Teams stick to established campaign messages
By Michael Turton
For the second time in a week the team of Matt Francisco and Donald MacDonald squared off against the Michael Bowman-Cathryn Fadde team, facing questions before a full village firehall that moderator and Putnam County News & Recorder Editor Doug Cunningham described as having been “tailored to the candidates to some degree.”
Francisco and MacDonald stressed progress on important projects and that village boards are working cooperatively and effectively while Bowman and Fadde called for village projects to be completed more quickly and for more open and transparent local government.
Questions “tailored” to candidates?
The “tailoring” Cunningham referred to at times resulted in a noticeable difference in how questions were stitched together to fit the candidates. Some had a looser fit than others. A number of lengthy, multi-faceted “hardball” questions were directed toward Francisco and MacDonald while simpler and markedly softer queries were sometimes posed to Bowman and Fadde. The evening’s first two questions set the tone.
PCNR reporter Tim Greco to Francisco: “In last week’s PCNR (developer) Paul Guillaro expressed hope you’d attend Saturday’s public information session at the fire hall. About 100 people attended but not you. Bruce Campbell was the only trustee who did. Please explain why you didn’t feel it necessary to hear questions from the public about the project and answer questions posed to you in his letter to the editor — what are your plans for decreasing taxes, siting the post office and erecting a new senior citizen center?”
Francisco said he had issued a press release explaining why he would not attend, indicating that the event poster contained “strong political overtones” and that the Bowman-Fadde website gave the impression that the session would be a “campaign event.” He added that he is “… very interested in what citizens have to say but didn’t feel it was the right forum.” He also said while he feels the Butterfield project can be tax positive that outcome should be confirmed through independent analysis.
PCNR Reporter Catherine Garnsey to Cathryn Fadde: “You’ve said before that the Village Board talks today about the same issues talked about two years ago. In other words little concrete progress has been made including on Butterfield. What should be done?”
Fadde responded that in her experience with the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce, “Things on the agenda were not removed until completed. I see things disappear from the (Village of Cold Spring) agendas.” While such items “come up much later,” Fadde said that the process “seems disjointed.” Projects have to be vetted, she said, “but paying attention to what’s on the agenda could help.”
Catharine Square, the third panelist, prefaced a question to MacDonald, commenting, “Some might say that you’ve been steeped in analysis paralysis” before asking him why he wants the Historic District Review Board to review placement of buildings at Butterfield. She then asked him why he supports having an independent tax analysis before adding a third question: “Could a skeptic say you are simply trying to slow down the project?”
MacDonald replied that while he doesn’t doubt the figures provided by Guillaro, “It makes sense to me that to protect our taxpayers we should also have an independent analysis” to verify those findings. He said the HDRB’s involvement was consistent with Guillaro’s request not to have any surprises sprung on him after five months of planning and that “getting all comments out front” would help meet that request.
Bowman was then asked by Greco if he was being uncritical of Guillaro by having already said he would vote in favor of a proposed B4A zoning amendment for the Butterfield site. “I’m never going to give an all blanketing ‘thumbs up’ to a development without exploring the options,” he said adding that if adjustments to B4A recommended by the Planning Board are made he will vote yes. “I think it’s a go,” he said.
Are we better off than two years ago?
Garnsey stated that Francisco had run two years ago largely on a pledge to make village government run better. “But that hasn’t happened,” she said. “Why? What responsibility do you bear?” Francisco answered: “There’s a lot getting done,” listing a number of projects from the Main Street water main project and improved lighting at the dock to village access to Jaycox Pond and revised floodplain mapping. He then commented that by not asking candidates the same questions the audience couldn’t compare how they differed on issues.
Square asked the candidates if Cold Spring is better off than it was two years ago. Fadde replied: “I think in some ways it is better but in a lot of ways it isn’t. How we treat each other is not any better … on Main Street I don’t see anything going on … lighting is dreary, curb cuts are broken, weeds so high it’s ridiculous … Main Street is awful.”
“I think in the last year we made tremendous progress,” MacDonald said. “A year ago we were in the midst of trying to craft the B4A zoning amendment,” he said, before saying to Bowman, “Michael, you were actually against it.” He said that the reconstituted Planning Board had moved the Butterfield project “right through.” MacDonald also identified the formula business ban as a success.
Bowman differed sharply. “We’re not better off,” he said. “The amount of executive sessions that the Village Board has had this year … is astounding,” he said. “The Open Meeting Law and transparent government is more action than it is words — and I don’t see the actions.”
Speaking their mind?
Garnsey asked if members of Cold Spring’s boards should be able to speak their mind. “Would you support an effort to quiet or muzzle them as happened with Planning Board Chair [Barney] Molloy?” she asked.
Francisco responded that Molloy had made statements in the press last August that Guillaro’s application (for development of Butterfield) would be approved if no changes are made. He said Molloy’s comments came “before hiring a consultant, before an attorney was hired, before the planner was hired” and that “we had Barney Molloy [saying] that the post office did not have federal supremacy — that he did not agree with the village attorney. That is problematic. That is not trying to remove somebody.”
Fadde said in part: “I understand the purpose of executive session. But to discuss any person on any board just because their opinion is different … I think if we don’t start listening to each other … in the same room, I think we’re making a big mistake.”
MacDonald said, “I believe you pick your board members and chairmen carefully and once you do you support them. I would not try to limit what any board member or chair said about anything.”
Bowman said, “How can you have an open and free government [if when] people say what they truly believe … [they] might be removed at any time?”
Candidates gave their views on merger possibilities between the Village of Cold Spring and Town of Philipstown. MacDonald described the melding of the two building departments as “a great idea” saying that while it might not save the village money it could provide residents with full time service. He said all aspects of shared services should be looked at — including the highway departments. Bowman strongly disagreed with merging the highway departments.
Boat club negotiations
When Francisco was asked why he and Mayor Falloon are negotiating with the Cold Spring Boat Club instead of a public vetting, he replied that it was a decision of the Village Board. “They (the boat club) have a 10-year lease [remaining] and deserve the respect of any landlord-tenant agreement … not every discussion has to be public.” He asked why a public process would be used to tell the club “what we will do with land they have a right to for 10 years?”
Greco replied: “So in your opinion that’s fair and open government?” Francisco shot back: “Yes it is. Absolutely. And the village attorney confirmed that.”
Greco commented that Putnam County legislator Barbara Scuccimarra and developer Paul Guillaro have said that had the Village Board moved “more expeditiously” the municipal center [at Butterfield] would have been built by now and that the post office wouldn’t be in a temporary trailer. “What say you?” he asked Francisco.
Francisco responded that postal decisions are made by the federal government and that five years ago they had realized they had to reduce “brick and mortar.” He added that the post office had made a good business decision by not pursuing a 4,000-square-foot facility, opting instead to look for 900 square feet for a retail-only operation in Cold Spring. He also commented that Scuccimarra had tried to exclude village officials from a conference call concerning the post office.
Bowman weighed in on a follow-up question stating: “Right now … it [post office] should be in a trailer at the Butterfield property.” He questioned if Garrison residents affected by additional truck traffic from the post office would agree with Francisco that it was a good business decision. Fadde agreed. “Right now the best place for the post office is Butterfield” she said, adding that an opportunity was missed by not considering using an empty building in Foodtown Plaza now occupied by Jane Krenach Antiques as the post office site.
The election is Tuesday, March 18. Voting will be held at the Cold Spring Fire Hall from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.