PROCEEDINGS AT “THE PEOPLE’S FORUM”
HELD AT THE PRESERVE PUTNAM SPAIN CORNERSTONE PARK MEETING ROOM
7 P.M. OCTOBER 30, 2013
(hosted by Kent Fiscal Watch)
Forty four voters attended the Forum and took the opportunity to tell the candidates running for election in Kent and the County how they would like to see their government conducted, propose ideas, express concerns and ask questions.
Candidates appearing were (for Town Supervisor) Maureen Fleming; (for Town Board) Janis Bolbrock, Paul Denbaum and Bill Huestis; (for Highway Commissioner) Rich. Othmer; (for Town Justice) Kevin Douchkoff; and (for County Legislature District 5) Carl Albano and Scott Friedman.
Sending responses of being unable to attend were (for Town Justice) Peter Collins (travelling out of town); (for Tax Receiver) Jean Johnson (dental surgery); and (for Town Clerk) Lana Capelli.
Notable absentees were incumbent Town Supervisor Kathy Doherty and Town Board member Lou Tartaro, who did not respond to invitations and subsequently scheduled a Budget Workshop after receiving invitations to this function.
Voters who spoke to the candidates were courteous, respectful, to-the-point and brief. Matters raised by voters were:
- open, transparent and inclusive government;
- adequate notice of agendas, opportunity for residents to be heard and their concerns answered, open and inclusive public meetings;
- Town Board members to be committed to independence of ideas and action, not conformists to the “Establishment”;
- genuine effort required by leaders to implement consolidation of government services, sharing of resources and elimination of duplication, inefficiency and cronyism of appointments;
- genuine effort to structure services to meet needs, at lowest cost, use of zero-base planning;
- greater involvement of residents with education, training, skills and experience as advisors, task forces and researchers;
- ensure there is no corruption;
- genuine effort to co-ordinate urban planning with neighbor towns, counties, Chambers of Commerce, so as to have coordinated commercial/industrial/office development;
- intelligent efforts to attract acceptable business development, encourage business to locate, not build infrastructure and hope that business development will follow;
- protect residents from loss of power in storms by putting utilities in-ground, seeking available Homeland Security funds for this purpose;
- ensure County and town are not duplicating expenditures on so-called mandates (e.g. Early Intervention);
- reduction of overtime by hiring part-timers, especially retired police officers (who are experienced, trained and limited in post-retirement re-employment earnings and whose benefit costs are low);
- town highway road making is unsatisfactory, not well planned or executed;
- town highway department yard on Smokey Hollow Road will be compromised by location of a zoning-violating cell tower;
Candidates and voters talk about the issues at the People's Forum
Each candidate responded in turn, mostly clearly, concisely and respectfully, as follows:
Her motive to run for election was prompted by her dissatisfaction with public meetings at which residents with concerns were not answered, listened to or given a hearing. Her platform includes reform of town meetings to permit greater interaction with residents and businesses, adequate notice of meetings and agendas, public broadcast of proceedings, openness and transparency. She has been a life-long volunteer and will encourage volunteerism, as an assist to (not replacement of) elected officials. She noted the significant loss of businesses (Dill’s, Bob’s Auto, Lake Carmel Hardware, LaRussells) and agrees that development needs to be coordinated, not to build infrastructure and hope. She would re-instate Kent Police monthly report to Town Board. She has been an investigator of corruption in NYC and is committed to doing what’s right.
Her extensive experience and training in business has given her a strong base for fiscal management. She would implement video recording of meetings, accessible on a web site that she would establish for voters to replay and to pose questions, which she would answer. Her training and experience in Work Process Design would enable her to recommend efficiencies. She obtained promotion and pierced the “glass ceiling” by being independent and assertive. She is a volunteer and would make opportunity for educated, experienced residents who wished to contribute, especially business people. She would publicize vacancies for volunteers for town commissions and boards. She sees the need to work with County, NYC (owner of over 40% of Kent land) and schools to keep business in Kent, encourage tourism, offer travel opportunity here for outside businesses and individuals. She would organize arborists and volunteers to protect power lines by pro-active tree work before storms (and sell the wood).
He feels strongly that all residents who come to meetings or contact the Town should be heard and responded to. He was prompted to run for election by observation of the current administration. He is a strong believer in open and transparent government, adequate notice of meetings, agendas and broadcast. As a specialized attorney in municipal and real estate, he has seen other communities implement efficiencies, consolidation, shared services. He would encourage educated, skilled and experienced volunteers to bring their skills to assist the town. He wants to hear from taxpayers, but wants to be the one to do the job. He would work to obtain support of the taxpayers as an active decision maker, a worker, looking for ways to reduce taxes. He intends to be fiscally inquisitive, find ways to save expenses, increase revenue. He believes that the town needs new people running it, new ideas. He is fiercely independent, demonstrating that by not complying with the local Republican establishment, campaigning independently and winning the primary. He intends to be a spark plug if elected, raising issues, non-conforming, independent decision maker. Believes in term limits. Would offer pilot programs, tax concessions to encourage business to locate in Kent. Does not agree with construction of sidewalks, sewers and then waiting for business to come - this needs a more aggressive approach. Utilities should be underground in all new development and whenever existing roads are improved. He opposes cronyism in town appointments, would not comply with local Establishment.
A long-term resident, deeply involved in the communities of Kent and the County. Long record of volunteerism. His platform is to throw out existing procedures for meetings, make all meetings open, encourage resident input. Wants to involve all stakeholders; gives example of the consultation process in the Master Plan revision (not executed properly, as those consulted were left out of the final determinations). Supports thorough review of all budget expenditures and ways to consolidate, share services. Wants to reinvent government, reinvent the Town of “Can’t”. Would get the educated, skilled residents involved – he is big on community development. Municipal accounting is very important. Commercial development is needed, needs a salesman. Ludingtonville Road/Route 52 area should get attention for this. Too many lost businesses. Dills property now going off the tax roll - that pushed him to run for election. Town board, planning, zoning, assessment review are all areas where input from stakeholders is valuable, as there are hard decisions made by these bodies. Urges all to be volunteers, look at Communities That Care. He supports term limits. Wants to re-invent Kent, he found many discouraged residents as he went door to door campaigning. Wants job descriptions for all paid and volunteer positions.
Long-term resident of the Hamlet of Carmel, very active in Carmel civic affairs and the county – an active attendant at meetings, providing input and questioning decisions. Strong believer in open government, which he has fought for all of his life. Will ensure that County establishes a broadcast system for all meeting which residents can stream on-line to their computers. Would offer that resource to the towns as well. Has seen the political reluctance to consolidate, share and make efficient. There are grant monies available for feasibility studies, demonstration projects and for implementation. He is sensitive to the job security of existing staff, who are mostly doing a good job, but more efficiency is needed. He supports the idea of resident advocacy groups, ways to involve residents with skill and expertise. Development and drawing new business to the County are challenges, but he has been advocating for 20 years for a reasonable, comprehensive plan, that establishes pockets of cross-fertile commercial development, compatible small business. He advocates a sharing of the sales tax with the towns in a way that discourages them competing for the same development and wanting the tax generated by such business to come to the town that gets the business. Kent is a case in point, as it is so dominated by NYC watershed property, limiting its development. Wants to expand the bike trail – connect all of Lake Carmel to it. Wants to see a hotel development, a conference center – promised in the past, but not delivered. He is disgusted at corruption and has fought it by calling for resignations, consulting FBI, writing letters. He would open government, bidding, appointments. He would stop concessions to favored parties. He has a 6-point tax plan, would put bank account transaction data on-line for resident review. All contracts would be available on-line and all bonds issued. Would offer incentives to employees for identifying opportunities for savings, increased efficiency. Would use zero based budget techniques. State mandates are a significant element of County expenditures. He supports the idea of hiring part-timers as regular employees retire, relocate or leave.
He was unable to attend the full meeting, due to his commitment for the legislature’s consideration of the 2014 County budget. He is a questioner of the “that’s the way it is” response in the County. There are laws governing a lot of the County’s activities, which have to be complied with, but there must be constant seeking of ways to save the taxpayer money. He supports the idea of hiring part-timers as regular employees retire, relocate or leave.
He was unable to attend the full meeting, due to his commitment for the legislature’s consideration of the 2014 County budget. He spoke to County issues, even though he is running for election as Kent Highway Superintendent. He questioned the correctness of the suggestion that both County and Carmel Schools had expenditures of millions of dollars for Early Intervention. He stressed the heavy burden of State mandates, which make the legislature’s job of approving budgets very difficult, no much savings available. For town highway, he stressed his organizational abilities, skill at motivating employees, his own work history and ethic. He has many ideas for review, revamping of the department. He has ideas for sharing the heavy trucks and equipment with the County, other towns and establishing coherent snow plowing arrangements among these bodies. He was a little taken aback at the suggestion that he work to eliminate the department by consolidating it with the County, other towns, but promised to consider the idea. He was aware of the difference in quality of road making in Kent compared to other towns and the County. He will address the concerns of residents of East Boyds Road, who have seen the road only partially repaved and the new work quickly break up. He will investigate the physical constraints on the department that the Smokey Hollow Road cell tower may cause.
Restricted by State Justice court ethics rules, he was not able to offer opinions on present government or suggestions for the future. He gave a comprehensive review of the Kent municipal court, outlining the case work undertaken by the 2 justices. Revenues from fines have risen significantly, by 52% to $680,000. Kent was #124 in the State, but now ranks 77th (out of 1,300). He spoke of improvements in court processing of cases, of the Special Prosecutor for traffic violations and the implementation of credit card processing for collection of fines. He is committed to fair sentencing and is a strong believer in community service for offenders who have made minor mistakes in life – he sentenced an aggregate of over 2,000 hours last year. It is not the quiet rural court one would imagine, he had 80 cases last week.