Heidi Bender and Kathleen Foley are running unopposed for two open seats on the Cold Spring Village Board to succeed Lynn Miller and Steve Voloto, who did not run for re-election. Below are their written responses to questions posed by The Current.
Under a state mandate, the Village Board must complete a review of the Cold Spring Police Department’s policies, procedures and practices by April 1. How significant is that review and what should it include?
■ Bender: Everything starts locally, so it’s very significant. We won’t know what must be included until we have all the information. The repeal of 50a [that made police disciplinary records available under the Freedom of Information Law] gives citizens the opportunity to know their police officers better. Making that information publicly available will be a big step in the right direction and offer the Village Board guidance.
Analyzing all available data is the other crucial step; that information should also be made public. Who is being stopped? Who is being ticketed? What kinds of crimes are being given time and attention and which ones are not? Who is being taken to court and who is being let off with a warning? The changes needed might be minor, but we won’t know until we take an in-depth look. I know Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke has the best interests of the village in mind and I look forward to working with him on this process.
■ Foley: Cold Spring has a skilled, professional police force under the leadership of Larry Burke. He has a strong moral compass and a deep commitment to community policing. And, as with any department, the CSPD can always be improved. The governor’s executive order for police reform is significant because it provides a catalyst for examining our public-safety program, assessing needs and creating a local model for participatory policing.
We’re lucky we have a police force that reports directly to the village and always is willing to be accountable. We need to agree what goals we’re hoping to reach. Our process must be based on objective data. It must consider many voices in respectful ways and build and strengthen the community’s relationship with our officers. This is a great opportunity for community-specific innovation. I’ve put forward a plan at forgeaheadwithfoley.com.
Aside from the police review, what do you consider two priority issues facing the village in 2021-22, and what steps are needed to address them?
■ Bender: How to stay safe and sane during this pandemic is a major issue. Even if a vaccine becomes available, the roll-out will take time, and it won’t be 100 percent effective.
I’d like to examine available outdoor spaces, including Dockside, Mayor’s Park and Tot’s Park, creatively re-imagining how we can make better use of them. We need to find ways to come together, while staying safe, and have a plan in place for spring.
Parking and crowd control are major issues. You can’t go to a village meeting without the issue of parking coming up. The Village Board is already thinking about it and plans are in place to reestablish a parking committee. Parking would be an easy way to bring in revenue from tourists, but we also have to balance the needs of residents and Main Street businesses. Meters, residential parking permits and overflow lots are all possible solutions. I feel confident that the parking committee and the board can come up with a plan that will work well for everyone. And we really need the support of the state parks department to handle crowd control and preserve our beautiful trails. Both Mayor [Dave] Merandy and Town Supervisor [Richard] Shea are passionate about this issue.
■ Foley: Our village and town are popular tourist attractions. Residents have felt under siege, especially during COVID. New York State’s lack of stewardship of Hudson Highlands State Park is spilling over into quality-of-life impacts for villagers, putting our already-strained first responders in danger and damaging our local landscape and ecosystem.
The tourists aren’t going away, so we must secure better park management by the state to make visitor dollars work for Cold Spring. Revenue-sharing, created by designating appropriately-priced paid parking, limiting and requiring permits for trail access and establishing impact fees, will reduce and offset adverse consequences in the village. We need to ensure that the state protects our natural resources as if our local economy and community character depend on it — because they do.
We need to make urgent repairs to the village’s dams. Work has been stalled for years by bullying by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. We need alternate access to clean drinking water so that we can lower dam levels and make critical fixes. Trustee [Steve] Voloto made headway identifying legal professionals who have negotiated with the DEP on behalf of other Hudson Valley communities. That firm is reviewing our position. I would like to retain their legal expertise to secure permissions the DEP has withheld, get an agreement on the books and get the job done.
What initiatives would you like to see the board or the community undertake? Are there projects you’ve seen in other places you’ve lived that the village ought to consider?
■ Bender: I’d like to see a real response to the incidents of hate in our village. I’ve lived in many places and have never had swastikas or “Death to Gays” graffiti in my neighborhood. Here in Cold Spring I have. I don’t think it represents the majority of views and I also don’t plan to ignore it and hope it will go away. There may not be an easy solution but I know there are others in our community who would be willing to work together to stop the spread of hate. I plan to propose an inclusive committee to work on this issue, to show how welcoming Cold Spring really is. Potential post-pandemic projects could include inviting back the Putnam Pride Parade and incorporating traditions from other religions during the holiday season.
■ Foley: We need to make space for more voices in village problem-solving. I’d like to form ad hoc working groups — think tanks, if you will — to look at particular challenges, consider options and recommend solutions. We have tremendous talent and expertise in this community, in areas as far-ranging and essential as climate change preparedness, public health, finance and marketing. More people thinking together brings fresh approaches and progress.
We must reduce what we send to the landfill and minimize disposal costs. There are at least 16 villages across the state with composting programs for food and yard waste. I’d like to find ways for Cold Spring to partner with residents, not-for-profits, businesses and institutions to reduce waste and recapture nutrients and energy for local/regional use.