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An Appeal To Reason

March 20, 2006

Crotonblog: Letters to the Editor, Croton-on-Hudson, New York 10520
It’s said that people get the government they deserve. That’s true in many ways here in Croton. Last year, the long-time Democratic majority was voted out of office in spite of what, in my opinion, was and is, an incredible record of positive accomplishments (notably the purchase of the parking lot and Croton Landing property, the millions of dollars in federal grants to improve the village, and the amazing success to date of the opposition to the Millennium pipeline). Yet all those accomplishments were ignored because they were overshadowed by the issue of Metro-Enviro.

If Croton has the government it deserves, it got it because residents chose not to believe their elected and appointed officials and outside consultants. It chose instead to believe the misinformation, distortions, and outright lies of a handful of Republican partisans led by a notorious hate-monger and vandal. It took the Crotonblog to finally expose to a wide audience that person for what she is. Of course, I’m hardly unbiased. I’m one of those who was called a liar (in letters to the Gazette) and accused of being on the take not just in regard to Metro-Enviro, but the Millennium pipeline as well.

I served the Village of Croton for more than ten years as a member of the Planning Board, the Water Control Commission, the Greenway Committee, and as a Library Trustee. I served my community because I believe in the importance of public service and because I wanted to set an example for my children. For those reasons I tolerated abuse which included having my property vandalized multiple times, being slandered by a sitting Republican Trustee during a Village Board meeting, and having to deal with hang-up calls at 3AM. I resigned from the Planning Board last year because I was unwilling to work under an administration that has repeatedly failed to publicly reject the support of individuals who carry out or condone such tactics. But that wasn’t the only reason.

Before last year’s Village election, I attended the public meeting at which the Metro-Enviro settlement was proposed. At that meeting I pleaded with the Board to delay a decision until it had investigated possible outcomes of a rejection including the possibility of using eminent domain to acquire the ME property. I was promptly attacked from the audience by the then Republican Party chairman who demanded that I say if I was for or against the settlement. I replied that I wanted more information. At that point, Trustee (now Mayor) Schmidt said he had already made up his mind and didn’t care what I had to say. That certainly presaged the Schmidt-Steinberg-Brennan my-way or the highway approach to government.

Tomorrow’s election is the most important one since I’ve lived here. Republican stalwarts say the Democrats are crying wolf about the financial dangers of eminent domain. I disagree. They’ve attacked Trustees Kane and Wiegman for proposing we get some expert legal advice on the matter. They prefer to stick their heads in the sand and hope that a court will rule that the ME site is worth only $5,000,000 rather than a possible $50,000,000. Either way a new public works garage, the purpose for acquiring the ME property, will cost according to the Village Manager at least another $5,000,000. (I won’t even mention legal costs).

The Republicans are advocating the Village take on a minimum of $10,000,000 in additional debt. That’s almost a doubling of our present debt. How will that affect property taxes? They haven’t said. What happens if condemnation costs come out closer to $50,000,000? The Republicans are willing to role the dice. I don’t want them gambling with MY future. No one deserves that kind of government.

— Joel Klein

On March 21, 2006 6:13 PM, Seth Davis said:

Joel is to be commended for his letter, which sets forth beautifully the reasons why our votes today matter so much. I commend him as well for mentioning the personal abuse he had to suffer. I am sorry to say that this is par for the course in this town, and I don’t know what we can do to stop it besides standing up and voting for decent people. My wife and I, during the course of our public service, had to endure such abuse—my own favorite instance was when I was heckled at a public meeting by a one-time Village Republican Chair who was, at the time, sitting next to my teen-aged son.

Let’s not forget that the only cogent public information put out in the past year has been the pieces written here by Ann Gallelli, and the regular contributions of Charlie Kane and Leo Wiegman. Contrast that thoughtfulness and that analysis with the blithering diatribe posted today by our Mayor Doctor and you’ve got a very clear picture of what today is about.

Joel—thank you!

Seth Davis

On March 21, 2006 12:31 PM, weewill said:

Oops! I forgot to sign the above post. That’s me …

Georgianna Grant X Trustee

On March 21, 2006 12:22 PM, weewill said:

And therein lies all the reasons why this day, Tuesday, March 21, election day in the village will determine the future of our hometown.

What Joel Klein says in his post about the financial dangers inherent in moving forward with the eminent domain process before we have expert opinion from an eminent domain attorney is very frightening indeed. Joel is very sincere and not overly cautious when he realistically points to the exposures. He has given many, many years to village government and has proven to be right over and over again. He was right in his analysis of the Millennium pipeline costs and expensive litigation and he is just as realistic about this eminent domain process. He knows what he’s talking about. Thank you Joel.

The board says it’s waiting for an appraisal to determine the value of the property and that they will not proceed if it’s “too high.” What’s “too high?”

Just the appraisal? The almost certain ensuing legal fees? The destruction and rebuilding of a new DPW 33,000 square foot garage ? Have the costs of remediation of the flooding RR parking lot, the on-going storm water management projects, the additional brown water remediation, the on-going uexpected infrastructure repairs, the union contract negotiations, the Millennium litigation, the ever increasing cost of medical and retirement benefits all been realistically projected? What constitutes “too high?”

I haven’t looked at the proposed 9.5% tax increase yet. It will be interesting to see if, in fact, this budget includes the $350,000 removed from the parking lot project. It will be just as critical to see if the amount of money allocated for the above mentioned expenses is realistic or not.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election (and I hope Gallelli and Kane are winners!) it will be important for all of us to peruse and fully understand the implications of the final budget. Perhaps a new board will be more open to residents ideas and concerns. It’s one thing to be partisan during an election campaign but it’s disappointing and just plain wrong from elected officials.


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