Although the ballot will not be finalized until petitions are due on Sunday, March 29, potential mayoral and trustee contenders have already begun vying to nab one of four positions available in village government.
As of press time, those who have notified The New Paltz Oracle of their interest in becoming mayor include former trustee Pete Healey, former mayor Jason West and Groovy Blueberry Co-Owner Jonathan Cohen. Those who have notified the Oracle of their pursuit for one of three trustee seats – one term lasting two years and two lasting four years – include Stewart Glenn, Martin Sherow, Sally Rhoads, Amy Cohen, Emily Crocetti and Ariana Basco.
Mayor Terry Dungan announced on Wednesday, March 9, that he would not be running for re-election, and would instead be finishing out his term and continuing recovery from a stroke.
Also completing the remainder of his term, Village Trustee Robert Feldman said he will not be seeking another position.
“I put in over 10 years of service as a trustee and deputy mayor,” Feldman said. “[But] our local government is corrupt and I don’t want to be a part of it.”
Trustee Shari Osborn said she has not declared whether she will be running for re-election.
Other community members looking to rise in the government ranks have decided to abandon the idea of becoming mayor.
Local blogger Jeremy Blaber announced Feb. 20 on his website that he would not be able to devote enough time to the position. Blaber said he will instead be supporting West.
Former firefighter Patricia Fitzpatrick said she withdrew her decision to run because of an illness.
“I am being treated for chronic Lyme and have only enough strength to focus on my health,” she said.
The village election will be held on Tuesday, May 3.
Potential Mayoral Candidates
Running under a party named for his New Paltz clothing company, Groovy Blueberry co-owner Jonathan Cohen has announced that he will be seeking the mayoral seat this May.
As a self-proclaimed “champion of democracy,” Cohen said he has disagreed with former mayor Jason West’s goal to remove franchise businesses from the village.
“I don’t think it’s to the discretion of government to decide what business opens up on Main Street and what doesn’t,” he said. “Each person [should] have that voting right as far as whether they’re going to support that business or not.”
When it comes to the noise ordinance, Cohen said he has voiced his opinion against it at several meetings.
According to Cohen, the discussed legislation is dividing up the village and should be thrown away.
“I think it’s unconstitutional,” he said. “If the current administration attempts to pass that noise ordinance legislation, I guarantee I will do everything in my power to repeal it as mayor.”
To help meet the needs of a growing community, Cohen said he would like to find funding to purchase the land behind Village Hall and build a multiple-story parking facility.
He said this would tremendously benefit local businesses.
“Our neighbors need the ability to come shop in New Paltz instead of having to go up to Kingston or Poughkeepsie,” he said. “If we had adequate parking, we could attract a lot more people than we currently do.”
In order to consider the consolidation of town and village governments, Cohen said he would need to know for sure that it could provide real benefits.
“I just have to be sure that everybody is treated fairly,” he said. “Regardless of whichever one merges into the other – the town or the village – it’s represented properly.”
As a former trustee and founder of the Town/Village Unification Commission, Pete Healey announced his bid for mayor under the One Community party last month.
Although he originally thought he would run for trustee, Healey said he changed his mind after having dinner with Jason West. Once he learned of West’s future mayoral goals, he said it was clear that they weren’t going to be on the same ticket.
“I surveyed the scene of who was running, and as far as I could tell, they were all either undecided or opposed to unification,” he said. “I was convinced then that those for unification needed to have some candidate and I asked myself, ‘Is that person me?’”
As mayor, Healey said he would continue discussions on town and village consolidation to improve upon the “overlapping jurisdictions” and “constant conflicts” between both governments.
Healey said he would also like to repair relations with members of the fire department and other volunteer boards, as well as improve government transparency.
“There’s this business about open versus secret,” he said. “You want to be open to a fault, and this administration has not done that well.”
As an advocate for public access television in the late ‘90s, Healey said he persisted Time Warner to set up what is now channel 23. Although all regular government meetings are aired on the station, Healey said programming could be improved.
If elected mayor, Healey said he would also continue to work on bettering the route of the local Loop bus system.
“Public transportation and high tech communication are a couple of the signs of the age,” Healey said. “They’re terribly important and they’re going to be more and more important as time goes on.”
After former mayor Jason West lost to Terry Dungan for re-election in 2007, he said many of his initiatives came to a halt.
With the seat now up for grabs again, West said he plans on revisiting a list of policies he believes could benefit the village.
“All this great work that the community did on transportation and land use essentially has been sitting on a shelf,” he said. “There’s a wetlands protection law that’s – again – sitting on a shelf. There’s a law that would ban chain stores from downtown so that Bistro doesn’t close down and we have a McDonalds in its place.”
Although there are “good people” serving on the current board, West said he has seen a lot of missed opportunities caused by bad decisions.
While he believes the noise ordinance may have some merit, West said a simpler answer to this “bad law” would be to keep the ordinance as is and add some decibel levels that are reasonable.
“It’s targeting students and it shouldn’t,” he said. “We shouldn’t have laws that target anybody – particularly the one group in our community that is most likely to have the police assume the worst in them.”
If elected mayor, West said he hopes to improve relations between town and village government, create more affordable housing, provide ample space for local businesses and begin implementing the use of green building materials.
“There’s just huge potential to make New Paltz a model community,” he said. “The job of government – the way I see it – is to help make people’s lives just a little bit better and there’s a lot of potential to do that even in our little village.”
Potential Trustee Candidates
Running solo under the Positive Party, SUNY New Paltz alumnus Ariana Basco said she is vying for one of two available four-year trustee seats.
After observing negativity within the community, Basco said she created her party to embody her ultimate goal as a village leader.
“There are a lot of people who think positively, but when they are acting in local government, it ends up being about bickering and personal fights,” she said. “I want to get rid of all that, leave our baggage at the door [and] come in with a positive, open mind.”
Basco said she hopes to strengthen the village’s core economy by facilitating a program to help local farms and businesses work symbiotically.
As police commissioner and the co-chair of the Environmental Task Force, Basco said she would like to see students receive college credit for working with the village in an internship or fieldwork program.
“It would be so easy to do and then it saves the village money because they would pay less in research,” she said.
When it comes to the noise ordinance, Basco said she hopes residents can work together to reach a compromise.
“People want to sleep, people want to party,” she said. “We should be able to do both without infringing on each other.”
Joining her husband Jonathan Cohen as a Groovy Blueberry candidate, Amy Cohen said she is running for an open trustee seat.
If elected to the position, Cohen said she would like to end any separation that exists between middle-aged residents and students.
“I’m a 43-year-old, and I enjoy college students mostly more than I enjoy other 43-year-olds,” she said. “I enjoy living near young people and being around artists and free-thinking people.”
Cohen said she is against the noise ordinance, and those complaining about late night sounds should either install an air conditioning unit or move to an area that is not considered “a college town.”
In order to attract more visitors and help local businesses, Cohen said initiatives should be mapped out to increase the parking spaces available throughout the village.
“I can’t tell you how many people I see drive through the village, can’t find a parking spot and then leave,” she said. “It’s a really big problem.”
Cohen said she wants to become a trustee because she has found herself not being able to rely on past village board members.
“The word trustee means that you can trust somebody,” she said. “And unfortunately, I’m not feeling any of that – and it deeply concerns me.”
Running with Jonathan Cohen in the Groovy Blueberry party, Emily Crocetti said she will be seeking a position as village trustee in the upcoming elections.
As a SUNY New Paltz alumnus, Crocetti said she wants to remove the stigma that students on campus are reckless.
“Most students aren’t always looking to get wasted and throw beer bottles,” she said. “[Many] would much rather help clean up the village or help set up local community events.”
As an undergraduate student, Crocetti said she felt an overwhelming sense that the campus community was on the outside and unwanted by residents of the town and village.
When she began working at the Groovy Blueberry, she said she was treated as an equal and not looked down upon because of her status as a college student.
If elected, Crocetti said she would attend Student Association meetings to learn about important campus events and help to incorporate village participation as often as possible.
“I know there are a lot of conscientious people in the village who would love to be part of all these things,” she said. “Many people probably aren’t even aware of the amazing clubs on campus that could really be a cool part of our community here in the village.”
Vying for the open two-year trustee seat, Stewart Glenn said he has been a part of the New Paltz community since he was 4 years old.
With his experience, Glenn said he hopes a spot in government will allow him to fix village board relations with volunteer groups.
“We have the kind of folks in New Paltz that…would give their time to volunteer if they thought it was valuable and we were all in this together,” he said.
Running alongside Pete Healey in the One Community party, Glenn said he is committed to the one government concept and the consolidation study that is currently in development.
Glenn said he hopes to work with Healey because of his passion to make the village better.
“He’s not the type who’s doing this for glory or power,” he said. “He has a genuine desire to do something for the community.”
Regardless of the consolidation study’s results, Glenn said town and village government relations could be improved through more diplomatic and respectful discussions.
“I’m not naïve and nothing happens overnight,” he said. “I’m hoping we can think of some intelligent ways to work out issues so people always think this is a wonderful place to live.”
Formerly the school board president and president of Elting Library, Sally Rhoads will also be joining Healey on the One Community party ticket.
Running for a four-year trustee position, Rhoads said there are many advantages to reorganizing village and town government.
“Right now, we’ve got so many problems that we need to solve,” she said. “They’re not village problems or town problems – they’re community problems.”
Because there are duplicate boards between both governments, such as the Town and Village Planning Boards, Rhoads said it has been too difficult to fill positions. However, through consolidation, she said manpower issues could be solved.
According to Rhoads, consolidation efforts in the past were unsuccessful because people within the village felt they spent too much money and time in developing infrastructure to change.
But now that state law has allowed for different options – including coterminous government – there will be more willingness from residents to look at the issue.
“There are really good people in this community that truly care,” she said. “We may have different opinions on certain issues, but if we just sat down and discussed them, we’d realize we both want the same thing in the end.”
As a member of the One Community party with Pete Healey, Martin Sherow will be running for a four-year trustee position.
If elected, Sherow said he hopes to improve the village’s infrastructure.
“The sidewalks these days are not even handicap accessible,” he said. “I watch women and men push their children in carriages on the road because they prefer it to the sidewalk.”
Sherow said he would like to see an improvement in the village’s sewer and water systems.
Spatial limitations within the fire department are also a major issue he said he would work on if elected.
“It’s a beautiful village,” he said. “It just needs to be picked up and cleaned again.”
If an organization plan for unifying the town and village boards was put to a referendum and successfully voted upon, Sherow said more elections could be held for a new government.
Because of this, he said not a single candidate within the One Community party is looking to complete any personal agendas, but would instead want to look at benefiting the community.
“We’re asking to be elected to a job that we’re going to write ourselves out of,” he said. “I don’t think you can ask for a more honest politician.”