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Sunday, October 2, 2022
Home Government Sack: True to Themselves: Observations on the Candidate Debate

Sack: True to Themselves: Observations on the Candidate Debate

MyRye.com welcomes guest columnist Rye Mayor Joe Sack:

By Mayor Joe Sack

When you run for City Council, things that you say as a candidate don’t just shape voters’ perception of you. You’ve also got to live with your comments if or when you get elected.

This thought crossed my mind this past week, when I was glad for once to be out of the spotlight, and flying under the radar in tee-shirt and baseball cap at the City Council candidate debate.

Here’s a link to the debate tape.

My friend and incumbent Council colleague, Rich Mecca, is running for re-election. Rich has been an integral partner in righting the ship over the past two years. He’s been a leader in thoughtfully addressing the issues of the day, and restoring faith and trust in our local government.

Rich couldn’t make the debate, as he spent the day undergoing a chemo-therapy treatment session. True to character, Rich isn’t making a big deal about this, and his always positive outlook will no doubt fulfill our wishes for his quick recovery.

In any event, it certainly hasn’t slowed him down one bit as a primary contributor at our Council meetings.

In his absence on debate night , however, Rich’s opponents – Emily Hurd, Danielle Tagger-Epstein and Jeff Taylor – tried to portray the Council on which he serves as being ineffective, unresponsive and generally falling down on the job.

I suppose the very nature of a campaign elicits such barbs. Of course, any traction they muster depends on whether they can actually be substantiated.

Certainly, the current Council team’s record of achievement – from hiring a new and honest city manager, to turning things around at Whitby Castle, to finally settling long-standing labor contracts on good terms, to protecting Rye’s interests in connection with proposed large-scale projects at Playland and United Hospital – is something that I’ve been proud to be a part of.

Rich could not speak because he was not present this one night. But ever the gentleman, and not easily razzed, my sense is that Rich would not have had much to say anyway, but for to offer up his record.

Emily, Danielle and Jeff all impress me as personally likeable folks. As challengers, in the parlance of political campaigns, they have attempted to describe themselves as fresh new voices. I wish them good luck.

I fear, though, that in implementing that strategy, they may be getting less than workable advice from the old political operatives. Because unfortunately, everything in Rye for them has become the subject of only complaint and criticism.

The most revealing and unexpected exchange of the debate focused on a question which asked – “what does it mean to be ‘True to Rye.’” This is the catchy but harmless tag line of Rich’s ticket, which includes running mates Leon Sculti and Jim Culyer.

Emily, Danielle and Jeff were called upon to comment on the meaning of their opponent’s motto. Surprisingly, as their answers picked up steam, they imputed negativity to the slogan. By the end, Jeff Taylor was interpreting it, through his lens, to somehow represent exclusionary practices, and a same-old-same-old version of the status quo, which I took to mean was bad. (Go to the 82:20 time mark of the debate video.)

When Leon had his turn, he explained simply that his teammates’ message was a positive one, and that when you live in Rye, you are a welcome and contributing member of the community, whether you’ve been here for a day or a lifetime.

“True to Rye,” according to Leon, simply means championing the time-honored values of loving your family, fighting for your friends and neighbors, and doing the right thing, all of which he learned to do growing up in Rye. And all of which makes Rye so great. (Go to the 83:38 time mark of the debate video.)

Jim, with an unassuming presence despite earning his stripes while steering the school board for years and serving the community in so many countless ways, later indicated that we ought to be good neighbors to one another.

Win, lose or draw, this seems like a good policy to live by, for one and all.

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