At Closer Look at North Castle’s Unofficial Votes Editorial by Michelle Boyle
November 5, 2015 The unofficial tallies of the November 3 election results for North Castle’s 11 election districts have been reported by Westchester County Board of Elections. It’s estimated that there were at least 1,700 ballots cast on Election Day. As expected, the voter turnout was low. If this estimated number of ballots is accurate, then only 19.7% of North Castle’s voters of the 8,621 active registered North Castle voted. This information is based upon several assumptions and can not be verified until all of ballots that were cast are counted by the Westchester Board of Elections.
The unofficial results have lead to the assumptions that at most, 27.8% of the Town’s 3,112 registered Democrats voted, and at most, 21% of the 2,750 registered Republicans, voted. (Note that these percentages are assumptions based upon limited information from votes cast by party lines which were then compared to the active number of North Castle’s registered voters in the two major parties.)
Michael Schiliro ran unopposed and was re-elected as North Castle’s Supervisor with 1,587 votes. Of those votes, 864 or 54% were from the Democratic party line, and 536 or 34% were from the Republican party line. His Conservative party line count was 127 votes, while 60 votes were from the Independence line.
There was a total of 3,394 votes cast for the three candidates who ran for the two positions for North Castle’s Councilman. The candidates were Jose Berra, Stephan D’Angelo and Guy Mezzancello.
D’Angelo, a registered Republican, appeared on five party lines and won the election with 1,522 votes, or with the most votes received at 45%. Surprisingly, D’Angelo received more votes on the Democratic line than on the Republican line as there were 780 votes for D’Angelo that were cast on the Democratic party line, and 539 votes on the Republican party line.
When asked if North Castle’s Democratic Committee had an influence on the Democratic support for D’Angelo, Barry Malvin, Chairman of North Castle Democratic Committee, said, “There’s no question that the Democratic Committee’s support had an effect for D’Angelo. The 780 votes on the Democratic party line would not have been there if D’Angelo had not been endorsed by the Democratic Committee."
D'Angelo also received 133 votes on the Conservative party line, 64 votes on the Independence party line, and six votes on the Reform party line.
Berra, a registered Democratic party member, won the second councilman position with 987 votes cast, or 29%. With the difference of 102 votes, Berra appears likely as the winner over Mezzancello. For Berra, 904 votes were cast on the Democratic party line. This was the most votes on the Democratic party line for any one candidate. Although it’s likely that 10% of the 904 Democratic party line votes were not Democratic voters based upon the number of Democratic votes cast for all the other candidates.
When asked what Malvin thought contributed to Berra’s support, Malvin said there were three things:
1. Berra worked hard as he went door-to-door to introduce himself to people all over town, 2. Berra’s mailers and emails were effective, particularly his response to the developer Michael Fareri’s email [that explained why Fareri was not voting for Berra], 3. And the persuasive endorsement from The Examiner that said Berra brings more to the table than Mezzancello.
Berra received an additional 83 votes on the Independence party line, which is 32% of the 256 registered North Castle’s Independence Party voters.
A strong Democratic turnout was essential for Berra to win. But the Independence votes contributed to his return to the Town Board seat, which he lost by 22 votes in last year’s special election to Mezzancello.
A swing of the Independence party line votes could have changed the results. “The Independence party line votes were important for Berra when measured against almost double the amount of Conservative line votes that Mezzancello received,” says Malvin.
Mezzancello, a registered Republican, received 885 votes or 26%. 706 votes were cast for him on the Republican party line, the most Republican votes cast for any candidate. But the lower Republican turnout did not help Mezzancello. He received 163 votes that were cast on the Conservative party line. That's a large number of votes for the Conservative party line since there are only 138 Conservative register voters. Most likely there were some Democratic voters who cast their vote for Mezzancello on the Conservative line.
Malvin did say that there was a big push county wide for the Conservative voters.
Mezzancello also received 16 votes from the Reform party line.
Town Justice Elyse Lazansky ran unopposed. She was re-elected to her fourth term with 1,591 votes. She received the most votes cast for any one candidate. 818 votes were cast on the Democratic party line, 566 votes were cast on the Republican party line, while the Conservative party line vote was 126, the Independence party line was 75 votes and there were 6 votes cast from the Reform party line.
Alison Simon also ran unopposed. She won 1,572 votes in her first election for the office of Town Clerk. The votes for Simon were as follows: 819 on the Democratic party line, 555 on the Republican party line, 129 on the Conservative party line, 64 on the Independence party line and 5 on the Reform party line.
The absentee and affidavit ballots remain to be counted by the Westchester Board of Elections. At last year’s election, there were 149 North Castle paper ballots that were counted 10 days after election day. It’s not expected to see that many ballots this year. But with a spread of 102 votes between Berra and Mezzancello, it’s highly unlikely that the absentee and affidavit ballots will significantly change any of the percentages of the election results.
Schiliro re-elected in Unofficial North Castle Election Results
November 4, 2015 The early and unofficial election results show that the incumbent, Stephen D’Angelo, and José Berra were the winners of the vote for councilman on North Castle’s Town Board. As the District Leaders trickled in to Gavi Restaurant with North Castle’s 11 Districts' voting results, it became obvious that Berra was slightly ahead of the vote he received during the 2014 special election a year ago when he lost to the same opponent, Guy Mezzancello, by 22 votes. Berra was appointed to a-one year term on the Town Board in 2013 to fill Michael Schiliro’s Town Board seat when he won his first election as Supervisor.
There were unanimous votes for the only candidates running for the offices of Supervisor, Town Clerk and Town Justice. Incumbent Supervisor Michael Schiliro was re-elected, as was sitting Town Justice Elyze Lazansky, while Town Clerk candidate Alison Simon won her first elected position.
Berra congratulated D’Angelo who easily won his second four-year term. “I appreciated all the incredible support I got from people,” said Berra who was cautiously optimistic of the early results that were in his favor. He also said he appreciated that all the candidates ran clean races.
Early in the evening, shortly after the polls closed, D’Angelo said it looked like Berra was going to win as he was up by about 70 to 80 votes.
Although the voting results from District 11 were not reported yet, D’Angelo said, “Whichever one wins, Guy or José, I’ll be happy to work with either one. I’m looking forward to serving for another four years," he added, and said he is glad to be working with Supervisor Michael Schiliro for the next two years.
"On January 4, I’ll be sworn-in," said Alison Simon. Between now and then she will continue to spend as much time as possible in Town Hall to learn as much as she can so she will be prepared when she takes the oath for the Town Clerk position. “I’ve been working with [Town Clerk] Anne Curran over the course of the past several months to learn as much as I can about the position."
When asked what she thinks is the biggest responsibility of the office of Town Clerk, Simon said, “Open communication with the town board and the public." She said she was in Town Hall with Anne Curran tonight, watching the process so she will be aware of what to do at the next election, when North Castle will have at least four positions open for election, which she will be in charge of monitoring. She said she is thankful that everybody in the office knows what they are doing as they have been there for a long time. They have assured her that they will be as supportive as possible, and has Anne Curran.
There was an error in the closing of one of North Castle’s voting machines in District 11, whose polling place is at the Armonk Firehouse. A mistake was made by not following the proper procedure to shut the voting machine down before printing the results, said Barry Malvin, North Castle’s Democratic Committee Chairman. The voting results of District 11 are on a microchip that was sent to the county’s computer center in Elmsford. It is unknown at this time when those results will be available.
But in North Castle’s 2014 special election, there were 256 votes cast in District 11. There are 597 active voters registered in District 11; 226 Democratic voters and 183 Republicans. This year’s election saw a lighter turnout with fewer votes, and the number of votes cast in District 11 remains unclear.
“I’m pleased with the outcome so far,” said Malvin. “If the numbers are correct, Berra is presumed the winner when the votes come in from District 11. If José ultimately wins, I’ll be very happy and proud. I give him a lot of credit because this was a challenging come from behind race since he had lost the election last year."
The spread of North Castle’s votes cast for County Legislature District 3 candidates, John Diaconis and Margaret Cunzio, is unclear. This is not only because of the lack of reporting from District 11, but as well, North Castle’s District 5, in North White Plains, reported that zero votes were cast for Cunzio. It’s unclear how many votes Cunzio won in that District, but it is unlikely that the report of zero votes is accurate. The unofficial results received in North Castle so far show Diaconis ahead by a small margin. But the County Legislature District 3 consists of 36,000 voters. District 3 Legislator voters are spread through the Town of Mt. Pleasant, the Town of North Castle, parts of Sleepy Hollow and Greenburgh, and a piece of Briarcliff. While Mt. Pleasant has many voting districts, the town has the reputation for a low Democratic voter turnout. And therefore it is unlikely that Diaconis can capture the majority of Mt. Pleasant voters.
“John knew this would be a tough race from the get go,” Malvin concluded. “Mount Pleasant is a tough community to gain Democratic votes. We needed to win in North Castle and we did, especially in District 6, Windmill Farm, which is a key North Castle Democratic district.” Diaconis received 167 votes from District 6, that was the highest vote cast for him in all of the reported districts in North Castle.
When Legislator Michael Smith stepped down as the Republican candidate for County Legislator of District 3, Cunzio was a asked to run and stepped up as a first time candidate. County Executive Astorino really put a lot of effort to back Cunzio, said Malvin. Astorino made a lot of public appearances with her. Furthermore, Malvin said, Westhcester County sent money in support of Cunzio up to Albany. Furthermore, he added, New York State's Republican Committee in Albany put out negative flyers about Diaconis that were totally untrue and damaging. “We tried to set the record straight,” he said. “In the context of a defense, Diaconis countered the false statements and without going negative, the record was corrected. But at the same time, Cunzio had the support of the Republican Party.”
With the County Legislator race too close to call on election night, Diaconis told his supporters to sit tight and hope for the best. He thanked many people that he said worked incredibly hard on his campaign, including Assemblyman David Buchwald, who was in attendance.
Voters Support County Proposition 1
November 4, 2015 Proposal Number One appeared on all of Westchester County election ballots. The proposition would move up the date that the County Executive must present the county budget from November 15 to October 15 for capital projects and to November 10 for operations budget.
“This is a modest but important step that would give the public and county legislators more time to review the large and complicated dollar amounts that make up the county budget," said Janet Zagoria, Chair of the League of Women Voters County Government Committee.
The proposal passed as follows: “PROPOSAL NUMBER ONE, COUNTY PROPOSITION NUMBER ONE AMENDMENT OF WESTCHESTER COUNTY CHARTER §167.61(1) Local Law Intro. No. 7343-2014, adopted by the County on December 8, 2014, amends County Charter §167.61(1) by changing the date of submission of the County Executive's proposed County budgets for capital and current purposes from November 15th to October 15th for capital purposes and from November 15th to November 10th for current purposes.
“1. Under the current provisions of §167.61(1), the latest date for submission of the County Executive's proposed budget to the County Board for the ensuing fiscal year for both capital and current purposes is November 15th. The proposed amendment would provide that the County Executive submit to the County Board proposed County budgets for the ensuing fiscal year not later than October 15th for capital purposes and not later than November 10th for current purposes.
“2. The purpose of this proposal is to increase the time within which the County Board can evaluate the County Executive's proposed budgets.
“Shall the proposed amendment be approved? Yes No”
Supervisor Schiliro Running for Re-election
November 1, 2015 On November 3, Supervisor Michael Schiliro will be on the ballot for re-election as North Castle’s Supervisor. He has been on the Town Board since 2008, when he first ran for a seat during Reese Berman’s administration. In 2013, he ran for supervisor and won 56 percent of the votes, winning the post from incumbent Howard Arden. In this week’s general election, Schiliro is running unopposed. He appears on the ballot on all four major local party lines: Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence.
All About Armonk recently sat down with Schiliro to talk about the important issues of the town: it’s history, the commercial business, open space, affordable housing, parking and road repair, taxes, and the General Fund Balance. The conversation will be presented in several parts.
Part 1: History
AAA: As Supervisor of North Castle for over 40 years, Jack Lombardi was quoted in the “North Castle News" in 1964 as saying, “The Town Board is the salesman of our community." What do you think Lombardi meant by that? And does it still apply today?
MS: In the 1960s North Castle was growing and Jack Lombardi was trying to attract big corporations.
I don't see the board as the salesman of our community, but I understand what he was saying. I look at us as the true leaders chosen by the residents who put their trust in us to make decisions as best we can with the best information we have. We are the custodians, each of us with one of five keys tasked with making decisions. I take that seriously. Every decision we make requires maximum effort because we are the public servants of the town.
Good customer service will lead to good business. The residents are our customers and I want to make sure every experience they have with the town is a good experience, just as is done in business. We may not be able to solve every problem, but we want everyone to know that we consistently try to solve the issues, such as a broken street light or a pothole.
AAA: Downtown Armonk still has the charm of small scale architectural characteristics alongside the historic district. How do we maintain the rich history of North Castle? What about the Miller House, where there is a stalemate between North Castle and Westchester County's Executive Office? Have you considered a public/private partnership to help save the building?
MS: I love the history of this town and there’s so much here. During the almost 16 years I have lived here, I have talked with people who have lived here for 40, 50, and 60 years. We can't lose sight of where we are going as we move forward, but we can never forget the past. There is a rich history of people who have come before us, such as Lou and Barbara Massi, who have moved away. They will always remain part of the fabric of the town.
The Miller House is also part of the fabric of our town, as is the Battle of White Plains, the Revolutionary War, and George Washington. Yet we are stuck with an unfortunate opinion from the Westchester County's Executive Office that questions the validity of Washington's presence in North White Plains. The fact that they even want to bring that up is a disgrace.
The sign outside the Miller House says Westchester Parks Washington Headquarters. It’s on the national registry. And now we are going to debate if Washington was there, really? Or if the concrete plant across the street is such an issue, why aren't they raising that issue with all the residents and businesses in the area? Is it a real issue, or a facade?
What can we do with the county? We have worked with their officials and they said they will repair the Miller House in place. But now they claim that they had a lot of progress with the town’s prior administration and that our administration is dormant. That is just not true, and the County knows that! They asked for time when the county executive was running for governor. We gave them time. Then we had a productive meeting where they said they would fix the house on site.
But the County doesn’t even include us in conversations anymore. Years ago the County Legislators voted unanimously to issue a bond to fix the house. The vote was vetoed by the County Executive and that's his legal right. But the veto was overridden by the Legislators, and still there is no action by the County.
It's the county's park and now the county says they want to spend money to repair the Miller House, and then move it to Miller Hill in North White Plains. Why not repair it on site and keep it there? But it’s their park and we can’t force them to do anything. The town can’t buy it. I can’t put a tax burden on our residents because the county is shucking its responsibility. That doesn’t work.
The Friends of the Miller House have already raised $40,000. The Friends will figure out how much it will cost to run the programs and staff them with volunteers. Then we'll figure out what kind of fundraisers we need to annually to support that effort.
North Castle General Election November 3, 2015 Sample Ballot
José Berra Runs Again for North Castle’s Town Board
October 20, 2015 José Berra was unanimously appointed to North Castle's Town Board in 2014 for a year when Michael Schiliro was elected Supervisor and had to vacate his seat on the Board. But last November, when Berra ran for the seat’s remaining one-year term in a special election, he lost by only 22 votes out of approximately 3,700 ballots cast.
Berra is now campaigning to reclaim that seat in the November 3 election. He says, “Being a member of the Town Board has been one of the most personally fulfilling and gratifying things I've done." He hopes to build on his past experience on the Board and to have the opportunity to further dedicate himself to the Town. He says, “I relished being on the Town Board, and want to return so I can have a greater positive impact on the amazing Town that has been my home for over a quarter of a century.”
Berra started his professional career as a certified public accountant. He then went to the University of Chicago Law School and became a tax lawyer in Manhattan. He left the private sector briefly to gain government experience at the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, where he worked on tax policy. He returned to the private sector to pursue a business career in corporate finance, but several years ago he returned to the practice of law, advising clients on income taxes, business and financial transactions, and litigation strategy.
Given his background creating and drafting income tax statutes and regulations for the United States Treasury, Berra has experience anticipating possible loopholes and figuring out how to close them to prevent anyone from rigging the financial system. He likens the approach he uses to a challenging chess game where you have to anticipate what your opponent may do and think many moves ahead. He points out, however, that figuring out solutions was only part of his job at the Treasury. It was also necessary to draft tax rules in as clear, concise and simple a manner as possible.
Berra is proud of the clarity of his tax rules, although he readily admits that clarity, conciseness and simplicity are relative terms when it comes to the income tax laws. “I’ve written some key regulations, and placed great emphasis on making them as clear as possible because, from my prior experience as a tax lawyer, I knew how frustrating it could be for tax professionals and their clients to have to spend countless hours trying to decipher regulations and other tax rules only to conclude that ultimately they did not provide a clear enough answer.”
Berra says, “The skills I refined at the Treasury Department have become deeply ingrained in me and have been invaluable in nearly everything I have done since.” He says he is a problem solver who is able to tackle many different issues and is comfortable doing so with all sorts of people.
Berra’s Stand on Local Issues
Berra’s background can be useful in spotting subtle, yet important, issues. One example is the Community Benefits Agreement that the Town of North Castle recently entered into with Brynwood Partners, LLC, which obligates Brynwood to contribute over $1 million to multiple town projects over a period of time tied to certain milestones, such as the town is granting the first building permit. The agreement also requires Brynwood to drop its certiorari proceedings regarding back property taxes paid to the Town.
Berra commends Town Attorney Roland Baroni for doing a great job negotiating the agreement, especially a provision that requires Brynwood, if it transfers the property to an entity that is not an affiliate, to immediately pay the Town amounts that otherwise would be deferred. Drawing on his past experience when the agreement was being considered at a recent Town Board meeting, Berra said that there was a potential loophole in the agreement that could allow Brynwood to sell its property to a non-affiliate without making the immediate payment that was intended under the agreement, and the agreement that was ultimately signed reflected Berra’s comment.
Last year, when Berra was on the Town Board, an application for condominiums at Armonk's former lumberyard came before the Board. The project included affordable housing. Berra expressed serious concerns that if approved, the Town would be getting too little back from the developer in exchange for the density bonus and preferential condominium tax treatment that the developer sought. Berra was the only Board member to vote against the proposal. Later, when the Board took another look at the application and it became clear that the rest of the Board would vote again in favor of approving and allowing the condominiums, Berra voiced his opposition and abstained.
Berra believes that the lower tax rates that apply when the Town Board grants a development condominium status is unfair to the vast majority of North Castle taxpayers who pay property taxes at the normal fee simple tax rates, which are approximately double the rates at which condominiums of equivalent value are taxed. But he concedes that there may be some situations with compelling reasons for granting the preferential condominium property taxation. For example, he believes that it’s important to retain seniors and that it could make sense to have an exception for age-restricted housing so that seniors can benefit from lower condominium taxation.
When asked about other issues, Berra says "There's more I want to do to help the Town and to make a difference,” including accelerating the pace, at which the majority of the Town's roads are repaired to approximately three years, which he says should reduce the overall cost of the repair work. He says a detailed, public timetable for roadwork is essential to do a job in the most economically efficient way and to let residents know what to expect.
Another town priority is parking in downtown Armonk. Berra says that when he was on the Board, discussions began to expand the Hergenhan Recreation Center parking lot to add parking for long-term employees, which would free up the existing parking for patrons of shops on Main Street and in Armonk Square.
Berra describes himself as a “fiscal conservative who strongly believes in making capital investments that more than pay for themselves with proven savings. Recent technological advances are increasingly making this possible.” For example, he says there are solar energy companies that will pay the cost of installing solar panels and related equipment on buildings with good exposure to the sun. In return for this roof access, they sell the energy that is generated to the building owner at reduced rates, and this approach could save the town money without the need for any out-of-pocket capital investment. “There’s no capital investment for the Town in this case,” Berra says, “and the Town gets to pay less for its electricity.”
Berra also says that “there’s a whole range of sustainability solutions that could save the Town money in the future.” For example, further down the road, solar energy might even be used to power the energy-hungry computers and other electronic equipment in North Castle police cars, some of which must be parked with their engines running to keep their batteries charged so that a fully booted-up police car is immediately available for an emergency call. Not only would solar energy allow the town to save money on gasoline, it would reduce the destructive wear and tear that results from excessive idling and thereby could reduce maintenance costs for the police car fleet and extend the fleet’s useful life.
“Just as poor decisions can have a bad snowball effect, good investment decisions can also snowball, but in a good way,” Berra says. Berra would explore using some cost savings to fund further capital investments that would save the Town additional money. One ideal benefit of any cost savings would be to erect a building to house and repair Highway Department trucks, some costing over $200,000, that currently are parked outside. Storing the trucks indoors could greatly reduce the premature wear that currently results from their being exposed to the elements year-round.
One of the first times Berra became involved in a significant town project was about 15 years ago, when he worked with his neighbor, Karl Hinrichs, to bring sewer lines to their neighborhood. They worked with Supervisor Jack Lombardi; the Town’s engineer; the Town’s lawyer; the water and sewer departments; the highway department; and their neighbors to get the job done. Berra says that experience “was an excellent example of the great results that can be achieved when Town residents and Town employees work together. As I’ve gotten to know many more people in town,” Berra says, “it has become crystal clear to me that our people are our greatest resource.”
October 13, 2015 The North Castle Democratic Committee held a fundraiser event on Thursday October 8 at Crabtree's Kittle House in Chappaqua for its slate of candidates in the upcoming November 3 election. While most of the candidates kept their speeches short, the recurring theme was the importance of a strong voter turnout.
José Berra, running for one of the two town board seats up for election, said it would make a difference if everyone at the restaurant got three other people to vote.
Since 2015 is an off-year for elections, there being no national or state campaigns to fuel voter interest, this election is expected to have a low voter turnout. Berra knows well that every vote counts. He was appointed to the North Castle Town Board in 2011 when Mike Schiliro gave up his town board seat when he was elected Supervisor. In the 2012 special election for Schiliro's remaining second year of a four-year term, Berra lost the seat by only a handful of votes. "Third time's a charm," he says, hopefully.
Republican Town Board incumbent Stephen D'Angelo has also received the North Castle's Democratic Party's endorsement, as well as endorsements the Republican Party and Conservative Party.
The current town board's five membership include one Democrat (Schiliro) three Republicans (Stephen D'Angelo, Barbara DiGiacinto and Guy Mezzancello) and one Independent (Barry Reiter).
Barry Malvin, the chairman of the North Castle Democratic Committee, said that D'Angelo, who also serves as North Castle's Deputy Supervisor, has been a friend to the Democrats during his first four-year term.
John Diaconis is a former co-chair of the North Castle Democratic Committee. The five-year Armonk resident is running for the District 3 County Legislator's seat. He says that it's a highly contested race which he wants to win back for the Democrats after John Nonna's loss of the seat in 2009. As a former Democratic County Legislator, Nonna is Diaconis's mentor and friend. Diaconis also thanked his boss at the Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt law firm, longtime Armonk resident Les Berkelhamer, for his continued support. Diaconis has received endorsements from every organization with which he has interviewed, including the Westchester/Putnam County AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and Choice Matters.
Several candidates are running unopposed, including the incumbent Supervisor, Michael Schiliro. He is endorsed by all the local parties as he has a proven track record of being socially liberal and fiscally conservative on most town matters.
Also endorsed by the Democratic Committee and running unopposed is Alison Simon and Elyse Lazanksy. Simon is running for North Castle's Town Clerk following the departure of Town Clerk Anne Curran, who is stepping down. Elyse Lazansky, a current sitting Town Justice, is running for her fourth four-year term.
Brandon Sall is running for a seat on the Westchester County Surrogate Court. He has served many years as a Democratic District Leader in North Castle.
A Democratic candidate for the State Supreme Court, Gretchen Walsh of Pleasantville, has tried cases before the Supreme Court and worked with several current Supreme Court justices. Walsh said that she has experience handling civil litigation similar to cases that the Supreme Court handles, everything from abandonment to zoning, but said that she handles mostly matrimonial and personal injury cases, as well as contract and zoning disputes. Walsh has also been involved with several non-profit organizations in Pleasantville and New Castle.
The honored guest of the evening was former North Castle Town Supervisor Reese Berman. She thanked the Democratic Committee for honoring her. She also thanked the elected officials and their representatives for being there: State Senator George Latimer and State Representative David Buchwald, North Castle Town Supervisor Mike Schiliro, North Castle Town Board members Barbara DiGiacinto, Steve D’Angelo, and Barry Reiter; and North Castle Town Judge Elyse Lazansky. Congresswoman Nita Lowey was in Washington because Congress was meeting the following day, but Pat Keegan was there representing the her.
Berman said that she loved being North Castle’s supervisor. "It was the most demanding, difficult and satisfying position I have ever had. My immigrant parents, for whom American citizenship was highly valued and regular voting was sacrosanct, would have been very proud of my holding public office.
"Though tonight is about honoring me, I would like to take a few minutes to honor the many people in this room who have volunteered years of work in various ways with little recognition. I think they are the ones who deserve to be honored. I know that without them, North Castle and Westchester County would not be as desirable a place to live."
Democratic and Conservative Committees Announce 2015 Slate
June 16, 2015 The North Castle Democratic Committee has announced its endorsement of the 2015 election slate. The endorsed Democratic candidates are Michael Schiliro for Supervisor, Jose Berra for Town Board, and John Diaconis for Westchester County Legislator.
The Democratic Committee also endorsed registered Republican candidates. "In the spirit of bipartisanship, we endorsed Republicans Stephen D’Angelo for Town Board, Alison Simon for Town Clerk, and Elyse Lazansky for Town Justice," said Barry Malvin, Chairman of the North Castle Democratic Committee. In each case, these Republicans candidates also received the endorsement from the North Castle Town Republican Committee.
According to Billy McClure, Chairman of the North Castle Conservative Committee, the Conservative Committee recommended a slate of local candidates to the Westchester County Conservative Committee. In turn, the Executive Committee endorsed the following slate for the North Castle’s November 2015 election: Michael Schiliro for Supervisor, Stephen D'Angelo and Guy Mezzancello for Town Board, Elyse Lazansky for Town Justice and Alison Simon for Town Clerk.
Malvin has served on the Democratic Committee for 15 years. Some years, he said, they have had choices for endorsement and several candidates interviewed for the same spot. This year the Democratic Committee didn’t have that. “Elections are the same,” he said, “yet they are all unique as each election has its own characteristics.”
Michael Schiliro is running as Supervisor for a second two-year term. He has received endorsement from the Democratic, Republican and Conservative Committees.
So far, the only local position that has opposition in this upcoming election is the Town Board. The Democratic Committee interviewed only two applicants for two of the four Town Board seats which will be voted upon in November: Jose Berra and Stephen D’Angelo. Berra was appointed and held a Town Board seat for one year when Schiliro was elected Supervisor and gave up his seat. For the second year of that four-year term in November 2014, Berra ran a close race and lost to Mezzancello by a handful of votes in the special election. Guy Mezzancello received the endorsement of the North Castle Town Republican Committee for Town Board.
"If Jose Berra were to win, he would be the only attorney on the Board. That’s an asset if an attorney brings his legal experience," said Malvin.
Stephen D’Angelo’s first four-year term as Town Board Member is expiring this year. "The Democratic Committee judged D’Angelo’s performance and attitude in the context of the values of the committee members, not his party affiliation," said Malvin.
Four years ago, D’Angelo ran with Schiliro for Town Board positions on the bipartisan-formed Alliance Party line. At that time, there was some competition in a contentious race for the Democratic Committee endorsement. The Democratic Committee chose Democratic candidate Chris Carthy over D’Angelo by a majority vote. Over the last four years, Schiliro and D’Angelo, who serves as Deputy Supervisor have done well working closely together, said Malvin.
Alison Simon is running for the first time for Town Clerk. She has been serving as the Communications Director in the Town Clerk’s Office. "Simon has not practiced law, but her qualifications of her legal background, training, and experience help qualify her," said Malvin. So far, Simon is the only candidate for the Town Clerk. She has interviewed and received an endorsement from the Democratic, Republican and Conservative parties. Although Simon lacks the experience of serving previously at the capacity of Deputy Town Clerk, Malvin says that she has a great willingness to learn.
Elyse Lazanksy has served two terms as Town Justice. She was first elected in 2007. She also interviewed and received endorsements from the three committee parties. So far one one else is running for Town Justice.
John Diaconis served on the New Castle Town Board before moving to North Castle. Diaconis' run for Westchester County Legislator will be his campaign for an elected Westchester County office.
The Democratic, Republican and Conservative committees interviewed all applicants who requested an interview. "The committee’s job is to determine if they will make good public servants," said Malvin. "The committee looks for people who want to serve the community and who have the background and the temperament. We look for somebody who has been a resident long enough to understand and know North Castle and whose philosophy generally follows the principles of the Democratic Party."
Although the endorsement process is protected under the Committee's bylaws, Malvin remarked that part of the decision-making process for endorsement is to ask the candidate what his positions are on local issues. The issues change over time, but usually development and the fiscal management of providing adequate town services, on everything from roads to communication, have been the big issues, Malvin said. The Brynwood application was and remains an important issue since the 2011 elections.
Cross-endorsements are known as back-room deals: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” But in the case of the endorsement of D’Angelo, Malvin said the Democratic Committee didn’t look at it that way. Even so, the committee was concerned about being accused of making a back-room deal. But Malvin said that they reached their decision because there was no alternatives due to a lack of depth of interested candidates. So instead, they looked at who was the best person for the job. "In certain respects, the selection process might be seen as a cross-endorsement," said Malvin, "but there was little competition within the pool of registered Democratic candidates. This is similar to the case for many years in North Castle as Jack Lombardi was cross-endorsed because there was nobody willing to oppose him."
On a local level, there’s a spectrum of blended ideals, values and point-of-views that identify and bring together the Democratic Committee, thought Malvin. "The Committee becomes a melding of those positions. Members can be fiscally conservative, but socially liberal people and there are those who are not opposed to spending in order to provide services. On many issues, the Committee doesn’t take a position because their members’ positions may not be unanimous."
According to Malvin, one of the core responsibilities of the Democratic Committee is to cultivate candidates for local office whether within the party or outside the party. District leaders will then campaign for the endorsed candidates’ petitions to get their choices on to the ballot for the general election.
The Democratic Committee is made up of District Representatives who provide the first level of governing service, which is known to be the entry level of local politics. People start out as candidates as District Leaders when they join the Committee. His or her name is put on the primary ballot and the district leader positions are elected. On the local level, if there are more than two candidates to be elected as district leader for one district, the vote will go to a general primary. North Castle has 11 districts formed by location. Malvin said the Democratic Committee is always looking for new members. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People who start out as District Leaders may move on to serve in a higher office of the Town Board or elsewhere. Former Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow started as a North Castle Democratic District Leader. She then ran and served in state office and then returned to become Chair of the North Castle Democratic Committee.
Assemblyman David Buchwald also served as a District Leader in White Plains prior to his current position.
As well, State Senator George Latimer started as a District Leader in the City of Rye and then he was elected as a Town Board Member. He was then elected to the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and became the Chairman of the Board of County Legislators. In 2004, he was elected to the State Assembly. Latimer then ran and was elected to the New York State Senate in 2012 where he represents the 37th District.
Candidate Pulls Out of Election
June 19, 2015 Michael Smith is serving his second term as the Westchester County Legislator for District 3. On July 19, Smith said he decided not to seek an additional term. “My increased professional responsibilities will prevent me from representing my 55,000 residents in District 3 in a manner that they appropriately deserve.”
Starting in January 2016, he will focus his attention on the 8,000 students and the 1,500 associates of Berkeley College. Smith, who lives in White Plains, has recently been hired as President of the Berkeley College in White Plains. Prior to the appointment, he served as Chief Financial Officer for Berkeley Educational Services, the corporate office of Berkeley College, and multiple real estate investment organizations since 1996.
County Legislator District 3 includes all or parts of the Towns of Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant, North Castle and the Villages of Briarcliff Manor, Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow.
The key function of the Board of Legislators is to finance appropriate funds and to approve budgets and levy taxes. Westchester County taxes make up about 17 percent of North Castle’s taxpayers’ bills.
There are seventeen members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, which is the legislative, policy-making branch of the county government. The legislator term is two years. Each legislator represents approximately 54,000 residents in the County’s 17 districts.
Alison Simon Kicks Off Campaign for Town Clerk
Updated June 20, 2015 Alison Simon kicked off her campaign for North Castle Town Clerk at an event that was attended by a large group of friends, family and supporters at the Gavi Restaurant on Thursday, June 18.
“I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity to present itself and to be able to work for Anne Curran, the current Town Clerk,” said Simon. “She’s an amazing role model who has done such a great job in our town for the past 12 years.”
In March, Curran announced that she was would not seek re-election in November. At that time Curran said, “During the balance of my term I am committed to fulfilling my responsibilities while preparing for a smooth transition and assisting in any way I can to preserve the integrity and efficiency of the Town Clerk’s Office.” Simon has worked in the Town Clerk’s office as Communications Director for more than three years. Curran has taken Simon under her wing, and tutored, taught and prepared her for the position of Town Clerk. Barbara Pesquera, Deputy Town Clerk, has been working in the Town Clerk’s Office for 10 years and intends to continue doing so.
“I’m doing my best to get ready to be able to come into the position, if elected, knowing as much as I possibly can,” said Simon. “I’m so thankful that you are all here and feel blessed.” Furthermore, she thanked her campaign staff who she said worked tirelessly and are her best friends that she has known since she moved to Armonk in 2003.
“This gathering is a testament to Alison and the type of person she is,” said Curran at the fundraiser. Simon possesses the best qualifications to make a great Town Clerk, added Curran. “She is someone who is enthusiastic and committed to help people be part of the community.” An important part of the Town Clerk’s responsibilities is to help residents stay informed about Town services and community news.
The varied experiences of the Town Clerk’s Office, said Curran, afforded her the opportunity to improve public access to Town government. The Town’s website says the role of the Town Clerk is to prepare and publish Town Board agendas and supporting documentation; attend all Town Board meetings, to record all minutes and oversee video distribution of Town Board meetings; manage records and respond to Freedom of Information Law Requests (FOIL) and general inquiries; improve communications; keep records of births and deaths; issue licenses; and coordinate the Town’s elections.
“I know she is a hard worker and has done a fantastic job,” Curran says of Simon. “She never just stops when there might be an obstacle in the way. She always pushes and pursues and that’s what she’ll do to learn the job in order to do a fantastic job for many years.”
This is Simon’s first run for an elected position. She lives in Armonk with her husband Dave. They have four children.
So far, Simon is running unopposed for the four-year term. She has received endorsements from the North Castle Republican, Democratic and Conservative Committees.
GOP Announces Endorsements for North Castle's 2015 Elections
June 1, 2015 Anita Cozza, Chairwoman of the North Castle Republican Town Committee, has announced the committee's endorsements for candidates in the November 3, 2015 general election.
The committee has cross-endorsed Michael Schiliro for North Castle's Town Supervisor. A registered Democrat, Schiliro was first elected Supervisor in 2013 after he served six years as a Town Board member.
For the two Town Councilman seats, the committee has endorsed two incumbent Republican candidates: Town Board members Stephen D’Angelo and Town Board member Guy Mezzancello. D'Angelo was first elected in 2011. Mezzancello won in the 2014 special election to fill the last year of Schiliro's term before he became Supervisor.
The elected offices of Town Justice and Town Clerk are nonpartisan positions. The Republican Committee has endorsed Judge Elyse Lazansky for Town Justice. Lazansky was first elected in 2007, and re-elected in 2011.
The Committee has endorsed Alison Simon for Town Clerk. This is Simon's first run for an elected office. In March, Town Clerk Anne Curran announced that she would not seek re-election. She has served as Town Clerk since December 2009.
North Castle Election: Candidates’ Petitions Are Circulating
June 26, 2015 The North Castle political season for the November 2015 elections has begun. The district leaders from the local political parties have started circulating designating petitions for signatures to have their endorsed candidates’ names appear on the election ballot.
The North Castle Town Democratic Party has endorsed:
Michael Schiliro (D) for Supervisor Stephen D’Angelo (R) for Town Board José Berra (D) for Town Board Elyse Lazansky (R) for Town Justice Alison Simon (R) for Town Clerk John Diaconis (D) for Westchester County Legislator
The North Castle Town Republican Committee has endorsed:
Michael Schiliro (D) for Supervisor Stephen D’Angelo (R) for Town Board Guy Mezzancello (R) for Town Board Elyse Lazansky (R) for Town Justice Alison Simon (R) for Town Clerk Michael Smith (R) for Westchester County Legislator
The North Castle Conservative Committee has endorsed:
Michael Schiliro (D) for Supervisor Stephen D’Angelo (R) for Town Board Guy Mezzancello (R) for Town Board Elyse Lazansky (R) for Town Justice Alison Simon (R) for Town Clerk Michael Smith (R) for Westchester County Legislator
The Westchester Independence Party has endorsed:
Michael Schiliro (D) for Supervisor Stephen D’Angelo (R) for Town Board José Berra (D) for Town Board Elyse Lazansky (R) for Town Justice Alison Simon (R) for Town Clerk John Diaconis (D) for Westchester County Legislator
The 8,621 North Castle actively registered voters from the 2015 Westchester County Board of Elections are distributed as follows:
The dates for filing candidates’ designating petitions for the September 2015 primary election and 2015 November general election are from July 6 to July 9, 2015.
Developer Michael Fareri said he has given a lot of thought about running for supervisor. As of now, he has not made a decision; however, there is still plenty of time as July 13 is the last day for a candidate to accept or decline the designations.
Only five percent of signatures of North Castle registered voters from each party is required on designating petitions for a candidate to appear on that party line in either the primary or general election ballot. Candidates will typically file many more signatures than are required to qualify for the ballot.
District leaders campaign for the party-endorsed candidates by carrying their petitions for affiliated party member signatures. These district leaders are community members who are knowledgeable about the upcoming elections and the party’s endorsed candidates.
Please reach out with any questions to North Castle’s committee chairpersons and they will be glad to help you: Barry Malvin, North Castle Democratic Committee, at email@example.com, Anita Cozza, North Castle Republican Committee and William McClure, North Castle Conservative Committee, c/o Armonknews@allaboutarmonk.com.