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October 25, 2013

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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Record-Review hosts candidates’ debate


By ANTHONY R. MANCINI

The Record-Review hosted a debate with Bedford’s four town council candidates at its office in Katonah on Monday, Oct. 7. The candidates are Republican incumbent Francis Corcoran, who has served on the town board since 2003; Democrat Meredith Black, a land use attorney who serves on Bedford’s zoning board; Mary Beth Kass, a Republican-backed candidate who is a co-president of environmental nonprofit Bedford 2020; and Democrat Julie Vulpescu, a fundraiser for the NYU Langone Medical Center.


Record-Review: Welcome, everyone. Please tell us why you are running for Bedford’s town board.

Ms. Kass: I have lived in Katonah for the past 20 years. I have been involved in the community pretty much from the beginning, working on various local organizations, including the Community Center of Northern Westchester, Family University through the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, the Katonah Chamber of Commerce, and I was the vice president of the Katonah Village Improvement Society. I am a chair of the energy advisory panel, which is town appointed. I’m the co-founder and co-president of Bedford 2020 Coalition and I am a board member of the Energy Improvement Corp., and that’s really where I got an opportunity to delve into the workings of the town of Bedford. I think with Lee and Peter Chryssos stepping down there’s a real need on this board for somebody who has a central knowledge of the town itself but also those deep roots in the community. I look at the last 20 years as training for this position and I feel uniquely qualified after I’ve gotten an opportunity to work on ordinance changes, public hearings, grant writing and some really exciting things. I think I’ll be very good at this and I’m excited about this next step.

Ms. Black: I’m a newer resident in town. I’ve only been here about four years. I am a practicing land use planning attorney. What that means is that I am involved in the communities representing developers, residents and sometimes municipalities in regard to development of different projects, whether it is putting an addition on your home to doing a larger-scale school development.

I was appointed to the zoning board of appeals here in Bedford, where I’ve been sitting and acting on different applications on behalf of the residents. I want to see the long-term vision of Bedford really continue to thrive and develop into something where everybody can feel as though their interests are balanced and included.

I found that when I moved here, there were some aspects in town I had no idea about and I didn’t feel that there was enough outreach from the town government in order to make me feel more welcome into this community. There are different aspects I’ve taken on as a resident but also sitting on this ZBA, where I looked at things as far as planning that I think the town could really improve upon. I figured if I want to do something and I want to make a change in the town that I should step forward into it. So that’s a big reason for my running.

Ms. Vulpescu: I’ve lived in Katonah for 17 going on 18 years. I’ve spent the better part of 40 years in and around this community and I understand what it’s like to grow up here. I know many people move here because they do want to raise children here. The schools are great, the community is exceptional and the values are strong. They want to share that with their kids as they grow. My professional background is I worked 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. I’ve worked at world-class institutions — the American Museum of Natural History, the U.S. fund for UNICEF, United Way of Westchester and Putnam — where I really gained a lot of local knowledge.

It’s an organization that looks at communities throughout Westchester to understand the underlying demographics and issues that impact need in the community. Currently I am at NYU Langone Medical Center. I’ve been there for five years, and over the last five years it’s gone from a well-regarded regional medical center to truly world class. I have no question that in working for a world-class institution, I have developed skills that go beyond the ordinary. I’ve raised tens of millions of dollars personally. It’s not just having lunch with wealthy individuals and asking them for their money; you’re very much a part of developing programs.

Mr. Corcoran: Bedford is a great place. It didn’t just happen overnight. I think we’ve done a great job over the last 10 years that I’ve been on the town board in managing the town through some of the most difficult economic times this country has ever seen. Needs continue to be met at the local level with constituent services at a time when the government, federal and state, are both clamping down on what they’re actually giving and providing while at the same time continuing to load unfunded mandates on top of us. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a professional fundraiser, I’m a businessman. I’m the president and CAO of the National Stock Exchange. My professional time is spent in places like the inspector general’s office for the MTA, where we’re responsible for fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of anything related to the MTA. I’m a board member, one of two outside directors on the Environmental Facilities Corp., which funds our infrastructure for clean water within the state. We are a multibillion-dollar organization that funds billions of dollars for projects every year from New York City to things in our own backyard like the water treatment plant. I’ve been on the Metro-North Railroad commuter council since 2001, representing the ridership as a commuter myself, which is very important to this community. Working in conjunction with department heads and with the supervisor and other town board members, I think we’ve done a very good job, especially since 2008, to make sure that this town remained on course, was fiscally strong, stable and kept our AAA rating. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be a representative for the constituents. I’m looking forward to continuing, especially where I think my skill set would be much needed in the next four years, and that’s to help to continue to navigate through some very difficult financial times ahead of us.


Record-Review: The budget is always the big issue in town, and with the 2 percent tax cap it seems inevitable that something’s going to have to be cut in terms of town services and employees. If you were on the board, what would you target as a possible way to save money and to cut the budget.

Ms. Kass: I think it’s going to take some real out-of-the-box thinking. I think it’s going to really involve just bringing all of the stakeholders to the table: the residents, the taxpayers, the town employees, the union leaders and business leaders. I think it’s going to involve some ways of sharing some of the responsibilities that employees have when they naturally retire, which is happening in the next couple of years. Being somebody who works with the town on energy issues, I think there’s ways that we can save energy in our buildings. I have just spent the last few weeks in the basement of the town doing an inventory of our greenhouse gas commissions. I’m a huge believer in energy upgrades, as you all know, and I think we could be looking at our own buildings for ways to save money as well.

Ms. Black: I think that some of it may be talking to the different department heads about how they structure their budgets. It is important to think outside the box, to get all the constituents together and find out what their concerns on where they think their needs are being met right now. There’s two sides to every story to understand how and why a budget’s allocated the way it is and where we can cut back things and where services can be shared. Maybe there’s a way to consolidate services between some of the hamlets so that we can limit the overhead costs, but I do think we need to think creatively. We need to look to the state, we need to look to the federal government, and also find out what types of grants are being offered for certain types of improvements. I think Bedford is really unique in the class of citizenship it has. There’s people that have a lot of know-how that a lot of communities wouldn’t be able to draw on. I think we need to find a way to take all of the constituents and the different players and ask what can we all do to make this really a successful town as far as the budget goes but also as far as the services and make sure that everyone’s needs are being met.

Ms. Vulpescu: The first thing that I would do with the board would be to sit down and look realistically at every dollar that’s spent, look for redundancies, look for opportunities for cost sharing. We have been talking to residents and people want to help. I would be looking for grant opportunities. I’ve been looking at the budget, and frankly, it’s hard to say I would cut this or that when, in my opinion, the budget doesn’t necessarily line up with revenues and expenses. For instance, there’s an outside tennis program we spend $25,000 on. I’m sure it’s a wonderful program, but when I mention that to people they say that does sound like a lot of money. It’s just a matter of looking at everything and weighing priorities.

Mr. Corcoran: It’s always about trying to do more with less. It’s been a collaborative effort over the years with the department heads and with their workers, who have really tightened their belts as much as they can. There are departments like rec, who, after spending $25,000, they’re covering that. It’s important to really understand that it’s all about government efficiency. Grants and other things are nice, and they’re great when they come along, and there’s a lot less of them available than there used to be. Whenever any official comes into our town, whether they’re a Republican, a Democrat, the first thing I jump on them on is what are you doing about the unfunded mandates that are coming down to this town that taxpayers are being burdened with. We’re being held responsible for keeping within a 2 percent tax cap. Every worker, every department head has given up a lot over the last number of years, and we work hard. We used to start the budget in September. Now we start in April. The department heads have given up everything from travel to overnight stays to continued education. It’s a kind of fine line you’re walking along where you want to make sure that nothing is coming off the rails, but at the same time you want to continue to make sure you’re delivering the same kind of services.


Record-Review: If it involved raising employee contributions on health care would you approve something like that? Would you ask the unions to make that sacrifice, even if it meant having to let somebody go?

Ms. Black: I think there’s going to be hard decisions to be made. I don’t think that there’s any point where you can say that the status quo was going to remain the status quo for the next four, 10, 15 years. Those cuts are going to have to come somewhere. It may be that there comes a point where the unions are in fact asked to contribute to their health care. I don’t think that a decision that would require someone to put money into the medical system is going to be a comfortable decision for anyone to make. If it’s something that’s necessary for the betterment of the entire community, then that decision has to be weighed and made at the appropriate time.

Ms. Vulpescu: It’s on the table in negotiations. I expect that there’s going to be some give and take there with the unions, certainly if you’re talking about contribution versus layoffs. I would tend to be in favor of employee contributions over anyone getting laid off.

Ms. Kass: I agree. I think everything has to be on the table and I think that is going to be the challenge. Hopefully we won’t have to make it about layoffs. I think that’s what none of us want. There’s a structural deficit, and costs are going faster than the revenues, but maybe we can look for ways of bringing in more revenue as well.

Record-Review: Would you be willing to override the tax cap if you were on the town board?

Ms. Black: I would have to think about it carefully. I think there would have to be a very good reason to justify going above the tax cap. Understandably, inflation escalates more than what the tax cap is so in some ways there’s some unfairness, but it goes back to living within your means. I think that’s our responsibility and not just to take the easy side and say everyone contribute a little more to the pool so we have more to spend. That’s the balancing act, and it would have to be for a really good reason.

Ms. Kass: It’s either raising taxes or having services cut unless we can find a really elegant solution. I would not be in favor of going above the tax cap unless there was a really good extenuating circumstance.

Ms. Vulpescu: The tax cap, while difficult to work within, it’s there for a reason. It’s there because there have been municipalities with out-of-control spending and it’s been clear from residents all across the state that this is a burden that they can’t continue to bear. It would have to be something extremely important. It would be a decision anyone should not take lightly.

Mr. Corcoran: I did vote to override the tax cap, along with all of my other council members. For a town like Bedford, which is very fiscally strong and has done a very good job amending its finances, it isn’t as applicable as it is to other towns that are more out of control with their spending and with their services. We do a very good job, and for Albany to tell us that we may or may not need to have a tax cap is unfair. We were the first town to override the tax cap in the state of New York. We said we’re probably going to exceed the cap, let’s take care of that right now. We came in at like 2.39 percent, so we didn’t actually exceed the tax cap for that year. We will probably not need to vote to override the tax cap this year. If we need to raise taxes for certain purposes, whether it’s water filtration, whether it’s open space, it’s something that we know we can do because we’re very fiscally responsible with our money.


Record-Review: Have you thought about whether or not the homes in Bedford should be revalued?

Ms. Vulpescu: It deserves some investigation. It often means around a third have higher assessments, a third remain about the same and a third may be lower. If that is the same for Bedford, maybe it makes sense.

Ms. Black: It’s a tough issue because there are going to be people, who, if you go forward with it, would be detrimentally affected. The question is what are the benefits and whether they outweigh the negatives here. You have constituents who are definitely going to be affected. Looking at the overall constituents in town, maybe that’s not in the best interest at this point in time. A lot of people are struggling with taxes and I wouldn’t want to push people out of town who have lived here for years. It could be a source of revenue for the greater whole, so it’s another balancing act that I can’t be totally dismissive of.

Mr. Corcoran: We as a town need to do more studying. The idea of giving up positive support is kind of like putting the cart before the horse. We hadn’t really done our own sit-down and review of where we needed to be as far as reassessment. We hadn’t talked to the community.

Ms. Kass: I think I would have voted to go forward with the study. It hasn’t been done in 40 years. It is a question of timing and when is the right time to do this. I think it is fair that it’s looked at. I think that it has to be done, but I would move cautiously with getting the answers involving the community and really see if this is the right time to be adding a burden to certain homeowners.


Record-Review: What do you see as the next major infrastructure concern or project in the town?

Ms. Black: In Katonah I know I’ve heard a lot about the septic systems and trying to deal with that issue. We need to look at the newer technologies that are out there. That’s certainly one big issue in particular with Katonah that’s had some sensitivity associated with it.

Ms. Vulpescu: I absolutely agree. In the comprehensive plan, which is 10 years old, this was actually identified as far more important than the water filtration plant. Continuing with failing septic systems in a small downtown area is just unacceptable. Just investigating isn’t enough; when you know there’s a problem, not having a plan is not acceptable.

Mr. Corcoran: We have a big problem in Katonah. It isn’t addressed as a giant infrastructure pipes and mortar issue. We’ve been saying on the board that all of us need to find solutions to the problems we’ve been having now with failing septics and wells that are being contaminated. At one point I said we should even sue or we should bring charges against some of the county legislators because they’re actually poisoning our water by not allowing us to bring in new technologies. The idea that the county can stop us from remediating wells in our town that are polluting water supplies is just unconscionable.

Ms. Kass: The town has taken steps. They last year decided that sewers are going to go off the table, that it was just going to be too expensive to add that to the burden that’s already on the homeowners. In 2016 the town is going to be enforcing septic inspections and is already taking steps with just how they’re going to deal with the failings by setting up loans for homeowners. I think another big issue that we have is the stormwater management. I think this is probably the granddaddy of unfunded mandates. They’re estimating $500 million in our region and Bedford has joined the East of Hudson Watershed Coalition and is working with 19 other municipal entities on how they’re going to get these projects done. It’s certainly going to be a challenge.


Record-Review: Does anybody just want to address your feelings on partisanship, why you’re a Democrat and why you’re a Republican?

Mr. Corcoran: I’m a Republican because I’m fiscally conservative. I’m socially liberal, so I guess I’d be a liberal Republican. Down at this level — and you’ve heard it year after year — this is not about the politics of the party that you’re rooting for, it’s about doing the right things for the town, which is why there’s only a handful of issues that come before the town where you’ll find a split board.

Ms. Black: I think that a lot of the issues are not partisan issues that come up. I think for the most part we’re probably all fiscally conservative in how we approach things. I think we would should choose party lines based on some of the core values that maybe we hold for ourselves and our communities. There’s a difference between liberal Republicans on certain views and a liberal Democrat. On a broader level, if you talk about gun control or health care, those are two I think very partisan issues, very personal to a lot of people, and it tends to split among party lines. I think that transcends itself into local policy when you look at how you’re going to deal with affordable housing, when you’re going to deal with issues that go to different income levels and different brackets as well as different ethnicities, because traditionally they’re treated a little differently between partisan lines. The heart of decision-making at the local level is looking at the community and saying what’s best for the community.

Ms. Vulpescu: I’ve always said that New York Democrats are fiscally conservative and socially liberal and New York Republicans are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. It’s the same thing. It does broadcast something about how you think about certain things. I want people to know that I’m a Democrat because I’m proud of the values of the Democratic Party. I have heard from people that there’s a lack of feeling of inclusiveness. We’re not actively inclusive and I would like to be actively inclusive. As a Democrat, these are values that I hold and I think more of that could be reflected at the town level. Are those things the issues that have come directly before the board frequently? No, but maybe they should. There’s an idea about what Bedford is, but the truth of the matter is if you read the police blotter there are domestic disputes frequently, and we’re not talking about domestic violence, because that doesn’t happen in Bedford — but it does. I know that the Republican literature is stressing that it’s not about Republicans or Democrats, it’s about the people of Bedford. It’s about all the people of Bedford; many of them don’t feel included.

Ms. Kass: This is what I hate about politics, actually. People thinking that they know who you are based on your party affiliation is everything I abhor about politics, and I think it has no place on the local level. It’s not about partisan politics at the local level. It’s about doing what’s best for our town. We live in a very unique place. We live in a very deep sense of connectedness, the sense of history and a sense of community. That’s what I love about local politics. That’s why I’m drawn to it.


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