Meet Rye City Council candidate Bill Henderson, up for election this fall on Tuesday, November 2nd. Henderson will be running to fill one of three council seats for a four year term. Others running for the same three seats are Julie Souza, Ben Stacks and Lisa Tannenbaum. We are running interviews with all the candidates.
There will be a second race (also on November 2nd) to fill the remaining two years of Pam Tarlow’s council seat.
Your Name: William T. Henderson – “Bill Henderson”
Running for: Rye City Council
MyRye.com: Why are you running for Rye City Council?
Henderson: Rye has been and is a wonderful place to live. We have great schools, a vibrant downtown, beautiful neighborhoods, great institutions, and a wonderful spirit of community. This is in large part due to the engagement of many past and present residents of the Rye community, who have provided their time and support to our great Rye institutions. Now that my kids have grown up and the demands of my professional life have eased, I have more time and want to do my part, so I am running to serve on the City Council. Keeping Rye a wonderful place to live – that is why I am running, and because I think I can make a difference.
What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- Financial Responsibility – managing city finances wisely and keeping tax increases to a minimum; achieving top value for every tax dollar spent. People who have lived in Rye for many years and want to stay in Rye should not be forced out because they can no longer “afford” to live here;
- Community Sustainability – maintaining the quality of life in our neighborhoods and downtown business Making sure the charm and character of Rye is sustained, that our streets and green spaces are well maintained, our building codes are enforced, and the environment and Sound Shore are protected;
- Public Safety – Keeping Rye a safe place for our all who work and live in Rye, especially our families and our children. Significant paradigm shifts in how we keep our streets safe are happening in New York State (the no-bail law, new marijuana law and challenges to policing). We as a community and city need to be out in front making sure Rye remains safe and free from crime.
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
Henderson: I am not yet on the City Council and expect I will learn much more about areas of potential cost containment. If elected, here are three places that I will begin to look, in no particular order:
- Capital Spending – Are we addressing infrastructure needs in a systematic fashion? Are we prioritizing projects based on the most emergent need and providing adequate oversight of outside contractors?;
- Budget discipline and sound fiscal management – Are we managing the City’s finances in a disciplined way? Are we focused on how we are utilizing and balancing costs between staff functions and consultants? Are we adequately monitoring employee overtime and consultant spend? Are our treasury and cash management processes working as intended or could we be more efficient? Do we have adequate controls in place to protect against fraud, waste, and mismanagement? Are we using available and new technologies to save money?;
- Adopting a Strategic/Master Plan- looking at City land use, facilities, and This is a significant undertaking and is crucial for future cost savings. This will involve active participation over many months with both planning professionals and members of the public.
Please Answer the following questions Yes or No
Yes or No
|Do you believe the City has done a responsible and an effective job of navigating the Coronavirus pandemic?||I believe that through the leadership of Mayor Cohn and the City Council, Rye stuck a good balance of protecting the citizenry of Rye from the worst of the pandemic and supporting the key constituents of our community – our businesses, our houses of worship and social organizations.|
|Have you been, or will you be in the next six weeks, fully vaccinated against COVID- 19?||I am fully vaccinated.
|Were you supportive of the various stages of Purchase Plaza during the pandemic?||In the face of dealing with an unprecedented pandemic I think the efforts of the Mayor and City Council to keep the public safe and keep Rye businesses in the best position to survive economically were appropriate.|
|Would you be supportive of Purchase Plaza after the pandemic?||Post-pandemic, I think there should be a review of what the priorities of the downtown business community and Rye at large should be. If elected I would very much look forward to being a part of that discussion.|
|Do you support the raising of the Pride flag on City flagpoles this June and every June?||I am very much in support of inclusion and non- discrimination against LGBTQ+ people or anyone else for that matter. The City Council was correct, and I support their decision to wait and obtained legal advice before proceeding. I am concerned that supporting a group or cause by raising a flag on City flagpoles invites other groups (some of which could be very controversial and distasteful to Rye residents) to demand an opportunity to raise their flags and what the consequences of that might be. If that happens the result could be more divisiveness and less inclusion.|
|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?||I think Rye and its citizens overall are a welcoming and inclusive community. Others may disagree and they are certainly within their rights to make their views known. We all personally need to be mindful to be more inclusive and thoughtful of others, especially those who may look differently or think differently than ourselves.
The community plays a leading role as being an arbiter of social acceptability. If racially offensive speech or biased views are espoused, we all do our part by pushing back and discouraging offensive speech or views.
The government’s role is to ensure that the laws are enforced fairly and in a non-discriminatory fashion. Every individual no matter their race, creed or ethnicity needs to be confident that the law is applied fairly and equally. Government has a responsibility to bolster that confidence by acting in a way that does not discriminate and by treating all citizens as equals, not favoring, or disfavoring any groups of people one way or another.
|Rye City should have additional restrictions on residential development||Residential development is a very important issue for Rye. I favor the City Council’s building moratorium to study certain land use issues and update our building code. I also understand that residential development will be an area of focus in the new City Master Plan. If elected I would very much look forward to being a part of this discussion.|
|Are you supportive of the Wainwright House working with Row America Rye?||I am in favor of a solution that supports the Wainwright House and is acceptable to its neighbors on Milton Point. I do not currently have a strong view on what position the City Council should take on this other than any affected parties should be heard, and their views respected. If elected I would very much look forward to being a part of that discussion.|
|Do you agree the loss of Wainwright House and its property a public resource would be a significant detriment to the City?||I think the Wainwright House is a beautiful property and I would like to see it remain a public resource.|
|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?||My understanding is that the Scouts wanted to sell the property which was their right to do as a private property owner. The City considered making a purchase but found it was not fiscally feasible.|
|Rye City is prepared for the next “100 year” flood||Probably not. As we saw with the Bowman Ave Sluice Gate Project, most flood mitigation projects (like many major infrastructure projects) cross many jurisdictions – other local municipalities, county, state, and federal agencies. These kinds of projects require thought leadership and ability to collaborate. If elected I would certainly add my voice and energy to promoting the interests of Rye so that it can be as prepared as possible for the next major flood event, which we know will happen at some point in time.|
|Leaf blowers are a health quality-of-life nuisance and should be banned entirely from the City.||We live in a beautiful community that requires constant maintenance – aesthetically and environmentally. I would like to first review the current laws on the use of leaf blowers and determine if any revisions should be made.|
|Curbside food scrap recycling should be expanded across the City.||I understand that we currently have a drop-off program. I do not know if there is a large demand for expanding this program to curbside and what the additional costs would be and whether the environmental benefits would justify the additional cost. If elected I would certainly be willing to hear more about it.|
|Rye City property taxes are too high||Like most taxpayers, I believe our taxes are too high. “Too damn high” some might say. Rye residents’ property tax bills fund 3 governmental entities – Rye City, the Rye City or Rye Neck School Districts, and Westchester County. Rye City accounts for 16% percent of a typical Rye resident’s tax bill.
The Rye City Council has a responsibility to provide the highest possible value to Rye taxpayers on how it spends their money. If elected that would be my guiding principle for governing.
|Rye Playland will be in good hands with Standard Amusements||For many years there has been an on-going legal and philosophical battle that continues to this day of just how much Playland comes under the jurisdiction of Rye City governance. As a City Council member, I will make sure that we protect the quality of life for those neighborhoods surrounding Playland and Rye at large, to the best of our legal rights and abilities. If elected, monitoring what goes on at Playland will be a priority.|
|Rye Town Park should be controlled (or owned) by Rye City||That would be nice, and it would be great if the City of Rye could control this green space, but I think this is not something the Rye City Council can achieve on its own.|
|Rye City needs to reduce its deer population by active management including sharp shooters or bow hunting.||Deer population management and control policy is not something with which I have much experience. However, I do not think licensing deer hunting in Rye is the solution. If elected I would look to expert advice in helping form my opinion on the appropriate policy. Deer are a migratory animal and therefore cooperating with other municipalities on the issue would be needed.|
|Rye City parking downtown is a serious mess and has a negative impact on local business on residents enjoying downtown||I am not sure I accept the premise that parking downtown is a “serious mess.” However, as we emerge from the pandemic, it might be a good time for an overall review of policy priorities for the downtown business district – parking should definitely be a component.|
|Rye City paid meter parking downtown has a negative impact on local business and on residents enjoying downtown||It is safe to say that having to pay for parking has a negative effect on residents and non-residents enjoying downtown and so it is of course not helpful to Rye merchants.
I do not like that I have to go through the effort to pay for parking when I am running downtown on a quick errand. I would like to explore the feasibility of the City providing a “Rye Parking Pass” to just Rye residents so that residents could make one payment on an annual basis and be able to park downtown when they want to go shopping or have a meal and avoid having to go to the pay station or use an app, which might not always be so user friendly. I do not know how feasible this would be, but I would like to explore it.
|Rye City should be more pedestrian and bike friendly||If elected I would work to make sure that the roads and sidewalks are fixed and in the best condition possible. I would be receptive to hearing from walkers, bikers, and car drivers on what else can be done to improve everyone’s experience.|
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?
Henderson: Please see my comments in the table above. I have read and heard stories that are concerning, and I understand the concern in the community. Every good person is against racial bias and other forms of bias and bullying, including bias against LBGTQ+ persons and people with special needs, especially children. Racism needs to be confronted but I also believe we have come a long way since when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, when racism and racial bias was institutionalized in many of our laws and was a tremendous moral and legal issue for this country.
The BLM movement was originally focused on incidents in America involving lethal force by police against minorities. Our Rye Police need to know they are supported by the Rye City Council and really the whole Rye community. For the City Council, this includes providing the Police with the necessary training, tools, and support to do their jobs safely and effectively, while avoiding, to the maximum extent possible, the need to use lethal force. There also needs to be appropriate oversight to ensure incidents of bad policing are reported and properly addressed and that there is no racial bias in policing. The use of excessive force by the police is very troubling whenever it occurs and must be minimized. It can have very serious consequences for the police, their municipalities, and the communities they serve, so this is a very serious issue that needs continued and focused attention.
I support the Rye Police Department Review Committee Recommendations and the good work and open process conducted by Guy Dempsey and the Review Committee.
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?
Henderson: I support increased transparency for all City Commissions and Committees and land use and control is certainly an important issue for all Rye residents.
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?
Henderson: I do not have any specific recommendations at this time.
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?
Henderson: I believe that the plans of the current developer are not yet fully known so we do not know how Rye will be affected. It is clear that the current state of the property is not good and needs to be rectified. It is hoped the plans will be favorable, or at least not dis-favorable to Rye. Certainly, Rye should have a voice and ability to resist anything that negatively impacts property values or increases traffic or otherwise negatively affects the adjacent Rye neighborhood. Rye should request and review the developer’s plans as soon as they are available before deciding on next steps.
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.
Henderson: Yes. I believe it is time, since it has not been updated for a number of years. This will be a big focus on the City Council. I believe that an early and very important step will be the hiring of the best consultants we can find.
Tell us about you:
What is your day job?
Henderson: I retired from Ernst & Young (EY) 3 years ago and now am working part time at a law firm, providing mostly forensic accounting and some legal services to clients. I have had a varied and interesting career. I am a CPA and an attorney. I was a law clerk to a federal judge, served 5 years as a federal prosecutor, worked as an in-house compliance attorney at a Fortune 500 company and as a forensic accountant at a major global accounting firm. Much of the last 15 years of my career was focused on international bribery and corruption; I travelled the world conducting numerous investigations and providing compliance advice to many companies.
If you could travel anywhere in the world (post pandemic!), where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?
Henderson: I would take my wife Beth, of course. We both love to travel and have been fortunate to have visited many places. Eating good food and drinking good wine is a focus on many of our trips. My oldest son Forrest is getting married next year in Italy, so that is the trip we are most focused on now.
What are you watching these days?
Henderson: I do not watch much on TV, mostly golf and other sports. I like old movies, particularly old-World War II movies.
Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you been in the City?
Henderson: We live on Grace Church Street near Kelly’s and within walking distance to downtown. Our boys are now out of the house, so it is just Beth and I and the dogs. We have been on Grace Church Street for 21 years and before that we lived on Apawamis Avenue. We have been residents of Rye since 1994 (27 years).
What are three of your favorite food takeout / delivery restaurants in or around Rye?
- Sofia’s Pizza in Harrison
- Hand Rolled Bagels
- Water Moon
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Note: this interview was completed in May 2021.