Village Trustee Candidates Square Off

First of two opportunities to distinguish themselves in three-for-two race

By Kevin E. Foley

The three candidates for two Cold Spring Board of Trustees seats tried gingerly to distinguish themselves at a debate last Monday, March 4, but generally found themselves in agreement on the best approaches to governing the village for which they all expressed full-throated affection. The candidates, challengers Michael Bowman and Stephanie Hawkins along with incumbent Bruce Campbell, participated in a closely timed debate format sponsored and conducted by the Putnam County News and Recorder (PCNR).

A second forum for the candidates, sponsored by Philipstown.info/The Paper will be held Wednesday, March 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the music room at Haldane.

Trustee candidates Mike Bowman, Bruce Campbell and Stephanie Hawkins at the March 4 debate. Photo by Liz Armstrong

Trustee candidates Mike Bowman, Bruce Campbell and Stephanie Hawkins at the March 4 debate. Photo by Liz Armstrong

From their two-minute opening statements until their two-minute closing statements, the candidates cautiously dwelled on their lifelong (Bowman and Campbell) or more recent (in Hawkins’ case) volunteer involvement in the civic life of the village. Although PCNR editor Doug Cunningham and two of his reporters occasionally lobbed a potentially controversial question, the candidates mainly stayed within their comfort zones in relating their qualifications, their sense of the priorities for the village and the need for working together to accomplish things.

Ralph Falloon joined the debate as a sort of one-man band answering questions from the PCNR staff without fear of contradiction from an opponent, since he is running alone in the mayoral column of the ballot. Falloon urged listeners to “think long and hard” about which trustee candidate to vote for, indicating they were all qualified and that he would be pleased to work with any combination of winners.

All the trustee candidates agreed on the need for more open, transparent government, better services for senior citizens, careful planning on capital projects and the need for revision of village laws to reflect the recommendations of the already adopted Comprehensive Plan. They also agreed that an extraordinary effort is needed to find ways to get the Butterfield project back on a faster collaborative track and in the bargain save the seemingly always-on-the-verge-of-fleeing post office.

And the three candidates, one of whom will be without a chair when the music stops on March 19, agreed that a legally sustainable regulation needs drafting to prevent formula or chain stores from setting up shop in the village. They all reported hearing about this issue on the campaign trail.

“No one wants to see a McDonald’s or Burger King in Cold Spring,” said Bowman, a big supporter of Kenny Elmes’ right to open a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise on Chestnut Street. He said his only concern was legal, stressing that no such law prevented Elmes from proceeding with business, which he described as a matter of right.

“No one I have spoken to is in favor of franchise businesses locating here,” said Campbell. “The [Comprehensive Plan] Special Board is working on it [framing a village law].” Campbell is the trustee liaison to the Special Board.

Hawkins reminded the audience of approximately 45 people that she is on the Special Board and was working directly on the franchise ban. “If we are careful and deliberate, we can protect what we value most in our civic life and promote smart development as well,” she said.

Even the Butterfield development issue, no doubt the most pressing problem facing the trustees after the election, did not generate much difference or specifics among them as to possible approaches toward solution. All of the trustee candidates mostly agreed with Falloon’s promise “to work our tails off to move this project forward.” Falloon suggested without contradiction that the board of trustees would meet every week, if necessary with developer Paul Guillaro, to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. But neither he nor the others said specifically what needed to be done to untangle the developer’s proposals from citizen objections and questions.

Some small degree of difference could be discerned when discussing obstacles and time delays developers might experience in the village planning review process. Bowman for example was sharply critical of the Kenny Elmes experience over the approved Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. “I believe he was mistreated by the Planning Board. He had a right to develop his property and it was infringed upon,” he said. Bowman said further he thought Elmes had to spend too much time and money complying with excessive Planning Board demands for information. Bruce Campbell pretty much agreed.

Hawkins didn’t disagree about the importance of having an efficient process. “I agree it took a long time,” she said. However, she emphasized the importance of applicants appreciating why the process might take a long time in the interest of protecting the village. She also argued for more public empathy toward both applicants and the people who volunteer to perform reviews of projects.

At one point Falloon, referring to the Butterfield project, pointedly said, “If a development has a long process, it shows the village doesn’t roll over for a developer.”

All three trustees commented on recent board history under the leadership of outgoing Mayor Seth Gallagher, acknowledging to varying degrees that tensions and sharp disagreements had thwarted progress on issues such as Butterfield. “I have never seen the community so fragmented and split,” said Bowman, a Gallagher antagonist, expressing the direst perspective at the outset of the debate. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a board working as a team,” he added later. He said he wanted to see matters moved forward collectively as a board rather than the mayor setting the agenda and always leading the discussion.

Hawkins, once a Gallagher supporter, agreed with Bowman that better communication was a key to accomplishing better board and citizen relations. She spoke further about the need for better understanding and treatment of residents. “A resident standing up in front of the board is asking for help. It’s important to welcome people and express concern for their situation,” she said.

Campbell unapologetically admitted that he was the candidate most closely aligned with Gallagher, given the mayor appointed him deputy mayor. He said his 36 years working as a civilian at West Point answerable to a military chain of command had instilled in him “a respect for the person and the position” of whomever is in charge. He said he thought a lot of good work was accomplished even though “Seth and I are different people.” Campbell expressed optimism that a new board would move forward in a more collaborative way.


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15 thoughts on “Village Trustee Candidates Square Off

  1. Both Campbell and Bowman show their ignorance of planning and zoning regulations in their comments about Elmes approval. Anyone who understands land use knows that there are a thousand details in between “as of right” zoning and final approvals. Michael was only at one or two of the Elmses meetings, and Bruce never set foot in any of them as far as I saw (and I only missed one), so how they can be so unsupportive of the volunteer board which gave countless hours to making sure the plans were as good and legal as possible?

  2. Judith, your analysis and criticism is most appreciated. I remain open and promote public participation of any and all kind no matter how cynical or divisive the response directed towards me maybe perceived. I would like to move the Village towards “Unity in the Community.” I would like to usher a period of more understanding. Not enough communication has occurred between the Village Board or Volunteer boards and the residents. Hopefully together we will lead the Village towards a higher level of action, participation, inclusiveness and an earnest and honest sharing of ideas which can be done in an even and respectful manner.

    Most know me as a reasonable and fair person. While I was not able to make the Tuesday planning board meetings that you speak about, you have the right to know why. As a Volunteer Fire Fighter and as President of the Fire Company, I was either running a Fire Company meeting which is on Tuesday nights, participating in Fire Company Drills which are also Tuesday nights or I was attending a Village Board meeting which is also on Tuesday nights. Something I would like to see is the Village Board move forward toward changing the meeting nights across the board. If not possible then I would move to have those meetings video recorded or at the very least podcast for all to listen or watch at their leisure. It is unfair that residents and elected officials are forced to pick and choose which meetings to attend. It should all be made available. No one should feel disenfranchised nor have to choose between meetings. I feel that they are all mutually important.

    A few years ago a former trustee was quoted as saying – “Today I get sworn in, and tonight I get sworn at”. I take that as badge of honor. Judith, I expect to be subjected to positive and negative criticism. Hopefully over time you will come to see me as someone who listens and cares about the community, the residents and is respectful of all sides and differing opinions. When elected, I will work towards addressing and putting forth a schedule to address multiple meetings on the same night. You are correct! We should all have the right to attend.

    Furthermore, given your level of energy, I believe that the Village has or may have openings on several boards. The Village would welcome someone with your energy and sense of community interest and perspective. I encourage you to apply to these boards and I look forward to seeing you at Village board nights.

    Thank you again for offering your constructive criticism. Remember to vote for me for Trustee on March 19.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Bowman,
    Candidate for Cold Spring Village Trustee

    • Mr. Bowman, the next Village Board will be planning a new firehouse costing millions of dollars. If elected, would you step down as Fire Company president?

      • Without question I would resign my position as Company President as it would constitute a clear conflict of interest.

  3. Michael Bowman, your response was respectful, compassionate, honest and sincere. This is why you will make an excellent trustee in our community. It shows that you care about our village. I also believe that Michael Bowman and Bruce Campbell did not show any ignorance whatsoever.

  4. Michael Bowman’s comments are justified and correct. People have personal lives and commitments that they must attend to and even if they believe in something they might not be able to attend any or all the meetings concerning it.

    I would love to be able to attend many of the important Village meetings, but as a volunteer firefighter it is my obligation to be present for drills and meetings on Tuesday evenings. I am happy to see that, if elected, Michael will try to find a way to have meetings on nights other than Tuesdays.

    I must wonder why Michael Bowman and Bruce Campbell’s attendance at these meetings is so important. Why is no one questioning Stephanie Hawkins about her attendance at these meetings? I attended the PCNR forum and in reviewing the video (it can be found somewhere around the 30-minute mark of the tape), Stephanie tells the crowd present that she never attended any of the meetings. I do applaud her for her honesty about it.

    Michael Bowman should be commended for trying to stay on top of the important issues that affect our Village. As Village Trustee I know he will work with all individuals to make the Village of Cold Spring the best place it can be.

  5. I’ve now read two accounts about this “debate” and as I merchant on Main Street, I must admit that I’m somewhat surprised that nobody seemed to be talking about the problems that we business owners are facing, let alone what can be done to improve the infrastructure and appearance of this once fair Downtown. Maybe it’s too controversial for any of the candidates for public office to admit that there’s even a problem since they seem so determined to minimize/eliminate any differences between them. Once again, the buzz word is “unity” which is really another way of saying to all the dissidents “shut up and sit down as we know what’s best.” I’ve seen this kind of politicking all too often and all it does is help maintain the status quo, regardless of party, which is something that Cold Spring can ill afford at this juncture. Times are tough for the business owners and it’s getting harder and harder for many of us to survive, let alone make a living here. This past winter was one of the worst in recent memory, and I dare say some of us are seriously considering other options for the next one.

    As I see it, Main Street is at a turning point and unless the Village board members, whomever they may be, are willing to do something right away, like within 6 months of starting their terms, the downward spiral will continue. I live in a town with no commercial tax base and can tell you first hand that we in Put Valley would kill to have rate-ables like Cold Spring. I just don’t understand why the politicians are not being pro-active when it comes to doing something for the merchants who are paying so much of the freight.

    For example: nobody mentioned the alleged grant money that I’ve heard so much about, some $700,000 for sprucing up Main Street. One would think that item would be #1 on the agenda, yet there were no comments. I’d like to know from the candidates just what they propose to do with the money? The needs are obvious: new street lights, sidewalk repairs and maybe even assistance for property owners to spruce up their buildings. Why isn’t this being discussed more fully?

    One last thing, the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, which is the proposed new firehouse for the Village. This is going to be a huge hit on the taxpayers if and when it’s built, yet none of the candidates are talking about the project, either for or against. Are the voters to assume, for instance, that because of Mr. Bowman’s ties to the FD, he’s in favor of it? What about the others?

    I’m glad to hear there will be another debate. I sincerely hope the voters will try to elicit as much information as possible from the candidates– there’s a lot riding on their decision.

    • Patty is right. Main Street businesses are suffering and the village board hardly even brings up this issue. There are, of course, many things that can be done to make Main Street a viable place for businesses and shops. Unfortunately, so far, the board seems to have little desire in finding out what these things are. Let’s hope this changes in the near future, before more businesses close. And thank you Patty for bring up this very important issue.

      • Jim- thanks for the kind, supportive words. I was kind of hoping that my post would be a challenge to the various candidates, especially Mr. Bowman, to step up to the plate and respond to my concerns. I guess they all want to play it safe. It’s so much easier to mouth the inevitable platitudes about “unity” and how much they love the Village, than to take on the tough questions that are going to make or break Cold Spring.

        As you mentioned, there may be some businesses closing their doors in the coming months if foot traffic doesn’t improve. The problems that need to be solved are not rocket science; there are small cities and towns all over NYS and elsewhere that were no better than CS, that were able to turn around their Main Streets to make them attractive and profitable. All it takes is the will and the creativity to properly use the resources that are available. I don’t see ANY of the politicians including former legislator Tamagna, current legislator Scuccimarra, the Village and town board members and the state level representatives even taling about taking on the job of fixing up Main Street using the alleged grant money or any other funds that are available from the State or Federal branches of Government.

        As stakeholders, residents, and business owners, we need to put pressure on these officials to do what needs to be done. Thankfully, there are many people around here who are actively engaged, so much so that they support not one but TWO local papers and this lively online commentary. We need to keep this issue in the forefront, and to let the powers that be know that we are serious about restoring Main Street before it’s too late. This election should have been a referendum, not a love fest. I hope that there are enough concerned taxpayers out there who will continue to stay involved and engaged. The alternative is a Main Street that will look like a ghost town, and not just in February.

        • Patty, It is a shame you couldn’t make the forum Wednesday night. It was a great, open discussion where you could have posed your question directly to all three candidates, as opposed to just one of them.

          I have to disagree with your interpretation of the calls for unity and professing love for the village as excuses to duck tough issues/playing it safe. Many residents are tired of the many years of divisiveness, appeals to political divisions (be they national parties or local groups) and attempts to label or marginalize folks by their for/against position on whatever the issue of the hour is.

          I’m delighted that all three Trustee candidates and the mayor-to-be appear to be in favor of moving away from the politicizing of Cold Spring affairs that some appear to thrive on. Surely that is in the best interests of progress against many of the issues you cite?

          • Tom, I’m sorry that I couldn’t attend and I hope that maybe someone who was there posed some of the questions and concerns that I have been writing about. I also don’t mean to come across as being a naysayer or someone who is “down” on Cold Spring, as nothing could be further from the truth; I’m very glad to have the opportunity to have a business here and my wish is that all of us can prosper. That being said, we do depend on our elected and appointed officials to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, such as the major repairs and renovations to local infrastructure that have previously been identified. There are many challenges, no matter who gets elected; let’s hope the new board members are ready to hit the ground running.

  6. Mr. Bowman has the right answer, move some meetings around so those of us who have other commitments on Tuesdays can attend or do like we do and record all our Board of Education meetings. Currently I serve on the Haldane Board of Education and have meetings on Tuesday nights. I only made one meeting with regards to Dunkin Doughnuts, due to the conflict I brought up earlier. I think it’s great that Judith Rose made them all but one, but feel she should be more like Mike and understand some people in the community can’t make them all. Not being present at meetings doesn’t mean you don’t care or follow what is going on. If that was the case the handful of people who attend the BOE meetings on Tuesday would always get their way, be it raising taxes or cutting programs.

    Furthermore, I too feel Kenny was treated poorly and his application was treated different than other so-called chain stores in the village. I don’t recall any drawn out meetings when Foodtown or Frozenberry were asking for approval. Yes, Frozenberry is a chain store, there is one in Fishkill as well. Michael Bowman is honest and sincere, he answered the question with compassion and consideration. Join me in voting for him on March 19.

  7. I know Michael Bowman to be a man of honesty and integrity. I may not always agree with his positions, but I believe that he has the interests of the community at heart. That is why I am voting for him March 19, 2013 and I hope you all join me in voting for him.

    I have know Bruce Campbell for a long time and I believe he deserves to be re-elected to office as trustee. I have had the honor of working with Bruce and seeing a man who loves his community. He deserves more credit for the work he does behind the scenes than he will say in public. I may not always agree with the positions he takes, but I know that he tries his hardest and that is a quality that is lacking in today’s society, a society that is infested with narcissism and not community minded. We need more community and sanity in an insane society.

    Please join me and supporting Michael Bowman and Bruce Campbell for trustee, along with J. Ralph Falloon as our next mayor on March 19, 2013.

  8. Good points made by all. One more thing I would add to this discussion: why are these meetings not being filmed / streamed / podcast? Major issues are being discussed and decided in these workshops, appointed boards and public hearings. It is amazing that in 2013 we can’t get access to these things online or on TV for those that can’t be there.

    This doesn’t need to involve any big cost. You could do it with an iPhone and a couple of enthusiastic Haldane students (class project /extra credit?) or boy/girl scouts (merit badge?)

    No offense to our politicians, candidates or press, but taxpayers should be able to “go to the videotape” directly, rather than take someone else’s word on what a majority supposedly thinks on an issue or how someone was or wasn’t treated fairly by a board.

    Philipstown.info should pose this question to the candidates at the next forum.

  9. I think it’s unfortunate that Judith Rose would so quickly condemn both Campbell and Bowman for not attending “all” the meetings that were a total injustice to Kenny Elms. I was just wondering if she checked to see how many meetings the other candidate running for trustee in the village attended. Putting all that aside I think Mike Bowman had a very nice response to Ms. Rose, and I applaud him for his honesty and sincerity.