Leon Potok Profiled in Sound & Town Report

The Sound & Town Report is profiling all the candidates for Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees. Below is their Q & A with Leon Potok:

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 have many years’ experience as a financial analyst and advisor. I want to use this experience to address challenges facing the village. The public sector often needs new elected officials to inject a sense of urgency in order to get things done, unlike the private sector, where competition encourages action.

With three open seats on the Board of Trustees, Village of Mamaroneck voters have a great opportunity to elect a new majority that reflects the energy and diversity of our community.

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

The big issues facing residents are taxes, planning for long-term financial health, preserving the character of the village, and mitigating flooding and its impact on residents.

Residents value our village for its small-town character, quality of life, diversity, community, and environment. As a trustee, I will work to maintain affordable property tax rates. This can be done without watering down land use laws and undermining the village’s special character, quality of life, and environment.

Flooding poses a risk to the physical safety of residents and the value of their homes and property. Short-sighted zoning laws that allowed construction of homes and commercial buildings in the flood plain without adequate safety margin for periodic floods have had devastating consequences. As a trustee, I will ensure that new zoning laws protect our community resources, and insist on an overall plan to mitigate the impact of flooding.

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?

Setting the village on a path to long-term financial health, and actively managing the budget, are top challenges for the trustees. The Budget Committee I chaired advanced specific, important recommendations to raise revenues, reduce expenses, make the village’s finances more transparent, and manage operations more actively. If elected, I would work with the village administration to consider all opportunities to reduce costs, improve services and raise revenues from sources other than property taxes.

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?

The impact of flooding can be mitigated to a limited extent through periodic silt removal, clearance of river obstructions and maintaining storm drains and catch basins. Just as important, the village must be prepared to help residents and businesses access information and financial and community support, so we can recover from flooding and rebuild quickly.

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

Communication is a two-way street. Village government should share more information with residents, directly and through volunteer committees. We are fortunate to have committed volunteers and employees who truly care about the village and its residents. Creating more opportunities for volunteer committees to participate in our government process makes it more open.

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?

The board and village administration could do more to embrace our community’s diversity. A language barrier is no excuse for failing to engage such a vibrant part of our population. Bilingual public announcements, especially during storms and other emergencies, are needed. More community events and activities–especially for kids–would facilitate connectivity. I believe that a Board of Trustees whose members reflect Mamaroneck’s diversity will have much more enthusiasm for such measures.

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

The Village Budget Committee that I chaired was an eye-opening experience. The mayor and trustees showed no interest in pursuing the committee’s recommendations. As a trustee, I will work with village administration to make responsible, long-term decisions based on facts and analysis in an open, civil, and transparent manner.

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

I would rescind the recent increase in village water rates. In May, the board passed a 15 percent increase in water rates. This increase was unnecessary. It had nothing to do with current costs. The sole purpose was to set aside $1.375 million in cash for a hypothetical state fine that is unlikely to be imposed.

Hiking rates to raise this much cash is like increasing property taxes for the average resident by 6.5 percent at a time when many in Mamaroneck are already struggling to make ends meet.

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

Having emigrated from Israel to the Bronx when I was 11, two of my favorite foods are falafel and pizza. Luckily, I can satisfy both tastes at various locations on and off the avenue.

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

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