New Paltz Dems Gear Up for Primary Election

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.