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  • Mamaroneck Observer

Residents Engage with their Local Government

By Sharon Torres -


CORRECTIONS: See below.

More than 50 residents packed the standing room only court room for the Board of Trustees Meeting on Monday March 27, 2023. The four-hour meeting ran until just before midnight and included nearly two hours of communication to the board. Residents shared their concerns, which centered on a few specific topics.


Flooding


Resident Peggy Jackson highlighted the 21 residences in Harbor Heights that took on water in their main living areas and not just in basements. Joyce Stern explained that during Hurricane Ida some saw water rise as much as 15’. Bernie Camarda, a member of the Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee, recalled shoveling raw sewage out of his home. He urged the Board to “learn from our mistakes” and not wait so long to solve the flooding issue, stating “This is not about me…it’s about the future of Mamaroneck.” One resident shared how she lost her vehicle in the flood, and another called the night of Hurricane Ida the worst night ever, when she feared she could die. Residents said they just want to be able to sleep at night and feel safe. The major increase in flood insurance rates was also discussed, which in some cases has tripled over the past few years with no real increase in benefits. Doreen Roney brought a copy of the contract for the dam and reviewed the maintenance responsibilities assigned to the village and questioned some options that were being presented. She stated that the dam was the responsibility of the Westchester Joint Water Works and not of the Village. See HERE.


Process of Voting on the Village Manager Contract


Many residents expressed their disappointment and concern over the process for handling the Village Manager’s emails in which he told the Board of Trustees that he planned to leave at the end of his contract in January 2024 because of his frustration with what he called “stall tactics”. The email was sent to over 200 people and outlined various grievances. That same week the Board called an emergency meeting which went into Executive Session, where they not only renewed the contract but gave Barberio his second raise in only 3 months.


Resident Francis Lively stated that the Board has “lost trust due to a lack of transparency” and stated that “no employee should see an increase at a rate higher than inflation.” He also reminded residents that the Village Manager is basically “the CEO of the Village and is meant to be apolitical.” Amy Siskind stated that the process showed a “lack of democracy” and exhibited an “effort to be opaque in a back-room deal.” Joel Fremont stated if an employee approached him in this manner “I don’t think I would give them a raise” and then suggested that if the Village Manager was so invested in the community (as members of the Board claimed), he should rescind the contract and start negotiations over in a transparent process. In defense of the process, Mayor Tom Murphy stated “we made the right choice for you (the village)”. The Mayor also addressed what he referred to as misinformation, stating that the Village Manager does not use his official village vehicle to commute to his second job. See Article HERE. Also in defense of the process, Trustee Lou Young stated, “you don’t shop for a bargain surgeon or a bargain lawyer and you don’t shop for a bargain CEO of a multi-million dollar government.”


2023/24 Tentative Budget


Residents expressed concern over whether or not the proposed budget is realistic. The revenue expected to be paid through property taxes is at the lowest point in several years at approximately 62% of the total budget. In prior years it was as high as 71%. CORRECTION: In prior years it was as high as 72%. Other revenue from various sources includes fees that were substantially increased from prior years. According to Village Manager Jerry Barberio, the Board of Trustees gave him a mandate to find other revenue sources which spurred these changes.


Resident Francis Lively questioned these assumptions of continued economic growth during a time when the U.S. may experience an economic downturn. He stated, “the assumptions are flawed and ignore the current financial state.” Resident Amy Siskind brought visual aids to show the increase in taxes over the last 5 years and claimed that the larger increases started around the same time that the new Village Manager was hired. She questioned what happens if the next year is not as financially strong as predicted, to which the Board and Village Manager responded that the budget would be adjusted accordingly mid-year if necessary. Mayor Tom Murphy stated that he had been hearing about a down economy for the past three years and “still, we are not in a recession.”


CORRECTION: The visual aids showed an increase in taxes over the last 10 years (not 5 as stated above).


Communication by Board Members


During this meeting there were many speakers requesting civility and respect from members of the Board. Amy Siskind repeatedly stated “Let me finish” when she was interrupted by the Mayor multiple times. Several residents had prepared comments specifically for this meeting that took more than 5 minutes, and/or were interrupted during their time and ended up speaking for longer than the allotted 5 minutes. Subsequently, resident Stuart Tiekert recalled a recent meeting where a resident was allowed to speak for 12 minutes stating, “You can’t set (different) standards for speech you like and speech you don’t like.” Resident Joel Fremont referenced an email by the Mayor where he told residents “Don’t believe what you see online…”, in reference to both The Mamaroneck Observer reporting and private residents who questioned recent board decisions. In response the Mayor explained that what he meant was for residents to take what they read online and on social media “with a grain of salt.” See the email HERE. Fremont stated that he found the suggestion to not believe other sources of information (per the recent emails by the Mayor) to be “rather Orwellian” to which the Mayor responded that the Orwellian reference “is absurd.”


CORRECTION: The resident speaking was Joel Freimark. He clarified that he saw the Mayor's public response on social media and not on The Mamaroneck Observer. The Mayor's statement was on various social media sites and The Mamaroneck Observer.

The next Board meeting is on Monday April 10, 2023 at 8:00 pm at 169 Mount Pleasant Avenue in the Court Room.Resident involvement is an important part of our local government.Everyone is welcome to attend and will be allowed to speak on agenda items during the Communication to the Board segments. If you cannot attend in-person, the meeting will be available live and on demand on LMC-TV.



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