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Mt. Kisco Candidate’s Forum Canceled as Alternative Event is Sought

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Mount Kisco mayoral candidates Lisa Abzun and Michael Cindrich, above, along with their running mates learned last week the scheduled forum for Oct. 3 has been canceled by the local League of Women Voters.

Next month’s Mount Kisco candidate’s forum was suddenly canceled last week by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and now it’s uncertain whether the Democratic and independent candidates will reschedule a forum.

The Oct. 3 event, which was set to take place at the Mount Kisco Library community room, was called off when the league’s Northeast Westchester chapter sent out a one-sentence e-mail to the candidates without explanation just after 5:30 p.m. last Wednesday.

Mayoral candidates Lisa Abzun, who won the Democratic primary in June, and former mayor and independent challenger Michael Cindrich, were set to participate in one 45-minute session. The other session, slated for an hour, was to feature Trustee Karine Patino and Jean Farber, the Democrats sharing the ticket with Abzun, and Cindrich’s running mates Theresa Flora and Angie Garcia-Guerra.

Susan Ferris Rights, president of the League’s Northeast Westchester chapter, responded to The Examiner on Friday afternoon stating that the forum was canceled because of a current lack of volunteer manpower to sponsor and moderate all the forums that have been requested in the area.

She expressed that the League “is disappointed” but had to cancel the Mount Kisco event.

“The League has limited resources and volunteers and cannot provide candidate forums for every race that is requested,” Rights said. “With the other candidate forums that are being held within the League’s geographic area, we cannot organize this one in an effective manner.”

Just hours before the cancelation last Wednesday, the League of Women Voters of Westchester County sent out an e-mail, which was received by The Examiner, appealing for interested parties who would like to be trained to become forum moderators.

When reached last Thursday, neither Cindrich nor Abzun said they had a clear understanding of what had prompted the League of Women Voters to cancel and both thought the event was set after the two sides agreed to terms in late July.

“It’s not a good thing for the electorate, it’s not a good thing,” Abzun said. “However, I do have confidence that another solution will be found.”

By Thursday morning, both Cindrich and Patino reached out to The Examiner to see if this newspaper would be interested in moderating a forum. It’s a possibility that remains under consideration by the two campaigns and The Examiner.

As of late last week, the community room at the library remains booked for the evening in hopes of rescheduling a forum, stated a letter to the candidates and The Examiner from Mayor Gina Picinich, who is not running for re-election.

Cindrich said he was surprised by the cancellation because he and his ticket agreed on July 27 to the terms, then hadn’t heard of any difficulties with the League. But there had been quibbling amongst the parties over some of the ground rules, Cindrich said, some of which he admitted was hearsay.

The one point of contention that Cindrich said he had was reducing the length of the mayoral candidates’ and trustees’ sessions to 45 minutes each because of concerns by the Abzun ticket about the translator not being able to work continuously. Cindrich said he agreed for a slightly shorter mayoral forum but wanted a longer trustees’ forum because it would be difficult to have a meaningful exchange with four candidates in that amount of time.

“I was just under the assumption that there wouldn’t be a debate on how it would be handled,” he said. “I agreed immediately, on behalf of my two running mates, that the format laid out I was fine with and it kind of blew up after that.”

There was no indication given by the League whether the haggling over some of the rules played any factor in the cancellation.

However, there were other concerns voiced in organizing the forum. Flora said that she wanted to have a live television broadcast because many older village residents may not be familiar with or interested in watching on a computer.

Flora also questioned whether the village should be funding the event, which includes paying for the translator and the videographer, and with two members of the other slate currently serving on the board, it could give the appearance of the debate being weighted in the Democrats’ favor, she said.

“The Village of Mount Kisco pays for this whole event, which essentially gives them control over time, place, rules,” Flora said.

But Abzun dismissed that point, saying that before the county Board of Elections took over village elections, the municipality paid for those, which were conducted fairly.

Also, if there is a forum, all candidates will have equal opportunity to speak, she said.

“It’s not only me and Karine speaking,” said Abzun. “It is the entire slates who are running, so I could see if it’s just us two out there talking. That’s a different story.”


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