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Recuse You!?!

I recently created a survey to better understand the concerns of Bedford residents. Circulated to a few hundred people of various demographic and political backgrounds, I wanted to gather feedback in order to help my goal of representing the people of Bedford - ALL of the people. This should not be such a novel idea, however over the last four years I've witnessed a five-member Town Board that fails to listen to - or dare I say represent - all of its constituents. Instead, it has used its position of power to push a national agenda or use the local seat as a platform for a career in higher politics.

Given my participation in local civic life - and not to mention having knocked on a few hundred doors collecting signatures over the last few weeks - I consider myself pretty in tune with the pulse of Bedford residents. So I wasn't too surprised with the most popular survey responses: lack of balance on the board, national politics at the local level, Bedford Hills neglect, outsourcing to consultants, etc. But there were a number of themes that did surprise me, specifically quite a few questioning Town committee and board appointments. Here's a sample:


  • There are too many 'consultant' and 'advisory' committees and there's not a real listing about how many there are, who is on them and whether they are politically balanced.

  • We need more transparency in our town as it relates to boards.

  • The process of key volunteer board appointments is closed/opaque and there is no accountability for outcomes. Some are clearly incompetent but are reappointed repeatedly despite other high quality candidates available and willing to serve. Refreshing all boards periodically, volunteer or elected, is critical to effective, open, honest, impartial functioning of government at all levels.


Sure, the Town Board positions are supposed to be elected seats. However the trend over the last few years has seen elected officials vacating their terms early and enabling unelected appointees to inherit powers of what should be democratically elected positions. Former Supervisor Chris Burdick (D) did not fulfill his full term, leaving for State Assembly and orchestrating a behind-closed-doors appointment of MaryAnn Carr (D) back in 2021. This appointment - to the Supervisor seat no less - all happened without public notice. That vacated Carr's previously held seat to which the Town Board appointed Stephanie McCaine (D). Learning from this practice, then Council Member Ellen Calves bailed on her first term and ran for Supervisor in 2021 which allowed her to appoint Tom Catoliato (D) to fill her vacated seat on the Board in 2022. Tom had long been registered as an Independent but changed his party affiliation to Democrat that same year according to publicly available Board of Election data. Let's hope this was a remarkable coincidence, otherwise being a registered Democrat looks a lot like a requirement for an appointment...

There is even less transparency at the Town committee level. I've been personally frustrated over the last few years after not hearing a word back after the many applications I've submitted for vacant and advertised seats. Only once did I get a response - from Kate Galligan, then Deputy Supervisor - who claimed that "none of the committees you indicated being of interest to you are currently appointing new members". Pretty remarkable that in spite of the weekly Supervisor newsletter asking for volunteers ; should I read between the lines: "Republicans active in civic life need not apply?"

Interestingly, that tune changed recently when I heard back from Calves' Chief of Staff who told me that the Board wanted to schedule an interview for the Recreation Parks Advisory committee vacancy that I applied to many weeks prior. I was elated and got to work preparing for the interview including chatting with a handful of neighbors about their impression of Parks & Rec and even reaching out to the person who had vacated the seat due to moving out of Town. I put together a resume and showed up at the meeting location a full 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Councilwoman Stephanie McCaine - who serves as the Town Board liaison to the committee - arrived at 4pm on the dot and I was ready to get started. Only to learn however that we were still waiting on Councilwoman Bobbi Bittker, as she was running late. I was surprised to hear that because 1) Bittker had no official role with the Recreation Parks Advisory Committee and 2) she is on record as being a staunch opponent of me (thanks to an embarrassingly bad email that she sent just a few months ago).

If there was ever a time to recuse oneself, you would think this would be the time. But I guess that's not the rules by which this Town Board plays. So the fate of my application lies in the hands of someone who openly dislikes me for my political registration. But equally abusive, a person in a position of power who has zero affiliation with the committee under review.

Survey says: the people are right - there needs to be some more transparency around the list of Town committees, who sits on them, and how they are appointed. Otherwise, how is every resident supposed to feel welcomed to contribute to local civic life? How is every resident to know that their governing body and its sub-committees truly represents all the people?

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