Even Great Kids Will Get Rejected in Applying to College
In the next few days, high school seniors will be receiving their
early application decisions. The good or bad news arrives in an
envelope or appears on a computer screen. As a high school counselor,
I am working with almost 30 students anxiously waiting for the
decision to arrive. No matter how much the school of their dreams
is a "reach," each one harbors hope and optimism, tainted
by unprecedented stress and anxiety during what feels like an interminable
My group of 30 is a terrific group. Many of them have worked incredibly
hard, taken all the right courses, have SAT scores I could only
have wished for, display unique talents and excel in various school
activities. Collectively and personally, they are one of the nicest
groups I have worked with in my long career as a counselor. I have
helped each navigate the admissions game, advised them and wrote
their recommendation letters, meticulously describing their personality
and character, highlightening strengths and contributions and what
makes them different from others. Despite my best efforts and theirs,
some great kids will be rejected in a year that seems to be more
competitive than ever.
After 18 years of dealing with mid-December disappointment, I
have yet to come up with just the right words to remedy the hurt.
Time and the eventual letter of acceptance from another college
usually take care of that. However, someone in the room has to
be the grown-up and offer some semblance of advice and rationale
Besides feeling hurt, they are angry. I can't blame them. They
have worked hard, done all the right things and the elusive "payoff" is
still not yet in their grasp. The level of competition is not to
be underestimated, and there is far greater demand than seats.
At the highly selective schools, admission committees engineer
a perfectly blended society called a freshman class. They are the
schools with less than a 20 percent acceptance rate, where great
kids with high SAT scores from Westchester far outnumber applicants
from other geographical areas and are not necessarily among the
targeted diversified groups needed to round out a class.
I know many highly stressed parents these days. One recently said
to me, "In the business world, I am master of my universe.
When it comes to college admissions, I feel helpless." For
those used to having their way, it is hard to accept that imperfect
decisions that are made in admissions offices are beyond the control
of outsiders. Impeccable records, the right connections, careful
strategies, and the best laid plans and advice offered by high-priced
personal counselors and guidance counselors don't always do the
I hope my students will not blame others or themselves or play "if
only." It doesn't help to question self-worth or dwell on
what should have been done differently. They have done all they
could possibly do. However, I do wish some things were different.
I wish more colleges would follow the lead of Bates, Bowdoin and
Sarah Lawrence and not require SATs or equate higher scores with
the "quality" of their class. I wish my students didn't
worry so much or question how every waking moment spent in high
school will look to colleges. I wish they didn't see other students
as competitors, believe there is no margin for error in their young
lives, or feel the pressing need to master calculus and AP Biology,
even if they want to study English literature.
A cartoon in the New Yorker showed a 17-year-old with a college
rejection letter in hand, sitting on a couch, consoling his distraught
mother: "Don't worry, Mom; parents can have good productive
lives even if their son didn't get into Harvard." I am never
sure who needs more consoling, kids or parents. I do know rejection
by the first-choice college is not the decisive, life-altering
event it feels like the day the letter arrives.
An early deferral or rejection presents the opportunity and time
to seek the best match and fit, a factor far more meaningful and
important than prestige, ranking and selectivity. Many successful
people did not get into their first choice and felt the pangs of
a denial letter. The top 25 elite schools have not cornered the
market on a great education. There are many colleges where students
will meet great teachers who will inspire and challenge them. They
can be found on many thriving college communities where there is
potential for growth, happiness, success, lifetime friendships
and, yes, productive lives.
Bob Sweeney is a guidance counselor at Mamaroneck High School.
This column appeared first in the Journal News on
December 16, 2004
Election 2004: A letter to all young voters
by Ann L. Engelland
Some of you are away in college.
Some of you put lots of sweat and tears into the campaigns for
the last year.
Some of you are too young to vote but may have had a passionate
Some of you have no opinion.
To those of you away in college, if you voted, whether your candidates
won or not, do not sit back now. You must stay in the ring, stay
involved, keep talking about the issues that are now on page
10 of the newspaper. If you didn’t vote, it is time to
read and get yourself educated on the issues and on how your
vote could have made a difference. Pledge to watch less television
and read more news. Log on to alternative websites and listen
to national public radio to hear the voices of those who are
most different from yours.
Consider or reconsider going abroad to show the world that we
are not defined solely by the narrow values and commercialism that
we are projecting to the globe now. Help the world appreciate you
as an individual and not as an arrogant American. Discover the
breadth of opinion in the wide world on issues about our country,
Iraq, Islam, democracy, and capitalism.
To those of you who worked in this campaign season, congratulations!
Whether you made a call or two, whether you pulled all-nighters
to prepare leaflets, whether you drove the elderly to the polls
and whether your candidate won or lost, you made a difference.
More people paid attention and got indigestion over this election
than ever before. Do not give up now. The world needs you to stay
in the ring, continuing to dialogue.
If you are too young to vote, but were “voting” for
a candidate, stay tuned. Find an issue to follow, something you
care about—nature, automobile innovations, the stock market,
education for poor children, taxes for rich people, women’s
rights, or gay rights, the war in Iraq--and see what happens over
the next few years. Follow the issues, think about how and what
you believe. Talk with your friends about politics. If you hoped
Kerry would win, don’t be disheartened; stand tall for your
difference with the majority. If you hoped Bush would win, then
watch how he makes his second term one of “unification.”
If you have (or had) no opinion, well, re-think that. Please.
Nothing less than the future of the world as you know it is at
stake. Even the most cynical among us surely realize now that votes
and opinions count and they matter. They have the power to change
the course of history for better or worse.
As one of my children wrote to me yesterday: “What happens
over the next four years will determine the nature of the next
century: will it be peaceful, tolerant, and open to the unimaginable
changes and problems that will confront us, or will my generation
fight an undefeatable enemy whose only desire is our demise?”
Whatever the level of participation, enthusiasm, relief or discomfort,
there is work to be done. There is no room for cynicism, rather
we all need to try to move forward to
make our country truly compassionate with respect to our own citizens
and the men, women and children of the world.
Best of luck to you all.
Suburban Savvy: A Bad Rap for Soccer Moms
by Blythe Hamer
There have been various names to avoid over the years—Yuppies
were materialistic sell-outs, and Generation Xers were slackers.
Most of these labels came and went as quickly as the decades
they were coined to represent. But Soccer Mom not only has peculiar
staying power, it’s becoming less flattering all the time.
First used 15 years ago to define women juggling a family and
a job, the term Soccer Mom has morphed into something less, shall
noble. Nowadays, a Soccer Mom is a woman who has put the little
darlings in the center of her life to the exclusion of all else.
Worse yet, the little darlings play sports. Mom drives her kids
to their sports games and then she has the nerve to watch the games.
Not only has
she spurned opportunities for higher callings gained by the women’s
movement, she has bad taste—Soccer Moms
usually drive minivans.
I can’t deny that I haven’t tried to downplay my own
status as a Soccer Mom. For one thing, I got involved in the PTA
so people would think I had some greater purpose in life than simply
my children. Then I tried to get the kids to play lacrosse instead
of soccer—no one has ever said anything bad about lacrosse
moms! But eventually it was time to replace our old station wagon,
and my husband and I had to take a stand.
“The minivan seats seven people,” he said, “and
I know how much you love driving carpools.” He couldn’t
seem to understand that a minivan is an extremely negative fashion
statement. Some of my friends were buying Volvo station wagons
or SUVS instead, and I briefly toyed with the idea. But, stupidly,
they still stayed to watch the games, completely blowing their
cover. My advice to them is to either “drop ‘n drive” or
enjoy the advantageous seating arrangement of a Town and Country.
But these days, driving around in my minivan, I’m considering
the issue more seriously. Are there alternatives to being a Soccer
Mom? Drug Dealer Mom came immediately to mind, and I realized that
being a Soccer Mom isn’t so bad after all. Of course, I would
rather be Museum Mom or Whole Foods Mom, but since my kids hate
looking at paintings and love french fries, I guess I’ll
have to settle for what I’ve got.
Maybe there is a way, though, to change the connotation of Soccer
Mom so that it means something good—so that Soccer Mom equals
Good Mom. Not only would this strategy be positive for my reputation,
it might result in improved children. So first on my to-do list
for tomorrow is to devise a system so my children actually do what
I ask them to do. I would start with simple things like, “Brush
your teeth.” Also, I vow never again to put their clean laundry
away for them in their drawers.
Over time, I’ll build up to one of those weekly chore charts,
and my kids will be model children. If we all do this together,
Soccer Moms of Larchmont, we might actually be able to change how
the world views us. And then, when people call me a Soccer Mom,
I’ll say, “Thank you.”
Rethinking the Solitary Approach: Day Labor
in Mamaroneck An Issue for the Entire Community
by Bob Degen
Editors Note: See related article: Mamaroneck
Day Labor Becomes Issue in GOP Primary Race
Day Laborers Have Gathered for Decades
Long before the term “day laborer” engendered feelings
among us, and long before the men who gather these days in Mamaroneck
Village’s Columbus Park were even born, employers - both
contractors and average homeowners alike – met their day
to day employees in de facto hiring areas. These spots, where men
stand together hoping to secure an honest wage for an honest day’s
work, have always existed. In fact the very center of recent discussion
was once populated not by men from Mexico and South and Central
America, but by men from Italy, Ireland, Greece and Poland. The
faces and cultures have changed, but the need – simple market
supply and demand – has always existed and presents an opportunity
for workers to fill a void in the economy.
The sites generally
exist without much notice, though now ours calls for the attention
and concern of the entire community. Just because the present site
happens to be in the Village of Mamaroneck doesn’t mean that
surrounding communities don’t benefit from it. Far from it,
and this demands a coordinated approach.
This subject is not unique to our area; it challenges communities
across the US, in Texas and California, and as close as Mount Kisco
and Farmingville, Long Island. The need for cheap labor in our
local and national economy commands the presence of laborers, 7
days a week, 12 months a year.
Recent Events Stem From Legitimate Concerns for Health, Safety
A range of genuine concerns prompted increased government
involvement with the laborers, their potential employers and the
site of the newly renovated Columbus Park. Spurred by mounting
health, safety, and traffic and quality-of-life matters - along
with the attendant complaints from other residents – the
mayor and police department were forced to take action. The result
caused anxious awareness on the part of the workers because for
them this meant the probability of lost wages – a matter
of critical concern to them and their families who depend on the
$75 to $110 per day they earn - that is if their willingness and
ability coincides with the sporadic demand for their services.
This situation didn’t happen overnight. Rather, much work
had been done up to this point. The mayor and the Hispanic Resource
of Mamaroneck have, for a long time, tried together to tackle many
points, like finding an alternate site, exploring ways to protect
workers from unprincipled contractors and helping workers organize
to ameliorate the traffic and safety issues that the police have
Workers Rights to Congregate Secure
Bound by law, the police cannot interfere with people’s
constitutional rights to congregate, travel and obtain work. While
police presence does not overtly restrict access of potential employers,
the initial strong presence was interpreted by the workers as an
attempt to get rid of them or interfere with their work, and this
raised significant human rights concerns. Because, to the worker,
the net effect of police presence was a drop in available work,
they called upon advocates for help.
I was deeply honored to be
present at meetings where the mayor and police chief listened to
the concerns of workers, and human rights, religious and advocacy
groups. And, likewise, the concerns of the mayor and police department
were expressed to the workers and advocates. The mayor’s
response included modifying some of the measures set up at the
park, along with his own call for help – help from the workers
and their advocates.
While cause-and-effect and motivation still
remain a matter of high debate among the parties - and the subject
of dangerous and unfounded rumors - much common ground has been
found. The rights of the workers to contract for work, travel
and congregate within the law are secure. The workers and advocacy
groups pledge to organize among themselves, monitor the temporary
site and the conduct of those assembling there, and to renew
meetings with Village officials to review progress and problems
Call for Help from Neighboring Villages and Towns
From this meeting, something emerged that merits our attention:
all parties need to do more, and need more help doing it.
among Village officials, police and the laborers, it’s time
now for the entire community, Larchmont and Mamaroneck Village
and Town (as well as Rye, Harrison, and New Rochelle) to proceed
with each other to find solutions. With resources, ideas and cooperation,
our community will be different from the other places where similar
situations have led to prolonged conflicts, debate, and even attacks.
We should be able to manage this together respecting
each other’s rights and interests, understanding the pressures
each group is under, and working together toward resolutions that
will enhance the lives of our whole community.
Happily, the steps
taken so far by all parties point in this direction. I’m
arguing that it is our business to engage the whole community in
this effort. May each of us continue the process of resolution.
Bob Degen heads the Tri-Municipal Human Rights Commission
Too Young to Vote
by Malcolm Ohl
As I performed the dubiously distinguished task of checking Michael
Moore into the Farley building on Wednesday, September 1, it finally
hit me. I was at the Republican National Convention serving as
a security “guard” with three other volunteers. If
I couldn’t be a Secret Service agent or a rooftop sharpshooter,
I could at least check identification and passes at the media center
so the heavy hitters didn’t have to waste their time on the
small stuff. I was helping, in the tiniest way, to get George W.
We volunteers were told that it could be dangerous to wear our
convention polo shirts on the way to the Farley building along
streets that that had recently exploded in protest. We opted to
wear them anyway and faced the throngs of protesters who pelted
us with cries of “Nazi pigs!” and “Down, down
with the GOP!” as we lined into the Farley media center,
through security, and into the basement, where the volunteers were
split up and given assignments. Runners over there, royal blue
shirts. Greeters here, navy blue. Security, with me, grab a red.
As the night wore on, I caught glimpses of media personalities
- Shepard Smith from Fox News, Dan Rather from CBS. Early in
my “preliminary security” shift, I encountered a very
hairy, very well-guarded Michael Moore. After checking his pass
(taking my time, the likes of him could wait a bit longer than
everyone else), I stepped aside. This was my closest brush with
fame for the night.
None of the volunteers saw the speeches or the confetti inside
Madison Square Garden. Instead, our feet hurt because our jobs
required us to remain standing. Our stomachs grumbled because the
free food was only for the delegates and their guests. Nevertheless,
we continued doing our jobs without complaint as the conventioneers
made sure to thank us profusely for our unpaid efforts.
We laughed at ketchup jokes and scrounged for the much prized,
media pins. We talked issues and family and home and became instantly
close. The most amusing people were the uniformed police at the
security check-in. While the secret service officers were too forbidding,
and the military personnel too quiet, the cops were animated, talkative,
and funny. They disclaimed the stereotyped conflict between the
NYPD and the FDNY, but still made fireman jokes. They complained
about low pay, but knew that their job was essential to the city
and the convention. They were mostly ex-military men, hardened
by overseas service and the mean streets of New York. Their thick
city accents and their off-color jokes were constant entertainment.
It felt good to be there. I couldn’t hear the cheers from
the garden, or feel the vibe as keynote speakers riled up the crowd.
All we could hear was the beep of the metal detectors, the roar
of the helicopters, and the whining of the bomb detector dogs.
Still, I knew that I wasn’t that guy sitting at home watching
the confetti on TV. I was the guy doing the thankless job that
I had volunteered for. In my own small way, I was helping take
a stand for the things I believe in, and I was making a difference.
Malcolm Ohl is a senior at Mamaroneck High School.
Former Resident Fights Against Propaganda
by Jacqueline Hornor Plumez
“Democracy is based on free information, not propaganda.
Propaganda undermines democracy,” said Adam Chapnick, who
grew up in Larchmont and whose company, Cinema Libre, is distributing
two highly-regarded documentary films, “Outfoxed” and “Uncovered,” that
make the case that Americans are being fed biased information under
the guise of truth.
The documentaries have been appearing in select
cities, and starting on Friday, September 3, "Uncovered" will
be shown in Mr. Chapnick’s
hometown, at the Larchmont Playhouse at 1975 Palmer Avenue. “Outfoxed:
Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism,” which hit theaters
the beginning of August, broke the opening weekend box office record
at the Quad Cinema in New York.
“Fox News is the #1 rated news channel in the United States,” said
Mr. Chapnick. “It is the place where the most people get
their information and think they’re
getting an objective source of news. Instead, it is a mouthpiece
for the Republican party,” he asserted.
Journalism is supposed to be unbiased. And if there is a bias,
it is supposed to be stated. The ethical problem at Fox comes from
the fact that their mottos are “Fair
and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide.” However,
Fox employees and internal memos reveal in “Outfoxed” that
reporters are instructed on a daily
basis to slant the news in a way that promotes the interests of
President Bush, while making Democrats look foolish and untrustworthy.
The documentary shows that every day, a memo is sent from Fox President,
Roger Ailes, who formerly worked on Republican political campaigns,
directing reporters to slant the news in pro-administration ways.
For example, one day all reporters were directed to discuss John
Kerry’s “flip-flops.” Another day, reporters
were told to call U.S. Army snipers, “sharpshooters because it sounds less negative.”
A number of media experts and watchdogs report in “Outfoxed” that
the line between independent journalism and opinion is constantly
being blurred because Fox uses right-wing pundits
as news reporters. The liberals brought into debates are comparatively
unattractive, uncommitted and inarticulate.
Furthermore, White House talking points are often used word-for-word by Fox reporters, when
the public thinks it is getting unbiased reporting.
This is very dangerous,” said Mr. Chapnick, “because
the research shows that the more people watch Fox, the less they
actually know about the news and the
more they support the government.” For example, a disproportionate
number of people who watch Fox believe that weapons of mass destruction
were found in Iraq and that there was a connection
between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin. As one media expert
quoted in the film says, “Fox
promotes fear so people will look to the government for protection.” Rupert Murdoch, the owner
of Fox, controls a worldwide media organization that feeds news
to 3/4 of the world’s population.
Cinema Libre’s second release, “Uncovered: The War
on Iraq,” also opened in August in New York and across the
country. It is a film that presents both Republican and Democrat
foreign policy experts and officials revealing how our government
misled us into the war in Iraq.
Both “Uncovered” and the better known “Farenheit
9/11" report on the same topic and received rave reviews at
the Cannes film festival. But Farenheit’s
strong emotional appeal leaves some frustrated that it seemed more
entertainment than fact. “Uncovered” adds those missing
facts, drawing on evidence
presented by a wide array of credible experts including David Kay,
who was President Bush’s representative to search for weapons
Adam Chapnick grew up in Larchmont and his parents, David and Elaine,
still live here. After graduating from college, Adam tried to find
his niche in the entertainment
industry in California. He was an actor, screenwriter and agent
before joining Cinema Libre, and starting the distribution division.
One of his partners saw “Uncovered” in a 50 minute version and was so impressed that
he asked the writer/director, Robert Greenwald, to update it and
turn it into a movie length feature.
Cinema Libre took it to Cannes and is now distributing it to theaters
and in DVD. “Outfoxed” is also a Greenwald film.
Mr. Chapnick deliberately chose to release both films during the
Democratic and Republican conventions. “We are trying to
advance the dialogue in this country,” he
said, “One side has stifled debate, saying that if you disagree
with the government you are wrong and anti-American. It is important
for us to find films that show the
For more information, you can visit the following websites: Outfoxed.org,
Jacqueline Hornor Plumez attended
a viewing of “Outfoxed” and spoke with Adam Chapnick
about the documentary.
Invite a French Family to Dinner
by Leigh Gage
On August 3, 2004, the Statue of Liberty reopened to visitors
for the first time since September 11. As you probably know, the
Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French, built as a symbol
of international friendship between the two countries. There have
been countless, silly attacks on the French since the differences
in position between our governments on the Iraq war became front-page
headlines. These have resulted in bottles of wine poured out and
boycotts of French products and restaurants.
I talked to three local French shop/restaurant owners in Larchmont
about the repercussions they may have experienced since last spring
when the Iraq war began. Jean-Pierre Lacor, who owns le Wine Shop
on Palmer Avenue, said that his sales had not suffered from any
ill feelings toward the French. Sales at La Renaissance, a bakery
on Chatsworth, continue to do well. Renee Powell, owner of Pascals,
has been more than happy with her extremely supportive customers
and has experienced her best year yet as a restaurant owner in
Larchmont. During the height of the cross Atlantic tensions, several
of her customers told her that they were rooting for her. A small
handful of customers said that they felt obliged to order non-French
wines for a period of time.
Maybe most Larchmont residents distinguish French people from
their government and its policies, as I hope the French do about
us. Yes, there are things that I don’t like about France,
just as there are things I don’t like about the U.S.
I have been a resident of Larchmont for 5 years, following 19
years in France, so I understand and appreciate French culture.
We moved here because of the French American School of New York,
(FASNY), which has provided us with a nice transition between the
One of the most charming aspects of France is its slowness to
change, its leisurely pace, its attitude of carpe diem, as well
as the significant value it gives to tradition. Leisure is more
apparent in the country than in its larger cities, but vestiges
of the two-hour lunch in Paris remain. Tradition is apparent in
France, when you can find the center of a town by driving towards
the church spires, when you stumble upon an obscure town in Dordogne
and eat a delicious, freshly prepared meal in a tiny, ragged looking
café that looks like it hasn’t changed in 100 years,
and when you can rest assured that there will be a farmer’s
market nearby, wherever you are.
“La France profonde” (the real countryside) can be
provincial, making it difficult to ever really fit in, especially
if you don’t look French. But even in cosmopolitan Paris,
you feel condescension, especially from waiters who are obviously
fatigued to hear their language butchered, or maybe they just don’t
like their job and since a tip is built into the bill, why be nice?
It is also difficult to fit in if you don’t speak the language
well, which most foreigners don’t.
This provinciality, coupled with the geographic smallness of the
country, keeps families close, and the culture reinforces this
as well. It does this through the sacred meal. Now we come to the
real reason that I wrote this article. I have been shocked since
I’ve moved back (five years now) at how few American families
eat together, especially those with teenagers. We are too busy.
Many of my son’s friends, guests at dinner, say that they
never eat together as a family, but that they enjoy the communal
experience. In France, people are hungry at meals, simply because
they don’t snack! No one turns down a vegetable with the
excuse that they just don’t eat it. Sitting down together
may seem like a small thing, but the dinner table provides an opportunity
for communication and for sharing in family chores.
For residents of Larchmont, where roughly 20 percent of the population
speaks French, adapting a few French table manners can be an opportunity
to strengthen our culture and to learn something about how the
rest of the world sees us in America. We can show our appreciation
for the diversity that the French population brings by frequenting
the French shops and by inviting a French family to dinner. And
please, don't be intimidated; serve a classic American dish when
you invite them.
Suburban Savvy: Losing Your Cool
by Blythe Hamer
(July 7, 2004) If you’re reading this, then you live here,
just like me. Chances are that you didn’t always, though.
Like me, you probably moved here from New York City not too long
your first pre-school tuition bill. Maybe you gladly came to the
suburbs, the land of blossoming trees and great public schools,
but I didn’t. I was convinced that moving to the suburbs
meant I was becoming just like my parents—something I swore
I would never do.
I was raised in the suburbs, but though I now realize I had a
perfectly nice childhood, I hated it at the time. I didn’t
know that I hated what many adolescents hate—the changing
body, a looming sense of responsibility, droning teachers, no mobility.
I blamed the suburbs for being boring, and, of course, I blamed
my parents for living in the suburbs. All that blame, which I neatly
summed up into one personal credo: the suburbs are bad, and I’ll
never live there if I can help it. (The exact sentiment, by the
way, that my 14-year old daughter has recently begun expressing
After college, true to my word, I moved to New York City. I’m
not saying that I was cool, but coolness descended on me by virtue
of my address. Things could happen. You could have dinner at a
table next to Uma Thurman, or be admitted through the velvet rope
into a dance club. Energy rippled through the city, and it was
ours for the taking.
But after our second child was born, and we started tripping over
the Little Tykes furniture all over our apartment, we decided to
make the move.
We were reluctant, not enthusiastic. I earnestly explained to
our city friends that we were only doing it for the kids, but after
we left, some of them stopped calling. When I protested, they said
they couldn’t remember the area code. When I asked them to
come spend a day at the beach, they said they had an art opening
to go to in the city. When I said I had a Starbucks only two blocks
from my house in Larchmont, they didn’t believe me.
So for the next few years, I resigned myself to the fact that
I just wasn’t cool anymore. When I would travel and people
would ask where I was from, I’d simply say, “New York,” grateful
that the state shares the same name with the city, so that I wasn’t
But lately I’ve had a change of heart. Cool used to mean “cutting
edge” or “I don’t care,” or “not
like my parents.” But now the definition of cool for me is “living
well.” Living well is what Larchmonters do best. Now when
I stack up things in Larchmont versus their counterparts in the
city, it’s the city that comes up short.
Cool Things: Larchmont
Uncool Things: NYC
Putting your kayak into Long Island Sound whenever you feel
Waiting on line at the 92nd Street Y
for a swim lane
Kitchens large enough for two
Cockroaches large enough to stand and
Cherry blossoms at Harbor Island Park
Rat poison signs in Central Park
Being able to see the stars at night
Hearing car alarms outside your apartment
window at 2 am
Dropping in to hear Dave Brandom
playing jazz at Watercolor
Buying tickets weeks in advance for the
blockbuster at the Metropolitan
Marching with the Pet Parade
Landing in dog poop when you exit your taxi
Metal detectors at school doors
Firing up the barbecue
Fire trucks stuck in traffic
Parking in your driveway
Not being able to park at all
Yoga classes at St. John’s church
The women’s fitting rooms in the Lexington Avenue Bloomingdale’s
I’ll be the
first to admit that my change of heart may in fact be simply a
middle-aged lowering of standards. And I don’t
want to mislead you--I still love New York City. I have a fantasy
that when the kids fly the coop, my husband and I will get a little
apartment there. We’ll spend the dark and dreary days of
winter going to concerts and readings and restaurants, cheered
by the lights and the energy.
But, finally, after all these years, I’m glad I live in
the suburbs. And I think we should keep the advantages of living
here to ourselves—it’s already crowded enough. Fortunately,
we know that city folks would never read suburban newspapers, so
we’re safe for now.
HAVA - ANOTHER UNFUNDED MANDATE:
Help America Vote Act
by George Latimer
(March 24, 2004) After extensive debate during our 2004 county
budget season, many county legislators decried the proliferation
from the state and federal governments: Medicaid, Services to Children
with Special Needs, State Retirement Benefits, etc. So two weeks
later, the New York state legislature considers the next big new
mandate ahead - HAVA - Help America Vote Act. Here we go again!
HAVA purports to avoid the 2000 Florida debate by mandating electronic
voting machines. HAVA seeks the laudable goal of making polling
places handicapped-accessible. But who is going to pick up the
bulk of the tab? The county property taxpayers, that's who.
New Voting Machines
It is my belief that Westchester would need to buy 1,200 new
electronic voting machines, at $6,000 per machine. Total cost:
$7.2 million. Federal support expected - at best, $4 million. State
support expected - unsure, maybe zero. County budget impact: $3
million at least.
Centralized Storage of Machines
The New York State Board of Elections is expected to require
that the County Boards of Elections take over costs and administration
for all elections. Good news for city, town and village budgets,
which will drop such costs - but an incalculable expense on county
taxes. This takeover - unwanted by the county – means creation
of a new central storage facility for electronic machines (which
may require air conditioning and temperature control), and added
transportation costs to ferry these machines to and from polling
places. There is no funding yet planned to offset these mandated
Polling Place Accessibility
The costs of bringing every polling place into ADA [Americans
with Disabilities Act] - compliance is hard to estimate. In many
locations, a new polling place will be required; capital
projects to correct these deficiencies in many places could trigger
a massive expense. No funding is yet
planned to offset these potential costs to the county.
Legislation has been passed by the US Congress to implement HAVA
with hard deadlines - but minimal money ($200 million spread all
across New York State). So get ready; when the 2005 county budget
comes around, remember the seeds were sown for a new round of mandated
expenses under the umbrella of the much bally-hooed "Help
America Vote Act".
George Latimer is Westchester County Legislator for the 7th District,
which includes Larchmont and Mamaroneck.
TRIBUTE TO NANCY Q. KEEFE: 1934-2004
"Respectful, fearless, generous"
by Miriam Curnin
(March 18, 2004) Nancy Keefe was an especially talented
woman, well-read, respectful of the English language, and, even
respectful of the people of whom she wrote for so many years as
a reporter, an editor and a columnist. She had incisive judgment
and the ability to see through hypocrisy and sham, and she was
fearless in the position she took as a journalist. That being said,
she was also free from mean-spirited commentary and always generous
in giving credit where it was due.
She was tireless in championing worthy endeavors like low-income
housing and interfaith understanding, and her public espousal of
these causes enlisted hundreds in that work. Her knowledge of all
of Westchester, its little hamlets and its big cities, its politicians
and its doers and shakers in the not-for-profit world, was wide
and deep. Her eye for the humorous side surely leavened her worldview.
Perhaps her distinguishing mark as a human being and a woman
of faith was her enthusiasm. She could not be merely lukewarm about
interests. And so she was energized by her love for so many things:
her family and friends, (she was good at friendships), her church,
reading, tennis, biking, hiking, cooking, ballet, theater, the
Berkshires, Tanglewood, art museums, Italy, even, as a faithful
daughter of Massachusetts, the Red Sox: the wide range of interests
that characterizes a bright, inquiring mind. She pursued them all
with cheerful, smiling energy, which is how she pursued treatment
for the cancer that eventually conquered her: without complaint
and with great hope.
When I last saw her, in the late afternoon a few hours before
she died, she was resting in her living room, listening to Bach’s “Sheep
May Safely Graze,” celestial music. I believe she is safe
now, enjoying the rewards of a life lived so well and so unselfishly.
Miriam Curnin and Nancy Q. Keefe were friends for over 25
years. See also: Obituaries.
GIBSON'S PASSION PLAY STIRS LOCAL PASSIONS
by Barry Gedan
(February 22, 2004) In a polemic masquerading as a movie review
(See: "A Review of Mel Gibson's
'The Passion of the Christ' ",The
Sound & Town
Report 2/20/04), reporter Drew Lynch, omitting his alternate
identity as pastor of a local missionary church with a "Hebrew
highlights the controversy surrounding actor director Mel Gibson's
cinematic Passion play. Using the pejorative term "Jewish
race" (Judaism, whose multi-hued adherents range from blue-eyed
blondes to the Jews of Ethiopia, is a religion not a "race"),
Lynch pays lip-service to age old Jewish suffering at the hands
of anti Semites, but argues that fear of a revival of that suffering
is insufficient reason to soften what Lynch perceives as Gibson's
accurate portrayal of theological history seen through the inflexible
prism of Biblical Literalism.
Unfortunately, graphic Passion plays with scenes of a Jewish mob
urging the Roman occupiers to proceed with the Crucifixion have
served since medieval times as vehicles to inflame anti Jewish
passions and have often led to deadly attacks upon the nearest
Jewish Ghetto or hamlet. Regrettably, there was once a darker side
of Christianity which spawned the Crusades and the Inquisition,
resulting in the death, forcible conversion or exile of thousands
upon thousands of Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, in which
one third of the Jews on this planet were exterminated while much
of organized Christianity sat by in silence.
However, the shock of the Holocaust triggered a welcome reassessment
in the Christian world of the relationship between Christianity
and Judaism. In Catholicism, that reassessment led to Vatican II
and its progeny, including "Nostra Aetate," providing
express recognition of the continuing validity of Judaism as well
as officially absolving the Jewish people of the lingering charge
of deicide. Passion plays worldwide have been moderated or phased
out, ever since.
The current positive spirit of Christian-Jewish relations enjoyed
in the United States is perhaps nowhere better exemplified than
in our own Larchmont Mamaroneck community. Dramatically illustrated
by the interfaith gathering at Mamaroneck High School several years
ago to protest local anti Semitic incidents, and again, as our
faiths came together to mourn the tragedy of 9-11, these gatherings
merely highlight the ecumenical spirit between our Jewish and Christian
clergy and laity that enriches all of our lives in this community.
However, there are those, such as Mel Gibson and his father, an
unabashed Holocaust denier, who reject Vatican II, both in letter
and in spirit. It is from this well that Gibson's dramatically
violent Passion play springs. Is it any wonder, given the lessons
of history, that Jews are concerned about this movie and the
passions it may generate?
As a Jew, it is not my place to suggest to my Christian friends
whether or not Gibson's movie presents an accurate or theologically
useful portrayal of the Passion of Jesus. However, it is appropriate
for Jews, myself included, to point out to our Christian friends
the potential for havoc when a dramatically violent Passion play,
implicitly pointing the finger of fault at the Jewish people, is
permitted to play without the theological explanation necessary
to place the Passion in its true perspective or to ground it in
Jesus’ true message of love and fellowship. Therefore, let
our community, with its tradition of ecumenism, rise to the occasion,
by turning this situation into a positive learning experience for
For those who might argue, as did Lynch, that adherence to Literalism
precludes any such softening of the message of Gibson's movie,
I respectfully note that, were Literalism carried to a logical
extreme, then, in accordance with Matthew 5:17 19, wherein Jesus
proclaimed that not "one jot or one tittle" shall be
changed from [Jewish] law and that one's status in Heaven is
dependent upon following that law, Christians would be keeping
Kosher and observing the Sabbath on Saturday in our synagogues.
No matter how fundamental and, for some, inflexible our religious
beliefs may be, there must always be room in our personal theological "inns" to
respect those who reach out to God in a manner which differs
from our own.
Barry Gedan lives in Larchmont.
INVESTING IN LARCHMONT: Can We Afford Not
by Ned Benton
(January 22, 2004) The Larchmont
2020 Report challenged Larchmont’s Village Board to make
some historic decisions about investing in our community. The challenge
raises key questions about what the Village could and should afford.
The Board faces the affordability issue on several fronts. How
much should be spent on the Flint
Park Expansion? Should we replace the 1965 fire engine, as recommended
by the Fire Department. Should we be purchasing open land and investing
in more parking, as suggested in the Larchmont 2020 report? Should
the downtown streetscape project include burying the utility wires?
The current plan leaves the wires overhead, and the Board views
burying costs as "prohibitive."
While grants and fundraising could cover some costs of these efforts,
the Village would have to pay for the rest. Can Larchmont afford
all these projects?
Village Leaders in 1922 Made Historic Investments
In 1922, when Larchmont leaders purchased the
Water Company, supported a new high school, invested in a new
Municipal Hall, a
public library, a state-of-the-art
fire engine, and supported improvements in Flint
Park, they viewed these projects as investments that would enhance
the value of every property in the Village.
Today we know they were right -- we benefit from their projects
every day. Their community investment philosophy is also reflected
in contemporary planning ideas such as New
Urbanism and Social
Capital that highlight how neighborhoods contribute to overall
quality of life.
If our leaders from 1922 could visit Larchmont today, they would
be proud of our generation's investments to renovate the Larchmont
Library and Village Hall, our vision reflected in the Larchmont
2020 Report, and our emerging plans to improve Flint Park and
the business districts. But they might question whether we are doing
Our Neighbors Invest at Rates Close to National and State
According to the Census
Bureau, in fiscal year 2001, municipal and township governments
spent 7.3% of their operating budgets on debt service to finance
capital improvements and investments in local community assets.
For the same year, the N.Y.
State Comptroller reported that all villages in New York spent
8.3% of their operating budgets on debt service for capital investments
showed nearby local governments investing at comparable or higher
levels: Town of Mamaroneck at 8.2%, Village of Mamaroneck at 13.7%.
Larchmont Ranks Below National and State Norms
Larchmont invested 4.1% of the FY 2001 operating budget on debt
service – at the 26th percentile among all New York villages.
We might view this as a positive indicator – that Larchmont
may be more efficient and parsimonious than other local governments.
Or, we might be concerned that Larchmont may not be consistently
investing to maintain and enhance our village assets.
Future Boards might consider a two-prong strategy in coming years:
1) controlling overall tax increases, while 2) gradually and slightly
shifting the balance between operating expenses and capital investment
to align us with statewide norms.
There would be short-term and long-term benefits. Timely investments
often save operating expenses. For example, efficiencies from
of new technologies may reduce the need to add staff. Buying a
new a roof or truck might prevent costly water damage or mechanical
breakdowns. Timely acquisitions can take advantage of lower prices
and favorable interest rates, and some investments, like parking,
partially pay for themselves. Best of all, once investment
costs are paid off, the Village retains permanent assets.
Realigning Larchmont’s Budget and Larchmont’s
If Larchmont’s budget share for debt service were in line
with the state average for villages, it would be twice what it is
today. At current rates, we could support another $3 to $5 million
dollars in local investment.
Let’s explore what this might mean. What could we be doing
that we're not?
• Have we invested enough in parking to keep up with the
expansion of vehicular ownership and use, as recommended by the
Larchmont 2020 Report and previous masterplans for the Village?
• Have we invested enough in parks, playing fields and
open land, as the 2020 Report recommended?
• Should we be replacing our broken 1965 era fire engine?
• Is our business district competitive with nearby communities?
Have we attended sufficiently to sidewalks, lighting, signage,
• Does it make sense to leave our ugly utility wires looming
over our business district for another generation, especially
when competing business areas in the Town and Village of Mamaroneck
and the City of New Rochelle have already buried their wires?
Acknowledging that we might be underinvesting in our community
does not warrant a sudden $5 million spending spree. But it may
warrant a shift in budget strategy and a new vision about this
responsibilities for stewardship of our Village assets.
Ned Benton served on the Village Board from 1998 to 2002.
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