While the general election is not until the fall, the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, June 22nd may have a bigger impact in the race for Mayor of Rye. Incumbent Mayor Josh Cohn is running for reelection and facing a challenge on the Democratic line from Danielle Tagger-Epstein.
Today we run an extensive and wide ranging interview with Danielle Tagger-Epstein on the race and the issues impacting our city. Our interview with Josh Cohn ran yesterday. Now you will be able to read both interviews before the Rye City Democrat Primary Mayoral Debate on this Tuesday, June 8th at 7:00pm (link here) sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester.
Your Name: Danielle Tagger-Epstein
Running for: Mayor of Rye
MyRye.com: Why are you running for Mayor?
Tagger-Epstein: As a former member of the City Council and long-time community volunteer I am running for mayor to bring back responsive and open city decision-making that we are now lacking. We need better financial decision-making rather than wasteful use of outside consultants and lawyers. I will support responsive and balanced land use policies, sound environmental practices, sensible planning for flood events and a collaborative decision-making process that involves the public, respects differing views and is always willing to listen.
Why are you running for Mayor now?
Tagger-Epstein: I believe the people lack both a voice as well as insight into our current city government under this mayor. I’m running to bring transparency back to city government. I will make sure issues raised are taken seriously and that decisions are made with public participation and transparency, not secrecy.
What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- We need to restore good government decision-making to the city council where issues are discussed in public, deliberation over choices made in the open and decisions are informed by a process that welcomes and respects comment. We will have better, more responsive, policies if the mayor follow these practices.
- We need more thoughtful and organized planning to address resident’s concerns for land use, flooding, the central business district, capital projects and meeting our needs for recreation space. Today the pattern on the city council, time and time again, is secret discussions, rushed decisions and an angry public. Rye is used to better.
- We need smarter financial decisions instead of wasting money on outside lawyers and consultants or limiting the popular food scrap recycling program that saves Rye money. I will make sure we make careful decisions, use tax dollars prudently and maintain the quality services Rye residents expect.
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- The Master Plan- this critical planning document should serve as a blueprint for our city, providing an actionable road map of planning for future development; budget and capital improvement forecasting. Piecemeal efforts are always more expensive.
- The very popular Food Scraps Recycling Program is not only good for our environment but it also saves the city money and is good for the bottom line. That is because it is cheaper to haul away food scraps than regular garbage. However, instead of growing and investing in this money saving program that residents love, the mayor has proposed cutting it.
- The city has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary and expensive consultants and lawyers. It’s time to stop wasting money on things that don’t matter and invest in things that do
Please Answer the following questions Yes or No:
|Question||Yes or No||Explanation|
|Do you believe the City has done a responsible and an effective job of navigating the Coronavirus pandemic?||My biggest criticism of our COVID management, and I spoke out at the time, was using the Covid-19 Emergency Order to raise parking fees and subsequently making it permanent. All during a pandemic, which made it harder for local businesses and residents who live downtown to navigate an unprecedented crisis.|
|Have you been, or will you be in the next six weeks, fully vaccinated against COVID-19?||Yes|
|Were you supportive of the various stages of Purchase Plaza during the pandemic?||Yes||The concept of redesigning our downtown to help restaurants was adopted in many communities and was needed BUT the city’s plan last year was not designed well, was harmful to retailers whose complaints were ignored, and could have been done differently to benefit everyone.|
|Would you be supportive of Purchase Plaza after the pandemic?||No||Full closing of Purchase Street again would be a mistake, and the Chamber of Commerce now opposes closing. I think we can accomplish outdoor seating and support our merchants We should be looking at innovative ways to create a more equitable downtown for the restaurants and the merchants.|
|Do you support the raising of the Pride flag on City flagpoles this June and every June?||Yes||PRIDE flags have been raised in many neighboring communities to show respect for all residents and especially the students who requested that the city government show their respect but the city wasted taxpayer dollars to unnecessarily hire a lawyer to explain settled law to the city council, the controversy was unnecessary and harmful to Rye.|
|Do you believe there is an issue with racial bias and equality in our community and that the City has a role to play in addressing it?||Yes||Rye does not live in a bubble, these issues are being discussed in every town in the country, and our students are telling us as much, so as city leaders, we have a role to play in discussing issues of racial bias and equality.|
|Rye City should have additional restrictions on residential development||Yes||Rye needs consistently enforced restrictions and updated zoning laws that preserve the character of our neighborhoods, which includes open spaces and protection of our trees and we can do this while also balancing property rights through smart zoning.|
|Are you supportive of the Wainwright House working with Row America Rye?||So little information was made available and this became another example of this mayor’s lack of transparency, which resulted in pitting neighbor against neighbor.|
|Do you agree the loss of Wainwright House and its property as a public resource would be a significant detriment to the City?||Yes||Wainwright House is a beautiful asset of Rye and important not-for-profit that the city council should have been working to help succeed, instead we had last minute turmoil that was of no help to Wainwright House, Row America or the neighborhood.|
|Do you agree the closure of the Durland Scout Center on Milton Point in 2007, and its subsequent sale to a developer for private homes, was a real loss for the City?||Yes||It is unfortunate the city was not able to acquire the property from the Boy Scouts of America for continued recreation use.|
|Rye City is prepared for the next “100 year” flood||No||Efforts to reduce upstream flooding from impacting Rye have been ignored by this administration.|
|Leaf blowers are a health and quality of life nuisance and should be banned entirely from the City||Rye, like many neighboring communities, has had a seasonal leaf blower ban on the books for many years. The season approach is the right policy, but it should be followed and enforced.|
|Curbside food scrap recycling should be expanded across the City.||Yes||My opponent wants to cut this program which benefits environment and saves taxpayer dollars, so we need to make the curbside food scrap recycling program available to more residents who want to participate.|
|Rye City property taxes are too high||While city carries the smallest portion of the local property tax bill, (less than schools or the county) we have to careful with every penny but also make sure we are providing quality services and professional non-political management that Rye residents expect.|
|Rye Playland will be in good hands with Standard Amusements||Rye needs to be a good partner with the county, Standard Amusements and any group running programs in our local parks; I have the skills to work well with organizations where my opponent has generally not maintained needed and productive communication.|
|Rye Town Park should be controlled (or owned) by Rye City||Rye ownership is not an option as the park is jointly owned, and costs jointly shared, by the City and Town of Rye but in contrast to the incumbent, I will be supportive of the beautiful park that sits in our community.|
|Rye City needs to reduce its deer population by active management including sharp shooters or bow hunting.||We had a Deer Committee in which I was the liaison while on Council, however, the committee was halted by the current mayor and should be revisited.|
|Rye City parking downtown is a serious mess and has a negative impact on local business and residents enjoying downtown.||COVID gave us a temporary reprieve on parking, but as we reopen, this issue will return and must be studied closely by the next mayor and council.|
|Rye City paid meter parking downtown has a negative impact on local business and on residents enjoying downtown||The role of parking meters should be reviewed by the city and the merchants every few years to understand the costs to operate the system, the actual revenues and the impact on business in Rye.|
|Rye City should be more pedestrian and bike friendly||Yes||That is something I hear from residents frequently.|
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year concerning stories about bias in our schools and community came out. Do you acknowledge these stories and believe we should actively address issues of bias? Yes, or No? If Yes, what role should the City have? (Answer Yes or No, then add 1-4 sentences of any additional comments).
Tagger-Epstein: I believe that we must acknowledge these stories and as a community come together to address the issues of bias. We must engage our children, our friends and our neighbors in discussions about the importance of racial equity and inclusion. As I stated earlier, we do not live in a bubble and our youth are asking us to play a role. Hate has no home here in Rye.
Land use and the control of development has been raised as an issue in Rye, fueled by a variety of concerns including flood control and the development of flag lots. Should more be done to bring transparency and control to land use decisions in Rye? If so, what are three of the top recommendations you would make?
Tagger-Epstein: I am running for mayor to bring back transparent and respectful decision-making that brings the public into the process. There is no area where this is more important than land use and flood mitigation. These decisions affect the value of everyone’s home. We need to update the Master Plan which was last revised in 1985 and look at more urgent land use questions as the public has requested.
- Restart the Master Plan Committee.
- Look immediately at our tree ordinance rules which contains loopholes that allow clear cutting of trees that is unnecessary for development and harmful to neighborhoods. We need balanced solutions with the public involved. Many new developments would benefit from retaining mature trees on the property. As Mayor, I would immediately restart that process and involve the public from the outset.
- Rock Chipping and Blasting Law-update our rock chipping and blasting law. Our Rye law is not protecting nearby property owners from damage or excessive interference with use of their property. We need to look at the best practices for chipping and blasting used in other communities and see how our approach can be improved.
Further on land use, what benchmarks could the City publish annually or semi-annually that could help residents understand the state of land use in the City?
Tagger-Epstein: Where the city has fallen short is the lack of openness and consistent public access to information on development and land use issues. Major projects are discussed behind closed doors or in illegal city council executive sessions. Neighborhoods are left without basic information or timetables that allow public participation. There has been no serious city council review of broader land use policies that residents are asking for.
What are the current plans for the former United Hospital site just over the Rye City line in Port Chester? And what should the City be doing to represent its interests?
Tagger-Epstein: The latest plan from the new owner of the property remains a mixed residential retail development. The incumbent mayor has done nothing to engage in a cooperative way with the village of Port Chester to protect Rye’s concerns. I will be more proactive on issues of importance to Rye neighborhood.
The City’s Master Plan was written in 1985, over 35 years ago. Should the City update its Master Plan? If yes, describe the process, timeline, stakeholders, and a few of the issues and policies that might be addressed in this work.
Tagger-Epstein: I have long called for a master plan update, but we cannot use that as an excuse to delay pressing land use issues that residents say require immediate attention and a thoughtful response. I will bring the public in to hear from all perspectives and create a land use process that sets a schedule for time sensitive actions and how to sync them with a master plan update process. All voices will be heard and respected. Our decisions must be well-grounded, balanced and legally based. The current mayor has had no interest in these issues and then, on the eve of this election, came up with flawed and ineffective attempts that will not properly address these issues.
Tell us about you:
What is your day job?
Tagger-Epstein: When I ran for City Council in 2015, I gave up my consulting business. I have since devoted my time to public service and raising my family.
If you could travel anywhere in the world (post pandemic!), where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?
Tagger-Epstein: Last year my husband Dan and I had actually planned a couple of trips that were canceled by Covid. One trip to Marbella and one to the Cotswolds in England for a couple of weeks with the kids. I’d like to take those trips eventually. It’s been a rough 15 months for so many. People have lost loved ones, and so many people were sick. I’m taking one day at a time; so, for now you will still find me enjoying my backyard in Rye.
What are you watching these days?
Tagger-Epstein: I have just started watching “Call My Agent” on Netflix
Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you been in the City?
Tagger-Epstein: I live in the Greenhaven neighborhood of Rye, on Sound Road. In fact, my neighbor is former councilmember Marcia Kapilow. My family and I have lived in the city over a decade.
What are three of your favorite food takeout / delivery restaurants in or around Rye?
Tagger-Epstein: We rarely went out during Covid, so I am extremely excited to get back out. I have missed eating out with friends. As someone with Celiac I am grateful we have lots of restaurants that cater to our family allergies. I am excited to try the NEW places that have been brave to open at this time.
Please provide links to:
Your LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/danielle-tagger-epstein-she-her-5969231
Your Twitter: n/a
Your Facebook: www.facebook.com/danielleforryemayor