Weaver, Schiliro, Carthy the Choices for No. Castle

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Political races the year before a presidential election are often ignored by average voters. But when polls open next Tuesday, there should be no reason for North Castle residents to be apathetic.

During the past two years issues large and small have sparked controversy. Seemingly no town business can be conducted without a fight.

In this year’s match-up, both candidates for supervisor, Republican nominee Howard Arden and incumbent William Weaver, and the town board hopefuls bring an impressive set of personal and professional skills and intellect. The difficult decision for voters is which direction they want the town to go and how much change, if any, is needed.

With some hesitation, the choice in the supervisor’s race is to remain with Weaver for another two years. For certain, Weaver, running this year on the Democratic and Conservative lines after losing the GOP primary to Arden, has made mistakes. But one of the best qualities to have is to acknowledge missteps, correct them and learn from them. In that regard, Weaver has grown into the job during his first term.

Early in 2010, when vocal residents bitterly complained about the unsightliness surrounding an organic recycling facility under construction on municipal land downtown, he and the board appointed a committee, which included Arden, that advised officials to escape the contract.

When it was learned Armonk would be losing its only supermarket last April, Weaver’s administration reached out to the developers of Armonk Square, who hadn’t been able to build their project for three years because the economy had disintegrated. The result will be a brand new supermarket by the end of next year, along with new shops, more parking and 10 apartments downtown.

During his term, Weaver eventually stood up to the Brynwood Club partners to tell them that their plan for an empty nester community was too dense. The application for a new assisted living residence appears to be progressing for Business Park Drive, which will help the tax base.

Could the organic facility and supermarket crises have been avoided? Perhaps. But there is no certainty that a town administrator–a position that Arden is strongly advocating–would have had the answers either. An administrator could be a gatekeeper, an unelected adviser influencing officials behind the scenes at a hefty price tag.

Weaver has acknowledged that more financial expertise is warranted, as outlined in a recent task force report, but is against cutting the supervisor’s current $105,000 salary. He will have to justify hiring a chief financial officer at a similar cost of a town administrator, go with consultants or ignore two task force reports altogether. That’s an unenviable position to be in and it will be interesting to see how he navigates such a conundrum if re-elected.

To Arden’s credit, he has enthusiastically supported an administrator from the start and has advocated cutting the supervisor’s salary in half–before he ran for office, not on his way out. There is little question that he is dedicated and qualified to serve if elected, with a masters degree in public administration, the owner of his own business for many years and a volunteer for a wide array of committees and non-profit endeavors throughout the town and county.

He pledged to be a full-time supervisor even at the vastly reduced salary he proposes, a laudable stance, and charges that Weaver’s attention is diverted with his business at the Westchester County airport.

But when it comes to cost savings derived from an administrator, there is no guarantee that would materialize. Although a different set of circumstances, a town administrator was unable to prevent Chappaqua from losing its supermarket this summer and New Castle tax rates in recent years have been comparable to North Castle.

For town board, Democratic incumbent Michael Schiliro has earned a shot at a second term. A thoughtful pragmatist who keeps a close eye on the bottom line, Schiliro is thorough and detailed-oriented. His assistance in helping the town set up a fund balance policy to rebuild depleted reserves may have been his most important contribution in his first term. Schiliro also is dedicated to making sure the town has optimum staffing to maintain services but at the lowest cost.

If there is one criticism of Schiliro, it sometimes appears he is tortured to make a decision, especially on sticky votes. No doubt the issues facing the town have been difficult and will continue to be so. But no official can be all things to all people and sometimes it appears he’s trying too hard to be that person.

The second seat should go to Christopher Carthy, also a Democrat but running on his own. Actually, as the campaign has progressed he has moved closer to Arden on certain key issues, most notably pertaining to the administrator. If elected, the board and the town will need him to be the independent voice, compromiser and negotiator he has pledged to be. The hope is that if elected to serve, Carthy will make the calls as he sees them, not wedded to partisan ideology.

During the campaign he has also put forth intriguing ideas. While some don’t appear viable, such as his proposal to increase the supervisor’s term to four years and having the entire board up for election every four years, others are. The suggestion for the town to consider land lease options to increase revenues is one that should be further explored. Regardless, it shows that Carthy is willing to think creatively to search for solutions.

A viable alternative to Carthy would be Republican Stephen D’Angelo. A Housing Board member the last four years, D’Angelo is running with Weaver and Schiliro as part of the Alliance Party, and has many fine attributes. As a CPA, he is familiar with fiscal issues. He opposes a traditional administrator, but would prefer a CFO or consultant. He is more closely aligned with his running mates on host of issues, including a council member’s access to benefits to attract a wider pool of candidates. However, at this time, D’Angelo would not provide a strong enough counterbalance on the board to merit his selection.

Republican Matthew Rice, a relative newcomer to North Castle, surprised some with his strong showing in the Republican primary. Rice is a gregarious candidate and stepped up, as did D’Angelo, to fill a void when there was originally only one Republican nominee. However, it would be beneficial to him to get some seasoning under his belt on volunteer boards or in community organizations. He has much potential as a future candidate and we look forward to him contributing in the years ahead.

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