Maybury, Rubeo, Abbate Best for Mt. Pleasant

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Contested elections in Mount Pleasant may not be rare but when they do occur it’s reason to sit up and take notice.

Thanks to two independent candidates this year, Dr. Richard Gagliardi for supervisor and Jane Abbate for town council, voters in the ultimate one-party town at least have a choice next week.

Like candidates of any political stripe, some independent challengers are worthy contenders, others are not. That would be the best way to sum up the pair contesting this year’s election.

In the race for supervisor, incumbent Republican Joan Maybury, looking to be elected for her first full two-year term, is the clear choice to return to office. A 20-year town board veteran, Maybury was tabbed to succeed Robert Meehan after Meehan was appointed by new County Executive Rob Astorino to become county attorney in January 2010.

In the roughly 21 months since her appointment and subsequent uncontested victory to complete Meehan’s unexpired term last November, Maybury has proven herself to be a solidly capable and effective leader. Her administration has impressively explored and attracted significant new development proposals to the area. For projects large and small, Maybury has advocated this as the best way to keep taxes in check. The biotech proposal near Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla is a bold vision that would be anchored by research facilities, a hotel, restaurant and a children’s science center and promises to be a boon to the local economy.

A comparatively small but significant achievement has been the redevelopment of the property at the Four Corners in Thornwood that will soon be home to a new Walgreen’s. Through a problematic economy, Mount Pleasant continues to be the envy of the surrounding area in terms of new business development.

Maybury’s administration has also been exploring with the Village of Pleasantville the possibility of a consolidation of police services that could save both municipalities money. Even if there isn’t a merger, there is potential for savings with shared dispatching.

Of course, flooding remains an issue in Mount Pleasant, but that is more a regional dilemma. The town is part of the new Saw Mill River Watershed Advisory Board hoping to find solutions with neighboring towns and recently took the initiative to inform the state DOT it would be clearing out storm drains and billing the agency for the work.

Gagliardi burst onto the scene in time to gain entry onto the ballot as an independent candidate on the We the People line. A personable gentleman, he has earnestly debated issues surrounding finances and flooding, hoping to poke holes in Maybury’s record but has sometimes appeared to be grasping at straws.

His call for a state audit of town finances sounds more like a fishing expedition. Cutting the salaries of town board members would be a symbolic gesture but largely insignificant in the scope of finding meaningful savings.

Arguing that Maybury was ill-prepared for Hurricane Irene also doesn’t wash nor does Gagliardi’s claims that town employees aren’t properly trained for emergencies. For the first time, the town opened town hall to the public as a shelter for the hurricane and it is the role of the police department and emergency responders to share most of the responsibility during emergencies.

For council, Rubeo, who also is running for his first full term after being appointed to slide into Maybury’s former council seat, is a logical choice to continue. A Hawthorne attorney and a former planning board member, Rubeo is sharp and energetic and is a good fit alongside the rest of the board. He is knowledgeable on all of the issues facing the town and it would benefit Mount Pleasant to utilize Rubeo’s services for a full term.

An intriguing selection to round out the remainder of the board would be Abbate. The lifelong Valhalla resident has been an active participant in both town and community affairs in recent years. Abbate formerly served on the conservation advisory council and is a current member of the architectural board of review, both fertile training grounds for new town board members. Her service has been augmented as a co-founder of the grassroots organization Mount Pleasant Today.

Abbate would provide a much-needed balance to the board, someone who might challenge and question when appropriate. She has stressed some of the smaller quality-of-life initiatives that residents also care about such as beautifying the business districts and has called for better communication on the part of the town board. Failure to post agendas online before meetings is inexcusable and the public would likely be more encouraged to participate if the work sessions were held in the general meeting room rather than the supervisor’s office.

While there is nothing wrong with continuing with Fulgenzi on the board, who is equally knowledgeable and dedicated to the community serving two terms with distinction, there comes a time when an independent voice should be given a chance to bring a fresh perspective.

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