Andres Bermudez Hallstrom Profiled in Sound & Town Report

The Sound & Town Report is profiling all the candidates for Village of Mamaroneck Trustees. Below is the Q&A with Andres Bermudez Hallstrom:

Q. The next Board of Trustees is guaranteed to have three new members. Given this scenario, what can you bring to the board that no one else can?
I offer a unique mix of legal, management and emergency services experience. My decade of emergency experience will be focused on keeping residents safe. My legal training allows me to properly analyze the legal and legislative issues that come before the board, and to determine which legal options best serve the Village of Mamaroneck.

Q. What is the most important issue facing the village, in your opinion? How will you address this issue as a trustee?

Lack of transparency, because it affects every other issue the village faces and has led to avoidable conflicts and litigation. As trustee, I would ensure that the voices of residents are considered, and board decisions are made openly and after fully informing residents how and why decisions are being made.

Q. According to the latest census figures, Westchester County has the highest property taxes in the nation. What would you do as trustee to keep this burden to a minimum for village taxpayers?

The village cannot be complacent about revenues and expenses. Before we consider tax increases, we must explore and use alternate sources of revenue, such as multi-space parking meters, proper collection of unpaid tickets, and increasing the number of harbor slips.

Taxes can also be controlled by using the same long-term planning that businesses and households use. Trustees must protect village infrastructure today so we don’t have to spend more money fixing problems in the future. For example, the roof of the Beach Pavilion has been leaking for years, but the board hasn’t fixed it–even though repair funds have been in the village budget for at least three years. This is no different than homeowners fixing their roof now to avoid a house flood later.

Q. Flood mitigation is a continuing problem for the village. What is one project or measure you would undertake to combat this problem as trustee?

I would ensure that residents are given timely and updated emergency information in English and Spanish so they can protect themselves.

If we need to set up emergency shelters, a representative of the village should be present in every shelter and able to provide current information to residents. We also need organized plans to get residents back into their homes quickly after disasters.

Q. Open meetings have also been a concern in the village. Do you think village government is run in a transparent manner? Why or why not?

Our village government can be run much more transparently. To truly be “the friendly village,” government officials should be listening closely to the concerns of residents and the recommendations of our hard-working volunteer committees. Instead, residents are often ignored or dismissed. Volunteer committees are ignored, at best, or pushed to disband, at worst.

Q. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights recently found the Mamaroneck Union Free School District’s placement policies resulted in a disproportionate number of minority students in a single kindergarten class. Given Mamaroneck’s history with issues like the day worker lawsuit and questions about the implementation of Secure Communities, some feel there is a disconnect between Mamaroneck and the Hispanic community. What would you do as trustee to address this issue?

Better communication can go a long way to address the disconnect between the Latino community, which makes up a fifth of our population, and village government. As of now, the only message the village puts out in Spanish is the annual leaf blower ban warning. Even emergency bulletins are released only in English, leaving some Latino residents without information or reasonable access to village services.

I am Latino and fluent in Spanish. As trustee, I would be a conduit to the Latino community, ensure that the village communicates properly with all residents; and work with all communities to solve problems that affect us all.

Q. What would you like to have seen the previous Board of Trustees handle differently? How would you have handled certain issues?

The recent changes to the flood prevention law could have been handled differently. There was a lack of communication between the board, residents, and the Harbor & Coastal Zone Management Commission. This caused panic among residents in the flood zone, resulting in unnecessary conflict during the

Harbor & Coastal Zone Management Commission meeting. A lot of this could have been avoided if the village had spent more time explaining to residents what this change entailed and why it was necessary.

Q. What is one piece of legislation you’d like to pass or repeal if you become a trustee and why?

I would like to eliminate or restrict smoking in village parks. Discarded cigarette butts are unsightly and a hazard to the environment, wildlife, and curious children. When I participated in the last Village Clean Up Day, I found almost as many cigarette butts as goose droppings in the park.

Q. What is one thing about you, completely unrelated to this campaign, that you’d like villagers to know?

As with most residents, the economic downturn has forced me to pinch every penny and make many sacrifices. I’ve chosen to have a legal practice serving the needy instead of setting my sights on a big New York City firm because I care about serving my community. I am dedicated to making life easier for my fellow residents.

Originally published in Sound & Town Report 10/26/2012.

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