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The Deep Roots of Democratic Defeat: An Analysis of Croton's 2007 Election

April 16, 2007

It has been said that a community gets the government it deserves. Whether this is true for the village of Croton-on-Hudson after the 2007 election remains to be seen. Now that the dust has settled from that bitterly fought contest, introspection may be in order. As elections go, it was not a pretty spectacle, marked as it was by vicious incidents of malice, prevarication and spite. Nevertheless, enough time has now elapsed for conclusions to be drawn and lessons to be learned.

After the invasion fiasco at Bay of Pigs, President John F. Kennedy, who accepted total responsibility for the ill-advised attempted invasion and disastrous defeat, remarked at a 1961 press conference, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” Let us now examine the 2007 election in an attempt to trace and uncover its paternity and learn something about its family history.

In the bridge game of local politics there are some truisms that have become rules of the game. First, emotion trumps logic every time. Another truism is that a single issue, repeated endlessly to the exclusion of all other issues, trumps every other issue, especially if it is accompanied by lies, innuendo, and libel and slander. It is no exaggeration to say that the Croton Republicans ran on a single issue, subsumed under the all-inclusive term of Metro Enviro, although that entity was long gone from the village.

In the 1992 and 1996 national elections, Democratic campaign manager James Carville advocated the formation of “truth squads” to respond to Republican lies. These squads, traveling with Bill Clinton, sprang into action immediately with press releases and position papers to set the record straight. Yet, in the 2007 election, Democrats passively allowed supporters of the Republican stand-ins (called the Alliance Party because they had lost the Republican line on the ballot) to preempt the letters pages of The Gazette newspaper with lies and false charges that invariably went unchallenged.

This year, Republican Mayor Gregory Schmidt was handily reelected with 56% of the vote, a plurality that any candidate in a national election would kill for. His Democratic opponent, Trustee Ann Gallelli garnered only 44%. This was not the first time these two candidates have squared off in a mayoral bid. Rather, it was a repetition of Ms. Gallelli’s loss to Mr. Schmidt in 2005, only worse.

However, in the recent past victory has not always been as elusive for Croton’s Democrats. As former Democratic Governor of New York and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President Al Smith was fond of saying, “Let’s look at the record.”

In 2001, Republicans were so disorganized they could not find a sacrificial lamb to run against Robert Elliott, who had won the mayoral election five times. He ran unopposed and won, bringing with him four-term Trustee Georgianna Grant and newcomer Leo Wiegman. Left in the dust were Gregory Schmidt and Carole Mahon.

In 2002, with two trustee seats vacant, Democrats fared badly. Despite her impressive credentials as a computer scientist, Fran Allen and banker Jon Gopelrud were defeated handily. The victors were chiropractor Gregory Schmidt and attorney Deborah Yurchuk-McCarthy. The magic ingredient was Metro Enviro, which has been used by the Republicans as a club to beat Democratic candidates ever since.

In 2003, Mayor Robert Elliott narrowly beat one-year Trustee Gregory Schmidt by margin of only 2%. Thomas Brennan, who had been a frequent and outspoken critic of the Democratic administration on the Metro Enviro issue, threw his hat in the ring with retired gym teacher and former Trustee Don Daubney. Both lost. Repeating their wins in 2001, Trustees Georgianna Grant and Leo Wiegman retained their seats.

In 2004, Republican Trustee Gregory Schmidt was re-elected, joined by political newcomer Democrat Charles Kane. Losing for the second consecutive time was Thomas Brennan. Democrat Tom Burniston, a former trustee, also failed to garner enough votes. Deborah Yurchuk-McCarthy, making preparations to move from Croton to Scarsdale, did not seek re-election.

In 2005, after seven terms, Mayor Robert Elliott, busy with career concerns and perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, did not seek re-election. With another year left in his second term as trustee, Republican Gregory Schmidt ran again for mayor and won with 53% of the vote. His opponent, former Trustee and Planning Board Chair Ann Gallelli garnered only 47% of the vote. In the race for trustee, winners were Democrat Leo Wiegman and Republican Thomas Brennan. The losers were Democrat Georgianna Grant and Republican newcomer James Steinberg, an attorney. Despite his failure to win, newly-elected Mayor Schmidt appointed Mr. Steinberg as a trustee to serve for the remainder of his term.

In 2006, defeated mayoral candidate Ann Gallelli ran for trustee with Trustee Charles Kane and won easily. On the Republican side, trustee-by-appointment James Steinberg failed again to win an election. Running with Mr. Steinberg and trailing him in the vote was virtually unknown substance abuse recovery executive Jose Gonzalez.

In 2007, every Democratic candidate for office was rejected by voters. Most notable was that Ms. Gallelli, the lowest vote-getter of all, received fewer votes than newcomer running-mate Sally Odland, who never spoke at a single village board meeting in the run-up to the election. Although eminently electable in prior years, Leo Wiegman was defeated, an upset that was a surprise to many. However, this is not surprising considering that only 39% of registered voters went to the polls.

What happened? The Republicans have single-mindedly run on one emotional issue for the past six years: Metro Enviro, as if it were the only crucial concern for Croton. Also known as 1A Croton Point Avenue, this construction and debris transfer station, most recently operated by Regus Industries, has also polarized the voters of Croton. Preferring to explore all legal options including a negotiated settlement, Trustee Ann Gallelli and her running mates found themselves on the wrong side of a very complex issue this year.

And the simple negativistic approach of “no negotiating” advanced by supporters of the Schmidt ticket prevailed. As a matter of fact, Republican campaign insiders and Schmidt core supporters stopped at nothing in their quest to win this election. For example, a dummy letter was planted in the agenda for the February 5th board meeting, and Republican supporters used the letter as the jumping-off place for an evening’s organized electioneering by supporters that stalled village business for the evening.

At the same time, the Democrats can hardly be called victims of the Republican’s manipulations. They willingly played the part of sacrificial lambs.

For example, when Charles Trendell got up at this same February 5, 2007, public meeting and accused the Democrats of taking bribes from the waste industry, they did nothing. The popular wisdom that public figures or public officials cannot be libeled is incorrect. It so happens that such demonstrably false statement statements constitute slander when made publicly and it is incumbent on the accuser to prove the statement, not the responsibility of the accused to prove the untruth of the statement. But when broadcast over TV, the same statements constitute libel, with significantly higher penalties for making them. Did the accused trustees immediately bring suit for libel? They did not. They sat there and took their verbal drubbing like good little lambs.

Every time a critical and often untrue letter to the editor from regular contributors like Mark Aarons, Thomas Brennan, Maria Cudequest, Don and Doris Daubney, Susan Konig, Joann Minett, James Moore, Robert Wintermeier and Marie Yurchuk would appear in the Gazette, their lies and misstatements went unchallenged and unanswered.

When Richard Pellicci’s cartoons depicting them as cockroaches or calling them the “cash for trash trio,” also appeared in the Gazette, they failed to respond in kind. Are there no Democratic cartoonists in all of Croton?

When the Schmidt ticket proclaimed that 30,000 trucks, up from a previous figure of 20,000, would rumble through Croton spewing noxious gases and leaving a harmful trail of debris, not one Democratic candidate demanded that they substantiate their astronomical numbers—even though they knew they had no basis in fact, but had been plucked out of the air. Yet every one of the Republicans’ exaggerated claims about threats to the public health, safety and welfare of Croton’s population were modern adaptations of the “big lie” technique of the master liar, Adolf Hitler: Tell whopping big lies and repeat them often enough and soon the people will believe them. The Bush administration has fine-tuned this technique and uses it regularly on a gullible American public.

When Croton Republicans distributed a color flier by mail with rats and roaches on it reading, “The threat is real!!! Rats and Roaches infest Croton-on-Hudson!!!” the Democrats never challenged the false flier’s statements.

There it is. The Alliance party won because they were willing to win at any cost—including libel, slander, lies and deception. The Democrats lost because they never bothered to nail those lies to the barn door every time they surfaced. Shame on them.

Quo vadis, Croton Democrats? If any conclusions are to be drawn from this brief history, it is that “local boy (or girl) makes good” is still a significant watchword. Witness two Democrats, Bob Elliott, a proven vote-getter and a local boy, and the same for Charlie Kane, another local boy. Deborah Yurchuk-McCarthy, a local girl (Croton Harmon High School, Class of 1977) made good for the Republicans.

In the meantime, the Democrats have an enormous problem on their hands: How to stop the aggressive Republican juggernaut? Two seats will be at stake in the 2008 local election: those of Charlie Kane and Ann Gallelli.

Will voters decide that preserving a “loyal opposition” makes for good government? Only time will tell. Stay tuned.

On April 30, 2007 12:36 PM, Just The Facts said:

Devil,

Truthfully, I think its a losing battle. I just don’t see Croton ever having a vibrant shopping district, particularly in the upper village and in Harmon. You just can’t create these areas into something they are not. For starters, the upper village has lousy parking, older buildings not designed for the convenience and large selections that consumers demand. Both areas are easily bypassed and thus don’t get much traffic. Unfortunately, its just no going to happen.

My point is that I rather not have stores in those locations then to relax zoning and approvals so that we can “just get something in there”. Look at Metro Enviro, something is not always better then nothing.

On April 23, 2007 7:02 PM, weewill said:

Points all well taken and worthy of serious consideration.

We’ve all heard at one time or another, that God so loved the world He never formed a task force to “study” an issue. Notwithstanding that old adage, it may well be time to convene a stellar group of financial analysts and business executives to take a good, long, hard look at the parking lot operation.

We have a history now and actuals on which to base such an in-depth study. What’s been spent to date; what’s still to be spent; labor and burden costs; maintenance and repairs; overhead and each and every expense associated with the operation. Would it be wise to sell it outright or to work as partners with private enterprise? Should we be in the parking lot business at all? Are the problems and costs worth the required efforts and expenses? Compare those numbers to the current and anticipated future revenue, factoring in and creating both best case and worst case scenarios. Then have this non-partisan, unbiased, and expert committee make sound business and investment recommendations to the governing board.

Such a study begins to make more and more sense.

Georgianna

On April 23, 2007 10:11 AM, Devil's Advocate said:

Just the Facts:

Again I ask you to reread your own posts. You have jumped to many conclusions with regard to what my motivations and political affiliations are. This is really not constructive.

Just the Facts, I have clearly expressed my views on the Comprehensive Plan and subsequent zoning changes. I participated in that process and although it had many opportunities for public input, there were clearly aspects of the results that are completely anti business and anti development. I believe Ann Gallelli played a major role in the end results and should be held accoutable.

It is not the process that constitutes success but the results. To me and many others, the amenities Croton has to offer in the way of business and local shopping are substandard as compared to peer and surrounding communities. I and many others believe it is worse than it was pre-gateway legislation. Those are the results and they are not good.

I am interested to know your thoughts on why Harmon and the Upper Village has so many unoccupied commercial properties.

On April 23, 2007 9:07 AM, Just The Facts said:

Devil,

Before throwing out words like “slander”, you should look them up. You clearly have no idea what that term means legally. Slander means to publicly make an untrue statement for the purpose of damaging someone’s reputation. For starters, I have no idea who you voted for and you have no way of proving that. Secondly, since you are anonymous, there is no way to damage your reputation.

As far as your interests, you have already indicated on these boards that “I am a local business owner that can be severly impacted financially by zoning changes and other village legislation.” In the same chain of comments you criticized the board for paying attention to ascetics. That combination seems to me to be very pro developer. I for one would like a strong local government to make sure that developers don’t run un checked. One only need to look at towns with weak land use/zoning to see what happens otherwise.

Finally, for someone who uses the name “devil’s advocate” you seem awfully dismissive of contrary views. You should remember, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it doesn’t mesh with yours.

On April 21, 2007 9:19 AM, weewill said:

This exchange is excellent and has served readers of the blog very well. The thoughts expressed and comments made deserve serious reflection and consideration. Waffels and Oldtimer make valid and interesting observations about the general health and history of the Village. The Editors, Devil’s Advocate, Just The Facts, Leo Wiegman and Advocate for Devil’s Advocate express thought-provoking opinions on the outcome of the recent election. I don’t accept or agree with all their conclusions but they certainly have provided good food for thought.

It will take some time to digest the implications and possible consequences of suggested positions and I can only hope this kind of involvement will continue as respective boards face the challenges ahead.

In addition, I would suggest that as helpful as these postings on the blog have been, they would have been even more valuable to the boards (the Comprehensive Plan Committee in particular) to have heard them as they explored and labored over the difficult considerations being recommended to the Village Board to guide and direct our future course.

It’s always easier to moan and whine after the fact but certainly not nearly as effective as contributing to the process.

Georgianna

On April 20, 2007 9:52 PM, TeaDrinker said:

The preceding statement by “waffels” that Croton’s zoning laws are preventing another “Central Avenue” from happening in Croton is invidious. They so reflect the writer’s ignorance of marketing geography and Croton’s developmental history they demand correction. First, Central Avenue, although difficult to navigate on a Saturday afternoon, was almost inevitable in an area whose north-south road net is better developed than its east-west road net. The main benefit this ultra-long shopping node brings, however, is that residential areas are insulated from the commercial clatter and are virtually unaffected by it. Its princely revenues to Greenburgh more than make up for any esthetic transgressions.

There is absolutely no possibility that Central Avenue could ever be replicated in Croton, and to suggest this is sheer nonsense and fear mongering. Another quaint idea advanced by “waffels” is that property values here are directly related to its burdensome zoning rules. My guess is that Croton’s school system and the ability to get a seat on the train each morning have much more to do with its property values.

(1) Croton has four major shopping/commercial nodes, each representing a stage in the village’s historical development. In the 18th century, the intersection of Grand Street and Old Post Road North was the center of the village and a stagecoach stop on the Albany Post Road. Understandably, commercial establishments sprang up around it.

(2) In the 19th century, reflecting the growth of steamboat and railroad traffic and brick making, another commercial center prospered on the riverfront in what was then called the lower village at the foot of Brook Street. It soon surpassed the upper village as a center of commerce. Much of this node was obliterated with the construction of the Expressway as part of a projected superhighway to link Tarrytown with Beacon. Its tattered remnants can still be seen along the east side of South Riverside Avenue.

(3) Early in the 20th Century, Clifford B. Harmon bought a large chunk of the Van Cortlandt Manor property and created his development called Harmon-on-Hudson. Heavily promoting it in New York City, he brought prospective buyers to the site on special trains. The new community, complete with sidewalks and sewer and water lines, soon had its own post office and fire department. Its shopping area centered around the sales office at Benedict Boulevard and Riverside Avenue. The ShopRite shopping center, which replaced a drive-in movie and a bowling alley, are an expansion of the original Harmon shopping node.

(4) Following World War Two, a fourth node was created in the Van Wyck shopping center on Route 129 and enlarged more recently. An outlier of this area lies on either side of the foot of Route 129 and may eventually be joined to its larger neighbor.

There you have it: the genesis of Croton’s four shopping nodes, three out of four of which suffer from a severe lack of parking space. Despite its esthetic failings, Central Avenue’s commercial strip does not lack sufficient parking space. Interestingly, in its planning the village fell all over itself to exclude businesses with drive-through windows. Yet, studies show that drive-through facilities are efficient and actually reduce the need for parking spaces. A fine example of Croton shooting itself in the foot.

Devil’s advocate is definitely correct in saying that the changes wrought by the Gateway concept and its attendant restrictive requirements have not encouraged development, but have been inimical to it, as the lack of results show. What’s the good of overly restrictive legislation that must be relaxed to attract developers? Why couldn’t planners get it right the first time?

Nothing can change Croton’s hilly topography or its history. Realistically speaking, it is doomed by a shortage of expansion space, and limited in development now to its four separated shopping areas. Devil’s advocate is also right in his criticism of the community’s lack of a concrete plan for economic development, of its impractical efforts toward an unnecessary community center, and especially of Croton’s boards for their dilatory pace, intrusive nit-picking and slow-motion handling of applications. Is it any wonder developers abandon plans and walk away?

With little residentially zoned land left on which to build, Croton’s population growth is severely limited. Paradoxically, much of the remaining undeveloped land is zoned for commercial use. Furthermore, the construction of the Expressway in the 1950s was both a blessing and a curse: A blessing because it routed traffic around Croton instead of through it, and a curse to local merchants by denying them customers among the motorists whizzing past the village.

Higher taxes have been a blight on Croton ever since it lost its largest taxpayer—the New York Central Railroad—when the unhappy and ill-fated marriage called the Penn Central went bankrupt in 1976. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and you cannot make Croton what it is not and never was. It was never the local equivalent of a picturesque New England village with its central green ringed by the Congregational Church and an assortment of other churches, the public library, and the mansions of the wealthy. We should appreciate it for what it is: a workaday Hudson River industrial town with houses cheek-by-jowl on small lots that attracted radical artists and writers who left their liberal imprint on it. Oh, yes, a river town with excellent commuting by rail to New York City. Like so many other communities on both shores of the Hudson, it gave its waterfront over to industry. In Croton, the industries were brick making and the railroad repair shops. Fortunately, brick making is a transitory enterprise whose great sin is that it destroys the topography by leveling valuable banks of clay—and then moves on, leaving the wounded earth to heal itself.

Gateway, Schmateway. The Gateway plan created by impractical urban geographers and abetted by local technocrats looks good on paper until it is examined closely. Formulated by people who have never run a business or met a payroll and who see planning as an end to itself, it’s a fine example of the cure being worse than the disease. The village of Croton should stop chasing will o’ the wisps and get real by awakening to the reality of its geography and the often self-induced financial problems it faces. The most conspicuously offensive act committed in the name of the Gateway plan was the arbitrary purchase of the Katz property under threat of litigation springing from onerous Gateway zoning.

This village pays lip service to free enterprise, yet after a developer wanted to buy this lot and convert it into a substantial source of tax revenue for Croton, the village swooped down in the name of the great god of theoretical planning and snatched it up.

It was sickening to see the mayor and the board members of this profligate village complimenting themselves on their sagacity when they had not the faintest idea what they wanted to do with it—and still have no plans for this white elephant of a property. One conjures up the image of a person whose house is about to be foreclosed desperately buying the adjoining empty lot. A smart move for the Schmidt administration would be to sell it at a handsome profit to a developer, put it back on the tax rolls and let natural economic forces do their job. Henry David Thoreau said it best when he wrote, “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”

On April 19, 2007 7:20 PM, waffels said:

DA….drive from White Plains to Yonkers on central avenue and this is what our zoning laws are trying to prevent…..This is a small village, a few commercial projects are not going to pull us out of high taxes and certainly are not going to improve any property values. As a home owner the investment and ultimate resale value of my home is the most important long term investment I have. Croton’s property values are what they are because of zoning rules like this. Owning the water front is one of the most important values as a village we have. Not many villages along the hudson own their water front. in the long run these things will benefit all of us that own homes and pay taxes. My hope is the administration and future administrations see this also.

On April 19, 2007 6:31 PM, Devil's Advocate said:

Just the Facts:

You continually incorrectly misinterpret my comments. Remember when you slanderized me for voting Rebublican this election and I had to correct you and let you know I actually voted Democratic.

Now you imply I am a developer who wants to flood the village with McMansions. Where do you come up with these interpretations.

Please reread my posts before responding because you obviously have a problem with reading comprehension.

Leo:

If you take the appraised value of any of the commercial properties for sale and add to it the MAXIMUM size building allowable by the applicable zoning district, and factor in the exorbitant parking requirements, landscape requirements, surveying, legal, engineering, architect fees, 9-12 months for review and approval if you are lucky ,taxes, and lost opportunity costs on your capital; you will quickly understand why the zoning is not rooted in economic reality. The only way attactive new development can work is if the seller sells the property way under market, or the zoning code is loosened up.

Sticking to commercial property as to not confuse Just the Facts why is it that:

1) A commercial building is limited to 2 stories??? I am not advocating for skyscapers but I think three or four stories along Riverside Avenue is not to much to ask for.

2) Why do commercial buildings need to screen the side property lines from other commercial properties? Do you realize screenin a 150 foot side property line with 6 foot evergreens would cost upwards of $20,000?

3) By requiring parking in the back of the building in the Gateway Overlay Zones, you are effectively eliminating the possibility of drawing any AAA tenants. TRiple AAA tenants know that convenient access is key to customer traffic and wont touch space that doesnt have it.

I really could go on and on, however I think you get the point that these any many other realities of the village zoning code destroys the economics of commercial development in Croton, particularly because business owners in town do not have the luxury of 30,000 resident to draw from like other towns.

On April 19, 2007 1:49 PM, Just The Facts said:

DA for DA,

If you look further at DA’s posts you with see he/she is displeased with certain restrictions that limit spec builders ability to build McMansions and other eyesores in the village. Such “development” is certainly better for some (I suspect DA is a developer by the way), but not necessarily for the neighbors of such property.

Generally speaking, I don’t think most of our neighbors share the view that developers ought to be able to build anything and everything on their land. In the long run, that will not be beneficial for property owners in Croton.

Thus, I agree with Leo, DA should be explicit about what limitations on development he/she refers. My quess is that these objections would not be shared by most of his/her neighbors (nor perhaps the alliance party candidates).

On April 19, 2007 8:32 AM, Leo Wiegman said:

Dear “Advocate for DA” and “DA,” The comments by Devil’s Advocate on 4/17 express concern that the village should do a better job of stimulating economic development.

I take village economics very seriously: 4 of the 7 goals we laid out for 2007 would have explored how to build a more sustainable economy in Croton.

If Devil’s Advocate thinks the answer is to erode the current zoning, then he should be very explicit about what existing code he would erase and why that erasure will lead to the kind of development that will be sustainable for Croton in a ten year time frame.

Finally, the zoning upgrades of the past 6 years were the work of many people. Such law is always a work in progress. The Village does regularly consider potential changes and enact minor adjustments.

Yet, 3 such zoning adjustments in recent years that businesses have insisted were vital have not produced any new business.

The truth is that business owners who insist on such changes may or may not have any intention to follow through and build as a result. Non-zoning related marketing issues or investment opportunities elsewhere may lead them away.

The lots we see for sale in Harmon are the direct result of business cycles, not our underlying zoning.

On several recent ocassions the village has undertaken zoning modifications to accomodate seemingly earnest applicants. In each of the 3 most recent cases, the applicant withdrew after the village had either fully changed the law or reached the brink of doing so.

To wit, the Village relaxed the ‘drive through’ restriction to accomodate an urgent and allegedly attractive bank proposed for the site where Nappy’s Auto Repair is now on S. Riverside and Benedict. After putting the village through the full code revision process, the applicant walked away from the bank project anyway.

The result: Relaxing the gateway code = No new development.

Keep in mind, such code revisions, even if minor, cost the Village and its tax payers thousands of dollar in staff time and professional fees.

Again, this whole topic needs a full discussion, as DA suggests.

Leo Wiegman trusteew@bestweb.net

On April 19, 2007 8:14 AM, waffels said:

If you voted for the alliance party this past election than it is obvious to me that you support lies, misinformation and nasty cut throat politics…there is no place in a small village for these tactics unless your main interest is just winning at any cost…..sad

On April 18, 2007 8:44 PM, Advocate for "Devil's Advocate" said:

Dear Leo, Waffels and Just the Facts,

Please reread Devil’s Advocate’s April 17th post.

As a registered Democrat, who voted for the Alliance Party this year, I can assure you that if you don’t listen to what he had to say in that post, you will continue to lose elections. Get your heads out of the clouds.

On April 18, 2007 2:05 PM, Just The Facts said:

Devil,

For someone with a name which seems to suggest acceptance of alternative views, you seem very dismissive and opinionated as to why the election was lost.

We all have opinions as to why the Dems lost. Personally, I think it was that the Repubs appealed to the lowest common denominator - irrational fear.

We all also have opinions as to the importance of following laws. After scandal after scandal in national and local politics, I tell you one thing for certain, I will NOT vote for a candidate that can’t follow clear laws. Tell me why we should elect leaders to make regulations (including the land use ones which you seem to abhor) when they can’t even follow regulations pertaining to them?

So, express your opinions Devil all you want. But, where do you come off telling Leo what he should think and focus on?

On April 17, 2007 2:36 PM, Devil's Advocate said:

Leo:

Let me first say I voted for you and think you will be greatly missed on the Board. However, harping on election irregularities comes across as sour grapes. The democrats did not lose the election because of the republicans incompetance and inability to follow election law, it was for the reasons I describe above. If anything, the republicans probably would have won by an even larger margin had they not lost the republican line due to their own incompetance. I am sure many voters may have agreed with their platform but could not vote for a group of people who cannot even file simple paperwork correctly.

What this election says is that the voters PERCEPTION of the democratic position on the issues is that it is not in line with their interests and beliefs.

Dont spend time on this election irregularity nonsense. You are a very bright guy. Open a discussion on this blog about the lack of economic development, negotiating vs. fighting the hauling industry, the republican proposed Community Center debacle, Sewer Tax bait and switch, etc.

Lead the discussion Leo, and keep it simple. As I said earlier, appeal to the least common denominator.

On April 17, 2007 12:13 PM, Leo Wiegman said:

Dear Devil’s Advocate: The economic development topics you raise deserve a full and separate discussion.

I would like to speak out on one aspect of the Village Election that was both unusual and controversial in 2007—namely the stripping of GOP’s ballot line.

It may have cost myself and my running mates votes to have the local GOP running in disguise on an “Alliance Party” line. As the sole incumbent who was defeated on March 20th, I still am content with the ballot challenge and its results. Why?

In state election law, the only enforcement mechanism for a party that breaks election law is for the other party to file a complaint. No other trigger for an actual enforcement process exists.

If someone bends election law, the way that person is called to the carpet is by the filing of an objection by someone else, in this case, the Croton Democratic Committee filed to object to fatal flaws in both the Croton Republican and Independence caucuses.

The Croton Dems would NOT have done so, if this year had been the first instance of such bald violations.

The GOP in Croton have been losing voters for years and is now at an all-time low. In 2006, the “Independence Party Caucus” in Croton that nominated the full GOP slate and secured them a second ballot line broke state law. We notified the GOP committee and told our colleagues across the aisle to keep to the law next time.

Lo and behold, 12 months later, the Independence Party filings contained the same flaws. And this time, we were very surprised to see the same flaunting of state law had spread to the Croton Republican Committee filings. Given the similarity of the irregularities, the same hand appears to have (mis)guided both parties to secure a ballot line for Schmidt-Brennan-Konig.

Faced with a second consecutive year of violations of very clear state law, the Croton Democratic Committee and Gallelli-Odland-Wiegman team decided to blow the whistle this time.

Within days, based on the evidence, both the Democratic and Republican County Election Commissioners agreed that the Republican caucus contained fatal flaw and nullified it.

The Schmidt ticket would now have to collect over 100 signatures to access the ballot in a nominating petition drive. In sum, they would have to work hard to follow the rules.

After the blatant violations of state law in 2006 on the Republicans’ behalf, if the Democrats had not held Schmidt’s feet to the fire in 2007, what piece of state election law would the local Republican candidates be planning to ignore next year?

Neither a candidate nor a elected politician is allowed to choose which state or local laws he or she may ignore.

Leo Wiegman trusteew@bestweb.net

On April 17, 2007 8:34 AM, Devil's Advocate said:

Leo and Waffels:

I have to say that I am not sure this election was solely based on the trash issue, although I will concede it was clearly the major factor.

I know that of greater concern to me and many others was the comprehensive plan and subsequent overly restrictive zoning that came out of it. I truly believe the gateway zoning is not rooted in economic reality, which is why approved projects are not built and Harmon is a virtual “business ghosttown” of late. People realize the challenges business owners face, and associate the gateway and other zoning as the reason for that, which Ann is ultimately responsible for. People want more retail choices and amenities and Croton is not making any strides at all in that regard.

In addition, the taking of the Katz property in many peoples minds was an intentional and devious attempt to control private property. This is worrisome for business and property owners which ultimately scares them away from our village.

As far as residential zoning, the planning board over the last couple of years seems to have morphed into a neighborhood association, reviewing architectural details down to colors and textures. Why should homeowners have to ask permission to cut a tree down on their own property? The level of review and scrutiny is bordering on absurdity. Voters feel their property rights are being infringed upon and they are backlashing against the party that they feel is causing this.

But as Leo put it, I believe the main reason the democrats were ousted came down to communications style and sound bites. The democrats communication style, with their never ending name dropping and constant references to committees, advisory boards, commissions, task forces, etc. that the average Joe never heard of nor cares about comes across as pompous and elitist to the average citizen.

When it comes to communications, the democrats did not appeal to the least common denominator and the republicans did.

On April 16, 2007 10:07 PM, Leo Wiegman said:

Dear Blog readers, I agree with the analysis in this article—as unflattering to both parties as it is.

The GOP’s Schmidt-Brennan-Konig team pulled out all the stops in framing the opponents as soft on trash. Indeed, it is hard to imagine Schmidt running for office without this “most critical issue for Croton” front and center in his campaign—to the exclusion of other key topics.

The Democrat’s Gallelli-Odland-Wiegman team utterly failed to capture this waste station issue in a convincing soundbite. Indeed, the Democrats seemed surprised that so many people appeared to either buy the GOP’s party line on this one topic, or were unmoved to vote at all.

As a result, lots of untruths were allowed to stand, unchallenged. And lots of voters were convinced by the negative attack ads to stay home. Croton’s turn out in 2007 was markedly lower than in last mayoral election of 2005—as direct result of the less than inspiring mesage from the Gallelli team and the relentless cockroach & rats attack ads from the Schmidt team.

Leo Wiegman trusteew@bestweb.net

On April 16, 2007 8:41 AM, waffels said:

I couldn’t agree with you more. I think the problem lies in how one (parties) wants to conduct themselves in a small town. As in the national elections the take no prisoners idea carried over to our village. Whatever it takes to get in. Lie to, slander, accuse your “neighbors” to gain your position. Inherently I think the liberal democrat is pretty passive. We are the hippie-treehugging-socially conscious citizens. We care about people, the envirorment, global warming, our neighbors. The democratic party here in Croton is no different. To watch and listen to the abuse put forth by their opposition was painful. It instilled a primal anger in me that wanted to scream to the masses, but being a passive liberal democrat I care about my neighbors and let it go hoping the people would see through the lies. It didn’t happen and as mentioned above the voting turnout was pathetic. People need to understand that in a small village your vote does count. Elections are won and lost by the 10’s of votes. Taxes, development, property values, quality of life all of these issues are a direct result of ones vote. There are two parties in this village and they really showed their faces in this last election. One aggressive/abusive the other quiet, making points and hoping for the peoples understanding. I don’t know the answer. My hope is that the big business supporting, environmentally unconscious, sprawl development, exclusive thinking republican idea doesn’t come into play. It would be sad for our beautiful “liberal” village.



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