Candidates Face Off at LWV Forum
By Kathy Savolt -
Tom Murphy and Sharon Torres, candidates for Mayor and Nora Lucas and Mallory Chinn, candidates for Trustee faced off in a crowded room for the annual League of Women Voters (LWV) debate.
Murphy or Torres for Mayor
The Mayoral candidates started with brief opening statements. Torres summarized her background as a Chief Human Resources Officer for a diverse social services organization larger than the Village. She highlighted the hallmarks of her campaign – transparency, basic respect, and fiscal control. Torres has an MBA from Pace University and is a member of the Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission, food pantry volunteer and the Board President of Evelyn Court. Murphy spoke about his knowledge and experience not only as Mayor for 6 years but his time on volunteer boards, as a Village Trustee and Town of Mamaroneck council person. He listed his accomplishments, including pedestrian safety, staying under the tax cap, and enacting a Comprehensive Plan. He claimed credit for reviving the Army Corps Flood Plan after it had been denied by the Trump administration.
With only two races on the agenda, Alice McNamara, the LWV moderator, had the time to ask thirteen questions ranging from specific local issues such as the rat infestation and affordable housing to serious global issues like greenhouse gas emissions. As an indication of its priority there were four direct questions about flooding and others that were indirectly related.
There was little agreement between the candidates overall, but both oppose rezoning the Hampshire property to allow housing and agree the dam should be repaired. Both also support creating a “Flood Czar” position although Murphy reported that he just sent an email to the Village Manager about the matter “this morning.” Torres had previously included the idea in campaign literature.
The candidates were on a continuum of opposition on most other topics. Notably, Torres opposes extending the terms for Board of Trustee members and Murphy took credit for changing his position and allowing a referendum (see previous article HERE) but said he was not really against it or for it.
On the issues of civility and transparency, the candidates were wide apart. Murphy blamed the cyberbullies on NextDoor for a lack of civility and blamed the Torres campaign for allowing it and/or being behind it. This statement prompted the moderator to give Torres time to rebut during which she supported the first amendment right to free speech, said her campaign is not on NextDoor, and reported urging people to tone down their comments. Murphy also took credit for televising the Board work sessions. He claimed to have worked hard to make the Village more open. Torres said she would make people feel more welcome at Board meetings and they would not have to fear repercussions. She suggested holding Town Hall meetings so Board members and Village staff could listen to the concerns of the community. Similar statements were made in response to a question about the Sunshine Laws (Open Meeting and Freedom of Information) with Murphy singling out a resident by name and accusing him of “clogging the system for the sake of clogging the system.”
There seemed to be few surprises and the debate ended with both candidates delivering closing statements. Torres claimed that “we deserve better” and promised to work on the divisiveness in the Village and “lack of action and empathy.” She promised to bring back respect, communication, collaboration, and transparency. Murphy asserted that it was a privilege to serve as Mayor and that it is not an entry-level position. He’s made tough decisions that have alienated him from the local Democratic party and, addressing the public, said he “sticks up for you, not a small group of people.”
Lucas or Chinn for Trustee
The debate continued with Trustee candidates Mallory Chinn and Nora Lucas starting with their opening statements. Chinn vowed to stand up for working families and mentioned her 26 year teaching career and union activity. She told the crowd that the Village needs visionaries – forward thinking progressive people who will roll up their sleeves and get to work. Lucas mentioned her six years as a Trustee, and that this is a performance review. Although she has been told by residents that she is doing a good job there is more work to do. Board meetings must be safe spaces again for residents which they are not now. She strives to achieve common ground and collaborate to solve our problems such as a regional solution to flooding and water quality, improved communications from the Village and curbing overdevelopment.
The candidates faced ten questions ranging from the condition of Village Hall to flooding. There was some agreement between the candidates as they oppose the rezoning of Hampshire and agreed that Village Hall needed repair and Chinn, who lives across the street from the building, stated she wanted to see space that could be used for sheltering flood victims and store supplies they might need. They both support developing affordable housing and rezoning the Industrial Area to attract the arts and other business that would be open in the evening but disagree on the proposition to extend the terms of Village Board members. Lucas is against the measure for accountability reasons and Chinn in favor so time would not have to be spent on elections every year.
When asked what the two most important issues (other than flooding) facing the Village are, Chinn responded pedestrian safety which would allow children to safely walk to school and people to bike around the Village and creating a destination for artists and the arts. Lucas responded that fiscal responsibility and civility were important, and she wanted Board meetings to be a safe space for residents to come and bring their concerns.
Chinn closed by saying that she understood the challenges and was “open-minded, friendly and knowledgeable.” She further said that it’s not just about the history of the Village but the future and stressed her volunteerism with the local schools and will serve as a bridge between the Village and schools. Lucas said she has said that she believes she has done a credible job and “earned your trust” for another term to restore thoughtfulness and civility to the Village government.