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. Current city council members Joe Sack and Peter Jovanovich and Rye resident Nancy Silberkleit are running for mayor.
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 second of the mayoral candidate Q&As. Find all the city council candidates Q&As here.
The candidates running for city council are: Jason Mehler, Julie Killian, Terry McCartney, Meg Cameron, Shari Punyon and Kirstin Bucci
The election is on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Jovanovich, a Repulican, is running as an independent. He announced his candidacy in order to offer residents a choice for mayor, he said, after the Rye Democratic Committee did not nominate an opponent for Sack, who had already been nominated by the Republican Committee.
Jovanovich, 64, ran for city council twice in the last eight years; first in 2005 when he lost the election and again in 2009 when he won.
In 2009, Jovanovich ran as a member of the Change for Rye ticket, headlined by current Mayor Doug French, former Councilwoman Suzanna Keith, who has since moved, and current Councilman Richard Filippi, who is not running for re-election this year.
Jovanovich and his wife Robin have lived in Rye for 21 years and currently live on Milton Road across from the Boat Basin. They have two sons, one who is a Rye Country Day graduate and another who is a RHS graduate. They are expecting a grandchild soon.
Read more on Jovanovich here.
are you running for Rye City Mayor?
1. Negotiate a fair labor agreements that stop the dramatic rise in health costs borne by the taxpayers. 2. Continue to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, sidewalks, and sewers 3. Control over-development in Rye that is causing overcrowding in our schools 4. Stop the losses at Whitby Castle and lower Rye Golf Fees, particularly the pool fees.
5. Restore decorum and civility to Council chambers.
What do you feel are the top three issues facing the city of Rye right now?
1. Negotiate a fair labor agreements that stop the dramatic rise in health costs borne by the taxpayers. 2. Continue to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, sidewalks, and sewers 3. Control over development in Rye that is causing overcrowding in our schools
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?
I am for Sustainable Playland. This is the last best hope to restore the park to what it once was: a place to enjoy rides, sports, and the natural beauty of the shoreline.
However I strongly believe that any development by Sustainable Playland must be reviewed by the Planning Commission of Rye to insure that any development does not harm the surrounding neighborhoods.
I also feel that Rye’s elected officials are obligated to make sure that there be a collaborative relationship and opens lines of communication between County Government, the management of Playland and the residents of Rye.
For this vital project to succeed, the newly-elected mayor will consistently need to press County government to meet its obligations and make the elected officials in White Plains are aware of the incredible support within the Rye community holds that some form of a new and financially sustainable approach to managing Playland be implemented.
You can’t make everyone happy all the time, or can you? How do you plan to balance the needs of different
neighborhoods, community groups, businesses, city employees and special interest groups?
The Council's role is to listen, think, and act. Too often it's "lights, camera, inaction." We are here to listen to the public, use our common sense, and make a decision.
The great risk is allowing special interest groups to affect the choice of board and commission members -- particularly involving land use. Millions of dollars are at stake and too often in the past the political parties have attempted to stack these committees with advocates for a particular point of view. One virtue of my running as anIndependent is that I'm not beholden to political parties. I definitely will not allow patronage politics to intrude on the crucial choice of land use board members.
What should the future of Rye Golf Club look like in terms of management and its relationship with the city?
The Golf Commission is in the process of making recommendations. I would tend to follow their lead on this -- as long as the taxpayers are protected.
What did you learn from the RGC investigation that revealed the golf club manager had been stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the RGC members? How will you put those lessons learned to good use if elected mayor? There are several lessons from the Golf Club scandal.
First, the City is woefully understaffed to catch fraud. We need to hire an internal auditor, and outside specialized auditors who deal in operations like the club, to provide tight scrutiny.
Second, reconsider the whole concept of Council Liaisons. Not one councilperson, who served as Golf Club Liaison, ever raised one critical question about Golf Club operations throughout the period of embezzlement.
Third, bring back the position of Assistant City Manager. We eliminated the position during the recession to say money. That was probably a penny-wise/pound foolish decision.
Name two decisions the current city council made over the last four years that you think were the right choice for Rye.
1. Keeping taxes below the tax cap for four years. 2. Passing the $2 million infrastructure bond that was a good start to repairing Rye's crumbling infrastructure.
Name two issues with which you think the current city council could have done a better job over the last four years.
1. Golf Club Scandal. By eliminating so much staff at City Hall (Assistant City Manger, HR director, two finance positions, etc), that some functions of government, particularly the Enterprise Funds, received little or no oversight.
2. Ironically, the Golf Club Investigation. One the fraud was the discovered, the Council, over my objections proceeded to waste almost as much money as the fraud by hiring a lawyer at $500 an hour to investigate the matter. The Westchester District Attorney is interviewing the same individuals -- at no cost to Rye taxpayers. Spending $200,000 (four times our sidewalk budget) on a redundant report, was a complete waste of money. We did spend $90,000 with a forensic accountant to follow the money trail. That was money well spent.
In those situations, did you, and how did you, try to work towards an outcome you think would have been better for Rye? I voted for the reductions in staff at City Hall. I voted against the waste of money in golf club investigation.
If elected mayor, would you propose making any significant staff changes? If so, which departments might
see a change?
By charter, the Council only hires and fires the City Manager and the Corporation Counsel. The Council is prohibited from interfering in the selection of department heads. I would keep the City Manager and Corporation Counsel. The Corporation Counsel has a fantastic batting average winning cases for the City.
As for the City Manager, Scott Pickup, he has real achievements: keeping taxes and spending low during the recession, taking a strong stand that we must have reform in our labor agreements, and hiring new managers who in each instance are an improvement. And, a great failure. Not discovering the Golf Club Scandal. That the fact the last two previous City Managers and previous Councils and Mayors did not discover the embezzlement is no excuse. It is a mitigating factor that he was woefully understaffed at headquarters during the recession.
Coming in 2014 the City of Rye is already looking at hiring a new Police Commissioner, new Golf Club manager, a need to remove the “acting” from the current Director of Finance job title, possibly a new director of Human Resources and some other key positions. On balance of Mr Pickup’s achievements, his failings and the on-going “brain drain” at City Hall I would keep him.
What in your experience and background prepares you for this job?
I have serve Rye in many capacities: Director of the Friends of Rye Nature Center, Member of the Board of Architectural Review, and Member of the Planning Commission, in addition serving on the Council for four years. Currently I am the Deputy Mayor.
In my business career, my customers were governments. I worked for four major textbook publishers. My last position: Chairman and CEO of Pearson Education, the world's largest education company. I have called on schools in 46 states and negotiated with State Superintendents and Governors.
What differentiates you from the other candidates?
I would say three items:
1. My 30 years of professional experience in the publishing industry culminating in being the CEO of Pearson Education, the world's largest education company
2. My experience on a variety of community boards and commissions serving Rye. 3. The fact that I am running as an Independent in this year’s Mayoral race. I was elected to the council as a
Republican in 2009 and was very proud of that fact. However during that time I was witness to and experienced for myself the almost non-stop attempts by political bosses to interfere in City business and policy setting. It’s very refreshing to be running as an Independent with only the citizens of Rye to answer.