The Oracle sits down with candidates running in the 2017 Town of New Paltz Board election in order to gain a deeper understanding.
Straying from the typical fashion of caucusing for their candidates, New Paltz Democrats turn to a primary that will take place Tuesday, Sept. 12. Voters will select one candidate for town supervisor and two candidates for town councilmen positions.
Proceeding on the hopes of reelection is current New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. Bettez, originally from West Warwick, Rhode Island, ran for New Paltz Town Board for the first time two years ago. Prior to his involvement in local government, Bettez received his Ph.D from Cornell University and is, first and foremost, an environmental scientist.
Bettez’s original interest in becoming involved stemmed from his desire to see the people of New Paltz “happy and satisfied.”
If re-elected, Bettez states his main priority lies in making progress for a new town hall.
“Initially we had thought up plans of potentially building a new town hall entirely but we can’t afford it so currently there is an idea of possibly combining town hall and village hall,” he said. “I think that this could strengthen our already strong relationship with the Village Board; we need to move forward with having a good working relationship with the Village as well as the College.”
Bettez is running on a slate with current Deputy Town Supervisor and Bettez’s second-in-command Dan Torres and Executive Director of nonprofit Wild Earth David Brownstein.
“Of course you have to vote for us separately but we campaigned together and feel that we would work well together,” Bettez said.
When asked about his constituents, Bettez had nothing but positive things to say about their capabilities.
“I’ve known Dan for a few years now, he’s my second in command. We get along really well and he’s a great progressive,” he said. “David approached Dan and I and said he wanted to get involved because he felt that after I started my term, the dynamic had changed and majority of fighting that took place in town government disputes had halted.”
Torres also made comment on Bettez’s ability to calm the masses.
“The first two years on town board were really dysfunctional, the latter two were the exact opposite and I wholeheartedly accredit that to Neil,” Torres said. “He brings a calming element.”
Torres, running for one of the two councilman positions and having grown up in New Paltz, is no stranger to local government. As a senior in New Paltz High School, Torres ran for the school board and won.
Following that, Torres went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in political science at Marist College, where he is now completing a Master’s degree in integrated marketing communications.
On issues that he believes need to be diligently worked on Torres was quick to list zoning policies, intra-governmental relations and environmental resource efficiency.
“Updating our zoning, keeping up with that, is critical,” he said. “It is important to continue working peacefully with village board and I’d like us to work on giving people more resources to be environmentally conscious.”
Torres described his working relationship with Bettez as strong and amicable, even going as far as stating that since Bettez’s election in 2015, there has been a considerable lack of hostility.
“He’s great; the mayor and the supervisor also work amazingly together,” he said.
New to the scene is David Brownstein. Running in tandem with Bettez and Torres, Brownstein expressed an interest in getting involved, believing that he can bring a stance of listening to varied viewpoints.
“My experience lies in running a business; I have to listen to different opinions all of the time,” Brownstein said. “I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t make decisions based on such polarized ideas of what is right.”
In 2004 Brownstein co-founded Wild Earth, a nonprofit dedicated to getting kids comfortable with being outdoors.
Prior to this, Brownstein was a wealth advisor on Wall Street, having received his MBA in finance from Cornell University.
Some issues of his concern lie in renters’ rights.
“Student renters usually have less money than landlords but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to know exactly how everything works,” he said. “I’d like to help them understand all that they are entitled to.”
Challenger to Bettez is Town Councilman Marty Irwin. Originally from New Jersey, Irwin moved to New Paltz in 2002 and has a Bachelor’s degree in math and psychology and a Master’s degree in university administration from New York University.
His background in local government lies primarily in his past work as a real estate developer and manager, both positions requiring him to present ideas in front of a board.
Having done multiple projects dealing with environmental conservation and sustainability, one of Irwin’s goals for the town of New Paltz is to establish a solar garden by the year 2030.
“I also would like to make a bigger effort towards bringing attention to renters’ safety, specifically with students,” he said. “The college and its students are an integral part of this community.”
Irwin has heard firsthand stories of students who were delivered a different living experience than what they had signed up for.
“There are many students who will sign a lease after having read the marketing literature, and will be surprised when they find out the landlord will stray away from the written agreement,” Irwin said.
Irwin also emphasized his desire for continued inclusivity in the town.
The Oracle attempted in contacting candidate Jennifer Ippolito but received no response.