Current Trustee Karin Wompa (KW) and Trustee hopefuls Susan MacFarlane (SM) and Jennifer Lobato-Church (JLC) have been tireless in their campaigning every corner of Sleepy Hollow in recent weeks. Before we opened the floor to readers' questions, Patch had to ask:
How is it going for you all? Getting tired? What's the response been like? Are you learning things you didn't expect about the community?
SM: It has been going well, thanks. The weeks are flying by, as you can imagine. Meeting new people in the Village has been a great experience. I’ve spoken to so many people who really care about their community and they have not been shy about sharing their opinions, which is great. Our Village has some tough problems that need to be addressed, but often the same people who bring these issues to our attention also have some good ideas as to how to address them. Other issues, like the GM site and the water supply issues, are complicated to fully and accurately understand. It is helpful to have local news sources like the Patch report the facts, and I would also encourage people to attend public meetings, like the March 22nd meeting at the Senior Center regarding the GM site clean-up plan.
KW: It is actually going very well. It's always fun to campaign because it gives you a chance to see people throughout the community you may not have had the chance to see lately, or meet new residents. The reception has been positive and very supportive. We have had two fundraisers and several coffees which were well attended, and gave us the opportunity to discuss village issues and answer the questions raised by residents.
JLC: Yes, I am exhausted, but it has been great. The campaign process has been a real civic education for me. I never really understood what it takes for a Village like ours to run, and I have a new respect for all of those involved in keeping us going. Everyone, from the personnel who are paid to work for the Village, to the every day neighbor who volunteers to host an event at his/her house, is a vital component to keeping Sleepy Hollow a vibrant, thriving community. People are so gracious and encouraging to me. It has been an awesome and humbling experience that I will not forget.
And now, from our readers. First round of questions from Adrian Berezowsky:
1. What made you decide to run this year and when did you make this decision?
SM: Hi, Adrian. I was asked to consider running by some of the current Trustees, who got to know me through the community park clean ups I organize on behalf of and Sleepy Hollow RiverWalk Park. I also worked with them while organizing Sleepy Hollow's Movie In The Park Night. After careful reflection, I agreed to be considered towards the end of last year. I was then interviewed by the Democratic Committee, which decided to propose me as a candidate. I decided to run in order to make a greater impact in improving our Village, and because I think I have the skills and experience necessary to handle the important responsibility that this job entails.
KW: I decided to run again this year, to continue the work this board has begun. The current board has changed the direction of how this village is governed and how issues are addressed.
We have confronted a number of issues that existed when I first ran, high tax increases, the GM negotiations, personnel issues etc... and I would like to continue to see these and new projects through to completion.
JLC: I already am fairly involved in the Village. I sit on the Zoning Board of Appeals and am Chair of the Police Advisory Committee. I have always been a person who wants to give back to the community, and those two positions have been great opportunities for me to do so. In mid/late December, I was approached and asked to consider running for Trustee. I spent a few weeks thinking about it, talking with whomever I could (the Mayor, current Trustees, our Village attorney, others who work for the Village) about what it truly means to be a trustee – what would my responsibilities be, what are some of the major issues facing the Village that I would need to be involved in, what is the time commitment. I am a mother of two small children with a demanding job in Stamford. There is no way I would consider taking on this responsibility if I didn’t think I could give it the time and respect it deserves, as well as continue to give my family and employer the time and respect they deserve. Finally, I sat down with my husband and talked it through with him. In the end, it was clear to me that now is the time to do more for my community. The Village is about to embark upon significant projects that will dramatically change it forever, and I think that I have the skills, experiences, judgment and interest to help guide those projects through to a successful completion.
2. What changes do you feel need to be made to the board and what do you think has been done well and does not need changing (and why)?
SM: I believe that the Board has done a good job in improving our Village while keeping tax increases very low. The Senior Center, which Karin Wompa spearheaded, has been a wonderful addition to our community, and the in the past few years seems to be working well in cracking down on that long-festering problem. Other issues, like areas that have higher levels of crime, are being addressed by, for example, adding cameras to allow the police to better monitor those areas. This was a result of recommendations by the Police Advisory Committee, which Jennifer Lobato-Church heads and which the current administration created. I would like to build on the current Board’s efforts by, among other things, increasing municipal parking in the business district, which will help us attract a more diverse array of businesses. I would also like to improve our relationship with Tarrytown and our other neighbors, and we can start by having regular meetings with them. I would encourage the Village to consider mediating disputes as a way to avoid protracted and expensive litigation.
KW: As I mentioned above we work as a team, each person brings their experience, background and ability to the table. We have been fortunate to have Jennifer Lobato-Church and Susan MacFarlane agree to join our slate. They are both extremely bright, accomplished and committed individuals. I feel extremely comfortable placing our Village responsibilities with them and know they will compliment the current Board and the strides we have made.
JLC: I don’t think I would say changes need to be made to the Board. Through this campaign process, I have gotten to know the current Board and my running mates, and I am very impressed by their professionalism, their intelligence and their dedication to this Village. That being said, there is always room for a different perspective. I have young children who will soon be entering the school system, so I definitely am interested in the long-term health of the Village. Also, anyone who knows me can attest that I am not someone who simply follows the pack. I carefully consider an issue, weighing it from all sides and gathering as much information as I can before coming to an independent decision. I have no particular issue or subject matter that I consider my “niche,” so I am not pre-disposed to always siding on behalf of that subject. While I pride myself on being independent and analytical, I also am very conscious to respect the rest of the team and engage them and consider their thoughts and opinions. It’s what I do every day at work. The one thing that I do think I already agree with the Board on, and do think they do well, is keep tax increases down without compromising services. I can affirmatively state that I have every intention of continuing that tradition.
3. Where is your favorite place in Sleepy Hollow to "relax" and why? More than one place is perfectly acceptable.
SM: I like to go to and . On most weekends I go for long walks in .
KW: Walking through Rockefeller preserve, , anywhere by the river. And of course enjoying a glass of wine with friends at any of our many restaurants on Beekman.
JLC: RELAX!?!?!?!?! I have two small children, a husband, two cats and a commute. I don’t relax. But I do love to run in the Rockefeller trails. I run there with my running buddies, by myself, and if we have a sitter, with my husband. I especially love it in the mornings, when the wildlife is out and the sun is coming up. I can catch up with my friends, focus on my thoughts, spend time with my husband and enjoy nature, all while doing something good for my body. Yes… I even multi-task in my down time.
4. What are the differences and/or similarities in views and agendas between the Democratic and Better Government parties and what is the purpose of running under two separate parties?
I have always been confused by electoral fusion especially in situations such as this where one of the parties appears to have just been created (as opposed to instances where minor parties try to influence election results and/or policy for their own continued survival and/or best interests).
It has been said (according to a previous patch article) that "The party politics that's got us so thoroughly screwed up in Washington is not in evidence here." and that "having a Republican on a Democratic ticket just goes to show you how party politics doesn't really matter."
Since I would love to believe that party politics do not matter, any clarification as to the benefit of the dual endorsement is greatly appreciated.
To this question, the candidates replied collectively below...
Many Democratic and Republican slates also run the same candidates under an independent line, especially on a local level. The reason is simple. While some people like to vote for a specific major party line (Republican or Democrat), others do not want to support either of these established parties as a matter of principle. Also, some registered Republicans and Democrats will occasionally want to vote for people outside of their own party. Having a separate independent line allows these people to vote for whomever they believe to be the best candidates without having to also vote a major party line that they do not generally support. Here in Sleepy Hollow, while the same candidates are running on both the Democratic party line and the Better Government party line, the separate lines also reflect the diversity among our three candidates. Each of us has a different background and perspective, though we share a common vision for moving the Village forward.
Finally, a question from Joyce Byrne:
What are your specific ideas for cleaning up/revitalizing Beekman Avenue?
SM: Hi, Joyce. The Village recently purchased a new sidewalk cleaner that will literally clean up Beekman, as well as other business-area sidewalks. That should help, along with new garbage cans that are coming. I also think that increasing municipal parking in the business district is key to attracting new businesses and supporting existing ones. It has become very difficult to park, especially on evenings and weekends, as the number of attractive businesses and people wanting to visit them has increased over the years. Before more new businesses agree to open here, parking for their customers is something they have to consider, so improvements in the parking situation are necessary to continue moving our business district forward. I also think that the Village needs to continue its efforts to crack down on buildings that are not maintained in accordance with Village codes. The current administration is doing a great job in that area, and it will begin to make a visible impact, if you haven’t seen that already. I am always open to further suggestions as well.
KW: Continuing the course we have begun. You can certainly see that there have been changes and improvements along Beekman Avenue - new restaurants, new park, facade renovations. There are plans for the vacant lots currently in front of the planning board. If we continue moving forward, as we have in the past four years, and start looking at other projects to improve the downtown i.e.: parking, landscaping etc... I think Beekman Avenue will continue to develop in a positive direction.
JLC: I believe there are several approaches necessary to clean-up downtown Sleepy Hollow. The GM project should have a big impact on revitalization, as the plan calls for luxury housing, tourist locations, scenic parks, the RiverWalk and retail attractions. Until this is complete, we should also focus on public health and safety issues, like enforcing the Zoning Code and prosecuting violators. Landlords and business owners who violate our Zoning Code put the building occupants and neighbors at risk, put the emergency service personnel who respond to incidents and fire alarms at risk, and they drain the Village of tax revenue by not paying their fair share of taxes for services (such as trash pick-up) that they require. Parking is also an important issue to the revitalization of Downtown, as there never seems to be enough, which often results in double-parked and illegally parked cars. Solutions to these parking problems need to be explored. Finally, easy aesthetic fixes can be put in place, such as planting more plants, installing more garbage cans, working with business owners to try to encourage them to take advantage of the grant money available to beautify the façades of their businesses and enforcing Village Codes regarding snow removal and garbage disposal.
Thank you again to Adrian and Joyce for great questions and to the candidates for taking the time to answer so thoroughly. Please stay tuned for our last round with the Tarrytown Republicans.