Today MyRye.com is carrying a guest column from Charmian Neary on her choices on November 3rd.
Charmian Neary is a parent in the Midland School District, serves on the school board finance and budget committee and organizes Friends of the Rye City School District every year, an ad hoc group of women who work to turn out the vote for the school budget.
A polemic on change as a mantra in local politics by Charmian Neary
The public's general unease about the economy and our skepticism toward the effectiveness of our representatives in Washington – and certainly in Albany – should not degenerate into a compulsion to throw the baby out with the bath water this Tuesday, Election Day. Here in Rye, we have our issues that need attention to be sure, but our City is well run – why change that?
Change is a popular slogan, and particularly after Obama's victory, candidates all over are clambering onto that band wagon hoping to be carried along without scrutiny. If the people in office are performing well, however, the community loses when there's a change, as anyone new to the office has a learning curve. In this race the loss would be greater, as the challengers are less experienced and less qualified to begin with, and certainly less familiar with Rye.
The truth is, Rye is in good shape financially, and as much as we've been hit by the national recession, we're relatively unscathed when compared to the nation as a whole. Relative to Scarsdale and Larchmont and Mamaroneck and Harrison, which are the communities faced with the same State and County tax burden, Steve Otis has done well for Rye. Our tax rate is lower than all of theirs. Are taxes too high? Of course they are, but not because of our current Mayor or Council. Informed people know that and won't fall for pie in the sky political fairy tales telling them otherwise.
I want Rye to remain affordable as much as anyone, if only because my husband and I are on the lower end of the income scale here and its getting tougher to make ends meet. I don't want Rye to change, however. I want it to remain the beautiful City I fell in love with when I first decided to move here on a warm October day in 2002.
I haven't heard a word – through all the campaign rhetoric and the flurry of critical mail and ads with which we've been inundated – to indicate to me that the candidates running on the vague platform of change have any idea what it really takes to govern on a day to day basis. Its easy to spout empty slogans when you're on the outside looking in, but good governance is a laborious process that can't be summed up in carefully scripted and recited talking points. Campaigns can be all about soaring rhetoric… Yes We Can! … Government is a different animal. It is not the private sector, nor can it be, as Mayor Bloomberg, one of the world's most successful entrepreneurs, has discovered. His days as filled with raising taxes and cutting services and making compromises and fending off criticism from those who've never governed yet think they have all the answers. That is the reality of public service.
Even Barack Obama has had to realize that town halls and focus groups and all the slick 21st century bells and whistles do nothing to turn the economy around. He has learned that the reality of campaigning is far different from the reality of actually governing…its much more complicated than that.
I hear from the French team "we'll listen to you, the people". Nice sentiment…problem is the people don't speak in one voice… the people will take you in all sorts of contradictory directions if you try to follow their wishes. To govern effectively one must LEAD — even when its unpopular.
You know I would have laughed if they weren't so dead serious when I saw the agenda French and the changers assembled from their "town hall" at the Rye Rec. which I attended.
Spend less… AND Invest in our roads and sidewalks… Improve employee morale… AND Renegotiate labor contracts to reduce costs… Put pedestrians first… AND Build more parking for cars … stacked, covered, multi-level parking, no less
Work toward a safer, greener Rye… AND allow cell towers in residential areas
Have our cake… AND eat it too!
When the French slate criticizes our current administration relentlessly, they are not only casting aspersions on the men who are running this year but on all seven men and women who volunteer to serve. I don't believe French has answers to issues that seven intelligent people have somehow overlooked, or worse, considered and dismissed through shortsightedness… or an inability to think proactively.
And before we resort to the fallback cliche of new blood as a panacea, consider this – none of the council members has been in office longer than 4 years.
Steve Otis and Andy Ball have done a fine job as Mayor and Councilman – a fine job. They have done so while remaining composed in the face of blistering criticism from a small minority of citizens. Most people could not handle what they've been through, let alone raise their hands to endure it again. I have enormous respect for Joe Murphy by virtue of his decades of service to our community as well as his service to our country in the military. And I admire Myles Lavelle for stepping up to the plate and agreeing to serve on our council, bringing to the office not only his intelligence but his talent in running one of our most cherished institutions, the Rye Little League. Myles also possesses something he may take for granted, but which is nonetheless invaluable in making sound decisions for a community. Myles benefits from the deep roots of his parents and brothers and sisters, nearly all of whom have chosen to remain in Rye and add to its strength by buying homes and raising children here, rather than tearing it down with insinuations that Rye isn't worth it.
We're in the middle of the worst economic crisis in nearly eighty years. It is no mystery why we're all feeling anxious about the future – yet its nothing endemic to Rye. Let's not give in to the mentality of a small craven mob and look for someone to pillory. I hope we in Rye make our decisions in a more rational manner.
I'll be voting for Steve Otis Andy Ball, Myles Lavelle and Joe Murphy on Tuesday. Their experience and qualifications can't be matched.