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From the Mayor: U.S. Wastes Over $160 Billion Worth of Food Each Year PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Nov. 29, 2017:  This past week I attended several Thanksgiving dinners served to folks who were not financially able to provide their own. It made me grateful that our small village "giving garden" did its small part by producing 200-plus pounds of vegetables that were distributed directly to area soup kitchens.

Most important, it caused me to reflect on all the food we waste daily while others go hungry. Worldwide, 1.3 billion tons of food will be thrown away this year, and the United States contributes mightily to this total.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a full 10% of our available food supply is wasted at the retail level and more than 20% is wasted in our homes. That’s food worth more than $160 billion while one in seven American households doesn't have enough to eat. Reducing food waste by just 15% would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans yearly.

Getting food from farm to table uses 10% of our country’s energy supply, 50% of our land, and 80% of all fresh water consumed – yet 30%-plus of all that is grown goes uneaten. This same uneaten food is the largest component of solid waste rotting in our landfills and is producing record methane emissions. Methane gas can migrate significant distances and carries with it molecules of such toxins as pesticides, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning fluids.

Worldwide, France leads the way in addressing the food waste crisis as the first country to actually ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Supermarkets of 4,300 square feet or more must sign donation contracts with charities or face stiff monetary penalties. The measure was passed unanimously by the French senate, and modest projections estimate at least ten million more meals were served to the hungry in the first year. The "no waste" movement was the result of a grassroots coalition of ordinary shoppers, anti-poverty groups, and green organizations.

A very unusual provision of the French legislation also requires food banks and charities to share a legal obligation to stock donated foods in proper hygienic conditions and distribute with "dignity" – defined as only given out at accredited centers where human contact and conversation is fostered vs any street or truck handouts.

In addition, the law also makes it extremely easy for food factories to donate production overages directly to approved charities. England is not far behind, requiring its major supermarket chains to enter agreements with the government, albeit not punishable by fine, to cut food and packaging waste.

The U.S. is the only country to have a "Good Samaritan" law, the Bill Emerson Food Donation Act, which removed liability for any illnesses caused by donated food. We also have a very favorable tax provision to incentivize supermarkets to donate unsold food. Supermarkets can discount the value of food given away from their taxes up to 10% of their aggregate income, clearly an incentive to donate.

Then why are we not leading the movement?

First, it is an awareness issue. According to a recent survey, only 53% of Americans think food waste is an issue. A John Hopkins study had it at 43% just two years ago, so the trend is encouraging. 

Also, food is cheaper in the U.S. than in nearly any country in the world, aided (not without controversy) by significant corn, wheat, dairy, and soybean subsidies.

Americans, like most of the world populace, are also confused by the sell-by/consume-by packaging dates and often throw away food thinking they are avoiding foodborne illnesses.

Bottom line, our waste policy is consumer driven – a cultural, attitudinal desire to eat only perfectly shaped, unblemished, "pretty" food. We have a national obsession with the aesthetic vs nutritional quality of our food, and this image is reinforced by all the cooking shows/gourmet magazines where only "camera ready" products are used.

According to multiple consumer surveys, Americans also want to see an abundance of a product on a shelf, especially fresh foods. We don’t ever want to buy from a near-empty display. As a result, supermarkets have no incentive to order close to the margins; rather, they add a little more to the purchase price to create the "abundant" effect from over-purchasing.

The most major source of food waste is our national desire to purchase ready-made foods for the convenience. Prepared food cannot be repackaged or frozen by law or allowed to be kept even one day to redistribute in most states. But the appetizer platters, specialized salads, and rotisserie chickens are so in demand they are currently here to stay.

Currently, the most forward-thinking answers to the food waste crisis emanate from the EU nations, which provide a template from which to choose solutions tailored to U.S. conditions. 

 
From the Mayor: Village in the Midst of Another Parking Shift/Solution PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Nov. 22, 2017:  I recently archived some of the old newspapers in my office and came across a newspaper from 1939 with a lead article titled “What Do We Do About Parking?” I immediately stopped to read for the elusive answer only to learn that the title was entirely rhetorical rather than solution-oriented.

We are currently in the midst of another parking shift/solution as we relocate cars back to the Kensington Road area.

As a recap, two-and-a-half years ago, resident commuters, merchants, and resident-reserved parkers (parking designation for residents from Sagamore Road and Kensington Road who do not have on-site private parking) had to be displaced because of the construction of Villa BXV. When the old Kensington lot came offline, merchants were relocated to the Garden Avenue lot in spaces that were formerly designated for retail customers; commuters were relocated to Kraft Avenue, again impacting public parking options; and residents were relocated to on-street parking as a result of a time-limited state legislative waiver to do so.

With the garage now open, we have been migrating parkers back to their former locations in phases. It is especially important if we are to maintain a vibrant business district that we restore the public spaces “downtown” in the Kraft Avenue and Garden Avenue lots in advance of the holiday season.

The new garage offers direct access to the northbound train platform and is well lit, secured by video surveillance, and supplemented by regular police patrol. We are also in the process of redesigning the Sagamore/Kensington island to allow for smooth entrance and egress.

We believed the garage offered amenities never before available and overestimated the interest in the garage vis-à-vis an open-air space in direct proximity to the train, for which we apologize. We will take this into account for next year’s commuter pricing and lottery.

We know the value of southbound commuter access and we continue to lease the Avalon lot as well as actively pursuing some partnerships that could increase our inventory.

Parking in the village is probably the most difficult balancing act the trustees and staff face, with the domino effects sometimes unforeseen.

Each constituent group has valid, but often very divergent, needs, and we are mindful that every group is integral to the rich fabric that defines Bronxville.

The following are vignettes of some of the conundrums we try to resolve on an often-daily basis:

  • The complaint of a resident commuter who no longer has a spot in the Kraft lot vs the valid impatience of our merchants who want these spots back for customer parking. If they were asked, the commuter would also want to live in a village with a vibrant business district and the merchant would also want and respect the commuter as a taxpayer and potential customer.

  • The frustration of residents circling the village endlessly in search of a parking space to grab a cup of coffee, stop for a sandwich, or pick up a last-minute clothing item or gift or simply have lunch with a friend.

  • The complaint of a merchant tired of a fellow merchant or his or her employees feeding the meter all day in the prime spaces fronting the stores and impeding the free flow of customers and traffic vs. the needs of beauty salons, restaurants, and doctors’ offices in the same block seeking longer-term parking given the length of their services.

  • The west side merchants who also need the lengthy meter time for some service businesses but do not want the time interval so attractive that it becomes a less expensive alternative than the Lawrence Hospital parking garage.

  • Because service businesses are bringing added vitality to our storefronts, combined with the competition our goods merchants face from the Internet, more spaces are needed for exercise studio participants vs. the normal flow of customers into a traditional store in one hour.  

Also given the high cost of health care and pension plans, many merchants must hire more part-time employees and fewer 40-hour staffers, necessitating an added need for more merchant/employee parking.

Everyone should and does advocate for their parking needs. On any given day, a library patron will call, frustrated that they couldn’t park to use the facility, and there may be a school parent who has no place to park to volunteer or see a performance; a senior citizen who had to turn back home because parking options were too far from the activity; or a resident who cannot unload groceries or have a relative or babysitter park near their home because someone parked there at seven and left at five.

The increasingly tight parking situation is also an outgrowth of the continued success of our institutions. In the recent past, our nursery schools have added sections, our senior citizens group has grown in size and offerings, our refurbished library has attracted new patrons and increased offerings, and our public school’s enrollment, staffing, and footprint have expanded, all without appreciable increases in parking inventory.

The result of our effort to balance all the competing needs results in somewhat patchwork parking rules and regulations whose logic isn’t always easily apparent.

Please continue to share your concerns and suggestions as we try to fine-tune our parking map and strategies throughout the village.

 
Dr. Viji George and Community Members Form George & Associates, a Boutique Consulting Firm PDF Print Email

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By Staff


Nov. 15, 2017:  When Viji George was elected the eighth president of New York’s Concordia College in 1991, he sought advice on how best to lead a complex organization, but the help available was far beyond the college’s financial reach.

As a result of this experience, he and a group of like-minded professionals pooled their talents to launch George & Associates Consulting, a boutique firm designed to help mid-sized nonprofit and educational organizations. 

“During my tenure as president, I often found myself in need of external advice and guidance on complex matters that faced organizations like ours,” said Viji George, CEO of George & Associates Consulting.  “Though such help existed, it was beyond our means, and, furthermore, consulting firms often practiced in functional silos and did not offer holistic solutions. So, shortly after stepping down from the presidency, I decided to launch a firm that adopted a multi-disciplinary approach providing world-class solutions at real-world prices.”

To accomplish this vision, Dr. George enlisted the help of seasoned professionals in the community he had come to know over the years with experience in issues that confront nonprofit and educational institutions. The team at George & Associates will offer consulting services in the following areas: strategic planning, leadership development, talent acquisition, board assessment and development, fiscal management, and resource development.

“Nonprofits leaders juggle so many urgent operational, fundraising, and program issues that we often do not take the time to step back and ask the critical missional and strategic questions,” said Tim Hanstad, co-founder of Landesa. “Yet those questions are the biggest keys to success. A multi-disciplinary firm like George & Associates provides a cost-effective means of arriving at solutions to these issues.” 

Recognizing that in smaller and mid-sized nonprofits it’s all one can do to keep up with day-to-day operational challenges and respond to each fire as it flares up, the firm's goal is to offer systematic, transformational solutions customized for each individual organization so it can discover its true potential.

One of the associates, Pat Drew, commented that “Viji has brought together a great team of talented individuals who together can offer comprehensive solutions to help organizations succeed.” Pat is joined by the following members of the greater Bronxville community, Dr. Jack BierwirthGreg ColemanMary Anne DennistonPaul Grand PreGuy MinettiMarcia Lee, and Irena Choi Stern. For a fuller listing of associates, please go to https://www.georgeassociatesconsulting.com/ or contact Viji George at CLOAKING .

Pictured here:  Dr. Viji George, CEO of George & Associates Consulting.

Photo by A. Warner

 
From the Mayor: What Makes a Good Leader? PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Nov. 8, 2017:  When this column appears in print, it will be the day after Election Day 2017. The whole run-up to Election Day caused me to reflect on what makes a good leader, be it in the political arena, corporate setting, sports team, or even fifth-grade student council.

So much has been written and I confess, I am fascinated by the subject. The following is just a distillation of some salient points that resonated with me and I thought had wide and intergenerational application.

Not surprisingly, honesty is the keystone. Respect goes to a man or woman of his word. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably honesty, integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Honesty also requires telling the hard truths even if uncomfortable for many to hear. Winston Churchill was a master at being a pragmatist who dealt with grim realities but still had the optimism and courage to act. After the devastating defeat at Gallipoli, which resulted in over 100,000 casualties during World War I, Churchill took complete responsibility. He had the ability to endure setbacks, face reality, and yet inspire his countrymen to a better vision.

Focusing on the political arena, a politician must extend his or her honesty and integrity to remove ideological blinkers and seek common ground, as leadership is truly not about the next election, rather, the next generation. 

All studies agree that a good politician stands above any specific personal views and expands to include everyone’s beliefs. In that vein, judgments should be made with reliable and unfiltered information with the intention of good for all. The need for power, publicity, attention, or personal agendas must be left at the door.

Right after honesty and integrity is the need for excellent communication skills. Most experts agree that a skilled communicator emulates Aristotle’s classic elements of rhetoric – reaching people through logic (logos) and what is rational, appealing through emotion (pathos) and their sense of value or ethics (ethos).

The real gift seems to be the ability to distill a message, however complex, into something that is accessible – a talent for simplicity and brevity, and the ability to convey complicated concepts in just a few phrases. President Ronald Reagan and former GE CEO Jack Welch are considered the gold standard. 

Another critical component of effective leadership is humility. Knowing one’s area of weakness does not make one weak. It actually allows a leader to delegate to others who have the abilities and complement rather than supplement her skill set, lay the groundwork for others' success, and then stand back and let them shine. As Henry Ford said, “Never find fault, find the remedy.” In essence, a good leader does not take others down in order to go up. President John Kennedy was a master at this.

A leader is humble enough to own his mistakes, give credit to others, relate downwards as well as upwards, respect his colleagues, and empathize with them as people.

My favorite leadership advice is from Joseph Plumeri, the vice chairman of First Data, in a recent New York Times article, “Play in Traffic.”  Simply put, it means push yourself out there, participate, get involved and be curious, question everything, accept challenges outside your and your staff’s comfort zone, have boundless energy, and don’t be shy about having a passion. But in the end, also be decisive enough to make decisions, even amid some ambiguity.

Said so often but always true, lead by example. In my small sphere, I would add have a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself. In my case, it is needed on a daily basis.

Perhaps the most profound leadership advice was articulated by Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University. “You have to be open and alert at every turn to the possibility that you’re about to learn the most important lesson of your life.”

 
From the Mayor: The Community Restorative Justice Initiative PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Nov. 1, 2017:  Approximately one year ago, I wrote of the ground-breaking new program in the Bronxville Justice Court, the Community Restorative Justice Initiative ("CRJ"). I am proud and grateful it has been a success and a model for many other progressive communities.

First conceived by our senior justice George McKinnis, the program was designed to give our justices an alternative to incarceration that has a reasonable opportunity to change a criminal defendant's anti-social behavior for the better in a manner that incarceration in today's prison environment is highly unlikely to do. Studies have documented that many, many prisoners come out of incarceration more anti-social and more dedicated to criminal behavior than when they began their incarceration.

As a result, Judge McKinnis saw the need for an alternative/substitute for prison time that offers therapies and interventions calculated to change behaviors.

As assistants to our two village justices, George McKinnis and George Mayer, Doris Benson and Mary Mackintosh have been made volunteer members of the Bronxville Court staff to assist in the operation of the CRJ program.

With the cooperation of the prosecution, defense, and the court, a candidate will be identified if a good fit for the CRJ program. The individual is usually a person who plea-bargained from a felony to a Class A Misdemeanor, as this takes the defendant out of the New York State Supreme Court System and places him or her under the auspices of our village justice court.

The village received enormous assistance and encouragement for this program from the district attorney's office in White Plains, and Janet DiFiore, now our state's chief justice, was instrumental in the formation of CRJ program.

After a worthy candidate is identified, the candidate is interviewed by court staff with the prosecution and defense invited to attend.

If all agree, the court orders the defendant to meet with TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities) staff members at the Westchester County Department of Health, which deals with drug, alcohol, and mental health issues that a criminal defendant may exhibit.

TASC then expands the analysis of the defendant with the aid of therapists and doctors to determine issues in his or her background--mental, educational, or physical disabilities, drug or alcohol abuse--and if existing, whether these problems can be cured or eliminated and lead to significant change in the defendant's behavior.

If a positive recommendation is received, CRJ staff and the village court, with TASC's aid, will draft a one-year program for the defendant and circulate it to the prosecution and defense. The prosecution has the authority to drop the misdemeanor charge if the defendant successfully graduates from the program. Once a month, the defendant must meet with the village court justice, CRJ staff who have been mentoring the defendant each step of the way, the court clerk, the assistant district attorney, defense counsel, and a representative of TASC.

The defendant is either praised or admonished, and at the end of twelve months, a private graduation ceremony is held--often the first moment of positive praise and honor for the individual.

Two defendants have already successfully graduated from Bronxville's program.

As one can see, the program is extremely labor intensive and requires unrelenting dedication on the part of many in the legal pipeline. But a human life is truly at stake, and I can think of no worthier and more rewarding endeavor.

On every level, this program makes sense. If any other institution in America were as unsuccessful in achieving its ostensible goals as our prisons, we would shut it down tomorrow. America passed the point of negative return long ago. We now lock up seven times as many people as France, 11 times as many as the Netherlands, and 15 times as many as Japan.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported that national prison recidivism was at 67%. Most experts with knowledge of the field agree that the American justice system has been reduced to a gratuitously expensive system of punishment.

Behavioral and rehabilitative therapy methods, as exhibited in the village's CRJ program, have been proven to reduce the recidivism rate by 10 to 30%, but according to one study, only 5% of American prisoners have access to them.

When you think about it, an inmate while confined does not work, support his or her family, or pay taxes. Because of incarceration, families are broken up and ex-convicts become unemployable, resulting in an increase of the American poverty level by a staggering 20%.

The village is so fortunate to have such a visionary, compassionate, and enormously dedicated court team that is now setting the standard for local and state courts--yet another example of the dedicated citizenry we have in our special village.

Editor's Note: The Reformed Church of Bronxville is holding a Restorative Justice Training workshop for anyone interested in learning about it today (November 1) from 1:00 to 6:00 pm and tomorrow from 8:00am to12:30 pm.

 
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