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Election Candidates Forum Held in North Salem

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Dozens of citizens turned up at North Salem High School Tuesday evening to listen to election candidates present some of their views.

The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters , with Rosemary MacLaughlin acting as moderator. Council candidates’ opening statements were limited to two minutes each.

Supervisor Warren Lucas (R,I), running unopposed for reelection, gave a brief summary of town developments over the past few years.

The four candidates for two open Town Board seats, incumbent Amy Rosmarin (D,I,Ind), and challengers Bruce Buchholtz (R,C,Ind), William Monti (R) and John White, (I) then each addressed the audience.

Rosmarin said, “I want to make North Salem more affordable and financially efficient, and I want to save it from development.” She spoke of her “proven track record” and mentioned that she does not support the transfer tax, referring to it as a “non-issue.”

White said he has the “know-how,” to get things done. He understands the difficulty of dealing with big government and its rules, and specifically mentioned the 2% tax cap and the HUD mandates on housing. He stressed that tax issues are the most difficult and he would do everything in his power to eliminate taxes.

Monti described his experience working with nuclear power plants, especially Indian Point, and said he is an expert in financial shepherding. He said he understands government needs and the ways in which local, state and federal agencies relate to each other.

Finally, Buchholtz explained his background in complex financial transactions throughout the world and said he can accomplish as much with friends and neighbors. “If I’m elected, I will do the work and show up at the board meetings.”

At this point, the moderator asked the candidates, “What is the most urgent problem facing the town council?”

Rosmarin said it is very important to keep the town affordable so that residents can stay in town. She said she helped organize the Energize Program so that people can save money.

White said, “Taxes, taxes, taxes is what I always focus on. From 2003 to 2007, school taxes have jumped 40%. It’s a strain on all residents.” He said he knows how to address budgets and engineering issues and would be capable of dealing with an unexpected problem. “Right now, it’s affordable housing.”

Buchholtz said the town is unfairly carrying the burden of unfunded mandates and should push back against the county and the state. He said fewer unfunded mandates would help alleviate overhead.

Monti said the 2% tax cap denies the town needed services. The Town Board must work in a collaborative fashion and must include residents in its effort to solve this problem.

Questions from the audience followed. Since both Rosmarin and White have previously been active in town government, Herb Geller addressed Monti and Buchholtz, asking, “Why are you more qualified than your opponents, who have acted in town government for many years?”

Monti cited his civic experience and his community service. He said he would bring in an outside perspective. “I believe in monologue, monologue, dialogue, and then you get something solved.”

Buchholtz said, “I know every nook and cranny in this town.” He mentioned his work as a volunteer and said he would continue talking to residents to find out how they feel about various issues.

In their closing statements, Rosmarin stressed her own experience and confidence, while White listed some of the town offices he has held and said he has a proven track record.

Monti said he would encourage the next generation to come forward and get involved. “You can count on me to say what I mean and mean what I say and not flip-flop.”

Buchholtz said people want less government and fewer regulations. He would not acquire more open land until the economy rights itself and then, he would do it selectively.

The three candidates for the two open positions of town justice were asked to make three-minute statements.

Solomon J. Schepps (D-Ind) described his 30-year background as a courtroom attorney. He said, “I am running as a Democrat, but a judge should not have any party affiliation at all. The job of judge is to serve the community and apply his experience impartially.”

Incumbent Ralph R. Mackin (R-C-IN) said his past experience as a town justice has been rewarding and challenging and pointed out that the role of justice goes far beyond sitting at traffic court. It requires continual dedication and availability.

Incumbent John Johnston, Jr. (R-IN-C) pointed out that he has already served 25 years as town justice. He has learned that few people realize that judges deal with small claims, landlord and tenant issues, zoning, penal issues, environmental protection, foreclosure, identity theft, violations of probation and more. “The courts are the fundamental adjudicators of justice.”

Veronica Howley (R,C,I), who is running unopposed for town clerk, did not speak.

Also on hand were Peter Harckham (D,WF,I) and Peter Michaelis (R,C), who are competing for the single District 2 county legislature seat.

In his opening statement, Michaelis said, “I’m tired of living in the highest taxed county in the country. It’s time for that to stop. Rob Astorino needs our help to bring down the cost and scope of the county government and lower taxes.”

Harckham said, “In my four years as a legislator I’ve focused on three things: reducing the size and cost of county government, protecting our families and preserving our fragile drinking water. I’ve helped pass bonds to fund the pool repairs, the Peach Lake sewage issue and the repaving of June Road. I’ve been an advocate for North Salem.”

The moderator asked, “What are the most urgent problems facing the county at this time and how would you resolve them?”

Harckham answered, “We need to find balance in the budget. We’ve gone through it publicly, line by line. We pledged no new taxes for next year, working together in a bipartisan fashion.”

Michaelis said, “This year’s budget was not dealt with in a bipartisan fashion. Astorino wanted to cut things and they were put back in by the super majority. “

An audience member asked, “What are your plans to continually lower taxes?”

Harckham answered, “We need to work smarter, through technology, using software, using kiosks so people can apply for things without using a person, and we need consolidation -- police departments, and so on.”

Michaelis said, “Union employees should pay their own health insurance. Just 10% would be a $13 million savings. The county should not be in the amusement park business. Playland needs over $60 million in capital improvements. It should be put in private hands.” He also favored consolidation of various departments.

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