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10 Questions: Sleepy Hollow Candidate David Bedell

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – Elections for village trustee are less than a month away, and The Daily Sleepy Hollow is preparing by asking the candidates 10 questions about local issues, what they hope to accomplish and why residents should vote for them.

Six candidates are running for three open seats on the board of trustees. Incumbent Karin Wompa is running alongside Jennifer Lobato-Church and Susan MacFarlane under the Democratic and Better Government lines. David Bedell, Daniel Scott and Sean Roach are running under the Sleepy Hollow Independent line.

The following questionnaire was filled out by Bedell. For previous questionnaires, visit our topics page .

Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a computer programmer—and also the primary caregiver for my two children—during the week. I grew up in Texas and Louisiana. I attended the University of California, Los Angeles, but left before graduating—ironically, to work for the university.

I have lived in Webber Park for 10 years. I came to New York City when the software company I co-founded was acquired by a Manhattan firm, but soon moved to Westchester. I find Sleepy Hollow is just the right mix of city and country life. It is an especially good place for raising children.

What qualifications make you the best candidate for village trustee?

I offer a unique balance of experience working in government, strong relationships throughout the community and interest in environmental issues.

What committees and organizations are you involved with in the village and area?

Mayor Wray appointed me to chair the village of Sleepy Hollow’s Environmental Advisory Council in 2009. Under my leadership, the EAC has implemented a plan of comprehensive public involvement in the park system (starting yearly volunteer days and assisting the creation of “friends” groups); advised the mayor and board of trustees on riverfront development, sustainable landscaping, tree policy and numerous other topics; and worked with the Philipse Manor Improvement Association, Sleepy Hollow Manor Association, Webber Park Association, Riverkeeper, Metro-North, Con Ed and other stakeholders on many issues.

I also volunteer in the public schools (working at Morse Elementary on science education and helping build the new playground at Washington Irving), and when I can, the Rockefeller State Park Preserve (on invasive plant species) and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (I would do anything there). In Webber Park, I worked with the village and residents to build the new natural playground in Douglas Park.

How would you address the tax cap and residents' concerns about higher taxes?

Taxes must be kept as low as possible. Westchester has the nation’s highest taxes and we are still weathering a severe economic crisis.

Like other communities in New York, Sleepy Hollow faces mandated costs that continue to rise at a rate faster than inflation and the tax cap. Beyond this, we face significant and unusual capital expenses that can’t be put off until better economic times—the water system being one example.

Taxes, services and public jobs hang in the balance, and it will take creativity and lobbying Albany for structural relief to weather the crisis. The goal should be to arrive at sustainable budgets—budgets that properly fund the work of government at tax rates the community can afford, without elements that are wildly destabilizing.

What would you do to help revitalize the downtown business district?

Revitalizing the inner-village is a long-term challenge that will necessarily involve a partnership between government, business, residents and community groups.

There are still some basic steps the village can take to improve business conditions and quality of life downtown, such as making sure there are enough trash and recycling cans on Cortland and Beekman. The village should also continue vigorous enforcement of building codes and to fight crime with a strong police presence.

Beyond what government can do, it will take an energetic partnership of downtown churches, businesses and residents, assisted by the Downtown Revitalization Corporation, to create the day-to-day changes that will revitalize the inner-village.

What are your opinions on environmental concerns such as the Duracell clean-up and the former General Motors site?

The Duracell cleanup will remove the mercury pollution caused by operations at the former battery factory, but does not address any of the lead discovered in the “historic fill” that underlies the neighborhood. The village should advocate for its residents and ask the DEC to produce a plan to remove as much lead as practical.

It has been known for years that the village will retain possession of acres of roads and parkland on the West Parcel and the entirety of the East Parcel, but the legal process is such that the village has not been a direct party to the brownfield agreements under which the cleanup is designed. With the DEC considering General Motors’s proposal to finalize the cleanup, the village should assert itself to ensure that a thorough cleanup is done, leaving an adequate margin of safety to protect human health and safety, local ecosystems, and the village’s financial health by reducing future liability and operational costs.

What are your opinions on the General Motors redevelopment project and the issues that surround it, such as Tarrytown's lawsuit over traffic concerns?

In 2010, the village issued a special permit that finalized the broad parameters of the development. But in a novel change, the permit also shifted responsibility for developing the East Parcel from General Motors to the village. This control has advantages, but also risks: little or no financial due diligence or exploration of the project management structure has been done. Just a week before the permit was approved, it was revealed that the money will be paid in installments as the residential and commercial properties of the West Parcel are built, and can only be spent in specific ways.

The board of trustees faces a major challenge in understanding the implications of this obligation, minimizing the financial risks while using whatever practical flexibility is left by the constraints to do a better environmental cleanup, to build better, more sustainable infrastructure and to create truly great parks which reflect and enhance their ecological context.

What are your thoughts on working with other municipalities and government agencies to share services?

Consolidation should be pursued where it makes clear sense to do so.

What other issues need to be addressed within the village?

I think it is time for the village to take the environment into account in all its actions, and to participate effectively in inter-municipal and regional issues that affect Sleepy Hollow, such as the flooding of the Pocantico River and hydro-fracking.

It will take focused, interested trustees to address the water supply, the Department of Transportation reconfiguration of Broadway and other big, community-wide issues. But it’s important not to lose track of the smaller issues—the long-broken crosswalk lights at Washington and Broadway, the vandalized gazebo in Douglas Park—and to make sure government addresses them in a timely manner.

Why are you running for the position of village trustee?

I see more and more clearly as time goes by that our community is exactly what we make of it. I think I have insight and energy that will benefit the village and hope that the community will give me the opportunity to serve.

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