CANDIDATES AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS DISCUSS LOCAL ISSUES AT SEA CLIFF MEET THE CANDIDATES FORUM
March 12, 2016 -- Despite an uncontested election, about three dozen residents turned out for the Sea Cliff Meet the Candidates forum that was held at Village Hall this past Tuesday evening giving voters an opportunity to hear about the candidates' personal, professional, and service backgrounds as well as their respective governing philosophies. For nearly an hour, incumbents Kevin McGilloway, who is seeking his second two year term on the Board, and Robin Maynard, who is seeking election in her own right after having been appointed to the Board by Mayor Bruce Kennedy last month, addressed questions concerning a variety of local issues.
Ann DiPietro, President of the Sea Cliff Civic Association, the event’s sponsor, emceed the forum.
Ms. Maynard is a 15 year resident of the Village and a partner in the law firm Maynard and Marchese. She currently serves on the Sea Cliff Landmarks Commission and the Yacht Club Board of Governors, and is a Girl Scout troop leader.
“I came here because of the flavor of the community,” she said in her opening statement, alluding to the colorful nature of both the village's architecture and its inhabitants.
“The community is really what makes Sea Cliff special,” she continued, and cited the work of various civic groups in contributing to that quality - in particular the Civic Association and the various events it sponsors around the year.
Ms. Maynard said that one project she is particularly interested in pursuing is the restoration of the many public staircases and steps throughout the village. The Landmarks Commission has begun looking at the issue, she explained, and that she would like to continue those efforts as a Trustee.
Additionally, she explained that she believed it was especially important to protect the quality of Sea Cliff's shoreline.
Mr. McGilloway has lived in the Village for 29 years, and prior to having been elected to the Board of Trustees in 2014, he had served on the Zoning Board of Appeals for a decade.
In his opening remarks, he said that the current Board is “a great team that really clicks,” and praised the work of the Village staff and the leadership of Mayor Bruce Kennedy, without whose support, he said, he would not be seeking re-election.
Mr. McGilloway highlighted the accomplishments of Village Government over the past two years emphasizing infrastructure work such as the installation of the Sea Cliff Avenue sewer line, the renovations of the Children’s Library, the repairs to the exterior of Village Hall, and road paving.
Additionally, he said that during his first term he had worked to make “practical improvements” to village governance by helping to write a new computer policy, and serving on a board committee, along with fellow Trustee Dina Epstein and Village Attorney Brian Stolar, that has been charged with making recommendations for updating and clarifying the village zoning statutes.
Throughout the forum, Mr. McGilloway emphasized the importance of striking the right balance between competing interests. “You have to do a balancing act,” he said. “There’s a fine line between what’s good for the community and what individuals think is best for themselves.” A second balancing act, he continued, involves the past and the future - “preserving our history and charm and to be constantly evolving and changing so we don’t fall out of pace.”
The first question posed was from a local veteran who asked whether the Village would consider adopting a resolution offering veterans a tax exemption, as has been done by the North Shore School District, Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay.
Ms. Maynard explained that it was something she would support, if it is something that can be done. “It is something we can look into,” she said.
Mr. McGilloway responded that is was a perfect example of trying to balance competing interests. He said that he is a strong supporter of veterans, but that the budget is especially tight this year, with the tax cap allowing for only a 0.18% increase in the overall levy. While, like Ms. Maynard, he said it was something worth looking into, he cautioned that it could potentially “put pressure” on the budget or on other residents - in particular senior citizens on fixed incomes.
Another resident asked Mr. McGilloway to elaborate on the work he has been doing updating the zoning statutes.
Mr. McGilloway replied that there were two goals - first, to provide greater clarity with regard to definitions; and second, to streamline the process residents currently must go through as they navigate the Building Department, Planning Board, Zoning Board, Architectural Review Board, and the Landmarks Commission.
A third resident asked the candidates for their thoughts on the Garvies Point waterfront development project.
Mr. McGilloway replied that he believed it was a responsibility of local government to advocate for the community on the issue. “It’s our community,” he explained, “and somebody next door is impacting our line of sight, our air and our water.”
He continued that the Village has taken a “bold stand” in allocating resources during “tough budget times” towards a lawsuit to block the development. It’s important for local government, he asserted, “to defend our rights - rights that we think have been given to us in a 2000 agreement with Glen Cove.”
Ms. Maynard agreed and added that the project would not only impact Sea Cliff visually, but also potentially pose health risks. Returning to her emphasis on the importance protecting the harbor and the beach, she questioned what the impact of the excavation and building on the site would have on water quality. She said she supported both the Village’s lawsuit and one initiated by a local group and urged residents to support those efforts and organizations that have worked towards improving water quality such as the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor.
With no more questions from the audience, Ms. DiPietro then asked questions that had been submitted in advance.
Two concerned the issue of fairness - in particular how a Village board trustee could ensure that there was equal treatment of residents by village government and equal access to the use of village property and facilities by groups and individuals.
Mr. McGilloway responded that that was part of the balancing act he had been speaking of earlier. “It’s a tightrope you have to walk and we’re pretty diligent about doing that,” he said. He continued that there is a great deal of community involvement and so many local organizations that “it’s hard to get one or two subgroups that get preferential treatment.”
“I haven’t seen it,” he said.
As for the use of Village facilities, Mr. McGilloway explained that there is an application process. “We have a strong motivation in keeping our facilities available [for community groups],” he said.
With regard to village fiscal policies, the two trustees were asked whether they would ever consider exceeding the tax cap with with 60% “super-majority” vote of the board - this year when the cap is very low at a 0.18% allowable tax levy increase, or any other year.
Both replied that the issue had just come up during a discussion of the budget at the previous night’s Village Board Conference.
Ms. Maynard said that the board is “working diligently not to have a tax increase,” but that there has to be an understanding that costs go up each year. “I think if taxes were raised,” she continued, “it would be for a good reason and you would see the benefits.”
Mr. McGilloway responded similarly. He added that the Mayor had said the previous night that many other villages have gone significantly into to debt. “They prefer to borrow rather than face the music,” Mr. McGilloway said and that that could be a “bad decision for the long term.” He complimented the mayor and the Village administrative staff for keeping “a tight budget.”
Asked whether they supported increasing library operating hours, Ms. Maynard said she believed the current hours seemed appropriate, while Mr. McGilloway said that as liaison to the Library Board of Trustees, he had had discussion regarding the issue. Library hours, he said were reduced in the evening at the main branch last year due to lack of use at that particular time of day, but that demand for children’s library programs had increased significantly and that perhaps increasing hours there needed to be looked into. Ultimately, he continued, that would have to be decided in collaboration with the Library Board and the library’s directors.
Another question writer expressed concern that the view of the harbor from Memorial Park during Sunset Serenade concerts was increasingly becoming obscured by brush and branches and asked if the Village could clean it up a bit.
Ms. Maynard said that the issue was illustrative of the conflict between the need for services and the reluctance to have greater costs and taxes.
Mr. McGilloway brought it back to his philosophy of balance, and replied jokingly that “one’s man view is another man’s shade.”
With regard to the possibility of have a community composting site, Ms Maynard said that it sounded like a good idea but wondered where a good place for it would be. Mr. McGilloway said that the Department of Public Works property seemed to be the only potential location but that the village needed to be mindful of the neighbors there, with increased traffic and other quality of life issues potentially arising.
As for whether illegal rentals were a problem, Mr. McGilloway said that he did not believe they were, but that it would be something that the board would have to take a look at if it became an issue.
Asked when the Sea Cliff Avenue sewer line will be operational. The candidates yielded the floor to Mayor Kennedy who was sitting in the front row.
“In two years,” the Mayor quickly replied. He added that he was cautiously optimistic that the funding would soon be in place to extend the line to connect to the Glen Cove waste treatment facility. He cautioned, however, that several years ago he had believed that the funding for the Sea Cliff Avenue line was in place, but that the promise of grant monies was rescinded at that time due to the recession and the state’s financial woes.
The Trustees election will take place on Tuesday, March 15 from 12 noon to 9 pm at the Sea Cliff Children’s Library.
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