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Home Government Ex-Councilman Fahey: Why I’m Voting for Change

Ex-Councilman Fahey: Why I’m Voting for Change

Today MyRye.com is carrying a guest column from former Rye City Councilman Matt Fahey on his choices on November 3rd:

Why I’m Voting for Change by Matt Fahey

I am enthusiastically voting for the Change for Rye team, because I believe the time has come for new leadership, which will bring with it a renewed sense of purpose, a fresh approach, and a higher energy level.

A Renewed Sense of Purpose

Fahey quote The “Change for Rye” team of French, Filippi, Jovanovich and Keith will re-focus council attention on city business. Their plan to institute long-term financial planning, continuous budgeting and more frequent performance reviews will highlight what’s necessary to contain our debt and taxes. It will frame the debate on what we must do vs. what we’d like to do. They won’t be afraid to act decisively.

The current City Council is failing to address major challenges. This lack of direction is having a very real – and costly – impact on our tax rates and our financial well-being. Steve would have us believe our finances are strong, since Rye’s municipal taxes are among the lowest in Westchester. Given that Westchester is the highest-taxed county in the country, that’s the equivalent of being the skinniest kid at fat camp.

Furthermore, Steve and his team have repeatedly stated that nothing can be done to improve affordability in Rye. For this reason alone, they don’t deserve to be on the council. It is simply unacceptable that our current elected representatives are giving up on their core duty.

A Fresh Approach

Steve claims that he is the only one capable of running the city. To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, “When a mayor feels that he is the only one who can lead the city, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of democracy”. The great strength of our form of government is that no man is irreplaceable, no one elected official inviolate. Newly elected officials create new opportunities and find new solutions to old problems.

One such solution proposed by the Change for Rye team is to separate the “open microphone” sessions from the full council meetings. The “open microphone” sessions have several drawbacks that have alienated Rye residents from their elected officials. First, it takes away valuable time from official city business. Secondly, it requires that anyone looking for guidance or help from the city council to appear on city-wide TV, no matter how small or trivial their request. Thirdly, it attracts publicity-seeking stunts designed to politicize personal issues and win public support.

Holding an “Open Forum” night, with only one or two council members and the city manager in attendance to work constructively with residents to resolve their issues is a great idea, just one of many the “Change for Rye” team has.

A Higher Energy Level

Lastly, even the most casual observer must have noted the difference in energy and enthusiasm between the two parties. Just about any Saturday or Sunday, Doug, Peter, Suzanna and Richard are walking through the downtown business district, listening to the problems of Rye’s residents and asking for their support. They’re also at the train station on a regular basis, handing out leaflets, and knocking on doors at night. They have been listening to the public’s concerns for months.

By contrast, I have yet to see the mayor and his team campaigning in public – aside from some cheesy aerial advertising at the Rye-Harrison football game. In fact, the Mayor and his team didn’t even bother showing up to a recent debate on environmental issues, hosted by the Environmental Advocacy Group of Rye. I have to wonder… do they even want to win? I’m voting for the team that has the desire to win, has some new ideas and are committed to improving Rye. I’m voting for Change!


  1. Matt, nice post. As I alluded to yesterday, it’s nice to see fresh ideas in a well thought out post, as opposed to the same old “copy & paste” regurgitated messages.

    Interesting idea re: open mic night. I vote ‘yes’ but I could see the posts here talking about that ‘silencing’ people. On one hand I applaud Ray for his dedication in keeping his issue in the spotlight, although I don’t agree with his methods. But at the end of the day, he is accomplishing what he set out to, so can you really fault him?

    As for taxes, my question is ‘what is an acceptable tax increase?’ We all would love to have little or no increase, but is that truly obtainable? Is it possible to have taxes go down, especially in this environment? Contrary to many, I am not involved with any candidates, so this is not a tacit endorsement of any candidate. Call me a lemming, but keep my increase under 5% and there probably isn’t much I can complain about (now that is just a ‘rule of thumb’). Salaries always make up a big chuck of a muni budget, and built in there are annual salary increases (usually contractual), increased pension and benefit costs, state mandates, etc. That coupled with capital improvements that keep getting put off only increase costs.

    I’ll finish this in a bit…I have a train to catch.

    Again, nice post.

  2. Average Citizen –
    Thanks for the compliment!
    The idea of separating the open mic sessions to another night, with perhaps a subset of the council is not to silence anyone. It is to allow the council sufficient time and focus to attend to city business.
    Residents with problems or concerns could sit down at the same table with the city manager and one or two councilmen, rather than facing the entire council. Too often I’ve seen a simple request get blown out of proportion because council members start to grandstand. They must think there’s some kind of Emmy award to the council member who bloviates endlessly.
    Unfortunately, the current procedure allows one or two individuals to hijack the meeting, as they see it’s free publicity for their pet cause.
    As to the “acceptable tax increase”, I’ve always liked the idea that the total tax increase should be tied to the rate of inflation. In a city with a stable population like Rye, we shouldn’t see government as a growth industry. Several years back, Colorado enacted a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which ties any tax increase to a combination of increases in population and the cost of living. Any additional increase needs to be voted in by referendum.

  3. Matt,
    I agree with your post with the exception of your comment “ Thirdly, it attracts publicity-seeking stunts designed to politicize personal issues and win public support.” I assume you are referring to me and my HEALtheHARBOR campaign as one of them.
    The “attracts publicity-seeking stunts” part, I agree with. Where I have a problem is “politicize personal issues and win public support”. I really don’t think the Hen Island controversy is a personal issue. I think protecting the health and safety of residents and the Long Island Sound is and should be a public concern and a function of our elected officials.
    The only reason we have Mr. Floatie and his bag of tricks is because Steve Otis has tried to cover-up and protect a community that has never been required to meet any of the health and safety codes. To this day I have no idea why, with the exception of the BS that he and part of the Hen Island Board of Directors would like everyone to believe, and that is that I have a personal agenda. I have heard that my agenda was to develop the Island. Just for the record I happen to like the island just the way it is less the obvious health safety and environmental issues.
    I whole heartily agree with your comment “Newly elected officials create new opportunities and find new solutions to old problems.”
    I welcome a new administration that I believe will respond to complaints appropriately and not attempt to sweep them under the carpet because the city had previously made mistakes. If you look at many of the problems brought to light from those “looking for guidance or help from the city council”, the one common denominator that has inflated the issues is Steve Otis’s attempt to hide the truth and not deal with the problem from the onset. I believe that is one Of Steve’s biggest shortcomings and will eventually be his downfall. If I could vote in Rye, I would also vote for change unfortunately I can’t but I am encouraging everyone that can to Vote Otis Out on November 3rd. I wish Mayor Otis well but please send him a message so he will know what not to do when he finally gets where he wants to be in Albany.

  4. Ray –

    I had two examples of publicity-seeking activities in mind when making that statement. One was active, the other passive.
    The active is Mr Schubert, who has actively and repeatedly petitioned for redress to his pond issues, often at great length. Whether intended or not, his arguments to the council have taken away time from other business that benefits all of Rye.
    There has also been passive publicity-seeking activities from “Mr. Floatie” and “Jack-A”, which serve to embarrass the council with their physical presence but do not take up any time. On the occasions that I’ve seen you speaking to the council, you’ve kept to the suggested time limit of 5 minutes.
    Unfortunately, the current council has decided on a policy of “let them talk, let them visit, but do nothing, say nothing.” The “silent seven” will not engage in a public dialogue. Having served with some of them, I believe that at least one of them, possibly more, would like to help resolve these issues. Yet, based on their silence, I can only conclude that either they’ve been effectively muzzled by Steve, or do not believe a public dialogue on these matters is the best approach.
    Given that these issues continue to plague us after 3 years with no action that I know of from any council member, I fear it’s the former. I’ll ask you directly – wouldn’t you prefer to have the opportunity to work with the city manager and a sitting council member or two who want to help address your concerns? I don’t think Mr. Schubert, Mr. Floatie and Jack-A are up there because they love to be the laughingstock by the town. While I admire their dedication, I think the issues they raise can be worked on more effectively outside the limelight.
    Like many in Rye, I’m looking forward to a new government, one that will seek to provide solutions instead of stone walls. It starts with voting next Tuesday…

  5. Matt,

    I agree with your private forum approach wholeheartedly.

    As I think you know, simple matters such as wetland and watercourse permits have an existing channel for acceptance or denial at City Hall. The City Naturalist makes a determination of wetland or no wetland – if wetland then it’s off to CCAC and Planning where a council representative is usually in residence at both. The full city council is rarely if ever involved in something like this.

    Since this STANDARD PROCESS was entirely circumvented in the Gates/Schubert controversy, both Planning and CCAC had no remedy for Mr. Schubert other than to direct him to the council which put him in the public spotlight again and again and again.

    Bob did work tirelessly through the departments at city hall in his backchannel effort for protection but everyone there during those days reported to Paul Shew. And we now know that Shew was not fully candid with the Council about the Gates/Schubert matter.

    After Shew was removed, the city’s special hydrology consultant – sourced by Corporation Counsel Kevin Plunkett – stated in his public testimony that the less than 100 foot upstream Gate’s property was a wetland. This was confirmed by Rye’s former City Naturalist who challenged the Mayor’s characterizations of the sequence of events despite her husband still being a city employee. A truly brave woman.

    I can assure you that Mr. Schubert would have given anything not to have to make those televised appearances before the only governing body ultimately made available to him by this Administration for redress. He really hated having to go there. The only thing Mr. Schubert would not give up was his right to protection from the damages to his wetlands caused by upstream construction that the city had granted permission for wholly outside of the process called for under its own existing city code.

    Here’s a suggestion Matt. Let’s vote Doug French into office and challenge him not to let any wetland permitting funny business take place under his watch. The process that exists is very costly to the applicants but it works. I know this because I was one once of them.


  6. Ted –

    I can’t claim credit for this idea – the Change for Rye team came up with it.
    I do wish I had thought of it when on the council. It would have saved the city much embarassment, Schubert a lot of time and effort, and the council would have been able to focus more time on topics that would have benefitted all in the city… though I doubt the mayor would have allowed this change in process. He’s too hidebound to existing procedures, even when they don’t work.
    Yet another reason to vote for Change in Rye. See you at the polls!

  7. I do not think we should rush into a private meeting on the side theory just yet.

    When Doug French is elected I’m sure we will see the Council meetings return to glory.

    Having closed door meetings just keeps the NON-TRANSPARENCY theory alive!

    Doug has the right idea, hear the resident, investigate the complaint, start a dialogue if necessary and include the resident in all decisions on that complaint.
    By hearing the resident on camera this gives opportunity to other residents that might have some helpful insight on the complaint.

    We need to take this slowly and think it through thoroughly!

    I completely agree with Ray here.

    I have said in the past and I will stand by it; Ray may be responsible for Mr.Floatie & Jack A. but MAYOR OTIS IS THEIR CREATOR! Dr.Frankenstein if you will!

    Matt, You hit the nail on the head…GRANDSTANDING!
    I will not miss this one bit!

    I don’t think you did yourself any favors with the “Pet Cause” remark!

    changeforrye.com – I COULDN’T AGREE MORE!

  8. Yes Charmian Neary, you go catch that train!

    You know, the best way to be heard is on camera at a City Council Meeting! Next one is on Nov.4th, hope to see you there!

    FTR – Mrs.Neary, I did not appreciate being included in your campaign stunt for Mayor Otis in your email response to Mr.Amico.

    That man and his family have been thru enough, don’t you think?
    Mr.Amico has been working effortlessly on behalf of Pedestrian Safety for the safety of all of us.

    BTW-Don’t you also live on Midland Ave.? Don’t recall hearing your opinion on all this?

    Do you agree or disagree with Mr.Amico’s quest for a Stop Sign?

    Knowing Jim, I doubt he took what you did sitting down!
    He definitely did not deserve being hit below the belt with a knife in his back!!!

    Please exclude me from your further shananagins!!!

  9. Matt:

    The problem does not lie with Ray, Jim Ted, Mr. Schubert, Mr. King, Mrs. Sinnott, the Rye PBA, the Rye Professional Fire Fighters or anyone else who has been forced to address their issues with the Rye City Council. The problem lies right at the feet of Otis.

    He hired Shew for a no show job and gave away the store when it came to his salary and unheard of perks.

    Shew was a piece of crap who never responded to any residents or the employees of the City of Rye. This was widely reported to Otis. Residents and employees became frustrated and were forced to take their issues to the City Council.

    What did Otis do? He backed up Shew with many words of praise despite Shew’s obvious incompetence, mismanagement and his living in Massachusetts.

    What else did Otis do to address Shew? He gave Shew $58,000 in raises in less than 5 years.

    If Rye hires a competent, responsive and accountable City Manager there would be no need for residents and employees to show up at City Council meetings so angry and frustrated. If they do, a responsive and accountable City Manager should be able to easily quell their concerns with how their issues were addressed or are going to be addressed.

    There is no need to have separate, non-public Council meetings. If someone is not doing their job let the residents see it and let the residents see how the City Council either addresses it or ignores it.

    It is that easy Matt.

    I feel French, Ball, Lavelle and Keith give us the best opportunity for the change and accountability we desperately need.

  10. Above Average -and you most certainly are-

    I hope you don’t mind that I copied your post verbatim and stored it on my computer. When I look back it will be one of the highlights of this campaign.

    Forgive me if I cherry pick a few of your (unintentionally) humorous grammatical errors.

    1) “… have been thru enough, don’t you think?”

    Do I think? Is that a question?

    2) ” has been working effortlessly on behalf of Pedestrian Safety for the safety of all of us.”

    Now this is beautiful…

    ‘working — effortlessly…

    working — effortlessly…

    on behalf of …Pedestrian SAFETY for…the SAFETY of all of us ( let me guess -pedestrians?)

    I can’t think of a better reason.
    And to do it effortlessly, not tirelessly or anything mundane like that, but effortlessly. And on behalf of safety – for the safety.
    That has a Founding Fathers kind of kick to it. What a wordsmith you are!

    3) “Don’t recall hearing your opinion on all this?”

    Is that a question? Do I recall hearing my opinion? Is that what you’re asking?

    4) “Knowing ___, I doubt he took what you did sitting down!
    He definitely did not deserve being hit below the belt with a knife in his back!!!”

    So, let me get this straight. You doubt he was SITTING DOWN… but he was HIT …below the BELT…with a KNIFE…in his BACK.

    So where was the belt – around his neck? Or was he standing on his head? How could the knife be in his back but below his belt ??

    Take a moment to ponder that.

    That is the BEST compound fractured metaphor I’ve ever read.
    It’s so bad, It’s brilliant.

    Oh, and as to your powers of deduction, Above Average. “Average Citizen” thought Matt Fahey’s post supporting French was “fresh” and “well thought out”.

    Wouldn’t you have to be REALLY NOT PAYING ATTENTION to think that was written by me?

    But let me finish…

    here’s the coup de grace…

    5) “Please exclude me from your further shananagins!!!”


    I was going to have some fun here with references to Doo Wop and liquors

    but what I gotta ask is…How can I exclude you when I don’t know who you are?

  11. I am always disheartened when an obviously intelligent individual goes for the jugular of another, perhaps less intelligent, individual. Shame on you Ms. Neary.

    I hope my post contains many humorous grammatical errors for you to correct.

  12. Never claimed to be a Grammar Scholar and could care less. You obviously understood! You don’t need to know who I am. If you eliminate everyone on that list from further contact you have then excluded me. Gee, and I thought you were the smart one!

    I noticed you did not take the time to answer any of the questions that were asked, WHY NOT?

    How about an apology or are you also above that?

    Did you ever catch that train?

  13. Matt,

    I’m still chuckling about that “skinniest kid at fat camp” comment about our bloated spending in Rye. This reminds me that litigation spending by Steve Otis and his unannounced running mate Kevin Plunkett is thru the roof. Plunkett’s banged us for over $1 million in cash fees and salary in just the past few years. And Plunkett now gets full health insurance and a NYS pension on top of that – all charged to Rye taxpayers.

    To shield these facts, the Otis camp is crying “We don’t pick the fights” and “We will defend the taxpayers.” But of course there was absolutely no need to bring matters like the Schubert fiasco into litigation. A municipal mistake occurred and could not be admitted. This non-admission of errors is a pattern in Steve Otis’s career. And Mr. Plunkett is there to reinforce it in front of the other council members. I for one recall a very different Rye before the Otis/Plunkett team got control of the city treasury.


  14. TedC,
    The Village of Dobbs Ferry is in the process of paying one of my firms nearly three million dollars plus they have to pay their own legal fees. We are working out the settlement as we speak. This could have been handled where it would have cost Dobbs Ferry 0, yes zero, zip. Mr. Plunkett was paid for the litigation regardless of the outcome and I believe he was the one steering the ship. BTW, He is no longer with Dobbs Ferry and things seem to be going much smoother.

    From Start to finish it took over eight years. How much did that litigation cost Dobbs Ferry? Why do you think it was started? Who introduced Mr. Plunkett to Rye? Do you see any patterns here?

    In 2007 I was shocked to hear Mr. Plunkett was also the city attorney in Rye when I first made my complaints to the City about Hen Island. It was interesting when problems arose in Dobbs everyone was told not to respond to Mr. Tartaglione concerns. I heard the same response from Rye about Hen Island only in Rye I was directly told “the City attorney has told us not to respond to any of your complaints.” Both responses took place before any litigation was commenced with the City or even contemplated.

    If you would like to see the e-mail between Mr. Plunkett’s office and Shew I would be happy to forward it. It is the smoking gun that proves that Rye was hiding the truth. Do you think Mr. Plunkett’s office would make this statement without speaking to Otis?

  15. Hi my name is Ray. I have alot of money and will sue you,your town, or your island if I dont get my way.

    Your so pathetic.. You think your important in this Mayors race. Do you really think the educated residents of Rye dont see right through you?

  16. AC,
    I will do better than post it. You can watch me read it to the City council. In the clip you can also watch Joe Murphy questioning Otis about the environmental issues. Now, Otis has asked Joe to join his team and stop asking questions about Hen Island.

    The Truth,
    The truth is; the educated residents of Rye only have to watch the video to see the truth. You are correct, I am not important in this mayoral race but what is important is the way Otis has tried to ignore the environmental and Safety laws on Hen Island. You can witness that in this video also. Most of the Hen Islanders believe they have a good lawyer and that is why the case was dismissed. The truth is in an effort to cover-up the Hen Island controversy; Otis has allowed this issue to become a political football. He has called in a few of his political favors on a County level. Meyerson lied to the Judge and here we are today. Let’s see what happens in the appellate division and let’s see how far Otis’s steam reaches. That is the TRUTH.

  17. Ray Truth indeed
    Tell us the truth..did you extend your septic system illegally or did you simply lie about it?
    Assumptions and allegations made from assumptions do not make for truth.
    Calling public official Liars does not make their statements untrue and yours true.

    Point in fact..You have already published Lies and slander. This is a matter of record, NOT assumption.

    You have already been flushed..just putting a little Clorox in the bowl.

  18. Ray,

    You asked below – “How much did that litigation cost Dobbs Ferry?”

    The FOIL data so far for Plunkett indicates between 2001 and 2008 his firms took over $974,000 in fees out of Dobbs Ferry while he took an additional $ 122,500 in salary. Health insurance and NYS public pension contributions are not included in those figures. I believe somewhere in those numbers is your specific matter.


  19. AC –

    I do not have the individual matter breakouts yet. But I do have the following 2001-2008 Town, City and Other Summary Billing and Salary Totals for Kevin Plunkett:

    Dobbs Ferry – billings $974,812, salary $122,500
    Eastchester – billings $363,772
    Irvington – billings $787,741, salary $63,125
    Lewisboro – billings $7100
    Mamaroneck – billings $2,115,699
    Mt Pleasant – billings $$676,501
    New Castle – billings $64,157
    Ossining Town – billings $75,615
    Ossining Village – billings $8,210
    Pelham Village – billings $88,082
    Rye City – billings $772,070, salary $407,708
    Tarrytown – billings $305,348
    Yorktown Schools – billings $326,983
    Rockland County – billings $624,303
    Airmont – billings $207,474
    Nassau County – billings $1,726,863

  20. Wow!!!!

    According to FOIL responses Plunkett and the law firms he is or was a partner in have taken in at least $9,718,000 in taxpayers dollars.

    I guess at least $9,718,000 wasn’t enough because according to the Office of the NYS Comptrollers Office, the City of Rye, the Village of Irvington and the Village of Dobbs Ferry have all contributed to the NYS Retirement System on behalf of Plunkett.

    I believe that Plunkett was working for the City of Rye, the Village of Mamaroneck, the Village of Irvington and the Village of Dobbs Ferry all at the same time.

    There are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a week.

    I guess at least $9,718,000 still wasn’t enough because Otis has the Rye taxpayers paying for Plunkett’s health insurance premiums and who knows what else.

  21. Matt – FYI this was saved thanks to Jay’s files on another MyRye string. Maybe the idea of omitting the public mike needs thought. Schubert absolutely hated to go there but what if the separate body charged with hearing issues off camera falls under the influence of someone like Paul Shew or a crony of someone like Steve Otis???

    “Mysteries in Rye” – An Editorial from The Journal News – March 23rd, 2009.

    [Discussing Schubert events] The public outcry over the psychiatrist stunt (Schubert was even sent the $378 bill!) was enough to bring down Shew, who was fired by the City Council last week – for reasons unrelated to the Schubert affair, the council claimed. But many more questions remain about Schubert’s mysteriously evaporated pond and Rye City Hall’s response to a resident’s valid complaint…

    The city-manager style of government is supposed to free elected officials, like the mayor and the council, from the day-to-day chores of running City Hall and allow them to focus on bigger policy issues. But could city officials have been so removed that they were unaware of Schubert’s many loud and persistent complaints? Did they choose to ignore them until public outrage at the mistreatment of an 86-year-old man made it inconvenient to ignore the complaints any longer?

    The city has, belatedly, launched an investigation to find out what stopped the underground stream from flowing into the Schubert property. Perhaps it should also launch an investigation inward, into how business is conducted in Rye City Hall.”


  22. Ted –

    The idea is not to omit the public, it’s just to make it a bit more of a conversation between a smaller group. Instead of trying to convince 7 people simultaneously, it may be easier to work with one or two rotating council members and city staff to resolve issues. Perhaps the council would consider giving residents a choice of either squaring off with all seven, or sitting down with a smaller group.
    At this point, it’s only an idea, but what I like about the French team is that they have a lot of ideas worth exploring, and they aren’t locked in to defending the current practices which have led to lawsuits, Mr. Floatie, firing a city manager and general public disgust with an ineffectual council.


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