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Home Government Speaking French: State of Rye City Address 2012

Speaking French: State of Rye City Address 2012

Wednesday evening at the Rye City Council meeting, Rye Mayor Doug French delivered the Rye City 2012 State of the City Address. Here is the address in its entirety. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

2012 STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS

Douglas French — Mayor, City of Rye

January 11, 2012

Good evening, it is an honor to once again stand before you as Mayor of the City of Rye to present the State of the City on this night and in this year – the year when the City celebrates its 70th anniversary of becoming a City.

Mayor Platt, Rye’s first Mayor and whose portrait hangs in the Mayor’s Conference room said in his inaugural address, given less than one month after World War ll had been declared, said that the world “…was in troublesome times …had we known such times were coming I sometimes wonder whether we would have undertaken this course … In any event we have a job to do, we will carry on…”

70 years later, while the circumstances are far different, the same spirit now is called for all of us – for now is the time for the City to once again be pioneers and look forward, and not be historians and look back.  Government as we know it needs to continue to change and we need to lead it.

There is a basic pact when each of us moved to Rye – great schools, great services, great value.  That pact was threatened in 2011 as two forces – the prolonged economic recession and Mother Nature – put significant financial and emotional strain on the residents who make up our community.

  • Residents like the retired couple who have spent their lives in Rye and now on a fixed income can no longer afford the rapid rise of School, City and County property taxes.
  • Residents like the working couple who need two incomes to be able to afford to live here – but one has lost their job and remains unemployed.
  • Or, residents like the working professional who is under-employed and has experienced a significant drop in their compensation and retirement plan; yet have incurred spikes in their healthcare coverage expenses.
  • Or residents whose homes have faced drops in property values based on market conditions or flood waters.

Those are the conditions that shape the actions and policies of this Mayor, this Council and this City Management.

So, the state of the City tonight is one of resilience.  Here are the highlights of what to expect in 2012 and the New Year.

Property Tax Relief – In the Spring of 2009 we began calling for property tax relief.  The prior 10 years at that time had an average property tax increase for City services of 6.5% for each year for 10 years.  Since then, the property tax increase has totaled only 5.4% for the last 3 years — or an average of 1.8% per year.  While the average property tax levy increase per year in the prior 10 years was about $1M in each year, for the last 3 years that amount has totaled to roughly that amount.  So, we will continue to manage costs and explore new revenue sources such as the transfer tax on cash home sales for example.

Healthcare – At a time when property values are declining or holding flat, mandated federal healthcare legislation and New York State pensions are growing at double-digits – putting enormous strain on local governments.  While New York State manages the pension system and seems unlikely to make any meaningful reforms, the City will need to address the growing unfunded liability of employee healthcare to include reviewing with our City Manger and Finance Committee healthcare plan design, plan savings, and employee contributions.

Preventative Litigation — Two things we know, one, everyone wants to sue the City; and two, every municipality has a different structure for their law department.  We took a different approach and looked at legal services from a business perspective.  Rather than pay attorneys hourly rates to get us out of disputes, we changed the model and are paying a fixed rate to help pre-empt disputes by having Corporation Counsel at City Hall working with staff, Council and our boards.  We also have one of the leading municipal law firms in the state at the ready should we need additional legal support. The results speak for themselves. Legal expenses and the litigation hourly rate are down, our docket is shrinking, and we have either settled favorably or won our cases.

The One-Taxpayer Approach – Along with coming together in 2011 to settle the long-standing Osborn Home dispute, the School district and the City have worked together on pedestrian safety and recreation initiatives.  This has carried through in coordinating capital planning and exploring shared services.  This will continue in 2012.

Fair and Affordable Labor Deals – The ability to pay for Rye taxpayers during the continued economic recession and in particular with the consolidation of the financial services industry of which Rye residents are tied closely to, calls for the City and its Police and Fire Department unions to agree on new fair and affordable labor deals as those contracts expired years ago.

Flood Mitigation.  Rye has flooded and will flood again.  This chamber has been filled the last 5 years with residents – and rightfully so, who are frustrated that the City (the people who have sat and sit at this dais) have not done more.  But real mitigation is going to need real investment.  The message from the Federal, State and County is clear; the local stakeholder needs to make a significant financial commitment first.  Yet, Rye is divided on this issue.  We will let the people decide and will work to put forth a flood mitigation measure for a public vote by the end of this year.  Our plan is to retain more water upstream, starting behind Bowman Dam and to ensure that individuals and businesses make smarter/safer decisions for preparedness downstream.

Capital Investment — The City’s roads and infrastructure are worn.  Purchase Street for example, the heart of the City, has not been fully re-paved since 1985.  The City will review with the community infrastructure priorities for immediate need, that include recommendations from our Shared Roadways Committee, and will review how best to fund capital improvements that may include a potential bond at the end of this year.

Trash Collection – One of the basic staples of living in the City is to have your trash picked up – no one does it better than our DPW department.  But are there ways to save money for the long-term?  The City Council will ask the City Manager and our Finance Committee to tap into the experts on waste management to identify and make recommendations.

The Fire Department – The Fire Department has served the City extraordinarily well for decades and is a pillar of our community.  Few residents realize though that our volunteer firefighters and paid firefighters each report into 2 separate entities.  In any organization, especially when dealing with public safety and in a tax-cap world, the buck needs to stop with one person.  The City Manager and I have spent the past year speaking with the Board of Wardens, Fire Chiefs, paid personnel, and volunteer firefighters discussing better alignment and we hope to finalize a plan in the coming weeks to meet these objectives.

Emergency services — To supplement the great work by our first responders in emergency situations, the Council since Tropical Storm Irene has met with local organizations and leaders to discuss the creation of a volunteer network that could assist the community in many ways to include housing, transportation, working at shelters, communication and outreach, or clearing up debris to name a few.  More on this to come.  In addition, our public notification e-mail and text system – nixle.com that complements the reverse 911 phone calls continues to expand.  Every Rye resident should sign up for this notification service to stay informed of emergency, public safety, weather and traffic issues around our City.

Recreation Services – Our recreational facilities, fields and open space are foundational to our quality of life here in Rye, but now is time to review them in a broader strategic context collectively to see if there are ways to optimize recreation opportunities.  Why is it that Rye Recreation Summer Camps do not use Rye Town Park, or why do Rye organizations go outside of Rye to hold their functions and not at the City-owned Whitby Castle, or that organizations such as the YMCA and others are in need of space for community programming, but the Damiano Center at times sits dormant.  I would like to propose a Recreation Taskforce that is made up across key stakeholders to see where opportunities can be accelerated and scaled.  And of course, we will continue to have our voice heard with the County as they look at the future of Playland and appreciate their inclusion of us in the process.

Environmental Sustainability – In response to public interest, we established an environmental sustainability committee to put together a sustainability plan for the City to look at our community carbon footprint, recycling improvements and community education.  Their efforts have reflected the growing interests of a broad cross-section of Rye residents.

Preserving History — Our history is what ties our generations together and we have continued to make it a priority of who we are as a community.  One example is the public-private partnership to restore the Friends Meeting House and the Bird Homestead has proven very successful and is bringing a community spirit to that area after 10 years of being dormant.

So, as the City Council of Rye pauses at this address and to recognize the 70th Birthday of the City; we want to acknowledge the contributions of all those who have served before us; and also that we will heed the words spoken by Mayor Platt at his inauguration “… to govern wisely for the greater benefit of all.”

So thank you to our City Manager Scott Pickup, his management team and the City employees.  Thank you to our many committees, groups, and organizations — the volunteers who spend hours advocating for their organizations, serving government committees and planning for the future.

A special thanks to my colleagues.  Let me again be the first one this year to say thank you for your public service to Rye.  Our role as Mayor and Council is to balance short-term community needs by making long-term decisions – sometimes very tough ones.  We have done that and will continue to do so.  So, on behalf of the Council, we look forward to 2012, ready to represent you, work with you and ready to serve.  Thank you.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I just watched a replay of tonight’s “Residents May Be Heard” section of the Rye City Council Meeting. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but ask why Ted Carroll, Jordan Glass and Ray Tartaglione approached the podium, delivered their remarks, and then left the podium without challenging or questioning the Council on the Schubert matter. I understand the Council has no obligation to engage in a debate, but how exactly does Ted plan on addressing this matter so long as the Council remains silent?

    I watched Ted’s speech tonight- live on Rye TV- as the Mayor sat back in his chair, skimmed through his notes, explored his I-Pad, and watched the clock tick to the 5 min limit.

    The Mayor’s body language and nonchalant attitude illustrate that Mr. Schubert’s illness and ultimate death meant nothing but a weight lifted off the Council’s shoulders- so long as the Mayor can manage to humor the “open mic” agenda item without drawing further attention to the issue.

    I am curious as to how Ted plans to “bring to light” the Schubert cover up- especially since his primary evidence consists of a box of stolen Rye City documents (which I have no doubt actually exist). The legal implications may have hindered a news media blowout (that would surely make for some awkward dinner conversation between the Jovanovich’s…), but is it possible that Ted is willing to divulge his source to protect Bob Schubert’s legacy? At this rate, it seems like more podium time is merely a continuous cycle of wasted time as we have seen with the unaddressed issues of the Mayor’s illegal rental property at 13 Richard Place, violations on Hen Island, and the Midland Avenue stop-sign.

  2. Civil Servant,
    Do you think the Mayor is actually skimming thru notes or could there be someone on the other side scripting his responses and statements?
    I can tell you with 100% CERTAINTY that the documents Mr. Carroll speaks of do exist!!!
    I have not only read them but I also warned the Mayor not to take the route he was about to embark upon because of these documents.
    As you can see he did not take my advice!!!
    As you witnessed, Councilman Sack was the only member who had enough decency to recognize the passing of Mr. Schubert.
    No 20sec moment of silence, zero reaction from the other 8 individuals at the table…why wait for a response that all 3 men knew was not coming???

  3. Speech to the Rye City Council – January 11th 2012.

    “Good Evening. I’ve just provided the city council members with a single page document – and while it moves across the bench I’ll read the TV viewers a personal commentary I wrote not long ago.

    I’m a lifelong Rye resident who worked tirelessly for this city council majority’s election in 2009. And this council’s continuing strategic silence since that so called “change” election victory on this very big local issue disgusts me. But here’s a story –

    Decades ago my once boss and eventual partner (now retired) former CBS, Inc. President John D. Backe sharply scolded me for casually mentioning that TV Network Family Viewing Hour Regulations were becoming passé and irrelevant in a 500 channel universe. He said it was the duty of all broadcasters to think first and foremost of the possibility that impressionable young children could be exposed to inappropriate material without their parents knowledge or guidance, and that their faith in the integrity of the CBS Network and the affiliates would be irreparably harmed if this did in fact take place.

    This served as a kind of brush-back-pass at me about the duties and responsibilities of those in positions of power, and was meant as a lesson about protecting the vulnerable and by doing so protecting your own interests and vulnerabilities. I always kept it in mind from that day forward as a board member and executive at the dozens of U.S. media and information companies we’ve owned.

    Imagine therefore if you will that unlike some of the current members of this stunningly incurious Rye City Council, someone trained as I was has now reviewed hundreds of pages of transcripts of testimony under oath, stolen Rye City documents, secret photographs, engineering reports and engineering drawings, and scientific analyses and studies gathered under compulsion by order of a Judge in good standing that – to anyone other than a liar – show a stark apparent pattern of malfeasance and corruption (including testimony to personal corruption under oath) reaching from employees and lawyers up to and including now members of the executive office of the county government. This evidence currently sits in cardboard boxes in a home on Milton Point wholly owned by a vulnerable senior citizen (now deceased) who did absolutely nothing to bring this entire matter upon himself. This is exactly the kind of person that any legitimate government is charged with protecting from acts of this nature committed by anyone, including and especially the government itself.

    A former Rye City Mayor and retired Judge knows about all this and has publically called for a local public investigation (as outlined in the Rye City charter). A sitting councilmember who’s an attorney in good standing in the State of New York has publically done the same. And hundreds of regular Rye City residents have signed petitions supporting such an investigation and an accounting of the matter and they’ve been delivered (repeatedly) to members of the city council.

    The outcry over this matter helped tip the city election of 2009 to the current council majority, all of whom promised to support a public investigation to identify the wrongdoers, remediate the damages and thus put the matter behind the city so that they could govern a credible, trustworthy institution going forward. Then they did nothing but quietly over time become “advised” to join the stonewallers.

    So a key question before our reformers kick into overdrive therefore is who has the courage and wisdom to remove the wraps here once and for all? Who’s a promise keeper and sees it in the interest of all Rye City Taxpayers and Property Owners to clean out the barn and start governing here in the mold of those who came before, keeping Rye highest on the map of well run municipalities and thus attractive to the people who live – or might one day live here.

    That’s it for the story part that I came to tell you – now, about that document I just gave you….it is false – a false instrument – a lie – made up – fake – untruthful – and so I didn’t want to be accused of not warning you about it.

    And this (hold’s up a 2nd document partially covered by envelope) is an actual stolen Rye City document, no longer here at Rye City Hall, nonexistent as far as you and the public have been told. As you can see it’s written on official letterhead with the city seal prominently displayed. It refutes everything in the written lie you now have before you.

    Now I’m sorry that I can’t give you this stolen city property tonight. It is strange but this stolen document is actually now owned by Rita Schubert, Bob Schubert’s wife. And while I don’t yet have her permission to give it to you – I’m going to ask her if she would consent to having it returned to you – and the public – and if she consents.

    I’ll be back at the next meeting or one following it and ask you if you’d like to have the stolen property returned. And at that time I’ll ask you to begin a council administered public investigation of the events surrounding the matter known as Schubert’s Pond. Because I want you to know, this matter will be sun lighted, one way or another – so long as I have a breath left in my body.”

  4. Here is a 2-part Rye TV panel discussion program mentioning more of the key evidence gathered about Schubert’s Pond that’s been long suppressed by Rye officials.

    When it was “aired” previously on Rye TV, a series of so called “technical difficulties” prevented Rye viewers from getting clear simultaneous audio and video tracks for the show – thus many gave up watching within a few minutes out of frustration.

    These now YouTube-ed sessions were made from a disk copy obtained directly from Rye TV last week. As viewers can see, there are no “technical difficulties” at all in the show – which was taken directly from the original master disk, archived by Rye TV.

    Schubert’s Pond- Season 4, Episode 1 Part 1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWsRNBcYA64&feature=related

    Schubert’s Pond- Season 4, Episode 1 Part 2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVuqmEoATcc&feature=related

  5. S 165.40 Criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree.

    A person is guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner thereof.

    Criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree is a class A misdemeanor.

  6. Average-

    Do you understand how many laws and “rules” were broken on behalf on Rye City throughout the process of covering up what happened to Mr. Schubert? There is no remaining recourse.

    If the release of an illegal document sheds light on the dozens of laws broken by our representatives and city employees, I think Ted would be more than happy to let the people decide the consequence.

  7. The “old” Rye as we know it is gone and dead. The people who have lived here for decades being pushed out slowly. Days when you lived and worked in this town are gone. When you cops, firefighters and DPW workers lived and worked in town and had that close knit community feel. Only a handful of these guys remain. Our community leaders are transplants who only have lived here 15 or so years or less. The Police Dept has a leader who doesn’t know Rye and our council lets him do whatever he likes. Our Fire Dept is losing a long time leader to retirement and changes could come there that could ruin them. It is sad. One time people cared but they no longer do here, and America as a whole. Ship is all but sunk.

  8. Average Citizen,

    Do you know what happens to people that are charged with a Class A Misdemeanor……NOTHING!

    At best a slap on the wrist….Bob Schubert is worth every bit of this and then some!!!

    Ted, Ray, Jordan, Tim, and myself would all put our name on it in a Rye New York minute!!!

  9. New National Poll out Today:

    39% Say U.S. Has Crony Capitalist System http://bit.ly/zZx5In

    “Crony capitalism is generally considered a system in which the most successful businesses have a close relationship with influential government officials.”

    Yes. And crony capitalism is also applicable to what is generally considered the “political class” – which can be substituted for “successful businesses” in the definition above – and is surely on ludicrous display in Rye today.

    ETHICS BOARD MEMBERS, WHO LED SEARCH FOR CANDIDATE FRENCH IN 2009 AND CONTRIBUTED OVER $1600 TO HIS CAMPAIGN, SEE NO CONFLICT OF INTEREST–DISMISS COMPLAINT AGAINST MAYOR

    Watch the very short public portion of this Ethics Board Meeting here –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWbejVFyN7A

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