Trustee Pugh on the politicization of the Financial Sustainability Committee

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To the Editor,

I attended the inaugural meeting of the Financial Sustainability Committee last week at which Mayor Greg Schmidt explained that the objective of the committee was to explore financial strategies for the Village without the interference of partisan politics. Just days later, the actions of two of the Mayor’s appointees to this committee have thrown the ostensible objectivity and nonpartisanship of this Committee into doubt.

One member of the committee announced that he will be running for Village Trustee in the November election–presumably as a Croton United Party candidate.

Another member, the committee’s chair according to the Village website, commenced his first week on the committee with a disingenuous and misleading attack on me in the Gazette over my suggestion that the Village explore expanding rent stabilization.

I communicated my concerns about the politicization of the Financial Sustainability Committee to Mayor Schmidt last Friday (7/15), but have not received a response as of this writing (7/19).

It strains credulity that it pure coincidence that within days of the first meeting of the Financial Sustainability Committee, one member attacks me, a sitting Trustee and current candidate for re-election and another makes known his intentions to run against me. At a minimum, these actions by two of the mayor’s appointees create the appearance of impropriety and undermine the committee’s work.

The last point is a true shame. There are sincere and talented individuals on the Financial Sustainability Committee. Out of respect for their effort and good intentions, the committee should not be allowed to become a soap box for Croton United Party partisans or a launching pad for Croton United Party candidates.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

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Trustee Pugh on Improving Transparency

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To the Editor:
Last week, the US Freedom of Information Act turned 35.  In honor of this historic occasion, President Obama signed important transparency reforms into law and directed  federal agencies to work to make “release to one is a release to all”, under which a document requested by a member of the public is published online and made generally available, the presumptive standard under FOIA.
Similar reforms are also under consideration by the Village of Croton.  I have been encouraging the Village to adopt such a progressive policy since first learning of the federal agencies that implemented “release to one, release to all” in the summer of 2015.
The case for  “release to one, a release to all” includes:
1) Transparency—Publishing requested documents online gives the public a better idea of what their government is doing on the public’s behalf.
2) Efficiency—By publishing a requested document online, administrative staff avoids the need to answer future requests for the published document.
More recently, Mayor Greg Schmidt voiced his support for this approach at the April 18, 2016 Village Board meeting.  On June 27th, we held a public work session on adopting a policy of “release to one is a release to all”.
At that work session, members of the staff expressed concern about the administrative burden of “release to one, release to all”.  However, I believe that with modern information technology, such as the many services offered by Google (e.g. Google sites, Google groups, Google drive, etc.), these concerns can be addressed and a more proactive policy adopted at minimal expense or staff effort.
Sincerely,
Brian Pugh

A letter on CCA from Trustee Brian Pugh

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To The Editor:

County Legislator Catherine Borgia and I organized two information and discussion sessions in June on Community Choice Aggregation for Westchester communities not currently participating in the Westchester Power CCA program.

Municipal leaders from several communities participated.  But none of my colleagues from the Croton United Party majority of the Village Board, who voted against CCA in January, attended either meeting.

Some of you may remember, the CU Party majority voted against CCA even their own treasurer, Joel Gingold, told the Board, “I believe the more likely outcome is that the program will offer modest, but real, savings to those who agree to participate.  Perhaps more importantly, it will offer customers who so choose, the option to obtain all of their electricity from renewable sources (wind, solar, hydro, etc.).”

Indeed, the CUP majority opposed CCA after Mayor Schmidt begged Sustainable Westchester for an additional 2 weeks to consider the issue, received an additional two weeks, and Mayor Schmidt again refused to place the issue on the agenda and approve CCA for our community.

The absence of any trustees from the Croton United Party at the meetings regarding future plans for CCA is troubling.  Prior to voting against CCA, the CU Party’s Board members claimed they would consider participating in CCA in the future if enough additional communities showed an interest in the program to make it possible for Sustainable  Westchester to offer a “second round.”

Since then, the Westchester Power CCA has secured a contract with Con Edison Solutions to provide participating municipalities, more than a dozen to date, with certified 100% renewable power for less than the average price of standard Con Ed electric power.  The US EPA also honored Sustainable Westchester, the  nonprofit consortium that runs Westchester Power CCA, as one of this year’s environmental champions.

In the face of the success of  Westchester Power CCA, the apparent indifference of my Croton United Party colleagues is distressing—especially since they all received written notice of the meetings and I mentioned the scheduled meeting at in my report at the June 6, 2016 Village Board meeting.

The Croton United Party’s opposition to  the Westchester Power CCA, an economical and environmentally-sound program that has won bipartisan support, is a lost opportunity for our community.  I hope that my colleagues will come around on this issue before we miss another chance to join our neighbors in Ossining and other communities in benefiting from the affordable renewable power CCA can bring to our Village.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

#ThrowBackThursday: Croton United’s Greg Schmdit’s Unfair Campaign Practices

Complete finding of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee:

WESTCHESTER COUNTY FAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICES COMMITTEE

14 North Chatsworth Avenue #3E, Larchmont, NY 10538

914-834-0615/ faircampaign@optonline.net

http://www.faircampaignpractices.org

 

March 12, 2010 Contact: Evelyn M. Stock, Chair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 914-472-4719

 

Findings in the Complaints of

Ann Gallelli and Richard Olver against Gregory Schmidt and Randall Swan

Candidates for Village Trustee, Croton-on Hudson, and Susan Konig, Chairperson of the Croton-on-Hudson Republican Committee.

 

The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on March 11, 2010 to hear the complaints of Ann Gallelli (D) and Richard Olver (D) against Gregory Schmidt (R) and Randall Swan (R) in their contests for village trustees of Croton-on-Hudson and against Susan Konig, chairperson of the Croton-on-Hudson Republican Committee.

 

COMPLAINT:

Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver stated that their opponents in a campaign advertisement March 4 in The Croton Gazette, and in a March 6 mailer falsely accused them of planning to build apartments in Harmon and a mall at the train station.

FINDING:

Unfair Campaign Practice

The Committee determined that there was no documented proof that Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver had such plans.  

 

COMPLAINT:

Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver objected to their opponents’ mailer that said they wasted tax money to create a toxic community garden.

FINDING:

Unfair Campaign Practice

The Committee determined that the property has been tested and found safe for gardening.

 

COMPLAINT  

Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver said their opponents misrepresented the truth when they placed in their mailer a photograph of row housing that bears no resemblance to anything situated in Croton so as to portray the threat of urban blight.  

FINDING:

Unfair Campaign Practice

Committee Guidelines state that a candidate should not use campaign advertisements that depict fictional or hypothetical events; that advertising that depicts a scene that never took place undermines the distinction between true and false campaign advertising.                (More)

 

COMPLAINT

Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver said their opponents claimed they wasted money by issuing $1.9 million in new bond debt since 2009 and that there is no indication in the mailer what the purpose of this bonding was.

FINDING:

Fair Campaign Practice

While the Croton Board of Trustees had authorized bonding for five different projects totaling $1.9 million, the charge that it was wasted is not in the purview of the Committee to determine.

 

If a candidate or campaign wishes to quote from a Finding, the Committee requires that it be quoted in its entirety. The Committee regards selective quotation of its Findings as a violation of fair campaign practices.  

 

Committee Members: Evelyn M.  Stock (Chair), Miriam Cohen (Coordinator),Victor Goldberg,  LaRuth Gray, Susan Pace Guma, Ruth Hinerfeld, Milton Hoffman, Lee Kinnally, Polly M. Kuhn,, Ernest Prince, Susan Schwarz, Lorelei A. Vargas.

Ex officio: Representatives of the Republican Party, Democratic Party, Independence Party, Conservative Party, Working Families Party.

 

The purpose of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee is to promote a climate in which candidates conduct honest and fair campaigns. The Committee encourages candidates to conduct campaigns openly and fairly, to discuss issues, to refrain from dishonest and defamatory attacks, and not to use campaign materials that distort the facts.

The Committee does not sit as a censor of political discussion nor as a body to enforce election law or make legal decisions. Its task is to accept written complaints about alleged unfair campaign practices and to determine whether the action complained about is indeed unfair. Among other things, the Committee will consider to be unfair any campaign practice that is a misstatement of a material fact or that misleads the public.

The Committee has no power to compel anyone to stop doing what it has found it be unfair. If the Committee acts on a complaint, it will release its findings to inform the public. The Committee may choose not to consider a complaint; in that case, a hearing is not held and the parties to the complaint are so notified.  

 

Statement of Principles of the Committee, as stated in its Manual, available at www.faircampaignpractices.org. The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee believes that candidates should conduct their campaigns in accordance with the following principles:

  • The candidate will conduct a campaign for public office openly and fairly. The candidate will discuss the issues and participate in fair debate with respect to his/her views and qualifications.
  • The candidate will neither engage in nor be involved with unfair or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent, nor will the candidate engage in invasions of personal privacy unrelated to fitness for office. (More)
  • The candidate will not participate in or condone any appeal to prejudice.
  • The candidate will neither use nor be involved with the use of any campaign material or advertisements that misrepresents or distorts the facts.
  • The candidate will clearly identify by name the source of all advertisements and campaign literature published and distributed.
  • The candidate will not abuse the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee process in order to obtain political advantage.

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The candidate will publicly repudiate materials or actions from any individual or group that would violate this Statement of Principles.