Warren approaches all challenges with an artist’s desire to find creative solutions, which allows him to deliver great “out of the box results”. If you were to ask his business and Scouts BSA colleagues to describe what makes him a successful leader, they would say that he…

 

 

Is instinctively curious about finding better ways to get things done

Combines research and imagination to solve challenges

Relishes being responsible for the outcome

Presents complex information with clarity and insight

Has run a small business and knows what’s needed for growth

 

I have observed, with frustration, governance over many years based on a single political philosophy and narrow point of view. The input I’ve received from constituents reflects my thinking and those of numerous others, party affiliation aside, expressing dissatisfaction, anger, and the critical need to introduce and elect representatives bold enough to offer a fresh perspective and a diverse philosophy when serving on our town board. The Supervisor’s sworn duty is to lead our Town with a vision that casts aside politics and offers an inclusive, ethical, and common-sense approach to the serious problems currently facing Cortlandt and those up ahead.

 

Since announcing my candidacy for Cortlandt Town Supervisor in March, I’ve been joined by two like-minded running-mates who are seeking election for two available seats on the Town Council. Their names are George Pappas and Ryan Mulcahy. George, Ryan and I share a common desire to improve our community through active public service. Over the past 8 months we have met with local groups and thousands of constituents to hear directly of their concerns and suggestions for what is needed to improve life in our town. From this public input we have identified issues of public concern that we feel must be addressed.

 

Our Commitment to Cortlandt is to change the tenor and tone of governance. Outlined in brief are a few of the issues of concern I would address directly: 

 

Term Limits: Amending the Town Charter by voter referendum, limiting all elected officials to 8 years in any given office. At present, board members on average serve 15-to-30-years in office, retiring with health insurance coverage for life, plus other costly perks, uncalled for, given the budgetary shortfalls and critical needs faced by the Town of Cortlandt. To create a level playing field, we need to consciously avoid cronyism, any hint of favoritism and the influence of special outside interests, with contracts, land development decisions and other issues directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of Cortlandt inhabitants. I fervently believe this paradigm will open deliberations and foster fresh, creative solutions to endemic problems confronting our town.  

 

Transparency & Access: It is vital to introduce transparency and convenient access to the Town Meetings, so that citizens can pro-actively participate in the process of governance. If elected, Cortlandt’s Planning, Zoning and Town Board Work Sessions, now scheduled at 6 PM, would begin at 7 PM to encourage public attendance and broad community participation. Current practice precludes many from direct involvement. A Live Streaming option should also be made available for those who cannot attend in person, as well as published minutes of meetings.

 

Revision of Cortlandts Board of Ethics: The current governing rules of the Board of Ethics, on the books since1985, need to be reviewed and revised.  New members have not been appointed to the Board in many years. The Board is overdue for updating and re-structuring. Once the Board is reconstituted, their first priority should be to review and update the Town’s Code of ethics.

I believe that at the top of the list a rule should be created which precludes/regulates former elected officials from being hired for tax payer paid consulting positions with the town once they leave office. In this way we could avoid incidents like the one that occurred in January of 2022, when the current Town Board at it’s first Town Board Meeting, in it’s first vote passed a resolution to pay former Supervisor Linda Puglisi $6,500 per month over 10 months to work as an “executive consultant” for current Supervisor Becker. Her mission would have been to provide “historical information and background.” Luckily after a loud public outcry, our former Supervisor did not accept the appointment. If she had spent 10 hours per month on the phone with the Supervisor Becker, she would have earned $650 per hour. I fear that this is not the only time in our towns history that this has happened. Today, without an updated ethics code, I will pledge right now, that I will not hire a “tutor”, taxpayer paid, to help me with historical background or teach me how to lead.

Public Safety: One of the most important responsibilities of a local government is to provide public safety. When the police are called, a quick response is required. Cortlandt’s expansive size and limited police coverage makes a timely response a challenge. Between 6am and midnight only two Westchester County Police Officers are on patrol responding to 911 calls. From midnight through 6am police protection is provided by the New York State Police.

The Town of Cortlandt has contracted with Westchester County for one “community resource officer” (CRO) and one “community traffic officer.” The Town website states, The CRO will work closely with the Supervisor and Town Board, the business community, neighborhood and community organizations, and other stakeholders to identify and address issues of concern to the community.” CRO officers are stationed at the Town Hall and respond to non-emergency complaints that are received at the Town Hall. They do not respond to 911 calls and they do not make regular patrols, CRO’s are not normally on duty after 6pm.

Cortlandt’s community resource officers cost approximately $250,000 each, which includes salaries and benefits. Cortlandt’s total expenses to contract with the Westchester County Department of Public Safety are about $1million annually.

The Town needs to maximize our current resources and explore new avenues to enrich existing police presence. One idea is to explore the possibility of entering into inter-municipal agreements with the Village of Buchanan and the Village of Croton-on-Hudson to contract their police protection services. Each Village would provide regular, proactive police protection to designated areas of Cortlandt that are adjacent to these villages. This force addition would decrease the area that the State and Westchester County Police would need to patrol in the Cortlandt Manor and improve emergency response times for the entire town. Regular patrols would act as a deterrent to crime and improve the quality of life for our residents.

Promote Rational, Reasonable, Development: A recurring concern of town residents has been overdevelopment. Cortlandt residents are frustrated with the traffic and congestion in Cortlandt, particularly on the Route 6 and Route 202 corridors. To many residents, the idea that large gas stations, a hotel and high-density housing projects would be added to these problem areas flys in the face of these concerns. Our town has agencies that were created to ensure that development adheres to Cortlandt’s master plan. Members of these boards are not elected; they are appointed by the Town Board. This arrangement insulates the members from political considerations and removes the appearance of impropriety that could arise from special interest campaign contributions.

The Town Board has time and time again taken back the powers that it bestowed on the Zoning Board and the Planning Board to make itself “Lead Agency.” A recent example of occurred with the rezoning of the Medical Orientated District (MOD) on Route 202. The concept was originally to create a hub around the NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, where medical related commerce could take place. Through the board guidance this project morphed into a mostly residential development that adds 100 residential townhomes to a property that was previously zoned for 28 single family homes. In March the Town Board voted unanimously to change the zoning despite local public outcry. According to the BOE campaign contribution reports from June, at least one of the developers involved in this project made a maximum contrition to the campaign fund of Town Board members that are currently running for re-election. Although this is not illegal it does appear unethical. This would have been a perfect place for our Board of Ethics to come into play.

In a town board that I lead, taking on the “lead agency role” will be a rare occurrence. We will allow the Zoning Board and Planning Board do what they do best, interpret and adjudicate zoning and planning issues. We will ensure that appointments to ALL boards and sub-committees are made based on talent, experience and merit without consideration of political leanings. This will restore the public’s faith in our decision-making process.

The current administration lists new pickle ball courts, an ice-skating rink and an amphitheater as some of their top accomplishments. I feel that these are notable if your primary job is running the Parks Department, but I believe that Cortlandt right now is at a critical juncture. Our town faces issues of great import that require creative, workable solutions, which can only come to fruition when consideration results from a “melting pot” of diverse ideas and critical thinking, benefiting the community at large. I firmly believe that the vision I would bring to the office of Cortlandt Town Supervisor will meet the moment.

 

Contact

P. O. Box 347 Verplanck, NY 10596

warren@smith4supervisor.com

(914) 584-4091

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