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Monday, March 20, 2023
Home Government City of Rye LETTER: Mayor Lacks Common Courtesy

LETTER: Mayor Lacks Common Courtesy

In a letter, longtime resident and activist Suki van Dijk recounts the manner in which she was notified her service on the Rye Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee would no longer be needed. She says it indicates Mayor Josh Cohn lacks a certain common courtesy. Spoiler alert: van Dijk still plans to attend the TPSC meetings.
Dear Fellow Rye residents,

(PHOTO: Newly minted author Suki van Dijk.)
(PHOTO: Newly minted author Suki van Dijk.)

I’d like to start by saying that it’s been a real pleasure to volunteer on the Rye Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee for the last decade, or so. I know there are people who think of Traffic as boring, but I found it endlessly fascinating, and I feel as if I’ve done some good. I helped get the left arrow at BPR and Oakland Beach and safer crossings at Rye Town Park, which  were two of the issues I wanted to address when first appointed by Mayor Joe Sack. I’ve tried to be responsive whenever a fellow resident had a question or concern, and I hope I helped solve some of our more vexing issues, or at least explained why we are having trouble fixing them. I was hoping to do more.

Sadly, after being asked by the Chair if I was willing to renew for another term (as is the norm) and sending in notice of my official willingness to remain on TPSC, I just found out that I was not reappointed. Given the current political climate in Rye, this was expected, but still really disappointing, particularly the manner in which I received the news. The TPSC Chair had to call City Hall, more than once, to find out because our Mayor could not summon up the most basic level of common courtesy to say “Thank you for your service, but we’re going in a new direction.” The Mayor has the right to make appointments, but how he chooses to do so and why, is a legitimate leadership qualification question.

I’ve lived in Rye for nearly 30 years, and we were always a place where people could disagree about various policies and priorities but remain respectful and friendly to one another. I was originally appointed, after all, by a Mayor I disagreed with often, but who nevertheless was happy to have someone who cared about these issues as a volunteer for the city we all share. During the current Mayor’s tenure, I have watched that courtesy and friendliness erode.

On TPSC, we talked a lot about the culture of Rye, and how in order to make the changes we all want to see, we need to change our culture. So when this Mayor asks for your vote again, for himself, or someone he thinks should be your representative in government– I hope you will ask these questions. Is his behavior in office representing you well? Does it fit with your vision of our city? Should the primary qualification to be allowed to volunteer for our fellow residents be demonstrating fealty to the Mayor? I can’t imagine many of us would say yes.

Under both GOP and Dem administrations we were better than this. I know so many good people here, across the political spectrum, who strive to be kind and polite. No one in Rye should feel that they can’t express themselves for fear of reprisals, even if the reprisals are being disallowed from volunteering to spend many long Thursday nights talking about traffic. It’s just beneath us.

I’ve been jokingly called the “representative from Rye Moms” to TPSC for a number of years and that I intend to stay.  Although I can’t commit to attending every meeting (I did miss one for my husband’s birthday, and I’m sure a couple of others over the years), I am happy to still go to most meetings and continue to advocate for our priorities. Being thrown off the committee doesn’t change anything in my right as a member of the public to attend these meetings, and I remain happy to help fellow residents voice their concerns and understand Rye’s rules. I’ll gladly act as our unofficial “ex-officio.” So please continue to message me your traffic and safety questions. I’m happy to help. For anyone else who is interested, Rye Traffic and Pedestrian Safety meetings take place the 2nd Thursday of every month (except July and August) at 6PM at Rye City Hall in the Mayor’s Conference Room. I hope to see you there!

-Suki van Dijk

1 COMMENT

  1. Suki thank you for your volunteering many years and for speaking up on this issue which likely resonates with many other residents.

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