November 28, 2014 More than three weeks after the general election, the Westchester County Board of Elections reported Guy Mezzancello as the official winner of the one year term of North Castle's office of councilman.
Mezzancello received 1,836 votes, only 22 more votes than Jose Berra.
Mezzancello Is Unofficial Winner
Updated November 19, 2014 Ten days after the general election on November 4, the Westchester County Board of Elections (BOE) counted the paper ballots cast for North Castle. The BOE reported a difference of 5 votes of the 149 absentee and affidavit ballots cast for the one year term of North Castle's office of councilman.
Between the two candidates, Guy Mezzancello and José Berra, Mezzancello is unofficially declared the winner by a slim margin of 22 votes. Mezzancello was ahead by 17 votes before the paper ballots were counted. On Friday November 14, the BOE counted the 149 paper ballots; Mezzancello received 77 votes, and Berra received 72.
The mandated recount by the Westchester County Board of Elections on Monday November 17 yielded the same results. The certified results from the BOE is expected next week. In the meantime, either candidate has the opportunity to file a claim concerning these election results by midnight of November 19.
Congratulations to both candidates. They ran a respectful campaign even after the double flip-flop results and the delay in the election results.
Updated Election Results Show Mezzancello in the Lead
November 6, 2014 The unofficial results for the Office of North Castle's Councilman has Guy Mezzancello ahead by 17 votes. The Westchester County Board of Elections has updated the results of the ballots cast from North Castle's District 6 in Windmill Farm and area. District 6 cast a total of 456 ballots. The total registered voters in District 6 are 1,037.
Per Westchester County Board of Elections, there are a total of 8,725 active, registered voters in North Castle.
Westchester County's absentee ballots will be counted the week of November 10th.
JOSE L BERRA
JOSE L BERRA
JOSE L BERRA
JOSE L BERRA
GUY A MEZZANCELLO
Election Recount in Two Weeks
November 5, 2014 The result of the North Castle Town Board election between Jose Berra (D, C, and I) and Guy Mezzancello (R) will not be known for almost two weeks.
All of Westchester’s voting machines have been impounded due to a court order filed for the race of the State Supreme Court Justice seat of the 9th Judicial District. A judge must rule on the procedural way to recount the votes in the contest between the candidates James Hubert’s (D, I) who received 57% of the votes, and Montgomery Delaney (R, C), who received 43% of the votes. The re-canvassing of the 192,374 votes cast for the office will be done in abeyance with the law. This recount could potentially lead to a recount of all of Westchester County votes.
North Castle’s elections also had their own issues in reporting votes from District 6, Windmill Farm and the surrounding area, that has 1,037 registered voters. District 6's voting machine printed results jammed, causing a delay of reporting the results on election night.
Each voting district has its own voting machine that has two memory disks. North Castle has 11 voting districts. The voting machines’ disks track the ballots that run through the machines. The standard procedure is that a print-out of each district's results are read out loud at the closing of election day at 9:00 p.m. by an election worker.
Town Clerk Anne Curran confirmed that there was a problem with the machine in District 6. “In this case, the Board of Election retrieves the count from the machine’s memory card,” says Curran.
The 3,230 votes cast for the North Council Councilman were reported by Westchestergov.com late on election night. The results have the candidates in a tight race with each receiving 50% of the vote, only separated by 16 votes. Jose Berra received 1,623 votes, ahead of Guy Mezzancello’s 1,607 votes.
In such a close race, a candidate, or their representatives, may request the Board of Elections to audit the results. If an audit were requested for North Castle, it would take place on the same date that is set to audit the recount of the State Supreme Justice results on November 17 and 18 in Ardsley.
On November 11 and 12, an initial random audit of all of Westchester County’s election results will compare the two memory chips of random machines.
The Westchester absentee ballots, of which 130 were reported for North Castle, are usually scheduled to be counted seven days after election day. Affidavit ballots are cast by voters who might be registered, but who don’t appear among the registered voter list. The amount of affidavit ballots are unknown at this time, but they are usually hand-counted at the same time as the absentee ballots. Every vote will be counted in this close race.
North Castle Councilman Vote Too Close to Call November 5, 2014
Councilman (Unexpired Term) (Vote for ONE)
► José L. Berra (D), (C), (I)
► Guy A. Mezzancello (R)
The unofficial election results from Westchester.gov say 100% of North Castle's 11 Districts have been reported.
The results show José Berra ahead by 16 votes. But there are about 130 absentee ballots yet to be counted.
JOSÉ L BERRA
JOSÉ L BERRA
JOSÉ L BERRA
JOSÉ L BERRA
Appointed Town Board Member José Berra Seeks Election
October 31, 2014 José Berra, unanimously appointed to the Town Board on January 22, 2014 to fill one year of the last half of Michael Schiliro’s term before Schiliro became North Castle’s Supervisor, is running for election on November 4. Berra will appear on the Democratic, Conservative and Independence Party lines.
Berra ran for the Town Board in November 2013, and placed third behind Barry Reiter and Barbara DiGiacinto.
At the North Castle Democratic Committee’s dinner last week, Co-Chairman John Diaconis said of José Berra, “A lawyer sitting on the Town Board adds an element of logic and analysis. The legal training helps.”
Berra says he has spent a good deal of time as a tax lawyer drilling down into the details of complicated issues. “No matter how deeply I get into details, I find what helps is to distill things down to principles, looking at them in a simple way.”
“When people ask me about José Berra,” says Supervisor Michael Schiliro, “I tell them it’s terrific to have a CPA and an attorney on our board. It gives a different perspective.”
There have been many changes from two years ago, says Schiliro. There were a lot of challenges that people may have interpreted as fighting. "We were trying to make the town a better place. There’s a dramatic difference on the Town Board from last year. The Town Board now may think individually, but we work together.”
John Diaconis says that Michael Schiliro has turned the town around in terms of civility by leading by example. “I was embarrassed by the last administration, but I don’t say that any more and the reason is Mike Schiliro.”
Schiliro says Berra and he challenge one another. "We can disagree in an executive session and on the floor, but it is a civil working relationship.”
Shiliro says, “We need people like José Berra to be able to think through different ramifications like a chess player. His training as a lawyer is critical when we are tasked with making decisions about zoning, taxing, and the Town’s budget. Berra thinks four or five steps down the road. We all try to do that. It’s a critical element that we need when making important decisions such as adopting the ward system.”
José Berra says he finds it interesting to see how things developed in the course of the past year. “I was a total political neophyte and went in [to politics] innocently. Even after having done a lot of interesting things in my life, this is one of the most interesting and gratifying things I could ask to do.”
Furthermore, Berra says, “We have to make the tone of the town better and to have the improvement spread to the other parts of Westchester. At the same time, we are focusing on improving how things work in North Castle.
“We’ve gone downhill over the years in terms of how we spent our money. The taxes went up. The roads are miserable. There are other issues that we are focusing on in an intelligent way. We are trying to control our capital expenditures wisely to make the quality of life for people better.”
Berra says he enjoys going out, campaigning, and talking to people. “Over the next couple of years, I want to make things much better so people will look back and say this was a great town board.”
Schiliro and Lawyer Hired for Special Election Acquainted Through Common Friend
October 27, 2014 Tony Futia, who has petitioned for the Ward System, said in an email dated October 26, “The search for a Special Election Attorney by our Town Attorney turned out to be a long time personal family friend of the Supervisor.” Futia says Gerard Terry, who was hired by the Town of North Castle to assist Town Attorney Roland Baroni and Town Clerk Anne Curran in the special election, made this statement to him after the Town Board meeting on October 22.
Terry says that after the October 22 Town Board meeting, Mr. Futia inquired about Terry’s familiarity with North Castle and Supervisor Michael Schiliro. “I told Mr. Futia, and Mr. Ruggerio who was there, that my name was recommended by an old friend of Supervisor Schiliro’s, Jon Kaimen. At no time did I indicate a close friendship with Supervisor Schiliro as I had only been acquainted with him years ago when he was a Nassau County resident.”
At the October 15 North Castle Special Town Board meeting, Town Attorney Roland Baroni was asked by the Town Board to find a special counsel to assist him and Town Clerk Anne Curran with the special election on November 13. Baroni says, “I was not having much success locating anyone in Westchester.”
Supervisor Mike Schiliro called the former Supervisor of North Hempstead, Jon Kaimen, to ask if he would recommend a lawyer to provide advisement to North Castle on the special election. Kaimen recommended Gerard Terry who was the former special counsel to the North Hempstead’s town attorney. Terry was also the former counsel to North Hempstead’s Zoning Board of Appeals. He also served as the assistant counsel to Nassau County’s Board of Elections. Terry’s concentration is in municipal law with an emphasis on zoning, land use and corporate conveyance.
Baroni says, “Schiliro recalled Terry from Nassau County and contact was made.”
Schiliro says there is no personal connection, nor has there ever been a family connection with Terry who is not a personal family friend. Schiliro says the two briefly met about 20 years ago.
Mr. Terry came to North Castle and was interviewed by Town Attorney Roland Baroni, Town Clerk Anne Curran, and Town Board member Stephen D'Angelo. Baroni says, “We recommended him to the full Town Board.”
Lawyer for the Special Election Will Be Re-Qualified Soon
October 27, 2014 Mr. Gerard Terry, who was hired by North Castle to advise the Town Attorney and Town Clerk on North Castle’s Special Election for the ward proposals on November 13, 2014, must re-register as a practicing attorney.
According to New York State’s Appellate Second Division, Terry’s current registration is in inactive standing for the two-year reporting cycles of 2010 to 2011, 2012 to 2013, and from 2014 to 2015.
Until Terry’s registration status is resolved by New York State’s Appellate Division, his status will remain inactive. To address this process, an attorney is required to complete the mandated continuing legal education (CLE), and to pay a registration fee of $375 for every two-year period.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro’s office says they have been assured that Terry’s requirements are to be rectified shortly.
Terry was admitted to practice law in New York State in 1986. His license to practice has never been interrupted or suspended. There has never been any disciplinary history nor has he ever been disbarred.
Town Board Provides the Map for Special Election
October 24, 2014 At their October 24 Town Board meeting, the Town Board hired the lawyer Gerard Terry of Leventhal, Cursio, Mullaney & Sliney to provide legal services in connection with North Castle’s special election scheduled to take place on November 13, 2014.
Supervisor Mike Schiliro signed an engagement letter with Terry’s law firm that establishes Terry to assist North Castle’s Town Attorney Roland Baroni in interpreting New York election law and town law. In addition, Terry will assist the Town Clerk Anne Curran to develop and implement policy procedures for the special election.
The legal costs to the town will be $250 per hour for advice, counsel and attendance at Town Hall on Election Day. In addition there will be a rate of $275 per hour for litigation services, if any.
Terry has practiced as special counsel for election law for 30 years. He has represented municipalities on Long Island for decades. The same election laws apply to Westchester County.
North White Plains resident Tony Futia submitted petitions in September to the town clerk that require a special election to be held in North Castle between November 1 and November 16. Futia said he expected the special election was going to be held at the same time as the general election on November 4, but in a separate location from one another.
Town Attorney Roland Baroni says the attorney for the Westchester County Board of Elections indicated there was a greater chance for confusion among the voters if the special election and the general election were held at the same voting places, on the same day, even if at different locations. Baroni says the Board of Elections was also concerned that “any candidate on the ballot would have cause for concern and could possibly bring litigation as a result of any voter's confusion.”
Gerard Terry says the County Board of Elections is the administrator of all elections in Westchester, while the North Castle Town Board has the responsibility of the special election. Based on the Board of Elections recommendation, North Castle’s Town Board chose November 13 as the day for the special election.
Terry outlined the events that led to where North Castle’s ward system elections stand. As a resident, Futia had the burden to first put together the ward system’s petitions. Then Futia gathered the necessary signatures, and filed the petitions with the Town Clerk’s office. After Futia’s filing, the burden of the election shifted to the town’s election officer who is Town Clerk Anne Curran.
On November 13, the burden will shift to the electorate who will vote on the decisions on both of the ward system propositions. If either, or both of the propositions pass, the burden then shifts back to the Town Board who will have to implement, or guide, the establishment of the ward system and expansion of the board from four to six members, if that passes.
Then if the ward system passes, the responsibility to draw the ward districts shifts to the Westchester County Board of Elections. Section 85 of the Town Law states that whenever a proposition is adopted to establish the ward system, the Board of Elections shall divide the town into ward districts and fix the boundaries. If the propositions are passed, the decision to determine the wards and their fixed boundaries will be made by Westchester County’s Commissioners of the Board of Elections. This is not an easy task.
The Town Board may only determine the boundaries of the districts' wards after the United States federal census is done in 2020 and again every 10 years thereafter.
The Town Board proposed and passed several resolutions for the special election at its October 22nd meeting. Among them are:
Voters must be register with Westchester County in order to vote in North Castle's special election. To insure the most registered voters, the North Castle Town Board is holding a permanent personal registration day for non-registered North Castle voters on Monday, November 3 from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the same three polling places for the November 13 election day: Armonk Fire House, Banksville Fire House and North Castle Community Center.
All registered Armonk voters that normally vote at the locations of Town Hall, the Hergenhan Recreation Center, and at H.C. Crittenden will only vote at the Armonk Firehouse on the Special Election day.
Applications for Special Election absentee ballots will available at the Town Clerk’s office at Town Hall or on the Town’s website: northcasatleny.com. The absentee ballot will be accepted by mail postmarked no later than November 6, 2014 and in person no later than November 12.
The Town Clerk may hire up to 20 election inspectors at $250 each day for the special election day, and up to four standbys for $50 each for the day. The Town Clerk may hire up to 10 people at $200 each for the North Castle’s personal registration day, with up to two standbys at $50 each for the day.
The town clerk may secure up to eight old lever type voting machines for the special elections. Backup machines and backup ballots will also be available. The regular voting machines will not be available because the machines may be required to be locked under litigation over the November 4 election results.
Terry says if the results of the special election are not what some of the community is looking for, there is no action that can guarantee that a third party will not litigate those results. But an open dialogue may minimize that possibility.
How Can the Ward System be Justified? Editorial by Michelle Boyle
October 19, 2014 The purpose to implement a ward system should be to better represent specific, local neighborhoods of the entire town of North Castle. Voters should ask themselves: are the neighborhood concerns of the three hamlets of Armonk, North White Plains and Banksville being ignored?
There are many public policy situations where local voices have been strongly expressed. Looking back to just the past five years, I can’t think of any zoning application which was presented to the Town Board that was not fully reviewed by the nearby neighborhood. I refer to rezoning applications that were under consideration by the Town Board because these applications seem to bring the most public opposition of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard).
Looking back chronologically, under the Weaver Administration, there was an application for rezoning in the Hobby Farm neighborhood of Banksville. Under consideration by the Town Board, hours were spent on public discussions between residents and the applicant presenting an application to develop an empty lot into a storage facility for a landscaping business. Both sides of the issue were well represented at the many public meetings. The neighborhood residents ended the dispute by buying the property in question from the applicant. Would one ward from the Banksville area on the Town Board have changed the process or results of this application? Would the ward system have changed the outcome of the Banksville rezoning of Banksville Avenue, North Street, or the Scenic Road dedication in Bedford’s Peacable Kingdom area? Or what about the home abandonment law now being considered by the Town Board? Would that be better determined by more town board members provided courtesy of the ward system?
The same question holds true for the public meetings held for properties in Armonk: Armonk Square, proposed supermarket on Old Route 22, Brynwood Country Club rezoning, Byram Lake vintage car garage, affordable housing on Old Route 22, Windmill Water District's replacement of pipes, senior housing on Old Route 22, to name a few. All of these applications had been discussed for hours in public. I don’t believe there would be any difference in handling any of these applications if there were a ward system.
To my recollection, over the past five years, there has been only two pubic issues of major concern in North White Plains. One was the relocation of the historic Washington's Headquarters, the Elijah Miller House, from Virginia Road to Fountain Park. The Arden Administration did not work this situation out publicly. But I don’t recall any neighborhood residents publicly opposing this move; however, I do understand that many neighbors have spoken out privately against the Fountain Park location due to a history of vandalism on prior buildings on the site. A more recent North White Plains application involved a church moving into a former business location. Neighbors spoke out against this application and the applicantion has not been mentioned by the Town Board since the board meeting which was held in North White Plains. Would the ward system have made a difference for these North White Plains’ situations?
The point to all of these examples is that the neighborhoods of our town of approximately 12,000 residents have been well represented. Residents will continue to speak out against projects that they believe will change the character of their neighborhoods. There is no reason to have a ward system for the reason of being underrepresented. This is not an issue in North Castle; however, it can be in typically larger communities such as the city Yonkers or Mt. Vernon, cities with more than 100,000 residents, where the ward system has been instituted, to varying results.
But if you want certain people to be elected to the town board who otherwise cannot get the majority vote, you should vote yes to the ward system proposals.
Some question if Anthony Futia, who petitioned to bring the ward system to vote, is using the ward system as a way to get elected into office as a Town Board member. Futia has run multiple times for Supervisor or has sought the opportunity since the early 1990s. Although he says he is not going to run for Town Board under the ward system. Christopher Carthy and Frank Benish also have run for Supervisor. None of them have come close to being elected. Both Futia and Carthy said they have no chance of winning without the support of the major political parties in a general election; both are registered Democrats. According to Futia, elections under the ward system should not rely as heavily upon the two major political partys' choice of candidates.
Former Supervisor Howard Arden recently said North Castle would have a larger pool of candidates under the ward system because there are significantly less campaign expenses to gather petitions and to appeal to a smaller pool of possible voters.
While less campaign costs may be true, the most important reason to vote against the ward system is to maintain a better representation of not just one segment of the electorate, but for all town residents.
As far as predicting the costs of the special election on Thursday, November 13, the North Castle Town Clerk’s office, which will oversee the election, cannot predict the costs. The election will be held that date from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Typically election costs run from $10,000 to $20,000. But at the special Town Board meeting of October 15, it was decided by the Town Board that the town attorney will consult with an election attorney on matters of the special election. These legal costs could at least, double any special election costs.
In addition, it was also decided by Supervisor Michael Schiliro that no voter will be disenfranchised. Therefore, extra clerical help will be hired for hours of work to be make sure the best effort will be taken to insure that every potential voter is informed of the special election. On top of that, there will be postage and other needed services, such as the hiring of election monitors to oversee the election, as well as poll watchers and workers. There will be three voting locations in North Castle; Armonk Fire House, Banksville Fire House, and the North White Plains Community Center. The election inspectors will be charged to hand-count the paper ballots after the election.
Even after the election when the results are known, there is the possibility, as in the recent ward system election in Ramapo, that the losers would sue the town. With that possibility, North Castle residents need to keep in mind that the costs to defend the Town against any legal actions, including recounts and questions about the legal procedure, will add additional legal and judicial expenses. When approached at the special meeting by Supervisor Schiliro, Futia refused to agree not to sue the Town over the results of the ward system election.
Further, North Castle residents need to keep in mind the $50,000 cost to draw up the ward system map that was brought up by the panel at the special meeting held by Futia on October 6.
Futia has presented a ward system map that duplicates the map drawn almost 200 years ago when there were seven school districts in North Castle. If the ward system were passed, a demographer has to be hired to study the 2010 consensus (done every 10 years) to evenly separate the Town’s 8,600 registered voters by wards. In addition, the development of the ward system has to follow a legal procedure, all of which begs another question: how many ten of thousands of dollars are the taxpayers willing to spend on the legalities of the ward system before it's even voted on, if its results are challenged, or if the system is implemented?
At its next Town Board meeting on October 22, the Town Board will select a special day to allow unregistered residents to register to vote for the special election and for voters to pick up absentee ballots.
The North Castle absentee general election ballots already received by the voters will be disregarded for the section involving the two proposals for the ward system.
Taxpayers to Foot the Bill of Second November Election
October 16, 2014 Following a legal determination by the Westchester Board of Elections, North Castle’s Town Board scheduled a special election to vote for the ward system proposals on Thursday November 13, 2014, nine days following the general election.
This special election could cost the taxpayers up to $100,000. This sum is nearly equal to the pension paid yearly to Tony Futia, the former North Castle Supervisor of the Water and Sewer Department. Futia is the main proponent of the ward proposals. He has refused to rescind the petitions to restructure the Town’s wards, or voting districts, which he filed in September. If Futia agreed to delay the petitions to vote for the ward propositions until the November 2015 general election, there would be no additional costs the taxpayers.
Ward Props Nixed on Ballot
Updated October 15, 2014 In a letter dated October 9, 2014, The Westchester County Board of Elections says the two Ward System proposals submitted by the Town Clerk Anne Curran for the inclusion of the November 4, 2014 election cannot be included on the general election ballot.
Tony Futia filed the propositions of the Ward System petitions with the North Castle Town Clerk on September 2, 2014. This move was more than 75 days prior to a biennial town election in 2015, necessitating a special election. A biennial town election is the Election Day during an odd numbered year.
According to Town Law, Section 81, “If such a petition be filed in the office of the town clerk not less than sixty days, nor more than seventy-five days, prior to a biennial town election, the proposition shall be submitted at such biennial election. If a petition be presented at any other time, a special election shall be called to be held not less than sixty days, nor more than seventy-five days after the filing of such petition.”
Furthermore, an informal opinion by the New York Attorney General in 1954 says an unregistered voter, who is a resident, may vote on the propositions at a special election.
According to Town Law, Section 84, the town board may adopt a resolution at a regular meeting, to determine that voter registration be required for special town elections.
In the meantime, the Ward System proposals already appear on the absentee ballots that have been received by North Castle voters.
The Town Board has called for a Special Meeting at Town Hall on Wednesday October 15 at 8:30 p.m. (new time) to consider the procedure concerning a special election for the Ward System.
Ward System for North Castle Discussed by Panel
October 8, 2014 The Concerned Citizens of North Castle hosted a panel discussion about the ward system of North Castle's town government. Voters will determine if they want to change North Castle’s electoral system for Town Board members from at-large to members who would represent individual districts of the town. The two propositions for the ward system were petitioned by North White Plains resident Tony Futia.
“The Town Board must receive an opinion letter from the Town Attorney regarding the legality of the petitions filed,” says Supervisor Michael Schiliro in a email message to the community dated September 30, 2014. Voters will vote for a ward system with four wards and, the second proposition is to change the ward system from four districts to six districts.
The panel of speakers opened with Tony Futia, who is a life-long North White Plains resident. If there were six districts, the districts would be divided equally among the Town's almost 9,000 voters, or 1,500 voters in each of the districts. If both propositions were to pass, there would be six districts spread out among the Town’s 26 miles. Futia proposes four ward districts in Armonk - east and west - the Windmill Farm area and the Whippoorwill area. In addition, he says there would be one district in North White Plains and another in Banksville. “Each district would have someone sitting at the table representing the different issues of that district.” However, Futia proposed boundaries would not necessarily be valid if the propositions were passed because the ward boundaries are formed by the Board of Elections.
Dennis Pilla, former Mayor of Port Chester, served three terms as the mayor of the city with 30,000 voters. Pilla served from 2006 to 2013. During his administration, a proportional voting system was adopted rather than the ward system. When he became mayor, the Department of Justice, who represented a minority ethnic group, sued the town. Port Chester was ordered by a federal judge to change their electoral system. The Trustees adopted a cumulative voting system. This allows voters to cast six votes for any Board of Trustee, even multiple votes for the same candidate. This ruling allowed the Hispanic population of Port Chester, which is almost 60%, a better representation. They elected their first Hispanic member to the Board of Trustees in 2010.
Pilla said one of the benefits of the ward system, or single member districts, is to “insure accountability at the local levels.” But Pilla outlined several concerns about a ward system where voters can vote for only one district representative and the supervisor at-large. “Giving up the ability to unelect all members of the town board is something that should be looked at long and hard.” Also he mentioned multiply incumbents can be voted out of office by the majority of votes with the at-large voting system. This happened in the town’s last election in November 2013.
Howard Arden, former Supervisor of North Castle, said he doesn’t know much about the ward system. In fact, Arden said at first he dismissed the idea of a ward system. But after listening to Futia, he says it made more sense to him because “the more local you get, the better you represent the people.” He says the districting of the town has merits because there “would less party influence.” The Town’s political parties don’t represent the ideology they claim to because of cross endorsements, added Arden. “A ward system might be a more pure way to represent the interest of the electoral. With a Town Administrator, voters should look for candidates with a vision and knowledge of their neighborhood.”
Manny Areces headed a committee in New Castle to introduce the ward system. He was a spokesperson for the Citizens Committee for the Representation Referendum when a ward system was voted down in New Castle in 2011. He said, the issue is anything that involves change has certain pitfalls and also has some benefits. “Just because you are comfortable with the system doesn’t mean a new system is wrong. The ward system is about representation.” There are four cities in Westchester County that have the ward system. The systems were devised for those cities to have representation for racial minorities who felt they were underrepresented in the at-large system. The ward system allows the minority to elect a representative that gives them a stronger say in municipality matters, added Areces.
About 50 people attended the discussion at the American Legion on Monday night. “We want all sides of this issue out. We want to see what the benefits are and what the problems are. And we also want to see what might be in the best interest of the community,” added Futia. Of the 50, many in attendance were against the ward system's propositions.
There is no racial underrepresentation in North Castle whose population is 11,371. The town is mostly a homogeneous racial and ethnic group. The 2010 consensus shows the North Castle population race is 90% white, 10% non-white, and there is a minority ethnicity of 5% Hispanic.
The three hamlets of North Castle are governed currently by five town board members who all live in Armonk. Futia says the citizens of North White Plains are under-represented. But 50-year North White Plains resident Ed Lobermann, says he is in a quandary because the current town board holds monthly meetings that he attends in North White Plains. He is pleased with the hamlet’s representation.
“This issue is not about North White Plains,” says Arden. “There are many neighborhoods that are small and are underrepresented such as in Banksville.” Without representation from those districts, you just can’t do justice for these areas, he added.
Pilla sees the most important thing to consider is not just a change in the system, but it might be a challenge to find eight or twelve people who are willing to run as representatives. He asked, “Will there be enough candidates in the smaller districts?”
Arden differed with Pilla and said the smaller districts would open the elections to a greater pool of people because less work would be involved in signing the nominating petitions. In addition, he says the campaigns would be less expensive with lesser advertising.
But, if candidates ran unopposed and there wasn’t any competitive elections, there can be a dysfunctional Town Board where nothing may get done, unless you have “I’ll support your idea, if you vote for my idea,” added Pilla.
North Castle’s Town Board members are paid $18,300 each. Arden says there is no other town in Westchester that has a Town Administrator who pays their Town Board members more than $12,000. The ward system could be a revenue neutral program, says Arden, if $73,200 which is paid to the current four town board members were to be paid to six town board members of the ward system.
Another expense that was mentioned by Pilla is the cost to draw the ward boundaries every 10 years. These boundaries are based upon the United States census data. Off camera, Pilla talked about additional town expenses of up to $50,000 every 10 years. There’s the cost of hiring a lawyer, a demographer and a statistician to read the demographics, and to draw the lists of voters. Also boundary lines may lead to litigation and there would be an additional cost for legal matters.
“Beware of gerrymandering,” warns Pilla. Redistricting is possible when there is a candidate who potentially would present competition to an incumbent.
The floor was turned over to questions by the moderator, Joe Lombardi of the Daily Voice.
A question was raised about the additional expenses of the ward system with two more Town Board members. Futia petitioned a third proposition that was to freeze the salary of the current town board. His proposition was to expand the same salary of four Town Board members to six board members. But that proposition was deemed illegal and not recommended by the Town Attorney to the Board of Elections.
“The Town Board representatives should not be paid,” says Futia. The Town would be better off financially. The trustees of the Town of Scarsdale aren’t paid, and neither are the Trustees of the School Board who manage a bigger budget, adds Futia, referring to the Byram Hills School District.
Armonk resident Sam Morell, said North Castle has a diverse Town Board consisting of two Republican registered voters, two Democratic registered voters, and one non-affiliated registered voter. “Economically, aesthetically, professionally and civility-wise, our town has progressed tremendously over the past three or four years. Something is going right with who is managing the town.” Morell directed his comment and question to Futia: “I have never heard you speak once about the ward system in the previous administration or the administrations prior to that. “Why now?" asked Morrell. “There are no other towns our size that have a ward system.”
Futia responded that it took years to get the information together on what should be done. “The number one priority for many North White Plains residents was to join the City of White Plains because representation for North White Plains has been terrible.”
In the 17 years that Jill Greto lived in North White Plains, she says she has “never seen a Town Board who has been more committed to the interest of North White Plains, despite that none of them live in the hamlet.”
Ed Lobermann agreed. “In 50 years, I have never seen representation as we have had recently. It’s outstanding what the Town Board is doing at the open monthly meetings in North White Plains. I’m reluctant to change a good thing. I’ve never seen things work in our favor so well as it is presently.”
The most overriding concern Lobermann has with the ward system is he could no longer vote for the rest of the council people. “That is intolerable because the last election this community overwhelming decided we had enough. People didn’t vote by party, they voted by performance. The incumbents all got thrown out of office.” That could not have been easily done with a ward system.
Armonk resident Mario Rugiero says his neighborhood in Armonk has not received sufficient attention. The highway department is seen only on his block once a month. The grass on the town’s property is not cut. And therefore, he is in favor of the ward system to address his district’s needs.
“Can a town be “too small” for redistricting?” asks Pilla. His consultants say yes. But he says they really don’t know what “too small” is because it hasn’t been studied.
One ward, one vote, said Morell. Not being able to unelect people, you’ll be stuck, he added. In the at-large system, if you cannot find a representative you like, you can go elsewhere. In the ward system you will be stuck with your representative because you cannot vote anywhere else.
Armonk resident Norma Hill said, "Listening to what everyone is saying, it seems rather than a ward system here, we should consider making this a nonpartisan system." Hill wants to be sure that the propositions are prominently positioned on the ballot. The voters should also be directed by poll workers as to where to vote for the propositions on the ballot.
“Who is saying there is an injustice? asked Armonk resident Barry Malvin. "There is a presumption of injustice that someone or a part of town is being discriminated against.” But Malvin thinks of "the whole town as his neighborhood because it’s not that big. In each of the four cities of Westchester where a ward system was initiated, a minority sector of the population wasn’t represented." Malvin added that the other alternatives besides the ward system need to be investigated. “Why not form a task force to find out if there is a better way?”
Ward System Propositions Will Not Appear on November’s Ballot
Updated October 24, 2014
First Edition appeared September 24, 2014 On Election Day, November 4, North Castle voters will not have the opportunity to vote for or against two propositions of a ward system. The ward system permits voters to elect only one Town Board member who will represent their neighborhood or ward. If the ward system were to pass, sections of North Castle would be equally divided among North Castle voters.
The Board of Elections recorded 8,641 registered voters in North Castle in June 2013. If a proposition passes, the boundaries of the wards will be established after the election by the Westchester Board of Elections. If Proposition No. 1 passes, there will be four wards of an equal number of voters. If Propositions No. 1 and No. 2 pass, there will be six wards of an equal number of voters.
In a ward system, a candidate is required to live in the neighborhood of that ward where he/she is running for office. The residents of each ward will vote for only one Town Board member, as opposed to voting for North Castle’s at large election of four board members and a Supervisor. If the propositions are passed, voters will not vote for Town Board members in neighborhoods or wards outside their own area. Under the ward system, all registered North Castle voters will have the option to vote for the supervisor.
At the September 23 Town Board meeting, the Town Board received a letter from Town Attorney Roland Baroni of his opinions of the three propositions of a ward system that were petitioned to appear on the North Castle’s election ballot. Life-long North White Plains resident Anthony Futia presented petitions to the Town on September 2, 2014. More than 80 percent of the 400 petition signatories live in North White Plains. These signatories were in favor of seeing the propositions of the ward system appear on the ballot.
The town is required to refer the letter with Roland Baroni’s opinions to the Westchester Board of Elections. That action is an administrative action, and does not render support of the action to establish a ward system or to increase the number of councilmen from four to six, says Supervisor Michael Schiliro.
Proposition No. 1 reads: “Shall the ward system be established for the election of councilmen or councilwomen in the Town of North Castle?”
Proposition No. 2 reads: “Shall the number of councilmen or councilwomen of the Town of North Castle be increased from four to six?”
Proposition No. 3 reads: “Shall the Town of North Castle voters limit the total amount of annual compensation to be paid to the six town councilmen, to the total amount of annual compensation paid to the Town’s four councilmen in fiscal year 2014?”
Baroni recommended wording of Propositions No. 1 and No. 2 for submission to the Board of Elections. But he says he is certain that the third proposition is invalid because there is no authorization in the law that permits a freeze of town employees’ annual compensation. Therefore, Baroni’s letter says Proposition No. 3 “should not be submitted to the Board of Elections nor the electorate.”
Tony Futia says he will not file legal action against the Town to argue against Baroni’s opinion of the Proposition No. 3 because this is a first impression case with no precedent and would most likely be too timely a case to be settled by the deadline of September 27, the required date that must be met in order to have the proposition on the ballot by the November 2014 election. “In spite of what people say, I don’t want to go to court. I would rather sit down to discuss the issues,” says Futia.
Futia says he doesn’t want to see taxes increase with more Town Board members and therefore, he will consider arguing the case of Proposition No. 3 for the November 2015 election.
Guy Mezzancello, who is running for a Town Board seat this November, says the ward system is not for North Castle. "My opinion is founded by my understanding of the facts; 97 percent of towns in New York State are governed by the 'at large' form of representation, implying that it is the choice of the people. The ward system form of town representation is selective and specific. If you look at where it is implemented, it is a select number of larger populated cities; Yonkers with a population of 195,000, and New Rochelle with a population of 78,000. In a township such as North Castle, with a smaller population of approximately 12,000, it does not seem to merit the need for additional board members, and in fact, could pose issues caused by excessive 'bigger government.' Out of the 932 towns in New York, only 11 have the ward system with the majority of those in larger cities. Chappaqua declined the ward system in past elections, and Ramapo voted the ward system down several times and is voting again on the propositions in a special election at the end of September." Mezzancello concluded that voters should be sure to understand how the ward system works before endorsing it.
Armonk resident Neil Baumann says with the ward system of six councilmen, voters will have control of only one of them. “You may have members of the town board who may not care about the entire community as a whole,” says Baumann. “They may only be concerned about their own ward. If so, they will probably be voted in again, and again, and the town board will rarely turn over, inviting stagnation.”
Town Board member Barbara DiGiacinto says when she canvassed during her campaign last year, the people of North White Plains said they wanted representation. They said,‘“We’ll never see you again. You are only here when you want to get elected.’”
DiGiacinto said she finally responded, “If you vote for me, you will hear from me again. I will work with you.” And that’s why after DiGiacinto was elected, she began the monthly meetings at the community center in North White Plains where every member of the Town Board has joined her on separate occasions. “When you elected us, you elected us to serve North Castle. It doesn’t matter that all of us live in Armonk, that’s inconsequential. Our commitment is to every single resident in North Castle. That is the way it has always been, the way it is, and I hope it is the way it shall be,” added DiGiacinto.
The League of Women Voters studied the issue of the ward system, noted Armonk resident John Diaconis. They concluded that there will be an additional cost with more board members. Diaconis also says he agrees with Banksville resident Sharon Tomback who said the talent pool will be less, because it will be harder to find talented candidates in the smaller geographic districts. Diaconis says other towns have formed hamlet task committees to meet with Town Board members.
North Castle resident Ed Loberman says there are pros and cons to the propositions of the ward system. He says he has seen lots of politicians, and what’s most important is carrying through on an issue. “I have never seen anybody in North Castle who has represented North White Plains as Barbara DiGiacinto has. She is interested, holds meetings and follows through in getting things done. That is important.”
After the Town Board meeting, Tony Futia said he is not planning on running for the Town Board. “I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I would like to see younger people involved.” Futia says he is planning to hold a public meeting to discuss neighborhood representation of the ward system on the evening of October 6 at the American Legion in Armonk. Further details will follow.
Primary Day is September 9
Registered North Castle Democrats will have the opportunity to vote in the Democratic Primary for the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Voting hours on Tuesday September 9 are from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Pleased with Assemblyman Buchwald’s Record, North Castle Democrats Hold Fundraiser
June 24, 2014 The North Castle Democratic Commmittee held a fundraiser on June 22 for Assemblyman David Buchwald, who
represents the 93rd district that includes Bedford, Harrison, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge and the City of White Plains.
Barry Malvin, Co-Chairman of the North Castle Democratic Committee, hosted the party with his wife Nan Miller.
Malvin says, “We want to do everything we can to support David Buchwald, to get him on the ballot, and get him elected. We’re happy to raise money, as it always takes a lot of money to run a campaign.” Malvin leads the Democratic Committee in its efforts to put candidates on the ballot. During Malvin’s term as co-chairman, Mike Schiliro was elected North Castle’s Supervisor and the Democratic Committee has also recently endorsed Town Councilman José Berra for re-election. The Democratic Committee will circulate party petitions to get Berra on the November 4, 2014 election ballot that are due on July 10.
With almost three weeks remaining before the party’s petitions are due, State Assemblyman David Buchwald is expected to be the Democratic Party nominee, and the nominee for the Working Family Party and the Independence Party as well.
“On the local level people are most focused on confidence in local government, fairness and a general sense of how are we best going to make progress and that’s not inherently a democratic or republican issue," says Buchwald. "Local parties must concentrate on how to make sure there are a variety of ideas and creative solutions, and it’s particularly hard to accomplish that during challenging economic times.”
Buchwald’s first elected position was to the White Plains Common Council, the equivalent of a city council, with seven members including the mayor. David comes from a family committed to public service. His father, Don Buchwald, is a former Assistant US Attorney, and says he is proud of his son because he serves his constituents. "David responds to the people who call his office, he speaks with them, responds to their emails and either he is able to personally assist them or direct them to somebody to respond. He has done that since he first served in White Plains and continues to respond to everyone while he is in the Assembly." It’s Don’s third time knocking on doors and handing out campaign leaflets for his son, something he considers a labor of love.
One definitive accomplishment of Buchwald's first two-year Assembly term that Buchwald is particularly proud of is that the Assembly passed legislation to preserve jobs in Westchester County. During this past session, Buchwald says he has worked to make sure we nurture the economy in Westchester. One of the ways he does this is to be sure that New York State is open to competition so that innovative companies are able to thrive, for example Tesla, an electric vehicle company, which will to continue to sell electric cars in five existing stores in New York. With three of Tesla’s showrooms in Buchwald’s district, including Mount Kisco and White Plains, a bill was moving forward in the Assembly that would have forced the Telsa sales facilities to close, as happened when competing car dealers got their way in New Jersey. The Assembly amended the bill to allow Tesla’s sales facilities to remain open, which preserved 35 jobs in Buchwald’s Assembly district, plus all the ancillary economic activity that comes along with that, in addition to the environmental benefits of the vehicles. The compromise agreed upon in the Assembly was that Tesla will not be able to open any more direct sales outlets in New York State. Instead, Tesla’s prime mission will be to prove how well their cars are able to operate.
Another bill that Buchwald has sponsored with bi-partisan support is an amendment to the State Constitution to strip the pensions from public officials who are convicted of a felony in violation of the public trust. Buchwald says when he started with the bill, people said, ‘There is no way it will gain traction.' But at the end of last year he had 40 sponsors. By March 2014, this was up to 60 sponsors and now there are 91 co-sponsors in the State Assembly alone (where only 76 votes are needed to pass the bill). Two weeks ago, for the first time, there was a vote from the Assembly Government Operations Committee to move the bill forward, although the bill still has to make it through more committees before reaching the floor of the State Assembly. “Amending the State Constitution is always a long process,” says Buchwald.
If he is reelected, Buchwald says he will continue to keep fighting for what is right. “I will not accept the idea that just because we have done something one way for many years, that’s the way it always has to be,” says Buchwald.
Individual constituents can contact Assemblyman Buchwald with any concerns they have about state government legislation at his Mount Kisco office.
Berra Wins Conservative Nod for Town Board in November
June 10, 2014 The members of North Castle’s Conservative Party Committee unanimously endorsed Town Board appointee José Berra last week for the Town Councilman seat in November 2014. Last week, the North Castle Democratic Committee also endorsed Berra.
Berra was unanimously appointed to the Town Board by the other members of the board on January 22, 2014.
Berra currently holds the seat vacated by Mike Schiliro, who became Town Supervisor on January 1, 2014 following his election in November 2013.
The term of this Town Board seat will be for only one year, and the seat will be up for election again in November 2015.
“The Conservative Committee would like to see what kind of Board this is and what José will bring to the Board this year,” says North Castle’s Conservative Party Chairman, Billy McClure. “A Town Board has to find its own level and the Town should give the other four town board members and José a shot. There is still time for someone else to run, but it’s late in the game now. Then we have to wait to see what happens in 2015.”
Berra says that he wants to continue his working on the Town Board to maintain and improve the many great qualities of the Town. “In addition to being incredibly gratifying to do something good for the Town, it’s really interesting to get involved in the workings of the Town and the many issues that arise, and to see how things run in the Town.”
Some of the things that Berra has been focusing on are infrastructure issues, such as the parking shortage in downtown Armonk and Town-wide road repairs and repaving, as well as and contributing to setting a more civil tone and dialogue in town government. “All the board members have been focusing on that and we have made some important progress on that front, which has been good for the Town.”
“I love learning how different things work, and dealing with problems, that’s what I do,” says Berra. “I get to see and be involved with many facets such as what happens with the labor unions, snow plowing, road repairs and repaving, and tree issues. I’m driven to put my efforts into something where I can make a difference.”
Berra, who has legal, accounting, business and finance experience, has worked for the United States Treasury Department in Washington, DC, in its Office of Tax Policy. In that role, Berra wrote tax regulations and other published guidance and also worked with Congress on tax legislation. Berra graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, and says that his legal education is not only useful in understanding laws and legal documents, but also provided him with rigorous analytical training. “I love figuring out how different things work, and solving the many issues and problems that pop up.”
Berra says there are many legal documents that the Town Board may deal with, such as statutes, agreements and contracts, that a lawyer may read differently because of his or her better understanding of the language than most laymen.
Several months ago, Berra, who previously was nonaffiliated changed his party affiliation, and registered as a Democrat, switching from the Independent Party. José says he appreciated the support and endorsement from the North Castle Democratic Committee in the last election, as well as their ongoing support. Still, Berra says that as the current board members exemplify, party affiliation is much less significant on a local level, and the job of a Town Board member is to work for all the residents of the Town. “We’re a small community of approximately 12,000 residents, and although there inevitably will be differences of opinion, we all benefit from working together in a positive and constructive manner.”
Berra, who enjoys going door-to-door and exchanging ideas with residents, plans on campaigning, even if he is unopposed. However, the first order of business is to get all the petitions finished to appear on the Democratic and Conservative lines and he will then start his campaign later this summer.
North Castle's 2014 GENERAL ELECTION SAMPLE BALLOT
NYS BALLOT PROPOSALS
NORTH CASTLE WARD SYSTEM INFORMATION
NORTH CASTLE SPECIAL ELECTION 11-13-14 WARD SYSTEM PROPOSITIONS
Guy Mezzancello's Run for Election to North Castle Town Board
September 9, 2014 "People should be in tune with the community and have the attitude to give back to serve on the Town
Board," says Guy Mezzancello. Mezzancello is running for a position on the North Castle Town Board this November, for a one-year term to finish out Supervisor Michael Schiliro’s previously elected four-year term. Mezzancello hopes to run again as an incumbent in 2015. He has been on both sides of the political arena, recently switching from a registered Democratic voter to a registered Republican. “I have always been fiscally conservative,” he says.
Guy Mezzancello grew up in Harrison where his parents taught his two brothers and him to give back to the community. Guy and his wife, Joni, bought their first home in North White Plains; at the time it was the smallest house listed on the market. A year after their first son was born in 1984, they moved to Armonk. Mezz, as his friends call him, has given back to the community ever since he can remember.
Behind his good looks is a man of pride with strong conviction to his community. “I’ve been volunteering my time since I was a kid; it’s just what I do. His father worked for the Town of Harrison and Guy got to know all the Town officials. As a young boy, he remembers shining the statues and dusting the mannequins of the North White Plains Washington’s Headquarters where his mother volunteered. When the North Castle Republican Party asked Guy to run for the Town Board, he said, why not. This is Mezzancello’s second time running; the first time he ran was in the 2009 primary election for North Castle Town Supervisor in which he lost to Becky Kittredge.
There are many causes that Mezz has been involved with behind the scenes for 40 years; he met his wife volunteering at St. Anthony’s Festival at Silver Lake. An electrician by trade, Mezz has dedicated much of his time to helping set up electrical work for different organizations around town, including:
• As Commissioner of Armonk Baseball League, he was an integral part of the field lights at the Community Park; • He worked with the Armonk Outdoor Art Show on the electrical work on the field; • He has worked with the North Castle Recreation and Parks Department, setting up the annual winter lights for the holidays and Frosty Day in Wampus Brook Park, as well as saving the town money, installing the LED lighting throughout town; • He did the electrical set-up for the Armonk Lions’ Fol-de-Rol; and • Set up the lighting and electrical power for the town’s Summer Music in the Park.
“I do it for the community. I do it for the kids. I’m always involved," he says. "I have a lot of energy, and my mind is always working. I only get about four hours of sleep every night.”
Anita Cozza, chairwoman of the North Castle Republican Committee, says, "We looked at Guy Mezzancello’s qualifications, thought that he served the town well as a volunteer and proven leader, and nominated him to run for the Town Board."
With some of the important issues facing the North Castle, such as the Comprehensive Plan, parking in downtown Armonk, Brynwood, the King Street parking garage at the Westchester County Airport, and affordable housing, he says that he has “an excellent reputation for evaluating the success of a project and negotiating the best track to finish on time, as well as simplifying the process. I have a no-nonsense approach in my interactions with people; I am not afraid to be the only aye or nay response when I believe that I am correct. I am driven to accomplish the important objectives, and don't waste time in doing so. I always see the big picture and work tirelessly to reach completion of any task.”
Mezzancello adds that his expertise as an electrician has benefited the Planning Board. Brought on that board when Bill Weaver was North Castle Town Supervisor, Mezz says he’s part of a team approach where everyone brings something to decisions. “I bring determination, dedication, and serious effort.” Guy’s knowledge, background and leadership in construction issues and site preparation is an asset that allows everyone else on the Planning Board to understand the issues, so that they can then come to their own conclusions. His experience in the construction business for 40 years allows him to better understand development issues. For example, the CVS Pharmacy application has been required to improve the Armonk Shopping Center’s building facade and to create a more attractive street scape of sidewalks and lights. In addition, he would like to see an installation of a crosswalk to cross Maple Avenue from the soon-to-be-finished CVS Shopping Center to Armonk Square.
Mezzancello is a personable man who enjoys getting to know people and helping out where he can; for example, he has set up many elderly people with home kidney machines. When his wife asks him how he does it, he says, “I have more than enough. I can give a little extra to somebody and not worry about it. Part of the job of being a Town Board member is to be a good leader. You have to have it in you, to want to work for people. And I’m the right guy,” says Guy, with no pun intended, “because I’ve been doing this for a long time. I truly enjoy helping people.”
Asked if he would debate his opponent Jose Berra, Mezzancello says that there’s nothing to debate, but he would be amiable to an open discussion before the election.