With three in the race for mayor and six competing to fill three city council seats, this year’s election is a big one for Rye. No matter what the outcome, at least two new faces will be seated at the city council dais and Rye will have a new mayor. Outgoing Mayor Douglas French is not running for re-election.
Patch asked all of the candidates to answer a series of questions about their experience, their platforms and proposals for the City of Rye. This is the fourth of the city council candidate Q&As. Find others here.
The candidates running for city council are: Jason Mehler, Julie Killian, Terry McCartney, Meg Cameron, Shari Punyon and Kirstin Bucci
The candidates running for mayor are Peter Jovanovich, Nancy Silberkleit and Joseph Sack.
The election is on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Punyon, 47, is running on the Democratic City Committee's slate along with Meg Cameron. The Dems did not nominate a candidate for mayor. Punyon has never run for city office before.
Punyon is a 14 year resident of Rye who lives on Glen Oaks. She is married wand has three children and one grandchild. Her two older children gradated from Rye High School in 2001 and 2003 and she and her husband have a younger daughter who is currently a kindergartener at Osborn Elementary.
Read more on Punyon's background here.
Why are you running for Rye City Council?
I have always believed in the power of local government to shape the day-to-day experiences of the residents, and I want to be part of that detail oriented management. I've lived in other places where one party is in charge, where there is infighting on the local level, and where the essential business of government is lost to mis-management. I want to be a part of solving these problems in Rye.
What do you feel are the top three issues facing the city of Rye right now?
· We need improved oversight, and financial controls, and to refocus the city council on the needs of the city. Too much time and attention is wasted on personal disagreement rather than solving the problems we face.
· Infrastructure upkeep and repair. A strong infrastructure now is not just important now, it will save us money in the long run.
· Flood mitigation, support to our emergency personnel, and emergency management. Lack of attention to these areas will put our homes or even our lives at risk.
What is your position on the Sustainable Playland deal? Do you want SPI to take over management of Playland? If so, why? If not, then what should be the future for Playland?
As a county resident, and as a Playland attendee, I am carefully watching the SPI proposal evolve, but on the city council my responsibility would be to ensure that the concerns of Rye residents are considered. Any proposal must go through careful questioning to ensure we have a financially viable and appealing attraction in our midst, and that we are not negatively impacted by any changes.
You can’t make everyone happy all the time - How do you plan to balance the needs of different neighborhoods, community groups, businesses, city employees and special interest groups?
When balancing different needs, council members need to make thoughtful decisions based upon the merits of each argument, and what is best for Rye. Sometimes a little creativity can lead to an unexpected win-win. When that isn't possible, here are the principles that would guide me:
1. I would consider the comments of the public. There are many knowledgeable people in Rye, and we need to encourage their participation and value their input. There has been too little of this on the current City Council.
2. Health and safety issues must be a priority.
3. I would seek solutions that are in line with the principles and values we have stated as a community, and which preserve the character of our city.
I come from an analytical background. That training will help me stay focused on making decisions based upon the facts. I will consider all the options and seek decisions that are fair.
On the current Council, personal animosities, incivility and other distractions have led to poor decisions, or no decisions. I think I can make a real contribution to moving Rye in a better direction.
What should the future of Rye Golf Club look like in terms of management and its relationship with the city?
The Rye Golf Club is fully funded through member dues. I believe the members should be the ones who set the direction for the club, not the city council. The city should have a role in financial oversight, as there is a benefit to professional management. However, ultimately the members can best answer the question of what they want, and what might appeal to their friends and neighbors.
Name two decisions the current city council made over the last four years that you think were the right choices for Rye.
· Adopting a sustainability plan. I will work to ensure that we actually act on the plan, especially relating to being energy efficiency. Energy efficiency makes good environmental and monetary sense.
· Floor Area Ratio updates. As I talk to residents, many people mention their concerns about oversize houses springing up in what were formerly modest neighborhoods, how tall the houses seem, and how close those houses are to their neighbors. The details of any proposal will have to be carefully checked, but I applaud the city council for starting to address this issue.
Name two issues with which you think the current city council could have done a better job over the last four years.
· Ensuring there's sufficient oversight of city operations and pushing for more transparency in city government. A surprising number of people, including those on city committees and commissions have noted how difficult it can be access even the simplest information. This is unacceptable.
· Lack of respect among members of the city council and toward residents. Taking the time to listen respectfully, question strongly and consider all the information brought in front of you is the only way to come to successful solutions.
How would you have managed those situations differently?
· If elected to the city council I will examine the policies of the city to ensure that complying with citizen and council requests for information is considered essential. I will also work to ensure that any research or audit report clearly lays out findings and suggested actions, and those findings are addressed. If you spend the money to have a report prepared, you should pay attention to it!
· I am good at asking questions and digging deeper into issues, because I truly want to understand the details of any argument. I will work hard to keep the city council focusedon carefully managing the business of the city, and ensure that citizens don't just speak, but are heard.
Tell us one thing that you learned about Rye, or the people of Rye, on the campaign trail that surprised you.
When I started running for the City Council, I knew that I was unaware of all the concerns of residents, and was prepared to listen to and be aware of many new issues. However, I am still surprised at the number and variety of things that people raised, and how often I hear vehement and impassioned positions on every side of every issue. We are truly an involved and active community!
What in your experience and background prepares you for this job?
In my professional life, I do three main things that make me a uniquely qualified candidate:
· As a technical writer, I learn about new topics all the time. I've written about such diverse topics as local and wide area networks, ultrasound equipment, diagnostic reagents, financial systems, and ticket tracking systems. I can quickly learn, in detail, about any topic that comes in front of the council.
· I also have learned to carefully question experts on any topic, and to point out inconsistencies or missing details. I know how to dig deeply into what is presented, and not take an answer at face value.
· Finally, I also work doing project management. I prepare budgets, estimate resources and schedules, and most importantly, work on a multifunctional team to produce a product. I work productively every day, and with many people, to solve problems. Some of my opponents may tout their leadership ability - the city council doesn't need more people fighting to lead, they need people who can work well ona team!
What differentiates you from the other candidates?
My running mate and I are not connected to the same political party that gave you the dysfunction of the last four years, and we will provide checks and balances to the council. As I said earlier, I've lived in towns where a single party was in power, and having two or more sets of voices on the council is critical to ensuring we have an open and transparent government.
Anything else you want to add?
I moved to Rye for the same reasons many people do: good schools, good commute, pretty environment. Since then I've enjoyed the amenities and local community. When I started running for office, I had a general idea about serving on the local level, and the importance of local government.
What has surprised me as I've run is how much I love Rye, not just as somewhere I live, but for what it uniquely is. Our active community of volunteers steps up and supports so many wonderful things - SPRYE, the Square House, the Nature Center, the John Jay Heritage Center, the community meeting point that is our library - the list goes on and on. We are such an amazing community not because of our location, or the wealth of some of our residents, but because so many people step up and actively contribute so much to our lives. I hope to make my contribution by serving on the City Council.