systematically drawn us all to their side of the spectrum.  I’ve often been amazed by the policies and words of past Republican presidents like Nixon and Eisenhower.  My view of all Republicans is so tainted by the cartoonishly ridiculous extremists that characterize their party today.

Obviously, Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee.  And despite what Newt Gingrich wants us to believe, Mitt isn’t a Massachusetts moderate.  Mitt is whatever the polling data tells him to be.  With “leadership” like that the Republicans will keep the political discourse as ridiculously extreme as serves their current short-sited ideological and greedy goals.

But yesterday, for a brief moment, I got to imagine that this presidential election might have swung left.  That President Obama would have had to fight to energize his base by taking actual progressive stands.

That the next time discussion about healthcare came up for debate, the idea of a single-payer not-for-profit government-run program was actually on the table for discussion, instead of marginalized as some extremist Socialist insanity.

That the next time fracking or oil sand pipelines were up for debate, the response was a resounding NO, we will not destroy our economy and our environment for the short term gain of one bloated tax-payer subsidized industry.

That the next time the Defense of Marriage Act came up for debate, every Democrat proudly stood up and acknowledged it’s not any government’s job to dictate who a person loves, rather it is our federal government’s job to preserve people’s rights.

That the next time legislation for campaign finance reform was presented, it stood up to Citizens United and corporations, and stood up for democracy and American citizens, by removing corporations from the political process.

Perhaps instead of waiting for the Republicans to make it easy for the center to swing left, those of on the left need to make it happen…

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