residents consider themselves something of an island unto themselves, and by all counts, it is a sophisticated island.
“This is smart crowd,” said Mayor Ken Wray, there to watch the first of the debates this week among the candidates for the three open Sleepy Hollow Trustee seats. (The next comes this Thursday at , 7:30 p.m.)
The issues that affect this aging community on the Hudson, near the and not much else but nature, are understandably not the same issues that are generally the major talking points thus far for the candidates.
Mildred Carroll, who volunteers with the building department, said “the things the village are worried about are not of burning interest to us.”
Though their issues may differ, winning their favor is essential. According to a statistic Sean Roach threw out, their votes constitute about 25% of the votes in Village elections.
Debate Moderator Edith Litt cited the race in Irvington when the Mayor won by one vote. “This is the one election where your vote really counts,” she said. “We live in a separate enclave and don't know what's important in the village; we know what's important to us.”
A major subject for this group is having more of a tie with the village, by quite literally connecting them with something as simple – yet so far hard to achieve – as a sidewalk.
Susan MacFarlane, who lives with her husband on the waterfront in the Ichabod's Landing complex (as does Dan Scott with his family), talked of her particular interest in the RiverWalk extending someday all the way up the river as planned, ultimately connecting her property to Kendal. In the meantime, the building department is currently investigating a way to get these folks a walkway to at least the hospital.
“I'm a little skeptical,” said resident William Lichten of the RiverWalk vision.
Rather than the gavel to stop speakers as advertised, it was cue cards when the time ran close to its tight allotments per candidate and finally a pleasant smartphone chime.
The candidates often said how they wanted to include this group more in government, while the seniors, for their part, seemed pleased with the candidates.
“It seems we have an exceptionally well qualified group of candidates, which is wonderful,” said Litt.
“Gracious,” uttered a few in the crowd when Roach, who was the sole candidate to stand each time he spoke, closed with saying how whomever they chose would be do a great job.
For the most part, the night was smooth and unheated, with a “we all want the same things” mentality, but key differences emerged in how the candidates would go about achieving these goals.
The SHIP candidates stressed their vision of creating more committees of committed volunteers of people with the goal of real participatory government, representing all ages and ethnicities.
The women, girded by Karin Wompa's insider experience as current Trustee, said committees already exist but the real way to begin to get people involved is through the sort of one-on-one conversations on the street and in homes they've been having this campaign.
Dan Scott countered that he meant giving overlooked groups, like seniors or Hispanics, “an active, formal, founded place in government.”
Planners of the evening had previously presented the candidates with two questions they could prepare answers for in advance: what are the issues you can't do anything about, and what are the issues you can affect change on?
Here emerged another point of minor contention between the women and the men. Wompa admitted that agreements that have been in place about the GM property since the last administration that they can't change but they could better oversee. MacFarlane said of Beekman Avenue revitalization, “I can't wave my magic wand and turn it into Disney Sleepy Hollow” and that we're suffering from “growing pains” as evidenced by the dire lack of downtown parking. Lobato-Church narrated the efforts it took to get the State to investigate the dangerous intersections on Route 9, saying that as a prosecutor in Brooklyn she learned how to navigate red tape.
The men, on the other hand, rejected the first question altogether as well as the need for red tape. “I don't believe there's anything we can't do,” said Scott. His pronounced “can-do” attitude required only one ingredient: the people. “Use your own human capital,” he said.
The women countered that they weren't no-sayers but perhaps more realistic. “I've never heard the administration say 'no' to anybody,” Lobato-Church said.
When one woman asked about their commitment to the , Roach, the only candidate who lives in the Inner Village, said he uses the library several times a week and wants to support it more than the current administration has. Wompa took issue with this, saying that they pay the 47% of its budget proportional to Sleepy Hollow's population, and “we are at the table to make sure it continues to thrive.”
Roach retorted that the village shouldn't "play hardball" with the library.
When asked what could they cut from the budget, Wompa said that it's not about cutting so much as “improving efficiency,” giving an example of her desire to decrease regular trash pick up to weekly rather than twice a week now that so much of the trash is recyclables – manpower that could be better used elsewhere.
Scott welcomed the opportunity to gain full access to the budget, and said he has been reading it line by line, asking questions and trying to understand it every year. “$500,000 in consulting fees? Why?” He longed for more “transparency on how every dollar is spent.” Roach said the biggest expense is the workers, unions and benefits, and that new hires need to start a lower pay scale.
As far as transparency, Lobato-Church said the current administration welcomed the opportunity of the and correct any mistakes. “They wanted to right this ship.” She said that out of a $15 million budget they only found $3,000 “mis-journaled somewhere.”
Dan Bedell, who perhaps was quieter than the others as he suffered a sore throat, as Environmental Advisory Committee Chair appointed by the Mayor emphasized his major interest in the environment. He said he had gotten to know Kendal by spending time in these parts pulling invasive vines. “The woods are in bad shape,” he said.
Much like the work involved in pulling vines, Bedell's approach to leadership would be to pay attention to each problem until it's seen to completion, knowing such a job is “not glamorous.”
In Bedell's quest to make this a better, safer place for his young family and others to live, he also hopes to instill some “best practices” in government offices themselves like more efficient energy usage.
The men, Independents but not affiliated with any major party, took pride in their outsider stance that they could bring a more creative approach to problem-solving. They also stressed that they aren't a package deal and, as Scott said, “pick who you wish.”
The citizens of Kendal left with their printed materials on each candidate, impressed overall if undecided.
Who would Carroll choose? "Three of them," she said.
Stay tuned for coverage of Thursday's debate and video footage of this one to come.