The 13 candidates running for New Paltz’s village board all agree that the best kind of government is one that is open and available.
“Our villagers deserve to know everything that is going on,” said trustee candidate Amy Cohen. “I don’t need secrets. If something comes up that’s a secret, that’s a problem.”
Transparency on the village board was just one of many issues discussed at Deyo Hall on Monday during the final meeting of candidates before Election Day on May 3.
Panelists included mayoral hopefuls Jonathan Cohen, Jean Gallucci, Pete Healey and former mayor Jason West, as well as trustee candidates Ariana Basco, Rick Bunt, Amy Cohen, Emily Crocetti, Stewart Glenn, Sally Rhoads, David Kip Ruger, Martin Sherow and Shari Osborn.
Running alongside Cohen on the Groovy Blueberry ticket, trustee candidate Crocetti said she would strive to update the village’s website if elected to a four-year seat.
By setting up open lines of communication between village leaders and residents, Crocetti said transparency in government could be improved.
“There are opportunities to allow people to communicate with the village board and the mayor without having to come to a village board meeting,” Crocetti said. “We can set up message boards…so that everybody could know what’s on everybody else’s mind.”
Many candidates also agreed that New Paltz is in dire need of repairs to the existing infrastructure.
Trustee candidate Sherow said he was “inadvertently inspired” to improve the village’s infrastructure when he tripped over a cracked piece of sidewalk.
“Infrastructure is a priority,” Sherow said. “It needs to be taken care of immediately and repairs need to start immediately. You should never go through your daily lives being impassioned by infrastructure. That’s the board’s job.”
Mayoral candidate Jean Gallucci agreed that while infrastructure improvements are very expensive, her passion is to improve the village’s water and sewer systems.
While serving as mayor, West said his administration provided over $4 million in infrastructure improvement to the village. He said part of that amount was inherited from past mayor Tom Nyquist, while another portion was passed on to current mayor Terry Dungan.
“[We] laid new sewer lines and new water lines,” West said. “While we still do have sewage running through the streets occasionally and we still are under a consent order from Riverkeeper, the problem is much less.”
Groovy Blueberry Co-owner Jonathan Cohen said he would forgo his four-year mayoral salary of roughly $100,000 if elected so the village could pay for future developments and improvements.
“If the village trustees decide to be a volunteer, that’s another $120,000,” Cohen said. “That’s $220,000 richer our village will be. What can we do with a quarter of a million dollars? I can think a lot for our children, that’s for sure.”
Trustee candidate Bunt said the fiscal issues surrounding New Paltz inspired him to run for a position on the board and over the last 10 years he has seen village taxes double.
Bunt said living in the village has become unaffordable for some residents under the current leadership and many have packed up and left.
But according to two-year trustee candidate Osborn, the village has had some financial positives. She said there was a zero percent budget increase for the entire four years she has served as trustee.
“This has not been easy,” Osborn said. “What isn’t seen in public is the work that we do behind the scenes.”
For 16-year village resident Andrea Russo, the lack of unity between members of village government has remained a pivotal issue that she hopes will not affect the future board.
With Election Day around the corner, she said she is still undecided on which candidates will get her vote.
“My problem is I think there’s more than one qualified candidate,” she said. “I’m having a problem limiting my choice and I don’t think I’m any closer.”
Several candidates entered the race for the mayoral and village trustee seats after press time of the coverage of elections in Issue XVI of The New Paltz Oracle. Jean Gallucci, the village’s current deputy mayor, will be running against Jason West, Jonathan Cohen and Pete Healey for the mayoral seat. Three other candidates for trustee positions will also appear on the ballot Tuesday. To see more in-depth profiles of the other nine candidates, visit our previous coverage by clicking here.
Rick Bunt Balance Party
As a certified sustainable building advisor and the owner of a general contracting business, Rick Bunt said he has a lot to offer the village.
Bunt said he was inspired to run for a four-year trustee position after seeing residents struggle to pay high taxes.
“I know that if we let in anyone who is going to be irresponsible with managing our money at this time, it is going to be so dangerous for this community,” he said. “We need to be very fiscally responsible and we need to figure out ways to make government more efficient.”
Regardless of who has lead the village over the last 20 years, Bunt said he has only noticed problems compounding and becoming worse.
He said the infrastructure of the village’s sewer and water systems is one of many issues he would like to see resolved.
“This isn’t the sexy stuff,” Bunt said. “It’s the nuts and bolts that we need to do to make sure New Paltz stays a viable place to live.”
Bunt said he would also like to lighten the village’s heavy vehicle traffic by creating alternative ways and bypassing routes.
With his sustainability training, Bunt said he would like to make New Paltz a leader in locally produced agriculture, as well as utilize renewable energy sources.
“I want to do what’s right for New Paltz,” he said. “I’m not concerned about where I’m going after this on the political ladder. This is my hometown, and I want to see it prosper and grow – and I want to do it wisely.”
Jean Gallucci Village Unity Party
Before becoming deputy mayor, Jean Gallucci served the village more than nine years ago as the clerk-treasurer.
She said she decided to make a bid at the mayoral seat so she could keep the village running and continue working toward improving the water and sewer infrastructure.
As the chief fiscal officer for Sullivan County’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Gallucci said she plans to use her experience to find funding for projects and figure out ways of obtaining grants.
“I know how to look at these things,” she said. “I really have the financial soundness and leadership skills to handle what we’re getting into. And I have less of a learning curve.”
Gallucci said she brings a unique and open-minded outlook to the village board.
Throughout the noise ordinance debate, she said she has been very vocal against the proposed changes.
“Originally we had a noise ordinance that had decibel levels in it, but then that law was changed,” she said. “Now you’re telling me you want a law with decibel levels put back into it? What makes you think [that’s] going to work?”
If elected as mayor, Gallucci said she would try and seek permission from SUNY New Paltz administrators to speak for 15 minutes at orientation.
Gallucci said she would bring her building inspector with her to provide advice and prepare students for their future off-campus lives.
“You guys cannot be living with holes in the walls, cockroaches and bad electrical connections,” she said. “If you go to your landlord and you say, ‘My toilet doesn’t flush,’ you should not have to wait three weeks to get it fixed. [Students] should never have to live like that.”
Shari Osborn Community Connection Party
Having served as a trustee for the past four years, Shari Osborn said she is running for the open two-year trustee seat so she can continue her efforts in bringing unity to the village.
“I embrace all those who reside in the village as individuals, and I enjoy celebrating all that SUNY, Woodland Pond and our many village neighborhoods have to offer,” she said.“I love helping new and established residents live in harmony in a small, tight-knit community.”
Through her official work with the Police Commission, Osborn said she has strived to ensure that all citizens of New Paltz are treated equally.
She said she is most proud of her work with “Community Service for Sentencing,” a program addressing minor offenses such as marijuana possession and open container violations.
Through this program, Osborn said offenders will be sentenced to anywhere from five to 40 hours of community service and a fine under $50.
“Everyone has been very supportive and very excited about this alternative to large fines and unreasonable sentencing,” she said. “I have heard only favorable comments on the model.”
Last year, Osborn said she co-founded the Town/Gown Connect out of her desire to fill a gap between SUNY New Paltz and the community.
When it comes to issues like the village’s noise ordinance, Osborn said she is completely against the changes as proposed.
“I will never vote for a code change that gives authoritarian powers to our police,” she said. “I do not want to live in a village with that type of code and, I am happy to say, the police chief and his officers are not looking for any such thing.”
David Kip Ruger New Paltz Party
As the owner and operator of Smitty’s Body Shop in New Paltz, David Kip Ruger said he decided to run for a four-year trustee seat because of poor transparency and leadership on the village board.
“I just felt like the last administration had shut everybody down,” he said. “I want everybody to feel represented and I want to make sure that every qualified person who wants to get on boards and committees can do so.”
Born in New Paltz, Ruger said he has spent his entire life in the village and has never once run for a position on a government board.
He said the overall lack of volunteerism for local committees could be partly solved if village leaders were more positive and welcoming.
“If you make everything open, I think volunteerism will fall back into place,” he said. “If people are heard and they’re listening to the boards and committees, then all that comes back around.”
If elected, Ruger said he plans to give back to the community that has supported him his whole life in any way he can.
Although he has not taken an official stance on the consolidation of village and town government, Ruger said he looks forward to viewing the government efficiency study currently being compiled.
When it comes to the proposed changes to the village’s noise ordinance, Ruger said tweaks should be made – as long as they are just.
“I don’t think it should be made so oppressive that somebody can’t play guitar on their front porch,” he said. “I can’t imagine a New Paltz where someone could possibly be shut down for that.”