In the past couple of years, there have been complaints that Mount Pleasant’s political system, and by extension the Town Board, has been run as an insider’s club.
Interestingly, two of the loudest complaints have been lodged by Republicans: former Planning Board member and ex-councilman Denis McCarthy and Valhalla resident Michael Duffy, who have each run an unsuccessful campaign in the past two years.
You could chalk that up to sour grapes but it has highlighted that one-party rule, especially over an extended period of time, is unhealthy for the political process.
Some might conclude that the criticism is tinged with an unspoken accusation of corruption. It’s not. What it does point to is a level of distrust created in large part by a lack of diverse opinions.
With that in mind, we give a slight edge and our endorsement to Democrat Francesca Hagadus-McHale over Republican Anthony Amiano in next week’s special election to serve the unexpired term of former councilman and current Town Justice Mark Rubeo.
Despite the unnecessary Washington-style, late-in-the-campaign antics both candidates employed last week, Hagadus-McHale and Amiano are earnest and serious candidates.
They may emphasize different points but on the major issues facing the town —revitalizing the hamlets, mixed-use development, the need for more senior housing and shared services — Hagadus-McHale and Amiano aren’t far apart. Amiano supports the North 60 project near the medical center, while Hagadus-McHale is open to it but takes a more guarded outlook until the impacts on infrastructure and services are better known.
Where they diverge is on communication and transparency. Hagadus-McHale views Mount Pleasant as a divided town, with residents in the three hamlets and the villages identifying with their corner of the community. She correctly wants to break that mold by uniting residents from throughout the town to participate in various events. For instance, she proposed having a day for Pleasantville residents at the Mount Pleasant town pool. In a small community, small items can sometimes make a big difference.
She criticized the current board for failing to properly alert neighbors near the leaf composting facility in Pocantico Hills of a cell tower for the site. Even if it was for a reapproval because the tower has to be moved, neighbors should have been better informed.
Amiano sees room for communication improvement during emergencies but likes upgrades made to Mount Pleasant’s website and the town’s use of social media.
At 24 years old, Amiano is an impressive candidate for any age. He has already served four years on the Valhalla Board of Education before he beat out five other interviewees to replace Rubeo. He is deliberate and thoughtful. There are no issues with his qualifications or whether he would continue to serve the town well.
It comes down to whether there should be a different voice. After more than a quarter-century with the Town Board operating largely as one, the time is right to bring a different perspective to the table in Francesca Hagadus-McHale.