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March 26, 2009

Payroll Tax Is Forgotten Track of MTA Bailout

New York City’s media is focused non-stop on the mass transit crisis ahead if the Legislature does not approve the Ravitch Plan to bailout the MTA. That plan has on its express track placing tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges that have long been free. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver offered a compromise that lowers prospective tolls from $5 to $2 and quells outer borough outrage, but some legislators are unconvinced. Their constituents abhor the tolls. Meanwhile, editorial boards and columnists assert that no responsible public official would risk mass transit calamity by fighting the tolls.

In all of this, there is willful disregard for impacts of the other, "forgotten" track of the MTA bailout plan - imposition of a payroll tax that would equally hit all employers in the MTA region, from Suffolk to Orange County. By calling this a "mobility" tax, the Ravitch Plan softens the sound but not the impact. It assesses 33 cents on every $100 of payroll paid by every employer - every school district, local government, hospital, business and not-for-profit entity – no matter how small. The rate seems insignificant, but it adds $400,000 to New Rochelle’s school budget; $200,000+ for Mamaroneck. In a time when some want to cap school taxes or end county government and all are outraged by rising costs and taxes, the Ravitch Plan would add a further burden.

I spoke with the executive of a small business - under 20 employees - who said the payroll tax might force him to lay off an employee or two. His profit margins are minimal; he can't absorb another uncontrolled cost. That's exactly what we don't need as we spend trillions to jump start the economy. Another business may move to Connecticut, beyond reach of this and many other taxes. My Rockland and Orange colleagues face similar challenges keeping businesses from locating to New Jersey. And what about employers in Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess? How can the meager MTA services they receive be worth as much as the “mobility” of customers and employees of a Wall Street firm?

If a payroll tax is unavoidable, grade it by sub-regions within the MTA world. Manhattan corporations, who benefit most by the commuter rail system, should pay a higher rate than suburban employers. Local taxing entities – municipalities and school districts - should be exempt so property taxes don’t soar further.

Legislators objecting to tolls have raised legitimate points, ignored by critics: who trusts the MTA's numbers? Who believes all has been done to reduce costs, scale back compensation, make budgets transparent? Where is the independent audit? If we must act now, then sunset provisions for a year, subject to a full public audit. We can revisit the matter with the numbers before us.

Undoubtedly, raising riders’ rates 30% and cutting back service is a draconian alternative. But that’s the MTA’s threat to quash legitimate critiques and concerns.

We are rolling down this track far too fast and will live to regret our hasty decisions.

Assemblyman George Latimer
91st Assembly District


March 13, 2009

With Latimer & Lowey Help, Now Is Time for Flood Control

Editor’s Note: The following letter is in response to a March 11 message from Congresswoman Nita Lowey informing that Congress has passed and the president has signed the final appropriations bill for 2009 that includes the following funds for Larchmont and Mamaroneck:

o $500,000 for sewer improvements to mitigate flooding in the Village of Mamaroneck;

o $20,000 for Larchmont Police Department to purchase a license plate reader;

o $95,000 for the Medicare Rights Center in Larchmont to conduct interactive health care workshops for area seniors;

o $30,000 for Mamaroneck Town Police Department to purchase a closed circuit television monitoring system; and

o $3.1 million, $2.5 million above President Bush's request, for federal agencies to protect and restore the Long Island Sound.


The different Village of Mamaroneck neighborhood associations who are committed to seeking action on flood mitigation since the last disastrous 2007 flood are enthusiastic and optimistic to the positive news of federal and state funds now available to the Village of Mamaroneck to take immediate action.

We are grateful to our dedicated public servants: Assemblyman George Latimer, who has helped secure a $1.2 million New York State Economic Development Corporation Capital Projects grant with $400,000 earmarked for flood mitigation in the Village of Mamaroneck, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey who announced community funding totaling $8,286,367 that includes $500,000 for sewer improvements to mitigate flooding in the Village of Mamaroneck.

While we are all waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to finish their investigations, which at best will be in 2012 and realistically will be closer to 2016, It is now time for Mamaroneck Village officials to act expeditiously to secure and implement programs that are well known and have been previously identified to give relief to future flooding conditions.

Our community is certainly thankful for the followup to promises made two years ago by many politicians. At least our assemblyman and congresswoman have come through for the Village. It helps restore the confidence of the residents that something will finally happen.

Norman Rosenblum
Mamaroneck, NY

March 4, 2009

School Budget: We're All In This Together

I write as a parent of school-aged children and an overburdened-tax payer to urge all parties involved in finalizing the 2009-2010 school budget to find a better solution than the job eliminations and tax increases presented last week.

This community has been pummeled by the economic decline. And 2009 is just the beginning. This is not a one year problem nor are we the only area affected. But we are alone in grappling for answers—we can be sure there is no significant help coming our way from Albany or Washington. So we need to think collectively about multi-year solutions.

We are a small and tightly knit community compared to many others in New York. The teachers and staff at our schools are integral parts of each school family’s life.

The people in our school system and the programs they run are the heart of our district’s success. The union contracts negotiated over the years reflect this belief—they have always been very generous in regards to the non-monetary needs of the school employees. When the district was flush, the wealth was shared.

But now, laid-off residents are staggering under fixed costs of jumbo mortgages, enormous property taxes and COBRA insurance payments. Others who still have jobs have seen their incomes slashed by up to 80%. The housing market is frozen and prices are predicted to keep declining, perhaps by as much as 50%

Revenues have been decreasing, the costs of union contracts keep growing. Cheap (new) staff will be cut first. The 7% raise (per the contract signed in June) on remaining (expensive) employees creates a larger cost each year. The hole in our budget is only going to grow. Needed personnel cuts will only go deeper — maybe 80 jobs cut next year. Or 100. Remaining teachers will be asked to manage classrooms of 30+ students while constantly wondering if this is the year layoffs will reach their level. The circle is endless and vicious.

Nobody wants to see wages frozen or employees hit with increased benefit payments. But salaries and benefits are 77% of our budget; the hard reality is we need to look where the costs are. A 7% raise in this economic climate is untenable. Employees paying only 4% for healthcare when peers in most other districts are paying 8%-10% (some as high as 15%) is also not going to help keep jobs.

I urge the unions to keep their contracts intact — leave the raise schedules whole. But please make off-line concessions that give us breathing room. Preserve jobs and a future for your fellow employees. Help take the tax pressure off the people of this community.

We need all the negotiating parties to act in good faith. This is not a time for “us” vs. “them.” It is about “we.” How do we work together to preserve jobs and help the people — the real people — who are the fabric of our community? Let’s go beyond dogma and contracts to help us all survive this together.

Jo Rein
Larchmont, NY

February 17, 2009

After Bond, Budget Battle Coming

Even though the $38 million Mamaroneck school district bond proposal was defeated by voters last week, it is only the beginning of a larger battle.

Much of the opposition to the bond was related to the inclusion of $7.7 million in athletic field improvements, including the addition of artificial turf. If the bond proposal is reissued to exclude the field improvements, I assume that it will pass, given the closeness of the vote on Tuesday.

The larger question, however ,is why a school district with annual revenues of approximately $120 million must borrow money for what should be essentially recurring repair and maintenance projects.
The answer lies within the components of the budget.

The school board must look at the number and nature of courses offered, district staffing levels in and out of the classroom and compensation. This would include discussions with the teachers union about its contract in view of current economic difficulties facing taxpayers.
We all rode up in the expanding economy over the past eight years- including the school district whose budget doubled over that period. We all must ride down together. There should be no protected class.

Joe Gorman
Larchmont, NY

February 13, 2009

Trees Pruned - or Butchered?

Con Ed is pruning trees and doing so "according to forestry standards?" These standards must not be very high.

The Larchmont landscape is littered with tree stumps after trees have been butchered, when the removal of a few branches would have sufficed.

Jean Pierre Halbwachs
Larchmont, NY

February 12, 2009

Bond Opponent Extends Hand to Board

I want to extend a hand to the Mamaroneck School Board and Friends of the Bond.

The elation of defeating the bond is short-lived. There are still boilers to fix and roofs to repair. Memorial and Central fields still need fixing. Just voting no is not enough. I urge those who opposed the bond to work with our school board, offering creative solutions for funding so we may put forth another bond that the whole community can support– and pass.

I also would like to apologize to Mike Chiapparelli, the coach of the baseball team. I have nothing but admiration for Mr. Chap and the players, but a poorly-worded blurb in one of our flyers implies that he was in favor of grass fields. We meant to say that we (taxedenuf) want grass fields for our baseball champions. Mike has made it clear he is in favor of artificial turf fields. So, sorry about that, Mike. You know I'm a fan.

I am upset about a Feb. 9th Journal News article that took my comments out of context and made it sound as if I was dismissive of organized sports entirely. On the contrary, both my daughters played on various leagues and my husband was a coach for many years.

One quote, "Children go to school to learn math and basics and things like that. Sports are not central to our children's learning." I spoke 45 minutes with the reporter about the bond's various aspects. My full comment covered the critical repairs to the boilers and roofs, which I, and almost the whole community have always supported. The comment about sports was related to fixing the most critical things first, in buildings where our kids go to learn math, etc. The second quote makes it sound as if I think sports teams should play in people's backyards, which is ridiculous. In context, I feel the sports programs should be given priority in our parks.

This "victory" is not sweet. I have told the members of the school board, numerous times, that their uncompensated, hard work and dedication go way beyond what most people give to their community. Many of the Friends of the Bond biggest supporters are friends of mine. Lori Brandon is a tireless advocate that I have worked with shoulder to shoulder in the battle against Ikea. I empathize with their dismay in this defeat. I pray that the animosity between the two sides can be mended, and that we can walk forward together, as one community.

Catherine Wachs
Larchmont, NY

February 11, 2009

Bond Naysayers Now Need To Help Get Job Done

I am sorry to see the bond fail.

Nonetheless, I congratulate our School Board. You oversaw a conscientious process. You held dozens of public meetings, several on TV. You published packets of information chock full of photos and budget analyses. You visited school properties, met with architects, and surveyed citizens, teachers, administrators. You made your materials readily available on the district website. And you responded to the community. You cut the original bond figure in half. You did the right thing when you did not move Memorial Field to the Kemper Memorial site, even though you won the legal right to do so. You did the right thing again when you veered away from crumb rubber infill after listening to environmental concerns from citizens. You ultimately chose the most field-heavy plan because you knew that anything short of that configuration was not maximizing our scant real estate and would not trickle down to safe play surfaces for nearly enough kids. Today, you must really feel like there is no way to make this community happy.

Many in this community worked hard to support the School Board: parents, grandparents, PTAs, coaches, teachers, athletes, students, the Kemper family, and Realtors all showed up at meetings, challenged the Board, played devil’s advocate, wrote letters, helped with research, raised private funds, or battled inflammatory falsehoods in an attempt to keep the facts, not fantasy, in the forefront. These people had a vision for our schools that celebrated diverse interests and talents, would enhance community spirit, and maybe even provide safe havens for our teens that drink alcohol at twice the national average. It’s nice for the rest of us that there are all of them working on behalf of our kids.

As to the naysayers: You won. Now get to work. It’s fair to expect, after the rash of negative, complaining letters and blogging seen in the community lately, that there are many of you willing to help get the job done. Saying NO is easy. Making sense of the whole fields issue is hard. Giving up the notion that “natural” grass fields is a viable solution in our land-strapped community is hard, too. (It was for me.) But our schools need serious infrastructure work inside AND out and they need it now, before more kids get hurt, costs go up, and property values drop even further. But do your homework, please: It’s the least you can do after voting down the most pragmatic, cost-effective plan put forward.

A day after the vote, it’s frustrating how much misinformation is still out there. If you never attended a bond meeting, never watched one on LMC-TV, never filled out your survey, never checked out the website, never asked tough questions, never even peeked at the photos -- and then voted NO anyway, then you missed an opportunity to do right by our schools, our kids, our property values. You may feel you’ve won; hopefully we don’t all lose in the long run.

Mary Beth Jordan
Larchmont, NY

February 8, 2009

We Will Miss Active Sports

As many of us have noticed, Larchmont has lost another small business. Active Sports is closing its doors after almost 20 years. I, for one, am very disappointed. Active Sports really represents what makes Larchmont such a wonderful community. The brothers who worked and owned the store were always attentive and gave special attention to our children.

They were always very generous of their time and gave to many community events. I cannot recall a school or sports raffle where they didn’t give a number of gift certificates.

We must try to shop locally to support the small businesses which make our community so special - especially now in these challenging times.

We will miss Active Sports and wish the owners all the best.

Good luck boys; we hope to see you back in business soon.


Francis FitzPatrick
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2009

Turf Fields Are Good for The Environment

There is always a flip side to any argument.

As a Yoga instructor, I am keenly aware of the importance of strong bodies and strong minds and I also have a concern for our environment. I believe that children should get outdoors and breathe and play and work their bodies. Recent studies cited in the New York Times this week have concluded that such outdoor play helps kids learn better.

Turf fields installed in our community will facilitate playing outdoors more than is currently possible, especially in the months when outdoor activity is typically limited. One of the beauties of turf is that is can be used virtually year round.

Additionally, there are these other factors to consider:

Millions of gallons of water will be saved by installing synthetic fields in our district, since we don’t have to water turf fields.

Painting of playing fields will be eliminated, saving labor costs, reducing the weekly use of petro-powered equipment and eliminating the regular application of chemicals on our fields. In addition to the fuel saved, we eliminate the pollution this adds to the air so close to our schools.

Mowing will be eliminated, reducing the weekly use of petro-burning equipment, reducing our carbon footprint and labor costs, again, with benefits as above.

The drainage systems beneath synthetic fields collect and control storm water helping the overall control of flooding in our flood-plain community. The plans, I’ve been told, will actually help our flooding problems at both the fields and the playgrounds.

Pesticides and fertilizers are not used on synthetic fields. And since geese don’t eat turf, our kids won’t have to play on fields covered with bacteria-laden droppings anymore.

I hope my neighbors and friends will join me and support this bond. Vote YES on February 10th.

Kyle Greenberg
Mamaroneck, NY

February 5, 2009

Separate Fields From Repairs

The Mamaroneck School Board is nothing less than tone deaf in continuing to promulgate its $38 million bond issue for critical capital improvements to buildings and the creation of several artificial turf fields, all rolled into one. Given our grave economic climate and its rapid-fire deterioration, the only responsible, halfway sensitive thing for the School Board to do is to separate sorely-needed plant improvements from the fields issue, and put only the former up for a vote at this time.

And maybe in the several years it takes for the economy to recover, all the data will be in and we will have figured out exactly how dangerous those artificial fields are to our children and natural environment.

Debra S. Kling
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2009

Bond is Wrong Lesson for Children

As a past president of the Mamaroneck Schools Foundation, past PTA president at Mamaroneck Avenue School, and a Public Health nurse in the community, I am grossly disappointed with the lesson the current bond referendum is teaching our children.

The decisions and actions of adults teach our children the values and ethics they will need as they gain their independence in the world. The bond referendum has allowed me the opportunity to discuss difficult choices and personal values with my children. Why is it okay to spend money to replace a 6-year-old track with a new one, or to install artificial turf fields, when we have families struggling to survive in our community? Each day, as I go home to home caring for the elderly and infirm in our community, I am struck by the pain of this silent group as they try desperately to stay in their homes, where many of them were born and raised their families. With the darkening economy, I see people forced to make choices between paying their taxes, paying for health care, and putting food on their table. Just last week for example, a patient told me she was unable to purchase her medications because of her tax bill. There has been much discussion about the health and wellness of our children and the importance of the fields. I agree that athletics is a strong component of a good education. However, I cannot justify to myself, or others, that the replacement of the track or installation of artificial turf fields is more important than the health and wellness of many of our neighbors.

Several years ago, when the idea for new fields was first discussed, the impression was they would be funded largely through private donations. Proponents are now attempting to pay for the fields mostly through an increased tax burden on the entire community. We should be teaching our children not to give up, and not to expect others to foot the bill. Rather than placing yet another burden on our community, bond proponents should be working with their children to participate in private fund raising efforts to help raise the money for a new track and fields. This would be more inclusive, and would teach the value of the dollar and hard work.

I am voting NO on February 10th. Please join me and send a message to the school board to go back and develop a bond of essential items that will better meet the needs of all in our community.

Barbara Henkind, RN, BSN, MEd.
Mamaroneck, NY

February 5, 2009

Fields in the Bond Are Excessive

I have followed the path of the bond issues for over a year now. I have been to the meetings, heard the speakers, pondered the issues and been alternately delighted and dismayed by the course of events.

Our neighborhood rightly prides itself on its schools and in return the schools produce strong, well rounded individuals. We have a real and immediate need to fix and update our physical plant but do we really need four new artificial turf fields at a cost of almost eight million? This is blatantly excessive and almost arrogant. Surely there is a simpler, cheaper and more eco-sensitive solution to covering 90% of our tight green space with a mock green carpet.

Recently the school board questioned the inclusion of new artificial fields with the maintenance/repair of the physical plant on the same bond. Wow! They were finally looking at the big picture and giving our community a real chance to speak its mind at the ballot box. Yet the final result was no change to the fields, less money for repairs and a combined bond that deprives our community of the chance to decide for ourselves!

Vote NO on the bond.

Hopefully, when the present bond is defeated a more sensible package will be presented in 45 days. Let’s show our children by example that we can be responsible to the economy, the environment and their future.

Jan Gould
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2009

PE “Classrooms “ In Disrepair

The purpose of this letter is to voice our support for the MUFSD bond that will be voted upon on Tuesday, February 10th by the community. We elementary physical education teachers in the district gratefully acknowledge the endless hours of work the board has dedicated to presenting a bond that considers the state of the economy, while attending to the essential safety and health needs of the district.

We view the field and playground portions of the bond as necessary and long overdue. Physical education is a mandated program that deserves, as do all programs, facilities that are safe and accommodate the usage needs of the children of the district. Many of us have experienced teaching and coaching on sub-par surfaces while we know that neighboring communities provide state-of-the-art facilities for their children. Our classes, teams, recreational leagues and drop-in players deserve better.

More specifically, we wish to focus upon the playgrounds at Chatsworth and Murray Avenue Schools and the field at Central School. As physical education teachers, these are our classrooms for six months of the school year. We share these classrooms with recess activities, recreational leagues, and children and adults who stop by after the school day. Our classrooms are heavily utilized.

The playgrounds at Chatsworth and Murray have not been resurfaced or enhanced during the entire time we have taught in these schools. We have witnessed the surfaces deteriorate with the cracks and unevenness causing increased safety concerns. We have also witnessed increased usage of these play areas during and after school.

The Central field is the most utilized playing field in the district. In the fall and spring, physical education classes and recess activities take place on the field throughout the school day for Central children; after school practices and games are scheduled for two of the district’s 7th and 8th grade modified sport teams; in the evening there are practices for recreational programs including Little League, lacrosse, and soccer. During the weekends, the field is in constant use with softball, lacrosse, and soccer games for elementary age children. The district grounds crew works at the beginning of each fall and spring to aerate and seed the field. Additionally, they have repaired the abundance of holes - often twice a season - in an attempt to provide an even playing surface. These repairs endure approximately one week of use after which the field again is in disrepair.

The proposed plans for the Chatsworth and Murray playgrounds and the Central field are the result of a long, thoughtful, detailed and open process that scientifically considers the number of students using the play areas, the number of hours of usage, and the type of usage in determining the most suitable type of surface. Our goal in physical education has always been to provide a program that encourages physical activity and wellness in a safe and user-friendly environment. Support of this bond would accomplish just that.

MUSFD Physical Education Teachers:
Craig Butler
Kathleen Dwyer
Joan George
Pat Romano
John Savage
Karl Zenie

February 5, 2009

Time to Control Spending

We are experiencing what is, without a doubt, the direst economic crisis that this country has faced since the Great Depression. Our neighbors are losing jobs, or are at risk of losing jobs, and our senior citizens are being forced to leave the community because they can no longer afford to live here. Virtually every corporation across America is cutting back on spending. If the CEO of a public company even suggested replacing a perfectly adequate (and only 6-year-old) recreational/athletic facility with a better one, their judgment would be questioned and they might be fired. Virtually every institution of higher learning across America is either scaling back or putting a halt to new capital construction. We already pay the highest property taxes in the nation, and the governor has announced that we will be subject to major reductions in state aid.

Yet, despite all this, the school board feels that is it “critical” to spend money on replacing a 6 year old track, renovating playgrounds, installing new ball fields, and on other projects which are not “necessary,” and, even if they were, which could be more appropriately undertaken in a better economic climate. Children are educated not just in the schools, but by the decisions and actions of the adults whom they view as role models. What exactly is it that we are teaching our children with this profligate spending?

The following is an excerpt from the November 21, 2008 Sound & Town Report regarding discussions at a recent school board meeting: “Jacobson refused to compromise, explaining that he supported the full bond because he believed all the work to be necessary, and that it was the job of the board to be leaders, not to continue discussing options that they have discussed ad infinitum and ad nauseum in an attempt to make the public happy.” My naive understanding is that the job of the board is to serve the public.

As a parent, a long-term resident of Larchmont/Mamaroneck, and a long term supporter of the school system, I fully appreciate the importance of high quality educational, athletic and recreational facilities. However, I, for one, have also had enough of the never ending cycle of increasing taxes in this community. It is time for a change and it is most certainly time to vote NO on this ill-conceived Bond. Additional information on this proposed spending can be found on the website, taxedenuf.org.


Steven Henkind, M.D., Ph.D.
Mamaroneck, NY

February 5, 2009

Grass Doesn't Last - Here or in Marblehead

Much of the opposition to the school bond is focused on the district’s decision to refurbish our school playing fields with synthetic turf. This direction was taken after nearly a year of careful consideration of the pros and cons of both synthetic and natural turf fields, including a very thorough review of safety concerns. The board decided to go with synthetic turf because it could withstand the constant use throughout the school week and weekends for phys ed. programs, school sports and our community sports programs.

Still, opponents insist that our problem has been poor maintenance of our fields and that grass fields can adequately meet the needs of our community, if only we properly followed a program of newly developed natural and organic grass field management.

In November, I heard a presentation by Chip Osborne, the president of a natural turf consultation company in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who was invited by a group opposed to synthetic turf to speak about natural grass as the best alternative for playing fields. He talked about his work with the Town of Marblehead and showed slides of their beautiful natural grass high school football field.

I contacted the athletic director at Marblehead High School to find out more about that healthy looking field. He explained that the field is reserved for high school varsity games (the Marblehead town website lists that field as the ‘MHS “GAME DAY” field’). No practices, no phys. ed. classes, no junior varsity games, and no community use by sports leagues. Even so, he said that if you saw it now, it does not look like the photo I saw - a football game on a recent sunny day following some wet weather really “beat up” the field. He also told me that the other grass fields in town are not in great shape either due to overuse. The Marblehead town website details the various reasons for field closures of their grass fields due to weather, standing water, condition of playing surface, and sport to be played. None of these restrictions or limitations was mentioned by Mr. Osborne in his presentation.

The athletic director also mentioned that when a neighboring town put in a synthetic turf field for football and lacrosse practices, and for games when the grass fields were wet, the condition of their natural grass fields improved. He thought that it would be helpful to have some synthetic turf in his district as well.

Likewise, in our area, converting our school fields to synthetic turf for heavy usage will enable us to better rest and preserve the grass fields at our community parks.

Philippa Wharton
Larchmont, NY

 

February 5, 2009

Protect Our Greatest Asset

While we may live in uncertain economic times, it would be wrong to make decisions for the short term that don’t serve us well in the long run. At times like this we should be acting to protect the greatest asset our community has -- its schools -- and, at the same time, protecting the value of the most important asset many of us have -- our homes -- by maintaining first-rate schools in first-rate facilities. Failing to approve the school bond on February 10th would be a bad decision for the children of our community, the value of our homes and the reputation of our district.

As empty nesters, our children will not benefit from the improvements to the schools. But, as former elected officials, we both know that deferred maintenance and the postponing of capital projects will only cost taxpayers more in the future. If the boilers at Hommocks finally fail (they were installed when Steve’s now 80 year old father was serving on the School Board forty years ago) it will cost more to provide temporary heat and upgrade the systems on an emergency basis than if that work was done correctly now. Renovating fields and asphalt playing surfaces may seem like a luxury, but those changes, which will cost the average taxpayer about $30 a year, will make our children safer and our community more attractive to potential homeowners. Separating out these costs in a separate bond for fields would set a dangerous precedent of pitting the community against itself and turning our back on a long history of doing what is best for the good of the district, as a whole, not the wishes of one group.

Our families moved to this community in the 1950s for exactly the same reasons we moved back here in the 1980s and young people are continuing to relocate here. This is a special place with a long history of supporting its schools. In the face of lots of misinformation being spread about this bond, we think it is important to keep the facts in mind – this bond is the first in eight years; there will be no tax impact for two years; it is the result of years of careful consideration and reflects significant reductions in the original amount proposed; every item in it will address health and safety considerations.

We urge voters to join us in supporting the bond on February 10th.

Debbie and Steve Chapin
Mamaroneck, NY

January 29, 2009

Bond Fields are Essential Now

We are writing as presidents of the Little League and Babe Ruth programs in town to explain why the fields in the upcoming bond, though only 20% of the total spending, are "need to haves," not "nice to haves."

If you have kids who play ball, you already understand the need. You have experienced the repeated cancellations, even on sunny days, and constant frustration over our fields. If you’re a coach you know how hard it is to find practice space, have probably rented commercial facilities since there’s scarcely room for batting practice in our town, and perhaps have even squatted on fields belonging to neighboring communities in order to find a place to teach your players the game.

If you don't have kids involved, you may not understand the fuss about fields. You probably wonder: "Has anything changed so drastically that we need to make these improvements?”

The answer is yes. The number of kids involved in youth and school sports has exploded in recent years. And the student population in the district has increased by 24% in the last ten years. Our program is one of the largest Little Leagues in the region – more than 1,500 kids participate in our Spring recreational leagues alone. Combined, LMLL and LMBRL put 1,800 kids on fields every spring. And that’s just baseball and softball!

While our player total has grown, we have been forced to operate on fewer fields than we did just a couple of years ago. Necessary building expansions have eaten into outdoor space at Hommocks and Mamaroneck Avenue School, and some municipal fields have been downsized or restricted from our use. Sadly, we have had to limit the number of games in our schedule because we simply can’t find space for kids to play.
The bond will enable us to get more use out of the space we have thanks to the addition of synthetic turf and lights. Moreover, the Manchester reconfiguration will actually add a playing field that will directly relieve some of the congestion on all of our fields. And by keeping school teams on school property, we free up the parks for more community use.

Not only are these field improvements “long overdue,” this plan is the result of years of work and concerns registered by all field users – including the PE staff. People who ask “Why now?” should understand that this is not a sudden decision to spend money, but the end result of a long journey, over 8 years -.and they should know that the fields won’t appear overnight. Voting yes today gets us fields several years from now. Putting this off and voting yes in two years only further prolongs something that has been needed for a loooooong time.

The community must understand that these field improvements are not a luxury. They are desperately needed to keep all our kids active, healthy and safe. We urge you to Vote Yes on Feb. 10th.

Eric Marks
President L-M Little League
Stephen Muratore
President, L-M Babe Ruth League

January 29, 2009

Realtor Urges Support for Bond

As a life-long resident and taxpayer in the Town for most of my 83 years, I wish the proposed bond was not necessary. However, as a Realtor for 46 years, I know it is vitally important that our schools be academically competitive, but also that their physical facilities be sound. Four of our schools are over 75 years old; Chatsworth is 110! Outdated and energy inefficient heating systems and windows need to be replaced and will reflect savings immediately. The continuous work of asbestos abatement and maintaining safety systems like fire alarms, electrical capacity and building code compliance are “invisible” improvements that cannot be neglected.

I have spent countless enjoyable hours at schools and on athletic fields over the past years watching my grandchildren participate in outdoor activities from recreational skateboarding to team sports to games of tag on “jungle gym” equipment. It is a great plus to our community that we can operate so many recreational opportunities for our residents. It is also clear that our fields and playgrounds need to be improved.

These long term investments in our community are crucial for maintaining our real estate values and to continue to attract the remarkable students and families that have long resided in our Sound Shore community.

I am very sensitive to those struggling in our town during these troubled financial times. My grandchildren are trying to find jobs, my children are struggling with college expenses and job insecurity, and my friends are grappling with decreased incomes from retirement plans. For this reason it is important to note that there will be no fiscal impact on taxpayers from this bond until 2011. With any luck, our financial outlook will be improved by then, but our aging infrastructure can’t wait.

I urge passage of the Mamaroneck UFSD capital improvements bond. Please, vote YES on February 10.

Emmy-Lou Sleeper
Chatsworth Avenue School, 1937
Mamaroneck High School, 1943

January 29, 2009

Resubmit Bond With Only Essentials

Obscured by the fervent letters in support of the $38,000,000 school bond proposal is the simple fact that 80% of the money requested is earmarked for obvious infrastructure maintenance and safety improvements, while the other 20% is intended to finance the installation of deluxe artificial turf fields at the high school and at Central Elementary. In other words: 80% is essential, and 20% is optional.

All voters should carefully review the line item costs that are posted at www.mamkschools.org. By reviewing each item, it is easy to see why certain building/grounds repairs and improvements are necessary for basic safety. But it also becomes clear that the $7,740,000 proposed to be spent on artificial turf is a luxury expense - an expense that is unjustifiable in light of the severe economic hardships that taxpayers, schools, and local governments face over the next few years.

Sure, it would be nice to have state of the art athletic fields. It would also be nice to add a swimming pool to the high school, or a real playground at the Hommocks. Maybe all these things can happen at a later time. But let's not forget that school sports have been played on grass or dirt fields from time immemorial, and people have learned to live with it and still have a good time.

If our community really could afford to pony up an extra $7,740,000 for the school district, then I would much rather see the money spent "restoring science to its rightful place" (to quote our new president) by offering more advanced placement courses in science, math, technology and English at all levels of our public schools. This is the kind of foundation our kids need to succeed - not rubber grass.

President Obama identified "our collective failure to make hard choices" as a cause of our debt-fueled financial crisis. In the case of the bond vote on February 10, the hard choice is to vote no, and to thereby ask the school board to resubmit the proposal so that it covers only the essential costs of $30,260,000. This is the responsible choice.

Paul Schwendener
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

Now is Not the Time for a $38M Bond

On the face of it, the proposed infrastructure improvements and athletic facility improvements behind the upcoming $38M bond vote sound well-researched and reasonable. Those involved in developing the plans have impressed me with their clear desire to do what is right for the community, and with their responsible efforts to pare some items and costs from the original, more expensive proposal. Most of the remaining items have been on the radar for years, and many committed people spent many hours last year --and before that -- working on this.

But last year was "then" and this is "now." The global and local economy have changed drastically in just four months. Based on admittedly anecdotal evidence, I believe unemployment locally is already above 10% and heading higher. Based on information I confront daily in my work in finance, I believe incomes in many local households will be down 30-50% due to job losses and lower compensation levels in banking, advertising, law, real estate, and many other fields. I believe property values are heading down already, and this is likely to accelerate. Many in our district - particularly those here a long time - already pay more annually in property taxes than on home mortgage payments. Further price pressures could trigger costly tax assessment challenges, derailing school budget assumptions.

Meanwhile, state tax aid to school districts is almost certainly in jeopardy for at least several years, and it is not prudent to trust any state assurances to the contrary, given the likelihood of increasing pressure on the state to cut aid to municipalities and school districts in coming years.

This leads me to conclude that now is not the time to tap our community for more money for school projects, other than perhaps for attending to those few items in the bond which are most urgent (such as roof repair at Hommocks, where plants growing on the cracked roof are a bad sign, for sure!) or where there is clearer linkage to how the projects might help our students' standing in terms of advancement into colleges ( e.g., some improvements to fields used by high school varsity teams).

Academics should always be the paramount priority for schools, and in our district, there is still much work to be done there (a topic for another letter). Of course, many would prefer playgrounds and playing fields at all our schools that are better paved or have better turf and drainage. Of course, it would be nice to have facilities here that look as nice as those in Rye, for example. But in the environment likely to prevail for the next five years, these are now luxuries. We need to show our children that we can be more financially responsible and "go without" many things we may have taken for granted before this year, both at home and in the community. We can come back to "wish-list" items later, when our economy improves.

Christopher Bourdain
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

Don’t Spend Bond Money on Sports

A woman handed me a flyer supporting the School Bond. “I’m against it,” I said.

“B-b-but why?” she stammered.

“I’m against the artificial turf fields. Actually....” I glanced back and forth furtively, “I’m against sports.” Her face drained of blood, as if no one had ever verbalized this sentiment before. Maybe no one ever had.

But I felt liberated, and now I will unburden myself on you, Dear Reader.

In my humble opinion, organized sports are a nearly criminal enterprise, not a community asset. Teams are, in spite of the ubiquitous rhetoric, not about “respect,” “teamwork” and “building character;” they are cruel and destructive hierarchies where power-drunk adults terrorize and abuse children--your children. Coaches can be (I’m trying to be fair, but what I mean to say is that coaches almost ALWAYS are) tyrants and brutes, apparently trying to compensate from when they were overlooked on the team in high school. Windbreaker-clad maniacal screamers, petty and capricious, veins popping out of their necks, they vomit a stream of obscenities from the sidelines at your children as they strive to achieve the apparently unequalled glory of getting the ball in the basket (or in the net, or across the goal line) more times than the equally abused children from the next town.

For every child who is chosen as quarterback or pitcher, ten have not been chosen, and that failure hurts. You can see them on the bench, peering upward through the pecking order from a well of grief to their supposed superiors on the field. Yes, it’s character-building, alright: They’re being trained early to becoming a passive part of something bigger and more evil than themselves. When they grow older, they’ll feel thoroughly at ease when they are tied up by their frat brothers in order to have Southern Comfort poured through a funnel duct-taped to their mouths.

Why do parents want this? What damaged part of themselves is on display as they try to live vicariously through their children’s sports? Why are adults involved in children’s games at all? And why should the school district subsidize these endemic injustices by paving the world in plastic and rubber to further encourage them?

Can’t kids form ragtag teams and play football in the park on their own, as they have through most of recorded history? Why do you think they called him “Shoeless Joe Jackson”? It wasn’t on account of his high school baseball team’s staff podiatrist.

Take the $9 million that you would spend for those artificial fields and teach every child to draw, or write fiction; or buy every schoolchild a piano keyboard or a camcorder; or get their teeth straightened, or build more science labs. Get an electron microscope. Buy each kid a bicycle. Do something, anything that ISN’T organized sports.


Stephen Kling
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

League Presidents Plead for Bond Passage

We are writing as presidents of the soccer, football and lacrosse youth sports leagues in town to explain why the fields project in the bond is not a luxury but a desperate need for our community and school district. And it’s only 20% of the total cost.

Many of you know the drill. You’ve put up with the deplorable conditions and overcrowding first hand. You’ve shown up days after rain, even when the sun is shining to find your game cancelled because of poor drainage or too many potholes. You’ve seen kids get hurt and wondered if the condition of the field—too muddy, too pitted, too compacted—might have contributed. If you’ve coached, you’ve struggled mightily to find a patch of grass to hold practice. You probably gave up and held fewer practices.

Why is this happening?

The answer is more kids live here and more of them are playing sports. And that’s very good news, since these are healthy activities and good for children. The number of kids involved in youth and school sports has exploded in recent years. The lacrosse league, one of the biggest in the county, didn't exist a decade ago. Mamaroneck’s revived football league has taken off. More girls are playing sports; softball, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse have grown exponentially. And the student population has grown and is projected to continue growing. Local youth leagues now involve over 5500 kids with nearly 2600 games and 6500 practices a year. Add that to the 30-plus field teams that the school district sponsors, and you start to understand the demand.

In a district of over 5000 students, we have 5 fields on school property; only 3 are varsity-sized: one rectangular multi-use field, one for softball and one for baseball. By comparison, Scarsdale has about 250 fewer students but 17 fields on school property, 9 varsity-sized.
As league officials, we travel the county and see fields in other communities, many of which are turf. Our school fields are arguably the worst around. Westchester soccer officials have repeatedly cited Central field as being unsafe and have occasionally closed it down. We know coaches from neighboring towns who don’t want to play on our fields for fear their players will get hurt. We often have to rent fields in other communities because we don’t have enough.

The only remedy is to extend usage with synthetic turf and lights. Not so novel - just about every other district in Westchester has done so over the past several years. Kids are already playing on turf at most of their away games. Turf at home would serve all kids in the district during PE classes and support expanded intramural programs and our community leagues.

Running these leagues is a labor of love because we see what a difference these recreational experiences make for so many kids. The community-building, character-building and health benefits are invaluable. Please Vote Yes on Feb. 10th – the kids of Larchmont / Mamaroneck are counting on you.

Erik Eenkema van Dijk,
President of the Mam'k Jrr Soccer League
Sid Ings
President of the Larchmont Jr Soccer League
Fredric D. Cambria
President, Chairman of L-M Youth Lacrosse
Stephen Corrigan
President of Mam'k Midget Football League

January 22, 2009

Vote YES for Bond: Children Freezing at Hommocks

Some of our children are wearing parkas, fleece, and mittens all day long at Hommocks Middle School. Teachers are too. This is just one of many reasons we need to show our responsibility as a community and vote YES for the bond referendum on February 10th.

The cost of not approving this bond is much too high, in terms of both cold hard cash and compromise of our kids’ education. The boiler systems at Hommocks and Central are over 40 years old and are obviously not capable of properly heating the buildings. The windows at Hommocks are gaping, single-paned glass.

In an era when energy conservation is so critical for our planet, how can we possibly continue to waste expensive energy because of inefficient and outdated equipment? Further, how can we sacrifice the precious time and energy of our children in this manner? This frigid learning environment for our children is obviously far less than optimum.

Our own daughter expressed repeatedly that her hands would turn cold and purple during each winter school day. We considered the spectrum of potential causes: poor circulation, not enough iron in her diet, some weird disease. Then we discovered she was not the only student suffering from this ailment. We were informed that much of the middle school is simply not getting sufficient heat. That was two years ago.

Last year, our community spent $25,000 to repair the boiler at Central School. If we let this crisis go, future repair needs may be even more costly; worse, equipment failure could temporarily close school. Besides the cash out-of-pocket, the intangible cost would be the negative compromise of our kids’ education and learning environment.

Here we live in a community of our nation’s best and brightest, of highly educated and successful parents and grandparents, of children who will forge the future. Our neighborhoods are well-known as amongst the most desirable to raise children, largely because of our leading-edge schools and our community mindset to make them that way. How could we possibly not take an active and positive position to fund the cost of basic maintenance of our school buildings and grounds?

Our school board members have been doing their work. They have been deliberate and sensitive and trustworthy; even more so as the events of this past year unfolded. They have spent hours thinking, discussing, deliberating, researching, rethinking, crunching numbers, listening and empathizing - all for the benefit of each of our kids and our school district as a whole, for years to come.

Now is time for the rest of the members of our community to step up to the plate and vote YES to approve this bond. Vote YES because we care about maintaining our school buildings and grounds. Vote YES because it is a long-term investment in our kids’ learning environment and education.

Yes, the proposed bond is a lot of money. Yes, we as taxpayers must foot the bill. Yes, we must vote YES to the bond referendum on February 10th.

Jennifer Malherbe
Larchmont, NY

January 21, 2009

MDs Support Synthetic Turf as Safer Option

As parents and as doctors, we support the upcoming school bond, which funds many projects critical to the health and safety of our district’s children. Specifically, we want to address health benefits of replacing some of our widely used playing fields – which are in terrible condition - with synthetic turf.

Turf has been proposed for two very important reasons, safety and capacity. It will be safer on kid’s bodies than the current fields which, despite best efforts of the district to maintain them, cannot stand up to constant use by the schools and community and consist of rock-hard dirt, dangerous pot-holes, bald spots, poor drainage, and uneven surfaces. The only way to maintain a healthy and safe grass field is to severely restrict its use and rest it, something we can’t do without seriously cutting back on our athletic programs. Turf provides a smooth, cushioned surface that can weather constant use, even during or after rains, enabling the district to meet the needs of our growing student population and provide healthy activities for more kids.
We’d also like to address some concerns raised about synthetic turf.

Heat: The district plans to use a lighter color infill that absorbs less heat. District fields are used most heavily in the fall and spring, not the hot summer months. Summer activities can be scheduled in the morning, late afternoon and evening, under the lights when it is cooler. Interestingly, turf fields cool down more quickly. And we can close the fields on the few occasions when air temperatures exceed 90 degrees.

MRSA Skin Infections: Although there have been cases of MRSA infections in football players who play on synthetic fields, there have also been cases in players of other contact sports on other surfaces. The solution is proper care for wounds and abrasions and safe hygiene in the locker room. According to the CDC, turf itself is not thought to be the vehicle of infection. And newer generation turf has become softer and less abrasive (maybe less abrasive than our fields.)

Infill and turf materials: Many concerns stem from the use of recycled crumb rubber. The district has committed not to use recycled crumb rubber (even though there is no evidence that recycled tire crumbs for cushioning present any health hazard). While some older fields were replaced due to concerns about the presence of lead, the Consumer Products Safety Commission determined that newer fields do not present this risk.
Cleaning chemicals will not be regularly sprayed on the turf. Rainfall and water are all that is recommended to keep turf clean.

While there are no proven dangers from the kind of turf the district proposes, there are many proven dangers from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and many proven benefits of an active lifestyle that these fields will help foster . Installing synthetic fields will yield more playable hours on surfaces that will remain consistently safe over time.

Let’s give our kids the opportunity to play safely.

Joe Geldwert, DPM
Joshua Rubinstein, MD
Holly Schachner, MD
Deborah Shatzkes, MD

January 20, 2009

Bond Pared Down to Crucial Items

I am writing to add my voice to the chorus of support for the current Mamaroneck School District bond issue. Please vote for the bond. It makes sense and it is the right thing to do. Among the key reasons are: 1) the items in the bond are critical. 2) Doing less will cost us more. 3) We gain the advantage of a good purchasing environment.

My support is based on my activities as a volunteer on the School Board Building Committee for the last twelve years, as an architect practicing in the community, and as a taxpayer in Larchmont for 28 years. Although our youngest child is a junior at the high school, so none of our children will benefit directly from this work, I remain committed to the concept that good schools are one of the foundations of our community.

The items on the bond are critical. The building committee had a much longer list of items that would be good and beneficial to work on. However, the board asked that these be pared down to only the most crucial items. This has been done.

Doing less will cost us more. When I joined the building committee the district was emerging from a phase of unplanned repairs. Many things were done on an emergency basis, incurring higher costs and having a negative impact on the use of the facilities. In the last twelve years, we have worked to have orderly, planned repairs and improvements, done at lower cost and less impact. The items in the bond, if delayed, could well end up as emergency repairs at substantial additional cost.

We gain the advantage of a good purchasing environment. Because we must do this work, it makes sense to do it at the least cost. The current bidding environment is very favorable. Material costs are down and contractors are eager for work. We will get the most for our expenditures.

Some people have told me that they wondered about the costs. Do not be misled by simple labels. The “Hommocks Boilers” are not just a simple unit like the one you may have in your basement. This is the label for an extensive system of central heating plant, distribution, controls, and supporting necessary building modifications. The cost estimating team that has prepared the budgets has a good track record working for our district and many others over the years. And if the bids come in a little less the district will see the savings. It is worth noting that the building heating upgrades will produce significant energy savings to offset against the bond costs. The reduced energy use will benefit the earth as well as our district.

So please join me in voting for the bond issue.

Ned Stoll
Larchmont, NY

January 15, 2009

Can’t Afford to Wait on Bond Projects

As active members of the community, we believe that it is critically important to invest now in our most valuable asset: our schools.

The significance of approving the bond cannot be underestimated. The health and safety of our children are now in question. Our schools are old and many of the buildings are past their useful life. The last bond was completed in 2001. Greater deterioration to our schools’ infrastructure could result in much more costly renovations. Furthermore, the immediate cost impact to tax payers will not be experienced for two years.

The health and safety of our children is one of the reasons why people choose to live in Mamaroneck. With the implementation of the bond, the capital improvement projects will enhance the well-being of our children. Specific projects include: asbestos abatement, updated fire alarm systems, replacement of the heating systems, roof repairs, new fields, etc. A comprehensive renovation plan that was originally estimated to cost $65 million, has been reduced to $38 million, only focusing on issues deemed urgent. The school board and administration has been fiscally responsible and conservative given the current economic times.

What does this all mean: We cannot afford to wait any longer.

Delaying the bond will result in much more costly renovations in the future and in the meantime, put our children at risk. Once a bond is approved, the work will take several years to complete. We need to act now. By taking a long term view of our investment we will help strengthen our community and our children’s future. Our children will be able to learn and play in a much safer environment. An environment we can be proud of, especially knowing that we played a role in making it better.

Lex and Bari Malas
Mamaroneck, NY

January 15, 2009

Still Caring about the Mam’k Schools

My youngest kid graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 2002. I join those “empty nest” parents who still care about our schools and I support the Mamaroneck School Capital Improvement Bond. If the bond does not pass I worry that:

>The next generation of kids might not have the safe and modern physical facilities that benefited my kids. That would be terribly unfair.

>Our district has not made a capital bonding proposal for 8 years, despite the New York State mandate for a Capital Improvement Plan every 5 years. Further delay increases the risk of more expensive system failures.

>Many more capital improvement needs are going to continue to stack up. The school board has already postponed many projects just to get this bond down to a reasonable number. These are the most critical needs right now. We have to start making a dent in the growing to-do list.

>A delay in approving this bond could result in the reduction of available building State aid. The State is likely to be less supportive in the future with its own shrunken resources. If we don’t take advantage of the near $10 million in building and excel aid that enhances the value of this plan, someone else will.
The original boilers and heating ventilation systems at Hommocks and Central are more than 40 years old. A system failure would be far more expensive than a replacement.

>The old windows at Hommocks are energy inefficient and result in higher heating bills. Why throw money out the windows?

>Four of our buildings need major roof repairs. Damages from a failed roof would be far more expensive than a replacement.

>There are fire alarm systems and fire doors in our buildings that are not up to current codes. This is not acceptable.
Many of our bathroom toilets, sinks and doors don’t work. Is this acceptable for our kids?

>Electrical upgrades are needed for the safe use of modern classroom technology. Inadequate electrical systems leave our classrooms in the last century.

>Our school properties are grossly under capacity and overused. They are not as safe and efficient as they should be for outdoor education. A modest investment (less than 20% of the total bond) will add safety and allow increased use of outdoor school and municipal space by our kids and the entire community.

>Real estate purchase prices are declining, if a purchaser can be found, at all. We don’t want another “hit” to our reputation as an outstanding school district.

A resounding “YES” vote will help maintain the strength of our community.

Joel Negrin
Mamaroneck, NY

 

January 8, 2009

School Bond Essential For Safety, Education

The time is rapidly approaching when we will all be asked to make an important decision about the bond that was worked on so tirelessly and is being proposed by the Mamaroneck Board of Education. The bond contains essential and fundamental improvements to ensure the safety, education and development of our children--roof repairs, boiler and window replacements, electrical and plumbing upgrades, athletic field improvements, and playground resurfacing.

A little over 4 years ago our family made the decision to invest in this community. We chose Mamaroneck over neighboring communities for its combination of school system, recreational programs and diversity. Reflecting on the state of our community’s facilities, it is clear the time has come for investment. While general economic concerns are a factor to be considered, we must not lose sight of the long term benefits to what we have already invested in. Quality academic facilities and athletic fields are important and visible and will help ensure our community remains a desirable place to live and raise a family. Contrast that with a downward trend led by an infrastructure that continues to degrade.

My family and I are particularly passionate about the proposed improvements to our “outdoor classrooms” – the athletic fields so I will use this as one example of why the bond is so important. The teachings of athletics are vast. Commitment, dedication, pride, teamwork, trust, hard work, friendship, competitiveness, winning and losing, sportsmanship, self-confidence, and camaraderie are all lessons and experiences that will serve our children for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the current shortage of playing fields limits these experiences. We have a large district—with more and more kids wanting to play. But our facilities are inferior in number and quality to all of our neighboring districts, many of which are smaller than us. The lack of safe athletic fields is, frankly, shocking given the overall quality of the community. Field closures on sunny days, inability to find practice space, and a high school varsity field that is bare, has no lights and is not even level should be unacceptable in a community such as ours.

It has been a wonderful experience becoming part of such a terrific community as we watch our children learn, play, and begin to grow up. Whether helping with the struggles of homework, watching a school concert, coaching a baseball game or cheering at a soccer game the experiences are priceless. The many friends we have made through these activities grow stronger each year. To sum it all up, we have a very special community and we know we made the right choice in moving here. Let’s pass this bond, make the necessary improvements and ensure the future of this great community we all call home.

Bill and Allison Nachtigal
Mamaroneck, NY

December 13, 2008

Support Bond As Long Term Investment

As a resident with children who have graduated and moved on, I see this upcoming school bond as a necessary investment in our community - one that will have a direct link to my greatest personal investment, my home. By attending many Mamaroneck School Board meetings during the time the bond projects have been discussed, I have learned some compelling facts.

Like everyone, I am concerned about the current economic crisis. Yet, the tax impact of this bond will not be felt for 2 years and in the first year of impact it will be about $80 over what we pay today. This will average under $150 per year over the next 10 years (relative to an average $20,000 assessed home).

As the second largest school district in Westchester (after cities), and after 8 years of bond relief, there is critical work needed in this bond. This is work that cannot wait any longer - work that will become more expensive with bigger problems if left to further decay (including items that were left off the last bond and as such have become bigger, more urgent, and more expensive). Most of the proposed work in this bond addresses safety issues for our children. The fields and playgrounds fall into this category as well.

The Mamaroneck School District has been planning and waiting for safer and greater capacity fields for over 8 years. The Kemper plan was abandoned (despite winning the right to proceed) in favor of a better, less divisive solution. The district fields are used not only by the athletic program, but the complete physical education program and for the community youth sports and under-the-lights community gatherings. The current fields are now extremely unsafe and are often closed to our community members and for hosting intercommunity games. Our playground surfaces have also become unsafe.

The long term investment in our schools must be seen as an investment in our community. There will be great value and tangible benefits from the work proposed. Our home values will be affected – positively if the work is done – negatively if the bond fails.

Regarding costs and this economic time: As with any public school district projects, NY State Education Department guidelines apply, which makes for a very lengthy process. The vote happens in February, followed by a 6 month or so review in Albany, then drawings, bids and finally borrowing and construction -- in phases – several months later. Our economy is unpredictable, but will improve at some point. This bond vote is an authorization to borrow as needed in the future over time, not a vote to spend today.

We must keep up with the work and maintain our excellent program, facility and reputation. This bond has already been cut back several times, and it would be irresponsible not to continue moving forward. I encourage my neighbors to support this effort and take the long term view.

Lori Brandon
Larchmont, NY

December 10, 2008

School Bond Deserves Full Support of Community

Our family would like to thank the Mamaroneck School Board for the support that it has provided for new turf playing fields at our local schools. Now the field improvement plan is part of a school bond that will provide critical structural improvements, repairs and renovations at all of the district's aging buildings. The bond is scheduled for a public vote on February 10 and it deserves the community's full support.

We witnessed the extraordinary transformation in youth athletics that took place with the new turf field at Flint Park, where we watched our daughter play as a member of the Mamaroneck High School varsity field hockey team. Last year, the worn-out grass field created dangerous playing conditions, with uneven footing and balls that suddenly bounced up in the girls' faces. This year, the smooth turf resulted in safer conditions, improved play -- and no doubt helped to lead the high school team to a sectional championship!

Yet the improvements go well beyond sports titles. In these tight economic times, it's vitally important that the community make sound investments that will secure our home values and protect our tax base. To cut back on these necessary improvements would be a step toward economizing ourselves into a downward financial cycle.

In particular, we hope the improvements planned for the high school’s Memorial Field will move ahead as quickly as possible. This is a highly visible, centralized facility that reflects upon the status and condition of our community. Currently, the field is a dangerous liability and the overall facility is an outdated relic that reflects poorly on our community.

The capital improvement bond itself is past due and so are the field improvements. The board’s analysis shows that the $38 million bond will cover all of the necessary school repairs and field work, yet it will not add to our local tax payments for at least two years, and even then the effect will be minimal.

In the face of today's strong temptations to slash spending, we hope that the community will recognize all of the proposed improvements as a necessary, short-term investment that will yield lasting economic benefits. We think we will all look back and view this as a positive step for all of our community and, most of all, our children.

Craig & Margaret Leddy
Mamaroneck, NY

April 2, 2009

Stimulus Funds Can Be A Real Opportunity for Schools

Our school district is expected to receive approximately $1.2 million over two years under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Most of the funding will be provided as part of the IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Act) funds. Given the difficult economic conditions it is tempting to envision the funds being used for general budgetary purposes – to offset planned cuts. However, the U.S. Department of Education, has proclaimed, “ARRA funds should be used to improve student achievement and help close the achievement gap.” Included, as an example of such an effort, is “making progress toward rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable for all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities.”

Importantly, the funds are additional monies, not intended to supplant current funding from local or state sources, unless and to the extent a partial waiver is obtained. The funds are short term in nature – temporary additional funding to be used within 2-3 years. According to the U.S. Department of Education, school districts are encouraged to use the ARRA funds so as to:

1. Maximize short-term investments with lasting results for

  • students
  • teacher, school, and district capacity for improvement and

2. Integrate coherent improvement strategies that are aligned with the core reform goals.

With respect to uses of the funds envisioned under the IDEA in particular, districts are advised to consider a range of potential uses for lasting benefit, such as:

  • Providing intensive district-wide professional development for special education and regular education teachers that focuses on scaling-up, through replication, proven and innovative evidence-based school-wide strategies in reading, math, writing and science, and positive behavioral supports to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, and

  • Developing or expanding the capacity to collect and use data to improve teaching and learning.

Because the money will no longer be provided after a couple of years, districts are cautioned by the U.S. Department of Education not to use the funds to create programs or make commitments that cannot be sustained once the funding is removed. Once implemented, we should be able to monitor how the funding is being used, since to support the most effective uses of ARRA funds and accurately track results, recipients must publicly report on how funds are used. We can all learn more about the funding and “how it is supposed to work” online. (See: ARRA Factsheet) and IDEA Guidance.)

As a former member of the Mamaroneck Board of Education, as the current vice president of law & policy of the Mamaroneck SEPTA and, perhaps most importantly, as a parent of two elementary school children in the Mamaroneck School District, I am optimistic about what can be accomplished with the stimulus funds and eagerly look forward to learning more about the district’s plans to use the funds.

Our district has a real opportunity to enhance further the educational experiences and achievement of many students.

Cecilia Absher
Larchmont, NY

March 21, 2009

Can't Afford Budget Increase

I am dismayed at the proposed increase in the school budget. We are living in an economy where our incomes and wealth have dropped (if not vanished). We can barely hang on to our current lifestyles, and many of us are seriously considering leaving the town we love in search for a more affordable alternative.

Have you realized that, unlike the Federal Reserve, Larchmont households can't print money?

Have you realized our wealth has dropped?

Have you realized our incomes have shrunk, if not disappeared?

We can't afford this increase, and if you insist on it we will vote with our feet and make the harsh decision of leaving this town.

This is a time for austerity, and not for largesse.

Marcelo Delmar
Larchmont, NY

March 13, 2009

Keep School Budget to 0% Tax Increase

When you are overweight, you resolve the issue by increasing exercise and lowering caloric intake. When you have overspent, you resolve the dilemma by increasing your income and lowering your expenses, right? Unfortunately our community has been hit with people’s incomes dropping significantly and their expenses now being asked to rise by 7%. (See: School Budget Forecast: Class Size and Taxes Up; Staff Size Down.)

I write urging our community to reevaluate the need for an approximate $5.5-$11 million school budget increase this year. For nearly seven years our family has lived in Larchmont and, except in 2007) each time our community was asked for a school tax increase, it was approved without reservation. And in seven years, the school budget went from $75 million to today’s $117 million. District enrollment went from 4,641 to 4,974, and inflation has averaged less than 3% in those years.

As a community member whose children attend our public schools, I ask for zero school tax increase this year. We are faced with a challenge, and we need our administration and our neighbors to find a solution. Create off-line concessions, without altering our staff contracts. For 2009-10, freeze salaries, determine if 19 paid sick days are necessary, and increase health care contributions from the current 4% to the 15% that many teachers in surrounding districts pay. God-willing our community will recover next year and we can return to the district’s negotiated contract. We have great teachers and it is in our children’s interest to keep those teachers. While our community navigates this horrible economy, let us be prudent by reassessing our needs and preserving jobs.

Justifications due to external mandates are without perspective. Governor Patterson’s requests involve $600,000 in a $122-$128 million proposed budget, about .5%. We appreciate our legislators’ efforts to secure more state aid, but again we are talking about less than 1% of our budget. Better to discuss the roughly $96 million in the budget that we can control.

This is not for comfort, this is for necessity. Our country has over 12 million people unemployed today. Westchester County foreclosure rates have increased over 100%. Many people living in our district have lost jobs and are creating timeline budgets to determine how long they can remain in town before moving. And with consumer confidence in negative digits, those who are employed walk on egg shells wondering, “How long will I remain employed?”

Ask members of the community about their current workdays, which now mean longer hours, doing more work, with fewer employees, for half pay. Ask them how they have slashed their household budgets to cope. Every time consumers are about to make a purchase they now think, “Do I really need this?” This year it is time for our community to review its school budget and ask, “Do I really need this?”

Kristen Fernandez
Larchmont, NY

March 4, 2009

Everyone Has to Give Some on School Budget

Once Mamaroneck School Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried says that he is opposed to dismantling programs that the community values, and the teachers’ union rejects any salary cuts and even justifies a 7% salary increase, then there is zero chance that we will have a fiscally responsible budget.

I have lived in Larchmont for many years, and the taxpayers have always been very supportive of the school system and quite generous in approving budgets. However, as you can tell from the recent school bond vote, times have changed in the last year. So many people are in financial distress or fearful of being there that everyone is trying to cut costs wherever is possible. Everyone - including all the components of the school system - has to give something.

Does the administration value every program above the ability of parents to pay for them? And, likewise, do the teachers value their compensation above the economic hardships being faced by parents?

Joe Gorman
Larchmont, NY

March 4, 2009

Hope Teachers Will Make Concessions

In reading your story on the proposed budget cuts in the schools for next year, (see: School Budget Forecast: Class Size, Taxes Up; Staff Size Down) I was pretty amazed to read this quote from Ann Borselino, president of the Mamaroneck Teachers’ Association: "To ask us to take on additional responsibilities and shoulder a pay cut as well is going too far.”

Hello, Ms. Borselino? Look around you. In many businesses and professions, people are being asked to take on additional responsibilities and even accept a pay cut. We're in a recession! Things are tough!

In some cases, employees have agreed to across-the-board salary reductions in order to save the jobs of colleagues. Stories in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal about this phenomenon both pointed out that morale in the workplace actually increased when this happened. People don't want to see their coworkers unemployed.

I hope the teachers' union will consider making concessions in its contract, and that the school board will then move heaven and earth to preserve those jobs. I'm all for teachers being paid better; they do god's work, in my opinion. But we're in extraordinary times and ordinary rules no longer apply.

Lisa Chase
Larchmont, NY

February 15, 2009

Con Ed May Not Have Right to Cut Our Trees

(The editors regret that part of this letter was missing from an earlier posting.)

Now that Con Ed has trashed the trees of Scarsdale in the name of avoiding expensive storm damage to their lines, the word is out that their sights are set on Larchmont. Village Hall doesn't know how to stop them from decimating this "Tree City" because they haven’t researched who owns the trees, but my family had a different experience because we had the facts about our trees. After what Larchmont did to IKEA, if Larchmont homeowners had accurate information, Con Ed wouldn't stand a chance.

We discovered in Scarsdale that Village Hall believed that Scarsdale owns title to the land under the roads (they don't), the utility poles, (they don't) and the street trees (they don't own them either). In most cases, the owner of the abutting lot owns fee title to the center of the road and therefore, owns the "street trees." Verizon owns the utility poles and Con Ed has a right to put their lines on them if they have easements recorded in the county clerk's office that refer to the property impacted. But it doesn't matter whether the town understands the situation . What does matter is that Con Ed understands – that's why they acquired their easements in the first place.

To protect the trees of Larchmont, you could do what my family did in Scarsdale when we were faced with this problem. First, look at the title policy for your property. If your title has an easement that gives the utilities permission to cut your trees, it should be listed there. The typical easement language used by the utilities for the last 100 years provides that they can cut trees 18 inches around the wires to maintain their lines. That’s it. Just 18 inches. (That’s the easement for our neighborhood in Scarsdale. My bet is that Larchmont is no different.) If the utility wants to cut more than the 18 inches the easement allows, we believe they need a court order. They might be able to get that by Eminent Domain because of the severity of recent storms. But the affected homeowner should have an opportunity to oppose their petition and Con Ed would have to spend a substantial amount of money on litigation.

Furthermore, to take private property (i.e. our beautiful trees) for the "public good" Con Ed should have to compensate the property owners for the full value of the trees they destroy or maim. If Con Ed's purpose in this endeavor is to prevent expensive damage to their lines, but the alternative costs even more, maybe they will just go away and leave our trees alone. Or stick to the 18 inches they are allowed. But we didn't just assume that they had a right to take down our trees because they said so. We learned the facts. And, remember, IKEA was kicked out on the facts.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Start your engines.

Janet Scully
Larchmont, NY

February 13, 2009

Naysayers Not Ill Informed

The "naysayers" are not bad people.
Furthermore, we are not stupid and ill informed.

Most of us are simply tired of pouring money into school projects that should have been addressed on an ongoing basis with the huge school taxes we have been paying for many years.

It is irresponsible for our officials to neglect infrastructure projects like heating systems and school athletic facilities, and then come to us for more money when their delinquency is exposed. I am weary of the bleeding heart stories.

Paul Lennon
Larchmont, NY

February 11, 2009

School Board Should Be Supported; Find Common Ground

While I am disappointed about the outcome of the school bond vote, I am encouraged about the closeness of the results. The bond had many things going against it, the greatest of course being the uncertain economy. I feel that the narrowness of the defeat shows the great level of community support for these necessary improvements, and believe that with an objective re-examination by the board, an acceptable outcome can be achieved for all concerned.

I hope that some elements of the field plan can be kept for the next bond. Unfortunately, many voters may not understand the complete debacle besetting our fields, which becomes all the more apparent when visiting other communities. As a result, improvements may be perceived as “luxuries,” when the fields truly are a disaster. I encourage anyone to visit the fields to get a better sense of the utter disgrace of our “outdoor classrooms.”

However, the board may want to include just Memorial field in their revised bond. It has the highest community visibility, and, hopefully, its successful implementation would offer acceptance of future field improvements. Fields for Kids, while commendable in their tireless advocacy, may have overestimated their intent. They should allow for the new Flint field and renovated grass fields to come online and be incorporated into the community’s overall usage. Greater capacity and better facilities must be achieved over time; sometimes, something is better than nothing.

The board and bond supporters must continue to remind the public of how much the bond has already been scaled down. In addition, while the board did a good job in making the case for the need for the improvements sought, it may have been remiss in justifying the cost estimates given to do so. I had heard from many friends and neighbors who felt the price tags were way overblown, and as someone in the real estate development field myself, I had my own difficulty coming to peace with sticker shock over many of the improvements. The board should look more closely at those numbers to see if significant savings can be achieved by more realistic cost analysis without having to eliminate items.

Looking ahead, I hope the board does not overreact to the outcome and pare down a revised bond to the utter bare bones. There are many essential parts of the bond, but of greater importance is getting a unanimous vote from the board. Having the board struggle admirably in the face of great adversity and arrive at a 4-3 vote unfortunately may have been a contributing factor to the bond’s fate. Now is not the time to stand on principle, however valid it may be; it is a period for negotiation and consensus. Another split vote will send the wrong signal to the public who is looking for board leadership and continued thoughtfulness. The board has put in countless and thankless hours, and we as a community must support them in their efforts going forward.

Chris Verni
Larchmont, NY

February 8, 2009

No to Fields, Yes to Active Kids

I just read Stephen Kling's letter and all my first thought is BINGO!

I am a co-founder of the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Basketball Association (LMBA) and I heartily agree with Mr. Kling's eloquent indictment of "organized" varsity sports. My goal with LMBA was to create an opportunity for kids to be active outside the school sports system and to remain so through high school. As an avid cyclist, I particularly like his idea of getting our kids on bicycles. Everytime I cycle past a field built for "organized" varsity sports I see a sign that it is not for any other use. Tear down the fences!

Just say NO to the fields and say yes to getting the kids out to find their own recreation.

Note: Today, I am writing as a community member, not on behalf of the LMBA. I am not presently affiliated with LMBA in any official capacity.

Rick Plate
Mamaroneck, NY

February 5, 2009

Board Worked Hard, But Should Have Split Bond

Last week’s letters were fun and informative, one of them even downright hilarious. However, there was one letter that – in my view – unjustly criticized the School Board. No matter what position one takes on the bond issue, the board did a very good job of keeping everybody informed, of taking everybody’s point of view seriously, and of trying to strike a balance. I want to thank all members of the board for the hours and effort spent on our community’s behalf.

Just like the board was divided for a long time over which kind of bond to present to the voting public, I was unsure for a long time whether to vote yes or no. But after careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the right thing to do is to vote NO, and I hope that many others will do the same.

I wish that one of the board's proposal of splitting the bond in two – one the $28 million ‘bare bones bond," the other the "discretionary playground and fields bond" – would have prevailed. That would have made things easy! But it didn’t turn out that way, and unfortunately now the necessary repairs (and I have no reason to doubt that they are necessary, even though my son and his friend have not once complained about the Hommocks being too cold) are tied up with the fields.

We all remember the costly mess of trying to move the Kemper Memorial for new fields. Those who back then carelessly ignored the wishes of a fallen WWII soldier’s family now want to force artificial turf fields on us, this time ignoring that there is not enough evidence yet to deem those fields safe for our kids or the environment.

The current field situation is bad. Anybody who has ever coached – I have – will know that. But there must be alternatives to the artificial turf fields, and it bothers me that nobody has ever presented them. We now have one artificial turf field (at the back of the Hommocks) that gives us a taste of what we’d be in for if we voted for the bond: you are watching your kids play behind a big fence, as if they are in a cage. My reaction: NO THANK YOU!

Barbara Gessler
Town of Mamaroneck

February 5, 2009

Turf Fields Are Safe, Cost-Effective

I am writing as a Larchmont/Mamaroneck resident, soccer mom, and manager of my son’s soccer teams for over a decade. Opponents of the synthetic fields claim that they “support more fields in natural grass but not of synthetic turf.” We all would like to have more natural grass fields. For almost a decade, our school district has been struggling to identify a site on school property to create such a field to address our serious field shortage. The one possible site for a new athletic field was rejected because of its impact on the Kemper Memorial. Because there was no other new sites for fields, the School Board has wisely chosen to reconfigure Manchester to add a field there and to convert our surfaces to synthetic turf, to increase capacity of the very limited space we have. The ability of synthetic turf to stand up to constant use even by those sports hardest on natural grass will allow scheduling of many more hours of play on our fields (including evening time with the addition of lights).

In addition, critics falsely claim that an artificial field “drains like a parking lot …into the municipal storm water system.” The plans for these fields have been reviewed and approved by the joint Town of Mamaroneck/Village of Larchmont Coastal Zone Management Commission and by the Village of Mamaroneck’s Harbor and Coastal Zone Management, with the management of water runoff a major consideration. As the district website states, “The synthetic turf surfaces are permeable and water will drain through the surface, through layers of gravel to cache basins, with timed release of water.” In fact, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations mandate that the runoff from these fields be at least as good as the current situation.

I applaud the School Board for coming up with a practical solution to our community’s need for fields. Refurbishing our existing field space with synthetic turf is a good, safe, cost effective, and environmentally sound solution to the serious field shortage in our district. I urge that voters inform themselves before voting by visiting friendsofthebond.org.

Linda M. Spock
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2009

A Wise Investment in a Troubled Time

On February 10th, our community will have the opportunity to make an investment in our schools. Voting YES for the school bond is a wise investment for all of us. The Mamaroneck UFSD is a vital asset of our towns. It attracted my family to Larchmont and will continue to attract new families in the future, if we maintain its high level of quality.

The school bond funds important investments in multiple areas of our school district. It funds critical repairs to crumbling facilities. It funds important upgrades to the technology platform. It increases athletic capacity. It improves safety systems. All these items increase and preserve the value of our school system. It is short sighted to think that underfunding our schools will not have a long term detrimental effect on the quality of education and ultimately our community and its reputation among prospective home buyers.

I moved to Larchmont 5 years ago. My wife and I considered several communities in Westchester County. We chose Larchmont due to numerous factors with its school system among the most important. My children attend the Murray Avenue School.

To maintain a leading school system, one must invest capital for repairs, upgrades and expansion. Murray Avenue School will benefit from each of these. Bathrooms require new fixtures and plumbing. Our children deserve clean and operational bathrooms. The playground will be resurfaced creating a much safer place for the children to exercise. Classrooms will receive upgraded electrical wiring thereby expanding the technology platform of the school. My son could not watch the recent presidential inauguration in his classroom due to a lack of wiring. He watched it in the auditorium with other classes. Unfortunately, a teacher had to hold a microphone to the television; the resulting sound quality was too poor to hear. An important civics lesson was lost due to this shortcoming.

There are other vital projects in the bond proposal including a new boiler and windows at the Hommocks. The energy efficiencies resulting from this investment will reduce the school district’s carbon footprint while lowering its energy costs. It is hard to argue with this type of project.
It is easy to criticize the school bond in light of the current economic environment. Several salient facts regarding the school bond render such criticisms hollow. There will be no tax impact for two years once the bond is issued. The current recession should be behind us by then. The actual tax increase pursuant to the bond is estimated to be an average of $150 per year for ten years for the average household. For the cost of one very nice dinner out or a few nice dinners out each year, each household will fund the school bond.

The reputation of our community, the lives of our children, and the value of our homes depend on the quality of our schools. The school bond is a wise investment in a troubled time. VOTE YES on February 10th.

Edward Plonsker
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2009

Vote Down Current Bond

The school bond, as it now stands, should be voted down.

As sensibly proposed, there could have been two bonds: one for “bare-bones” repairs, and if that passed, another for additional projects- including more fields. But by 4-to-3 the school board voted against this separation. Now those who support “bare-bones” repairs but not new fields will need to vote no, so the board can return with a lower proposal.

The board is not being straightforward on the costs of the bond. It’s counting on state aid that may not come through - and not a penny spent on fields will qualify. The board doesn’t state what interest rate will be necessary to float the bond. According to The New York Times, the municipal bond market “collapsed,” some bonds going “no bid.” While the bond market has recovered slightly, who knows what it will be like in two years?

It’s not right for the board to “sell” the bond to voters by saying, “You won’t have to pay right away.” You don’t immediately pay what you put on a credit card - but you do have to pay eventually - and interest adds up. If we behave this way ourselves, how can we expect our children to act differently?

Go to taxedenuf.org to see what your fellow citizens have to say about the bond (and why it may just be the first installment).

As of this week, the bond may be unnecessary - the federal government is setting up new programs specifically to fund school infrastructure. Funds for repairs should be applied for through that program, rather than further burdening overstretched taxpayers at this “worst of all possible times.”

According to the reliable shadowstats.com, we’re already in a depression. Warren Buffet calls our situation “an economic Pearl Harbor.”

But not everything’s in a slump - there’s still one thing going up “like there’s no tomorrow”: property taxes. Just this year - without the school bond - we’re being hit with:

The largest capital project ever undertaken by Westchester County - $234.7 million for upgrading sewage treatment - which all falls on Larchmont-Mamaroneck, White Plains, Blind Brook and Port Chester.

An unblushing 40% tax increase for Larchmont Village on your Westchester taxes from the Town of Mamaroneck.

“Feather by feather the goose is plucked.”

If, as Governor Paterson has repeatedly warned, New York State goes bankrupt, what new liabilities will taxpayers be asked to absorb? The State already backpedaled on the STAR program: the governor said taxpayers never really saw the money anyway - school boards took it all back by raising spending.

Won’t the highest property taxes in the country do? That’s the base we start with before bond-related tax increases.

Vote “no” on this ill-timed bond February 10th.

And, should we continue on this downward spiral - what some economists are already calling “the greater depression” - the board should show leadership and cut their budget, as grownups sometimes must, rather than borrow and spend indefinitely.

Jeff Wanshel
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2009

Turf Fields: A Luxury in Tough Times

In response to the letter signed by Eric Marks and Stephen Muratore, I can only say the fields described are "wish list" items which should absolutely be taken off the table in these tough economic times.

The demographics of school aged children will change, as they always have. And while this may be a period of flow, the numbers at some time will ebb again.

Given the harsh reality of the magnitude of the economic crisis, which is staring many local residents squarely in the face, it is folly to insist that these fields are "need to haves" and "not a luxury."

In tough times, prudent people make do with what they have: put another way, they make creative use of what they have. Sorry, but your argument doesn't wash, and I certainly hope that individual families do not follow this sort of logic when considering their own families' budgets. That's a partial reason for the mortgage mess.

Penny Dana
Larchmont , NY

 

February 5, 2009

Bond Worth 11¢ Per Day? Absolutely!

As a resident of Larchmont for the past 25 years, my decision on the imminent Mamaroneck Schools bond vote is an easy one. My children have thrived in our town’s school system and enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of sports. Our oldest child is a junior at Georgetown and left this week for her spring term in Cape Town. Our son is a senior at MHS and looks forward to enrolling at Denison in the fall. Our youngest is in 6th grade at the Hommocks with a great deal still ahead of her in our school district and community. It is for her, and for all of our Larchmont/Mamaroneck children, that I will vote to support the bond.

It’s a matter of common sense when I ask myself four simple questions:

1) Am I pleased with the results of our school system in the lives of my children? Absolutely! I’m proud of my kids and excited about the potential for their lives given the education they have received in our town. All of us should take pride in the accomplishments of the students in our schools and embrace the need to support them.

2) Do I see the need for improvement when I look at our school buildings and athletic fields? Yes! It’s hard to miss the blatant need for repairs and replacements when you take a look at our old school buildings and worn-out playing fields. Whether for gym class or a travel team sport, our kids deserve to play on a decent field. It would be irresponsible to ignore or postpone this investment.

3) Do I believe the School Board has proposed a fair and reasonable bond? Certainly! Our neighbor-volunteers on the School Board have toiled countless hours for months to put forward their proposed bond. I appreciate their dedication and their professionalism and have no reason whatsoever to doubt that they have served the best interest of our community in their proposal.

4) Can I afford to support it? Thankfully, yes. While I realize we are a diverse community and the economy is down, I am confident all of us can find a way to put aside an additional $80 to support our school taxes two years from now. To make it easier, try tossing your spare change in a bottle on your kitchen counter. Label it, simply, “Change for Our School Kids.” All it will take is 11 cents per day.

Please choose to sustain and improve the quality of life for the kids in our community. Join me in voting to support the bond!

David G. Calkins
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

What You Have/Haven't Heard About the Bond

Have you read that a camel is a horse designed by a committee?

If you read what was published by the Mamaroneck School Board and proponents of the bond, you'll have seen claims that the bulk of the money will be spent on critical repairs to school buildings. You won't read that approximately 25% is to be spent on items that are not critical.

You won't have read that if this proposed bond is not approved, in two years taxes for school bond service expenses would decrease.

You won't have read that if the bond is approved there will still be needed repairs to the schools that are not covered in the proposed bond and that more bond requests may follow.

You may have read that the buildings are old and require expensive renovation because of their construction. But it does not seem that any consideration was given to any alternatives that might provide both short and long-term savings to taxpayers and also improve the quality of education.

You may have read that the School Board put in long hours over a long time to achieve a solution. But perhaps working long hours does not provide the best solution, perhaps it provides a bad one with enough compromises for the board to approve it. Have you heard that a committee is something that spends hours and keep minutes?

You probably did not read that the School Board even discussed an alternative, such as creating a new community/government center, combining the education and development of our youth, our mid-life adults and our seniors. Instead we separately and expensively renovate our schools, our senior center, our public library our government buildings, our etc.

Some School Board members may think that a million dollars here, a million dollars there, a million dollars elsewhere, and you'll hardly notice it. And you may have read, don't worry, it won't cost you now and you'll benefit later. After all, only the last to the party, maybe the very children who are supposed to be educated by this bond, will find out the wallet's become empty. Remember, it took a child to utter the truth about the emperor's new clothes.

You probably won't even have read the vote is in the middle of winter when it is hard for some to get to the polls.

And you probably have not read what Arthur Schlesinger once said: "If we are to survive, we must have ideas, vision, and courage. These things are rarely produced by committees. Everything that matters in our intellectual and moral life begins with an individual confronting his own mind and conscience."

Send the board back to school to re-learn arithmetic, the economic difficulties that are affecting our neighbors, democracy and how to think outside the box. Let's educate the School Board by getting to the polls on Tuesday, February 10th, and send a strong message to them -- on the proposed school bond VOTE NO!

Brian Lobel
Mamaroneck, NY

January 29, 2009

As In Earlier Downturns, We Must Invest in Our Schools

I am writing to strongly support the upcoming school bond, which funds safety and health infrastructure critical to the vitality of our community. I say this from the perspective of a professional who has helped finance infrastructure projects around the country and as a parent and homeowner in Larchmont for the past 18 years. We must maintain the community’s infrastructure – as we do with our homes – and we must maintain safe and healthy environments for our children. If we do not make these investments now the future costs will surely rise and the value of our homes will surely fall.

The School Board and the School District have worked tirelessly to find a path that costs the least while providing the most. No plan will satisfy everyone, but after attending many reviews of the proposals, I am very satisfied with the current plan. Like everyone, I am feeling pain from the current economic environment. Undoubtedly, we are in a steep recession. It is precisely now, though, that we must continue to keep our community safe, healthy and valuable. We must all take responsibility for our schools, which are our community’s greatest asset.

This is not our first opportunity to make the appropriate investments. Seven months after “Black Monday” in October 1987, when the Dow fell 23%, we voted 2:1 to pass a bond for building improvements. In March 2000 the “Tech” bubble burst and stocks began a long fall that culminated in a 10-year low in 2001. In 2000 and again in June 2001 we overwhelmingly passed bonds for the Hommocks auditorium, the science wing and other improvements. I think everyone greatly appreciates those improvements and realizes the value and enrichment they have provided.

The two major objections I hear are to costs, in the current climate, and synthetic turf. As to cost, I hope it is clear that the actual bonds are not issued until well after numerous approvals, so tax impacts do not begin until 2011. Then, the impact is mitigated by a scheduled reduction in interest payments on previous bonds, resulting in a net tax increase that is relatively minor compared to the value of the improvements made.

As to objections to the “turf” fields, the opposition is both disturbing and disingenuous. Those most opposed have been outspoken for some time, and the board listened and addressed their concerns. The board has committed to using an alternative infill product that should not be objectionable to any reasonable person. There are some who have a strong gut desire to have “real” grass instead of turf. I would like that too. In reality, however, the only way to have beautiful grass fields is to not allow anyone to play on them, which, obviously defeats the purpose.

I urge every voter to think about the importance of maintaining our community’s infrastructure and the safety, health and value benefits that come from that maintenance. Please vote YES for the bond.

Ted Sobel
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

A Vote Against The Bond is Not a Vote Against Kids

Community members have been challenging the costs and impact of artificial fields since discussions on the Mamaroneck School Bond began. Many believe the artificial fields are not safer nor an improvement over natural grass fields for the health of children or the environment.

There is common ground. We all support improving our facilities and keeping our children healthy and safe. We disagree on how to get there.

Critics of this bond support the installation of new boilers, roofs, even windows. It is the excessive/expensive inclusion of 4 new artificial turf fields, a new full-size track (removing one installed only 6 years ago) and 2 new synthetic playgrounds that is inappropriate in concept and certainly in this economic climate.

It is hopeful, not presumptuous, that the board will present a smaller bond in 45 days if this bond fails on February10. This will ensure the children have heat with no delay. Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein explained this procedure the evening of the board vote.

As for Safety: The board has dismissed the concerns of Philip Landrigan, MD, director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. They held a symposium last spring, “3 Environmental Toxins: lead, synthetic fields and plastic toys from China.” His concern is for the “grass” blades as well as the infill. Dr. Landrigan has publicly advised against further installation of synthetic turf fields until more research is done. Though the board would prefer no lead, no product has been identified yet.

The Environment: This is a time when we are trying to green our environment not cover it with plastic. Each artificial field drains like a parking lot - .into the municipal storm water system. We are a community that floods. Grass fields absorb and filter storm water. Proper drainage and maintenance will make our current fields better and more usable. There are new technologies and permeable materials available for storm water management that can be integrated on our sites.

Usage: I support more fields of natural grass but not synthetic turf. Seven years ago it was projected that we would need one more grass field. Jim Hanley stated that our growth has been 25% since then. In grass, Scheme C would give 50% more field space. Baseball would remain on a grass field. In artificial fields, we are way off the chart. It is unnecessary.
Maintenance: Our fields are poorly maintained. In a FOIL request, I found there is no line item for field maintenance, nor any further information. It appears the fields have been left to rot in hopes of securing artificial turf. The board should reconstruct a field with the earmarked $500,000 they hold.

Whether the artificial fields last 8-10 or 10-12 years does not change the fact that, with 15-year bonds, we will be paying for fields long after they are removed/replaced.

I say fill the holes in the fields and VOTE NO ON THIS BOND.

Michele Lewis
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

Our Children Don't Need Turf

The proposed school bond represents a new 15-year $38 million tax obligation in the midst of the gravest economic crisis during our lifetime. Nearly 25% ($9,069,244.00) of the bond amount relates to the synthetic turf fields, which our community, our environment, our children, our wallets and the people who, one day, may consider buying your home, don’t need.

When you enter the voting booth and close the curtain on February 10th, before you pull the lever to vote on the proposed school bond, consider this:

You live in a heavily taxed, waterfront community vulnerable to flooding and currently in violation of law for overloading the public’s waterways beside and beyond Flint Park and Harbor Island with excessive quantities of nitrogen and other pollutants. Fast draining, chemically treated synthetic turf fields will add to the flooding and further contaminate the multi-billion dollar estuary we call the Long Island Sound.

Your children and your neighbor’s children, whose developing brains, lungs and limbs crave oxygen to properly grow, develop daily instead amidst the chemical soup of environmental pollutants. Synthetic turf fields will remove oxygen producing grass in our children’s playgrounds replacing the open space where they breathe hard during sports with plastic that continuously emits harmful toxins, fosters fast soccer balls and open, deep skin burns. In warm weather, as these fields heat to over 160 degrees, our children’s blood, sweat and saliva collect, grow and spread in this Petri-dish-like medium increasing the chance that they will suffer heat stroke and skin infection - possibly the drug-resistant kind we read more and more about these days; namely, bacterium methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA.

This proposed bond represents but one of many tax increases we will see in the coming year or two: tax increases which include the legally mandated bond to upgrade our sanitary sewer system and tax payments to subsidize our unemployed neighbors, among other taxes known and not yet foreseen.

Voting no on the proposed bond will enable our community to pass a fiscally and environmentally responsible bond for only the repairs and restoration our schools and children truly need.

On February 10th when you pull the lever for the proposed school bond, think globally and act locally. VOTE NO ON THE BOND. Then, once you leave the school where you vote, take in an extra big breath of air, hug a child and stand tall, knowing you did the right thing.

Elisabeth N. Radow
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

Look for Another Way on Bond

While I have no doubt that the proposed bond is to fund needed projects, now is not the time to add to taxpayers' burdens nor is the bond the means for funding these projects.

As the recession deepens, more Mamaroneck residents feel the real pain of lost jobs, reduced compensation, investment losses or anxiety about their financial futures.

Property taxes are unique in that, unlike other taxes, there is little an individual taxpayer can do to reduce them. If your income falls, so do your income taxes; if you reduce purchases, your sales taxes fall; if certain activities are curtailed, your use taxes go down. However no matter what you do, you cannot reduce your property taxes in times of personal financial hardships.

If I am correct, Mamaroneck residents will pay approximately $120 million this year into the school system. It seems that if the projects covered by the proposed bond issue are in dire need of being done, then the school administration and teachers must come together and find ways to fund these projects from the $120 million already being paid annually.

If this requires layoffs, salary freezes or cuts, well so be it. Welcome to the world the rest of us live in.

Joe Gorman
Larchmont, New York

January 29, 2009

Where Did All the School Money Go?

Having lived in this community close to 40 years, I have observed that we have among the highest cost per student in the nation. Despite pouring money ceaselessly into the Mamaroneck school system, I am disturbed to learn that Jennifer Malherbe's daughter is freezing in class because the 40-year-old boiler is not adequate. What confidence do we have that the money will not be squandered again? None.

I suggest we redirect the money we are now spending on frills for the teachers and students and make some investments in the infrastructure. Skip the lighted playing fields. When it gets dark, the students should go home and study.

Paul T. Lennon
Larchmont, NY

January 29, 2009

Parents Who Do or Will Have Kids at District School - Vote YES

I am the parent of three children who attend three different Mamaroneck school district schools. I have one child at MHS; another at Hommocks; and a third at Central School. I am writing because I feel really strongly about continually making sure our schools are presently safe for our students and about having good planning in place to maintain the structures that are meant to last generations.

The interesting this about this bond is that it contains both glamorous and unglamorous components. I compare it to moving into a new home—you have improvements that make your home more valuable and you have improvements that are necessary to get through the weather elements safely and securely.

While everyone is watching their dollars in this challenging economic environment, we cannot be “penny wise and dollar foolish” about these proposed improvements.

I write this letter also to the parents of young children who have not begun in the school district. It’s hard to imagine that you would ever do anything harmful to your children, but without these improvements your kids will not reap the benefits of safer playgrounds in the elementary schools; more sports fields that don’t have divots and dirt to twist ankles or worse; and proper heating and air for concentration during the school day.

With this letter, I cannot include all the important reasons why this bond should pass, but I urge everyone in the community — especially parents who will send their kids to our schools - to educate themselves on the specific facts of the bond proposal. Visit the website www.friendsofthebond.org and visit the district website. Once you become educated about this bond, I am sure you will make the same decision as my family—A STRONG YES.

Danielle T. Seltzer
Mamaroneck, NY

January 21, 2009

Vote No - Your Children's Future Depends On It

I am writing this as perhaps a lonely voice advocating a "No" vote on the upcoming bond authorization. The residents of Mamaroneck UFSD should teach our youth a lesson in debt, tax policy, and state competitiveness.

The school district should not continue to pile onto the massive debts the state and public authorities have already accumulated (which will be paid for by your beloved children).

The voters of this district should vote "Yes" only if budgetary room is created via pension and health insurance givebacks from the unions or other cost saving measures.

This state is bleeding youth at one of, if not the, highest rate in the country because of the tax burden (which should tell you how they would vote).

I prefer the future over fields.

Keith Rosenthal
Larchmont, NY

 

January 21, 2009

Bond Strikes Correct Balance

The February 10th school bond vote is an enormously important day for our community. What happens on this day—whether each of us as taxpayers chooses to get educated on the issues, whether we take the time to show up and vote, and of course how we vote — will significantly influence the health and safety and educational welfare of our children, the structural integrity of our school assets, and our property values for years to come.

Our last school bond was in 2001, which means it has been 8 years since we authorized the school district to make any significant infrastructure repairs or investments. These are difficult, even scary, economic times for everyone but we must face that fact that the physical plant of our schools is decaying and the work is piling up. Continued non-investment in the facilities that our children learn and play in and which serve as the engine for our property values is, in my view, short-sighted.

Your school board has worked tirelessly, transparently, and skillfully over the last few years putting together a capital plan that addresses the most critical infrastructure needs of our school system—leaky roofs, failing boilers, crumbling retaining walls, irreparably pot-holed fields — yet which also reflects the economic realities that we face today as a community.

Those of us who have attended these meetings have seen a board constantly focused on its role as stewards of both our schools and our tax dollars. Remember, the bond we will vote on February 10th already excludes tens of millions of dollars of projects considered critical by the Buildings Committee. What’s left are projects that are either essential to keeping the schools open or important to ensuring the health, safety and educational welfare of our children.

Each family will have to judge what the tax impact — no increase for the first two years and then an annual net impact of about $150 for the average homeowner — means for them. But it is important to keep in mind that — in the event the community votes “no” on February 10th — this work still has to be completed and the money spent at some point in the future. It is just a matter of what happens along the way: Will the cost of these projects escalate? How will continued non-investment affect our property values and kids?

Again, these are difficult times and what may be an easy answer for my family may not be for yours. I urge my fellow citizens to get educated on the issues and — please — resist sensational or simplistic arguments one way or the other. Your vote on February 10th is not just “for” or “against” kids or athletes or the environment or taxes. It is a decision, rather, about whether this plan represents the right balance of investment — in our schools, our children, our community — and restraint as it relates to our tax dollars.

I believe the answer here is YES and I urge you to vote YES on February 10th.

Mac Budill
Larchmont, NY

January 19, 2009

Better Sports Facilities Will Help Keep Kids From Drugs & Alcohol

As parents, as community members, we always consider how best to keep our teens away from alcohol and drugs. All of us have a responsibility to join in fostering a community environment that will help our youth grow into healthy adults. Strong families and caring, supportive communities are an essential tool for helping teenagers navigate difficult developmental years and steering them away from destructive decisions.

We ask you to consider how the upcoming Mamaroneck Schools’ bond referendum gives us an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our young people and our community. By improving our athletic facilities and installing lights to allow for evening practices and games, we will bring our community together in a way we have not been able to before. At homecoming, when the school district rented lights for the high school’s weekend games, we had just a glimpse of what this community-building experience would be like on a regular basis. Our fields can become a place where not only students, but families, can gather for evening events. School spirit will soar and our children’s connection with their community will deepen. In addition, evening sports games will give our teens “something to do” on weekend nights that is fun and drug and alcohol free.

Science tells us that the best way to be successful in reducing underage drinking and drug use is to reduce risk factors and increase certain known protective factors in the community. Improving our athletic fields can help increase those critical protective factors by providing our youth with safe and fun alternative activities that will at the same time increase their bond with the community. At a time when we seem to be losing our sense of community, this opportunity to turn that around should not be missed.

Nancy Winkelstein
Larchmont-Mamaroneck RADAR

 

January 15, 2009

Kemper Kin Supports School Bond

"Why should I vote for the proposed Mamaroneck School Board thirty-eight million dollar bond to fund capital improvements for schools and, in particular, athletic fields if I don't have kids?"

You hear that question often. What if Richard Kemper, my uncle, was asked to answer it? Richard Kemper was a student at Mamaroneck High School. On August 6, 1944 he was killed near Mortain, France in the Battle of the Hedgerows. Richard Kemper Park by the high school was established in his name and the names of the other former Mamaroneck school district residents killed in World War II. Here is how I think he would have responded:

"But you do have kids. Everyone's kids are everyone's kids. The children of the world belong to all of us. They are our future. They are the ones who will defend us when we need to be defended, take care of us when we are sick, construct our houses, pilot our planes, and make the discoveries that improve our lives."

"But why are athletic fields a priority?"

"Because," Richard would say, "Sound minds and sound bodies go together (mens sana in corpore sano) and both are built on playing fields. It is on playing fields, in other words, that students learn to cooperate with one another to achieve shared goals, compete in a friendly manner, and love activities that keep them strong and healthy."

"Of course the reason you are saying that, Lieutenant Kemper," someone might interject, "is because the board found a way to provide students with playing fields without encroaching on your park."

"Naturally I am glad the board recognizes the park's value to the students and the community," my uncle would reply. "The park is there to remind us of the consequences of war and to honor the memories of those who were killed by motivating students to think about how to create a just world order in which wars no longer take place. But the reason I support issuing a bond in order to raise funds to make capital improvements to school facilities is because I recognize some things are worth the sacrifices needed to obtain them even when times are hard. Sure our taxes will go up a bit two years hence because of the bond but our future will be a whole lot brighter as a result of the improvements that will be made to our schools with the money raised."

Paul Cantor
Connecticut

January 15, 2009

Thanks For Supporting Troop Phone Cards

For the past few holiday seasons, representatives from the Villages of Mamaroneck and Larchmont and the Town of Mamaroneck have raised thousands of dollars for the USO for the purchase of phone cards for the troops who serve overseas. Shortly after Thanksgiving, we set up tables outside of the Corner Store in Larchmont, and the CVS on Mamaroneck Avenue, to raise awareness for the good work of the USO and to collect contributions for the phone cards. It is our small way of expressing gratitude to the brave men and women who serve in all of the branches of our Armed Services.

People stopped to make donations and to send good wishes to the troops and their families. From the small children who donated their allowance money, to those who gave hundreds of dollars, this year was no different. The generosity of our community was overwhelming, including contributions from so many important groups in our area:

  • -American Legion Mamaroneck Post#90
  • American Legion Mamaroneck Auxiliary Unit #90
  • Knights of Columbus Mamaroneck Council #2247
  • American Legion Larchmont Post #347
  • Larchmont Police Benevolent Association

During these tough economic times, it is heartening to see how generous and thoughtful our community remains. On behalf of all of our public officials, thank you for your continued support of this effort.

Elizabeth N. Feld, Mayor, Village of Larchmont
Valerie M. O’Keeffe, Supervisor, Town of Mamaroneck
Toni Pergola Ryan, Trustee, Village of Mamaroneck

January 15, 2009

Caveat Emptor at County Computer Show

The County Center in White Plains advertised a computer trade show for this past weekend (which will run again on 3-21 through 3-22-09), MarketPro Computer Show, which was to feature desktops, laptops, all kinds of computer equipment, at up to 50% off!! Based on the ad in the Center's website, it actually sounded like it might be worth the time to schlep up to that out-of-the-way section of Central Avenue at the corner of Tarrytown Road in White Plains, a neighborhood replete with big box stores and nothing else, other than a gas station or two.

You pay $7.00 for entry into the "Show." Then you walk into the basement, and soon realize how many other and better ways the entry fee could have been spent. If you actually came here for the computers, as I did, you saw that among the football field-sized room of cheap folding tables holding second-rate refurbished merchandise, there were maybe two sellers offering them. Most of the computers were produced years ago, or if new, were a few days from obsolescence. And most everything else was refurbished.

I had come looking for netbooks, and the two that I managed to find that were new were priced higher than they were at J&R (in NYC) last week. Ironically, the Staples next door to the County Center had better deals and deeper stock, but you didn't have to fork over an entry fee to get in.

Frankly, the entire "show" looked like the result of someone's driving a moving van down Canal Street in Chinatown, telling all the local street vendors to climb aboard with their knock-offs and grey-market goods, and try pawning them off on less sophisticated suburbanites in White Plains. What a joke! Fellow Westchester residents, please spare yourselves the trip to this shabby, transplanted junk heap of a show when it returns in March. You'll get much better deals on computers and the related equipment anywhere else.

Andrew J. Barovick
Larchmont, NY

 

January 8, 2009

Vote Yes Feb 10 on School Bond

As the president of the Mamaroneck School Board last year, I am writing to share the most important reasons I believe that it is imperative that the community approve the district’s capital improvements bond on February 10.

I am all too aware of the hard work and countless hours that went into reducing - by nearly half - the work initially proposed by the district’s building committee for inclusion in the bond. The bond being proposed truly contains only the work most critical for the preservation of the district’s infrastructure and maintenance of the health and safety of its students.

The work to be funded by the bond will benefit all of the district’s children. By keeping our buildings safe and warm, the underlying mission of the district, teaching and learning, can flourish. Moreover, passage of the bond will ensure healthy bodies for both our students and athletes and the entire community.

Improving the playgrounds at the Chatsworth and Murray Avenue Schools will benefit not only the children who attend those schools and all those who live nearby and use them after school and on weekends. Turfing the field at Central School (the most used field in Larchmont or Mamaroneck), which, despite constant effort, is riddled with pot holes, will ensure the safety of the hundreds of kids who use that field during school and recreational league play. The work that is envisioned for Mamaroneck High School - rotating and turfing the current football field and putting a new track around it and turfing the current baseball field and track, thereby creating two varsity sized playing fields, and lighting all of them - will substantially increase the amount of playing time on district fields. This will free community fields for more use by youth and adult recreational leagues and will also provide the community with a much more accessible track for exercise, so vital for a healthy life. Further, lighting the fields at the high school will offer the opportunity for many more community events as well as more safe evening alternative programming for our teenagers, which should lead to less drug and alcohol abuse.

I know that the timing of the bond is not ideal given the uncertain economic climate, however I don’t believe we have the luxury of delay: all of the work is so critical, and is long overdue. Moreover, there will be NO tax impact from this bond for 2 years, because of the amount of time it will take before any of the work can begin and the retirement of older bonds. Further, our infrastructure will only continue to deteriorate, and may well be more expensive to remediate in the future; some items that could be repaired now might need to be completely replaced later, and/or emergency measures, which are significantly more costly, may be required to allow our buildings to remain open if systems fail completely.

I am, therefore, urging all of you reading this letter to vote YES on February 10.

Amy Levere
Larchmont, NY

December 10, 2008

ASK If There is a Gun in The Home Your Child is Visiting

As the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (www.nyagv.org) I work through advocacy and education to inform New Yorkers about the dangers of gun violence. Although I read every day about unintentional shootings ending tragically for people in this country, I was surprised to read about the shooting by the ten year old in my home town.(See: Child Injures Himself With Handgun.)

Far too often a story like this about a child who shots himself, ends with even more horrific results. This Larchmont boy was fortunate, as were the other children and family members in that household, that no one was killed or more seriously injured. The owner of the gun may incorrectly believe that he or she is somehow safer, since that is the myth perpetuated by the National Rifle Association, but this case - like many others - confirms the real results you are likely to experience.

Statistically, if you have a gun in your home you are much more likely to kill or injure a family member or neighbor, than you are to ever use the gun against an intruder. (See Harvard School of Public Health studies and statistics.)

We are not immune here in Larchmont/Mamaroneck to neighbors who own guns. More than ten years ago when I was testifying at the County Center in White Plains in favor of the safe storage law now enacted in Westchester, I noticed a neighbor standing just in front of me. He asked why I was there and when I told him I supported the proposed law, he informed me he was testifying against it, was a life long member of the NRA and had many guns in his home that he stored safely. I was surprised but later realized that with 200 million guns in circulation in this country, some of them were bound to be here in town.

With that many guns in our country, improperly stored weapons remains an important problem for all parents to address. PAX is an advocacy organization founded in 1997 by Daniel Gross when his brother was the victim of a random shooting on the top of the Empire State Building. PAX (www.paxusa.org) developed a very successful program called "ASK" which encourages parents to ask their neighbors, friends and family members if there is a gun where my children play.

As responsible parents we often ask how our children will be supervised when visiting another house, what kind of foods are served, and what kind of television is permitted. It is even more important to ask if there is a gun in the home - so that you can judge for yourself the safety measures you accept as reasonable for your child and whether you want your child playing in a home where there is a gun.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence provides speakers for community events and materials and information are available from PAX for any PTA wishing to present a program.

Jackie Hilly
Mamaroneck, NY

MORE LETTERS ON THE SCHOOL BOND CAN BE FOUND AT:
LETTERS ARCHIVE: 2008