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Bloomingdale Republicans Need to Work Across Aisle, Former Councilman Says

Bill Graf said members should have provided reasons for voting against AvalonBay PILOT program.

The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted by former Bloomingdale councilman Bill Graf. If you would like to submit a Letter to the Editor, send it to ariana.cohn-sheehan@patch.com

Dear Editor:

As a former councilman, planning board member and a Republican, I am disappointed with the unproductive actions of the Republican members of Bloomingdale's borough council. From what I have observed, their priorities seem to center on party politics and misguided agendas rather than on what is best for Bloomingdale. 

At the local level, where we are all neighbors, it should not be this challenging to work together.  There are good people with good ideas and good intentions of all political stripes.

The continual whining about the mayor and his approach is tiresome month after month, issue after issue. Right or wrong, different people have different styles. There is only one mayor at a time. The approach should have been to adapt, work for change by influencing through cooperation and get down to the business of governing.

The business of governing is never served by not attending meetings because you don't want to be put in a decision making position or to prevent a decision from being made. Nor is it served by walking out of meetings because you disagree with the discussion. A mayor and council are elected to make decisions and conduct the town's business. There are times when that may get uncomfortable and contentious, but that is OK. Adapt and deal with it. 

The lack of reasonable rationale for defeating the Avalon Bay PILOT at the last hurdle defies logic. For this significant an issue, both "yes" and "no" votes should be accompanied by a credible statement of reason. 

Knowing that a PILOT program was the desired end result, Republicans (except one recusal) and Democrats unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance identifying the Avalon Bay site as a redevelopment area. In this case, there would be no other reason to do that except to pave the way for a PILOT program. There were no objections to any facet of the redevelopment plan or that a PILOT financial agreement was to be negotiated. This would have been the place to stop the process, not after a PILOT financial agreement was negotiated in good faith with the developer. If there was disagreement about aspects of the PILOT financials, then work with it internally as a governing body and make changes prior to the public hearings.

Of the Republicans eligible to vote on the PILOT, only one presented any rationale for their "no" vote. Those reasons could have been given up front before the process was even initiated. They were general in nature and not dependent on a specific financial agreement. The borough did not need to expend funds for a feasibility study and redevelopment plan if those were the reasons for a "no" vote. The other two Republican council members did not provide even the hint of a credible reason.

In my view, it is unfortunate for Bloomingdale that my fellow Republicans, having the majority, have not been able to find a way to work cohesively with the mayor and their Democrat counterparts.

Bill Graf
Bloomingdale     

Buzz Warren October 26, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Mr. Graf, Good reasoned rational presentation. I agree that we should be pulling together regardless of political persuasion to do what's best for town. Bloomingdale has certain existing conditions including a lack of commercial ratables to improve our tax base and not put all the burden on homeowners. Buzz Warren
Kristen October 27, 2012 at 12:27 AM
From what I understand, the mayor and councilman Yazdi kept the rest of the council in the dark as to the negotiations. They first learned of the results of the negotiations the same time the public did. Mr. Graf, I think it goes both ways. The mayor has had no intention of working with the republicans and has done whatever he could to undermine them. Thus, I disagree with your assessment.
paul bastante October 27, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Even the republicans know that this majority is wrong for us.
Jon Dunleavy October 27, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Kristen,your understanding is completely inaccurate.The negotiations took months. The majority was continually updated at each executive session of the progress of the negotiations.Once the final terms were agreed upon the majority was completely informed prior to any public presentation.If the majority had any issues with the specific terms of the agreement they never offered any suggestions or alternatives.As a matter of fact after the council was presented the details Councilman Conklin told Ray and I,this sounds good for the Borough , how can anyone vote no. Then proceeded to vote no. I am curious as to why this is your understanding.Did a majority member tell you that they did not review the PILOT terms prior to the public presentation.If so this is quite alarming.One other point I think is important is that all 3 majority members stated they voted no because the school is not getting any funding unless needed.This is a concern because they were all well aware even before the redevelopment area was approved that the pilot results in 95% of the revenue to the Borough and 5% to the county. This was the first fact the auditor advise us of when he proposed the PILOT.They each knew well in advance of spending the $8800 for the redevelopment plan and before negotations with AvalonBay began that the BOE would get no funding via the PILOT but still authorized the final ordinance and for Ray and I to negotiate the terms of the PILOT. So tell me how am I undermining them?
Ann October 27, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Kristen's comments are typically what some would call a knee-jerk response. She responds usually as a loyal Republican rather than as a resident of Bloomingdale. That's nice for her party, but not helpful for the town. And she is pretty much alone. Each of us has to put the town first, not our party. I would love to see Kristen do this someday. Moving on, however, Mr. Graf seems to have a better grasp on the issues and is trying hard to be honest. I don't remember when he was on the Council, but I was impressed by his ability to be objective. Thank you, Mr. Graf, for the care you are showing about our town. We need more like you on both sides of the aisle. Then we'll have a town to be proud of!
Kit Emory October 28, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Well written, Mr. Graf and it's sad that the majority shows no indication that they are willing to put town over party. We're all suffering as a result. Our only recourse is to vote them out. I'd have no problem voting in republicans like Mr. Graf - someone who's reasoned and willing to work with whomever to help Bloomingdale, but since he's not running, I think we have a clear choice.
paul bastante October 28, 2012 at 04:29 AM
I would gladly welcome Mr. Graf onto this council! He would be someone with whom anybody would be able to work with!
Krikor Etmekjian October 28, 2012 at 01:40 PM
The tenor of the council meetings has been tense recently and what I have noticed is most of the tension has been from the majority side of the council over PILOT. What I had asked and the Mayor and Councilman Yazdi are continually asking on our behalf of the Republican majority is why did they on mass vote against PILOT? It is a simple question and has significance in order to assess the objection and come up with a compromise to address the concern. From my experience Mayor Dunleavy is the type of individual that works for the common good and wishes to understand the basis of the concerns and work on a compromise for that common good. The council majority is on the wrong side of this issue and has thrown out refuted objections time and time again in order to obstruct PILOT implementation. My fervent wish is that the electorate goes to the polls and unequivocally demonstrates to the Republican majority that we side with the interests of Bloomingdale, not ones party affiliation. I am disappointed at the actions of the majority and hope to see a new council pass PILOT in January. We don’t need Republicans or Democrats in the Council chambers but pragmatic problem solvers that do not see party affiliations paramount but work for the common good of our community.
Carolyn October 28, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Well-said, Krikor. Why do we even need party delineations on a small town level? What amazes me is that the last election was a virtual landslide to change certain Council members. And yet, current Council members continue to take advice from those who were resoundingly ousted. They clearly do not serve the majority in this town. By the way, there are about 8 letters to the editor in Trends today against this current majority, Since they have refused to listen, we can only demonstrate with our votes.
Krikor Etmekjian October 28, 2012 at 10:34 PM
That is a good point Carolyn. The big looser in the last election is undoubtedly calling the shots for the current the majority. It is regrettable that they are following the bad guidance offered and will go down as a consequence.
paul bastante October 28, 2012 at 11:40 PM
A vote for Pituch, is, in essence, a vote for Huntley and Caputo, two landslide LOSERS from last year. They said, "To hell with Bloomingdale, we will run the town through Pituch. Is this what we really want? ReallY???

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