Today we have our second installment of our interview with Doug French, the mayoral candidate challenging Rye's sitting Mayor Steve Otis who is gunning for another four years (see our first installment here).
Here is French on his prescription for Rye's flooding, grade Rye City's performance including three issues where French assigns a "F" and he'll tell us where he likes to eat out:
Rye sustained $80 million in damage in the April 15, 2007 flood. Is Rye prepared for the next “100 Year” flood? What are the most important things we need to do to prepare, how much will they cost and how should Rye pay for them?
Rye is not prepared for the next 100-year flood – and what we need is:
1. A plan — We have gone from a “Rye floods” label to being branded as a “flood community” — and with it a stigma that has significant economic overall impact on our property, downtown, businesses, schools and organizations. We owe it to the community to deliver a flood mitigation plan that delivers to the public the best options available, the level of commitment needed and the required funding and sources to make it happen.
2. The Sluice Gate — Feet do matter, so the sluice gate is a good first step in mitigating flooding and I hope the County will pass their funding share at the upcoming vote. Other projects such as the $30M Upper Pond project need a lot more vetting as the experts are divided and there may be better alternatives to consider.
3. Upstream development oversight and Regional planning – We need to make sure our interests are represented upstream and that major projects such as the airport expansion are fully vetted before we feel their impacts downstream while at the same time making sure we pass and enforce our own flood mitigation and water retention policies
Teachers in Rye public schools have been operating without a contract for over two years due to a stalemate between Rye’s Board of Education and the Rye Teacher’s Association. What specifically should be done to resolve this stalemate, if anything?
I just returned from taking my first child to college at Vanderbilt University and the extraordinary opportunities in front of him are in large part due to the education and experience he got as a product of the Rye public school system. Although the City plays no role in this issue, I do think the public has been well-informed on the issue and as one community we all encourage an amicable resolution.
Grade Rye’s handling of the following issues over the last two years:
Flooding – (B) The City has done a good job in its flood response practices after the general public provided feedback from the 2004 flood. Scott Pickup has been a key leader in working through the myriad of County, State and Federal bureaucracies to find funding and manage project specifications. The central avenue bridge is a constant reminder that we have a long way to go in getting our community back.
Fiscal Responsibility – (C) Rye needs to do better, it has to do better. 10 years ago the cost to operate the City based on the 1998 audited financial report was $17M. It is now tracking over $34M – that is significant growth in a period where inflation was 2% to 3%. In combination with the County and School taxes, taxpayers simply cannot afford the combo effect.
Public Works – (B) The level of service has been good.
Public Safety – (B) Overall the level of service has been good from Police and Fire and I would like to see greater enforcement on cell phone law. I was pleased to see the Asst. City Manager was able to obtain funding on the pedestrian safety projects we developed from the Trailways and Safe Routes to Schools program. I am still baffled as to why there is not yet a stop sign at Midland Avenue.
Public Recreation – (A) The Recreation Dept does an excellent job in delivering higher cost-recovery to the tax-payers than budgeted each year and continues to deliver high-level programs and facilities that enhance our quality of life.
City Manager Turnover – (F) As a City Manager form of Government we need to stabilize that position and cannot afford the financial and opportunity cost of the constant turnover of 4 times in 8 years.
Osborn Litigation – (C) The ongoing litigation fees to the taxpayers of over $10M and the higher taxes paid without relief by the residents that live there are burdens that after a decade need resolution.
1037 Boston Post Road – (F) The purchase of 1037 Boston Post Road (Old CVS Bldg) for a potential police station has been a huge financial misstep by the City with an upcoming $5M bond on completion of the sale, a commercial property loss on the building value, monthly losses on the lease payments and interest charges, loss on the City tax rolls, and a $15M capital improvement to turn the building into a police station in a flood zone. After 10 years of planning and 3 consultants – we need new leadership on this.
Ongoing City Hall Controversies – (F) the handling of Hen Island , Schubert Pond, and the Shew firing continue to bog down the work of the Council and have cost the City a great deal in terms of time, money and reputation.
What are your three greatest contributions to Rye?
As Chairman of the Rye Recreation Commission
• Cost-recovery to Rye taxpayers: Annually achieved higher cost-recovery to Rye City taxpayers of Recreation operating expenses than budgeted for
• New Field/activity space: Expansion of the Damiano Recreation Center for multi-use and senior space, the new Rye Nursery field for school and City soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. The new Rye Skateboard Park for teen activities. The 2 new baseball fields at Disbrow Park for Rye Girls Sports, Little League and Babe Ruth. The new plans for development of the Thruway Field.
As Chair of the Joint Committee on the Feasibility of Purchasing the Durland Center
• Led the financial analysis and forecasting on the revenue/cost impact to taxpayers on a joint lease or purchase of the Center between the City and School District from a third-party seller
As Co-Chair of the Safe Routes to School and Trailways Committee
• Developed and presented the full report on recommendations to City Council on pedestrian safety with immediate priorities tied to the Boston Post Road, sidewalks to Rye Neck Schools, the Oakland Beach Avenue/Hix Road sidewalk area, and Forest Avenue road widening for walkers, joggers and bikers. Funding has been secured for most by Asst City Manager.
What are the three best reasons to live in Rye?
1. The community – Rye is a true community with real neighborhoods of friendships, collaboration and cooperation one will not find anywhere else.
2. The people – the sense of volunteerism and help thy neighbor is as strong today as it was 22 years ago when I moved here.
3. The assets – The combination of the schools, organizations, open spaces, water front, and downtown and more make it the great place that it is.
Where can we find you on a Saturday morning?
Usually activities with kids – Little league, Tae-Kwon-Do, dance, soccer, etc.
We eat out a lot and having been in Rye 22 years, we go back to our regular spots that have been around a long time like Belluscio's, Town Dock (Maple Tree) and Kelly’s Sea Level. Other nights we rotate across the many new establishments that have come to Rye as well as Sunrise for pizza, Piazza Pizza for delivery and Poppy’s for breakfast.
Where do you live in Rye?
46 Meadow Place (10 years)
Formerly — 13 Richard Place (7 years) (still own, but rent out)
Formerly — 64 Grapal St as a renter (5 years)
Graduated from Rye Neck School District
How else are you involved in the community?
Past and Present
Chair – Rye Recreations Commission
Rye Cable Commission
Co-Chair – Rye Trailways and Safe Routes to School Chair
Chair – Rye Durland Feasibility Study
Former Vice-Chair, Rye City Republican Committee
Rye Nature Center
Rye Arts Center
Rye Little League
Rye Girls Sports
Rye Pack 2 – Cub Scouts
Rye Middle School
Rye High School
Manursing Island Club
Rye Golf Club
Tell us your contact information:
web site: changeforrye.com
phone: 917-821-4344 cell, 914-967-7298 home
email address email@example.com
Your Twitter account: tbd
Your Facebook account: douglas french