Last Night in Greenburgh
“New Faces for a New Future”
Richard J. Garfunkel
May 25, 2007
Last night at the Greenburgh Town Hall, Paul Feiner and his new running mates showed that they were the far superior team to lead Greenburgh into the future. Paul, Sonja Brown, Kevin Morgan, and Judy Beville and their nominators, exuded class, determination, and vision, something that has been patently lacking on the Greenburgh Town Board for the last number of years.
Paul, of course, has been legendary in both Westchester County and Greenburgh for more than 30 years. Not only did he start his political activism as a teenager, but, as an elected official, his accomplishments and triumphs have been unparalleled in the post war Westchester County political history. He has been the innovator par excellence, and second to none as an administrator. People should not forget that it was Paul who started the tradition of serving in every department and learning from the “grass roots” how the town really worked. It was Paul who understood intimately the needs of the “people in the field” who were the backbone of Greenburgh’s success. His accomplishments are too numerous and remarkable to be listed here. But his independence of action and spirit has driven Paul to reach out to all the citizens of Greenburgh and not just the narrow partisanship of party. One can just weigh the “thank you” books in his office or remember the old walls of the former Town Hall that were papered with well-wishing accolades from his countless fans and admirers, to understand his incredible service to the community. Open space and tax conscious citizens of Greenburgh know full well of his hard work.
It is not unusual for Paul to be counter-intuitive to the bosses of the Democratic Party. They seemed to be intimidated by all the “loud mouths” and “crazies” that hang out at Town Hall twice a month. The Board has caved into these “nitpickers” and self-appointed guardians of the public commonweal so much that Board meeting have become a one act interminable bore. Open government has morphed into an endless diatribe of faux experts venting their wannabe frustrations. Paul has handled all of them with grace and tolerance, but that has just fed their appetite for more confrontation and spite.
But, with regards to last night, every one in attendance witnessed the “real” next generation of leadership in the personality, character and souls of Kevin Morgan, Sonja Brown and Judy Beville. Not only was their message clearly articulated with spirit and wisdom, but it was aimed at breaking the “clubby atmosphere” that was obviously was “bleated” by Board members Bass and Barnes. This unlikely twosome, gives credence to the age-old characterization that “politics make strange bedfellows.” It wasn’t long ago that Bass showed his ungratefulness towards Tom Abinanti, the County Legislator. It seems Bass, even though he nominally worked for him, wanted to push him out of his own seat and slip into it while it was still warm. It was like the old “musical chair” game we all played when we were young. But this time Abinanti wasn’t enjoying the party and the balloons popped in Bass’s face. In a typical case of ordering drapes for someone else’s office, Bass wound up with the bill from Calico Corners, but no windows to dress up.
Bass and Barnes bent over backwards to praise each other in their limpid and uninspiring speeches. There is no doubt from this observer that Barnes has run out of energy, and with fuel prices at an all-time high, it is time for a new model. On the other hand, Bass who was appointed to his position, and ran unopposed last time with Barnes, has never had much of a record to be proud of. Wherein Barnes served with distinction in the distant past, Bass has been a “water boy” for Board critics like Bob Bernstein, the self-appointed Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ed Kraus, and the chief bean-counter and nit-picker of them all, the former Republican Francis Sheehan, the current Board member. Now they both serve on the Board and their ambition and rivalry seems to put them at odds with each other. Their only commonality is their ambition and hatred for Paul.
Sonja Brown and Kevin Morgan will bring a blend of incredible energy, experience and diversity to the Board. Their records regarding public service and commitment to people is second to none. The legislative dictatorship that has resulted in stalemate, obfuscation and unbridled jealousy, authored by Bass and Sheehan, will be broken forever. The public won’t be fooled by this faux love-fest along with the patronizing joint announcements by Bass and Barnes. They have had four long years to pad their records, but these 48 months only reflect non-accomplishment, rancor and flip-flopping. Both Morgan and Brown will start off this campaign running and bring that energy and dynamism back to the Town Board.
The party of course rewarded the Town Clerk with another non-ringing endorsement. She barely got a majority of the delegates, and the comparison between the energy of Judy Beville and her record of achievement, and the tired old visage of Ms. Williams, was obvious to all who looked with open eyes, and a non-prejudicial heart. Judy will bring a new urgency to a job, long saddled with the tiredness and arrogance of unchallenged incumbency. Now that Ms. Williams is in a real race, we will see her record exposed to the light of public scrutiny.
The district leaders were split last night between the last two party bosses, the current incumbent Suzanne Berger, who has never run for office, and ancient Bill Greenawalt, the former boss, who was had a history of splitting the party. Greenawalt, who has run for office countless times, has never won. He ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in 1970, way back in Nixon’s time, but was handily defeated by surprise winner Bill Dretzin in the primary. Then Greenawalt ran on another line and split the Democratic vote. This insured that the Republican candidate, Peter Peyser, would succeed liberal Democrat Dick Ottinger, who had surrendered his seat and was running for the Senate. He has embellished his spotty resume by being rewarded with positions on various boards by the state party leaders, who gave us defeat after defeat, up until the recent victory by the fiercely independent Eliot Spitzer.
The final runoff vote between Berger and Greenawalt, did not show any unification within the party. It wasn’t a ringing, but a clanging endorsement for Berger, who barely raised her totals from 49% to 56%. On the other hand, Greenawalt, who never knows when he is beaten, thought that he deserved the party’s designation again. He probably created too many enemies in his tortuous and contentious role as party leader. Current party boss Berger, who has been quietly engineering this coup for years, will have to defend her role in bringing a large contract for her law firm to the Greenburgh Town Board. She has shown her obvious prejudice and disdain towards Supervisor Feiner on numerous occasions. At a rally for John Kerry, at Rudy’s Beau Rivage, she wouldn’t even let the Town Supervisor speak. Conventionally one would expect fairness from a party chairperson. Her role is to be supportive to her own party’s elected officials. But she seems to be of the school that has been weaned on revenge and ambition. Paul has been beating the party’s choices for decades and though he is the most successful and experienced elected official in Westchester, he is still young and vigorous. His 24/7 attitude and work ethic is legendary, and his ideas have been on the cutting edge of political thinking for decades. This year will be a comeback year for sense and sensibility for the Greenburgh electorate. Paul and his strong and vigorous team will, once in office, re-shape Greenburgh’s future in a more progressive and dynamic way. A small turnout in the last political cycle that was marred by an 11th hour smear by Paul’s opponents won’t happen again. This time, the party boss will think twice about slandering the Feiner slate. Let us not forget that she was the lawyer for Juettner and Sheehan, who appeared before the Fair Campaign Practice Board, and were chastised for their lies and smears. As party chairperson she should have distanced herself from the gutter political tactics of Sheehan and Juettner. But she jumped in with both feet, and the Fair Campaign Practices Commitee burned her toes.
Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee
c/o League of Women Voters of Westchester
Room 12B, 200 Hamilton Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601
(914) 949-0507 / fax: (914) 997-9354
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 4, 2005 CONTACT: Stephanie Sarnoff, Chair
The Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee (FCPC) met on September 29, 2005 to hear post-election complaints filed by Kevin Morgan and Allegra Dengler against Francis Sheehan and Diana Juettner, all having been Democratic candidates in the September 13th primary election for two open seats on the Greenburgh Town Council. The complaints stemmed from alleged misrepresentations in the campaign literature distributed by Mr. Sheehan and Ms. Juettner.
Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Dengler complain that their positions on Choice were falsely described in the literature distributed by Mr. Sheehan and Mrs. Juettner.
While the Committee is not in a position to decide the definition of “pro choice,” there is no evidence that Mr. Morgan said that he favors restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. The inference that Ms. Dengler is not “100% Pro-Choice” is based solely on a private conversation and not backed by other evidence.
Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Dengler complain that their positions on Indian Point were falsely described in the literature distributed by Mr. Sheehan and Mrs. Juettner.
FINDING: NO FINDING
The allegations made in the campaign literature fall within the realm of normal political discourse.
Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Dengler complain that Mr. Sheehan and Mrs. Juettner’s campaign literature is false when stating: “As a Planning Board member he (Mr. Morgan) initiated the vote to waive a public hearing on a final subdivision and voted to allow the subdivision. His company then purchased the land he voted to subdivide, and is now developing it.”
The statement is misleading because the implication is that he had an interest or knew he was going to acquire an interest in the subdivision at the time he was voting on the issue, when in fact he did not acquire the property until a year later when it came on the market.
If a candidate or campaign wishes to quote from this Finding, the Committee requires that the Finding be quoted in its entirety. The Committee regards selective quotation of its Findings as a violation of fair campaign process.
The purpose of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee is to promote a climate in which candidates conduct honest and fair campaigns. The Committee encourages candidates to conduct campaigns openly and fairly, to discuss issues, to refrain from dishonest and defamatory attacks, and not to use campaign materials that distort the facts.
The Committee does not sit as a censor or political discussion nor as a body to enforce election law or make legal decisions. Its task is to accept written complaints about alleged unfair campaign practices and to determine whether the action complained about is indeed unfair. Among other things, the Committee will consider to be unfair any campaign practice that is a misstatement of a material fact or that misleads the public.
The Committee has no power to compel anyone to stop doing what it has found it be unfair. If the Committee acts on a complaint, it will release its findings to inform the public. The Committee may choose not to consider a complaint; in that case, a hearing is not held and the parties to the complaint are so notified.
Statement of Principles of the Committee, as stated in its Manual, available at www.WATPA.ORG. The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee believes that candidates should conduct their campaigns in accordance with the following principles:
Ø The candidate will conduct a campaign for public office openly and fairly. The candidate will discuss the issues and participate in fair debate with respect to his/her views and qualifications.
Ø The candidate will neither engage in nor be involved with unfair or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent, nor will the candidate engage in invasions of personal privacy unrelated to fitness for office.
Ø The candidate will not participate in or condone any appeal to prejudice.
Ø The candidate will neither use nor be involved with the use of any campaign material or advertisements that misrepresents or distorts the facts.
Ø The candidate will clearly identify by name the source of all advertisements and campaign literature published and distributed.
Ø The candidate will not abuse the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee process in order to obtain political advantage.
The candidate will publicly repudiate materials or actions from any individual or group that would violate this Statement of Principles.
Members of the Committee: Stephanie Sarnoff, Chair; Milton Hoffman, Vice Chair;
Susan Schwarz (& Interim Coordinator); Susan Pace Guma; Ruth Hinerfeld; Barbara Jaffe; Burton M. Leiser; Robert E. Peterson; Ernest Prince; Evelyn Stock