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From the Mayor: Pay Attention to Six Amendments on November 5 Ballot PDF Print Email



Oct. 9, 2013:  The New York State Legislature has proposed six constitutional amendments that will appear on the November 5 ballot. Though often ignored in relation to election for office holders, because voters often do not cast ballots for topics they have not studied, the amendment changes do have lasting impact.

Like most state constitutions, New York's provisions tend to be more detailed than those in its federal counterpart and therefore amended more often. There have been 220 amendments to the current constitution since 1895.  Because constitutions protect fundamental rights and define core governmental structures, they are logically harder to amend than ordinary laws.

To change the New York State Constitution, both chambers of the legislature in successive legislative sessions must approve the proposed amendment by a simple majority vote. It is then referred to the New York State attorney general, who is required to provide a written opinion as to how the proposed amendment language meshes with other provisions of the constitution. If voters, after a general statewide vote, approve the amendment by a simple majority vote, it becomes part of the constitution on January 1. The governor has no formal role in this process.

Proposed First Amendment:  The first amendment allowing an expansion of casino gambling has dwarfed all others in attention and a great fall off in votes is expected on the other issues.  In addition to the five casinos run by Indian tribes and the nine state-run racinos, the proposed amendment would add a maximum of seven full-scale casinos, most located north of Albany. Proponents of the amendment believe casinos that will provide tourism and good jobs and will increase revenue currently lost to Connecticut and New Jersey and that the constitutional provision that limits the growth to seven will curb their proliferation. Opponents argue that expanding casino gambling increases gambling addiction and has harmful effects on the casino communities, including increased crime.

Note:  In a very interesting divergence, the casino amendment is the only one with one-sided positive wording stating that approval would be "for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes." This is a clear departure from the non-judgmental bone-dry language always employed in proposed amendments. How this passed muster with the ultimate arbiter, the state board of elections, remains a mystery.

Proposed Second Amendment:  Amendment Two would allow veterans who were disabled in combat to get more "points" when competing for jobs within the civil service system. Because it alters the civil service law, the change has to come via a constitutional amendment. Those in favor of the change argue that the amendment would not only increase employment opportunities for disabled veterans, but would also put their training and experience to work for state and local governments. Currently, there is no expressed opposition to this change.

Proposed Third Amendment:  Amendment Three would allow local governments to exceed their long-term debt limits if the money is used for sewage improvements. This exemption began in 1963 and has been extended every ten years since. The genesis of the 1963 amendment was to encourage municipalities to participate in a then-new state sewer construction plan without impairing the financing of other needed capital improvements. Since pollution concerns continue as well as the need to constantly maintain and upgrade sewage treatment systems, this amendment appears to be universally non-controversial.

Next Two Proposed Amendments:  The next two amendments (amendments four and five) address land within the Adirondack Parks and the New York State Constitution via the "forever-wild" clause, which forbids the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of forest preserve land without a constitutional change.

The proposed fourth amendment would settle a century-old private-public dispute over 200 parcels near Raquette Lake. Proponents of the amendment believe it will finally settle a long-standing and costly dispute and in the end, in a land trade, will actually add significantly to the Adirondack Preserve. Opponents believe such disputes should be resolved via the judicial system and not a constitutional change, setting a very poor precedent for this type of dispute resolution going forward.

The proposed fifth amendment would authorize a land swap with a private company, NYCO Minerals of Willsboro, to expand its current wollastonite mine (a mineral used in paints, plastics, and auto parts).  The current mine has only three to four years of material remaining. In exchange for mining on adjoining property, which would extend company operations by eight to ten years, upon completion the land would be donated back to the state. Proponents argue a "yes" vote would preserve jobs in a very depressed area and eventually leave New York with more preserved park land. Opponents fear that a dangerous precedent would be set as a constitutional revision is undertaken for private gain and not a clear public purpose. They also argue that alternatives on NYCO’s current private property are viable.

Proposed Sixth Amendment:  The final proposed amendment would increase to 80 from 70 the maximum age supreme court and appeals court justices could stay on the bench. Proponents believe that the services of experienced, dedicated judges is being lost to a retirement matrix that does not reflect current life expectancies. Opponents argue conversely that the current retirement rule encourages fresh ideas, healthy turnover, and diversity.

Net-net, the more umbrella issue is whether the above issues are truly worthy of state-wide constitutional amendment versus less expensive ways of adjudication or change.

 
From the Mayor: Valuable Home Safety Services Offered by Bronxville Police Department PDF Print Email

 

Oct. 2, 2013:  At the extremely successful "Salute to Seniors Day" this past Saturday, where we said a village-wide thank you for all the contributions of our senior citizens, our police chief was perhaps the most listened-to speaker as he shared safety tips with the audience.

Much of the information seems so applicable to all our residents, not just our seniors, and thus worth sharing with a wider audience.

Our police department offers many safety services that add to the peace and security of village life. 

As an example:

  • Residents can leave a house or apartment key at the police department, where it will be stored in a secure and locked cabinet. It can be signed out for something as mundane as a lockout to being used by police and fire emergency services. As illustration, just last week, a 90-year-old-plus resident fell during the night and could not reach the door. Because we had her key on file, the police did not have to smash in her door or call a relative or the super and were able to get her medical aid immediately.

  • Our police will also do a security evaluation of residences, advising on door and window locks, whether more lighting is needed or if trees and hedges should be trimmed to enhance visibility.

  • If away, even for only a few days, a call to our department for a "dark house" patrol will result in an officer checking on your property daily.

  • It is extremely helpful if you alert our police department to any particular needs of the home occupants--whether someone is hard of hearing, wheelchair bound, or has emotional needs. Our police department can then tailor their response to one's particular situation, resulting in a better and tailored response. 

Some other vacation tips include:

  • Putting timers on TVs and radios as well as lights so the house appears occupied.

  • Phone ringers, especially in apartments, should be lowered as an audible persistently ringing phone is a sign of an empty apartment.

  • Ask a neighbor to pick up the PennySaver or other advertisements that cannot be cancelled, as the red wrappers in a driveway are a public notice that no one is home.

  • Even when home, cars should always be locked and valuables removed from plain site. The vast majority of our car thefts are not break-ins, rather, crimes of opportunity when unlocked doors are tried, opened, and GPS, money, and valuables taken.

  • If upon return to your home you think something has been disturbed, do not enter your residence; rather, dial 911 from the street or a neighbor's home.  If you enter your home, the intruder could still be inside and/or you might touch items and destroy anything of evidentiary value.
  • It is important to note that the Bronxville as well as the Eastchester and Tuckahoe Police Departments never solicit support by phone, so any such funds raised never reach the departments.

  • Just recently, residents have been receiving very professional-looking notices alerting them to "free" airline tickets or lotteries they have won, all just requiring a small check to secure the huge prize. As a rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • A more insidious recent scam is transmitted through the email system as well as the phone. A "concerned" person alerts someone that a friend's wallet was stolen or a grandchild's car broken down, and money must be sent immediately. The perpetrators are quite clever, often knowing the correct names of the grandchildren or friend in need.

Some other excellent safety tips shared by Chief Satriale include: 

  • Keeping car and house keys on separate rings and unlabeled, so if lost, cars and homes are not vulnerable to theft.

  • Medications and their doses, blood type, and special medical conditions of each family member should be in an envelope on a bulletin board or affixed to the refrigerator so that if EMS is needed, the responders will immediately know your allergies or particular medical needs. These have proved to be lifesaving documents.

  • When moving into a new dwelling, always have the locks re-keyed or changed.

  • If living alone, only list your last name on the mailbox and in the telephone directory.

  • Always ask for identification before allowing any service worker into your home. Unfortunately, uniforms of various companies are not that difficult to purchase to deceive a homeowner to gain entry.

  • And finally, if you see or hear anything suspicious, do not hesitate to call the police and do so immediately. As trained professionals, let them make the final determination of the activity. 
 
From the Mayor: Leaves, Underage Drinking, and Back-to-School Safety PDF Print Email

 

Sep. 25, 2013:  It is that time of year again when we begin fall leaf collection and again ask residents to mulch the leaves in place on lawns. The annual fall ritual of disposing of leaves curbside is actually wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary.

Leaf pickup costs regularly top $100K per season, and that does not include the additional cost of repairing clogged drains as rainstorms send the leaves directly into our storm sewer system.

Mulching in place will also greatly eliminate the need for leaf blowers, which may be used again in the village starting on October 1. Leaf blowers not only generate significant noise and particulate matter, but the power of the engine at 150 mph to 200 mph is akin to a jet plane and will systematically remove layers of soil, leaving yards pristine but extremely unhealthy.

If you choose not to participate in the mulch-in-place initiative, leaves must remain at curb’s edge but on private property so our vacuum track can easily collect them. Yard waste such as branches and shrub trimmings cannot be comingled with the leaves, as they will clog the leaf truck. They should be placed curbside in biodegradable bags.

Salute to Seniors Day:  One of the village’s newest initiatives for fall is our "Salute to Seniors Day," a joint tribute recognizing the loyalty and contributions that our senior citizens make to the village on a daily basis.  The Bronxville Senior Citizens organization, Gramatan Village, village government, and the chamber of commerce have collaborated to honor our seniors on September 28 with a ceremony at 9:00 am at village hall, followed by a day of activities and "senior specials" throughout our business district.  This formal thank you is long overdue and hopefully will become a yearly event.

Children Back-to-School Safety:  The fall also signals the return of all the children to our village for school and play. In order to increase the safety of all those now walking about the village, our village-wide speed limit is 30 mph, the lowest allowed by New York State. The only exemption is the 20 mph permitted in marked school zones. Any further speed reduction requires New York State legislation, which must be predicated on documented evidence of accident rates, speeding data, and traffic volume, something the village cannot demonstrate.

In addition, the village cannot install "children at play" or "slow children" signs, because state and federal standards reject their use, as they openly suggest that playing in the street is acceptable and give children a false sense of security. On the other hand, signs that alert drivers to playgrounds are encouraged because the parks are often located in places where a reasonable driver would not expect a large group of children.  Sagamore Park is a prime example. 

Use of Bicycles:  In the same vein of safety concerns, bicycles may only be ridden on village sidewalks if the rider is under 11 years of age. No one is allowed to ride bicycles or skate boards on the sidewalks in our two village business districts.

Underage Drinking:  In addition, per New York State law, when a pedestrian is in any of the village’s crosswalks, cars must yield in both directions. However, when crossing in mid-street, pedestrians must yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway.

The village is also very concerned about the safety of our teenagers in all aspects of their lives. They bring great joy to the village with all their academic, musical, dramatic, and athletic talents.

Unfortunately, as in many other communities, Bronxville is experiencing an earlier onset of teenage drinking, and laws relating to underage drinking in Westchester County are strict and punitive.

For example, Westchester County has a "social host law" that states in essence that any adult that becomes aware that minors are drinking on their premises and fails to take action can be punished by fine or imprisonment. In addition, if someone who drank on your property subsequently injures someone while drinking, civil and criminal liabilities can attach.

Bronxville, like most communities, also has an "open container law," with violators subject to fines and community service. However, in addition, under the state’s beverage control law, there is no requirement that the container be open or even physically in one’s hand. As a consequence, everyone under the age of 21 who is at a party or in a car where alcohol is present can be deemed violating the law. This is a classic example of guilt by association.

It is also important to note that New York State has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21 impaired by alcohol. Any level of impairment subjects the driver to a formal DMV hearing and possible license revocation.

Please know that our police department can be a valuable resource to any child or parent. Officers frequently conduct round table discussions with families when any kind of substance abuse is suspected.  Our youth officers have special training and are extremely qualified to assist families in any way.

 
Marc Ozburn, Bronxville School Alum, Launches Company to 'Do Good' PDF Print Email

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July 6, 2011:  Bronxville School alum Marc Ozburn recently founded and launched TheDoGooder.com, a collective buying website whose mission is to raise funds for schools while promoting sustainability and social responsibility.

TheDoGooder.com will soon offer DoGooder Deals, exclusive discounts on products and services from companies that are local businesses, eco-friendly companies, humanitarian businesses, or proven socially responsible corporations.

"The idea is to simultaneously support schools and businesses that share our mission in shaping a more sustainable world," says Ozburn.  Every online member must select a school or nonprofit to support when creating his or her profile.  Every time a DoGooder Deal is purchased, a portion of the profits goes to the school or organization that the member has selected.

Similar to daily deal websites like Groupon or LivingSocial, TheDoGooder.com joins an industry that a BIA/Kelsey study estimates to generate $3 billion this year and could reach $4 billion by 2015.

In addition to the deals, TheDoGooder.com members can access news, podcasts, blogs, lesson plans, at-home projects, healthy dinner recipes, and nightly dinner conversation starters designed to heighten awareness and inspire a more sustainable lifestyle.

"In my short life, I have been given tremendous opportunities based on the generosity of others," says Ozburn.  "I knew any business venture I embarked on had to have a foundation in service as a way to pay it forward for all that has been given to me."

Ozburn moved to Bronxville in 1998 to live with Richard and Mary Thaler and considers his time here to have been some of the most formative in his life.

"When I moved to Bronxville from the South, I was suddenly exposed to accomplished individuals across many different fields," says Ozburn.  "Ever since, I've had a drive to seek similar purpose and success in my professional life."

You can create a profile or register your school/nonprofit by visiting TheDoGooder.com.

Pictured here:  Marc Ozburn.

 

 
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