Four run for mayor of New Paltz

Tim Rogers, Amy Cohen, Sally Rhoads and Jason West.

Tim Rogers, Amy Cohen, Sally Rhoads and Jason West.

On Tuesday, May 5, residents of the Village of New Paltz will once again cast their votes to decide who will be their next mayor and fill the two seats on the Board of Trustees whose terms are coming to a close. This week the New Paltz Times brings you brief profiles of the four candidates for mayor as they describe their motivations, credentials, concerns and priorities at a time when the village faces some fairly daunting challenges.

The 2015 mayoral contenders are Town Planning Board member/Groovy Blueberry businesswoman Amy Cohen; former Elting Memorial Library Board chair/current Village Trustee Sally Rhoads; former Town Planning Board member/current New Paltz Central School District Board of Education member Tim Rogers; and incumbent mayor Jason West. The declared candidates for the two open Village Board positions will be profiled in next week’s issue.


Tim Rogers

Why did you decide to run for the position of mayor of New Paltz?


A decade ago I would not have anticipated becoming so involved in local political service, but during the last few years I have enjoyed using my analytical and business background on the School Board and town Planning Board. I believe I would offer a needed perspective, analytical skills and the ability to follow through on projects. These will be valuable in village government and when working with town government. As an effective leader, I will be accessible, listen and develop consensus through communication.


What skills/experiences/qualifications do you have that make you believe you would make a competent mayor?

In both the private sector and within our local government, I have a track record of working collaboratively and seeing projects to completion. For example, I led my previous employer’s effort to fund the first large global investment strategy focused on renewable energy alongside the largest pension fund investors in the US and Canada. That achievement echoes one of the pillars of my platform: economically defensible environmentalism.

Locally, my colleagues and I on the Planning and School Boards researched and developed resolutions, position papers and a findings statement about the financial impacts of a tax abatement for Park Point’s housing complex. That effort reflected my commitment to collaboration and intelligent, mutually beneficial economic development.

I also worked tirelessly with my School Board colleagues to develop a master plan for our district’s taxpayer-owned buildings. We wrestled for years to find a balance between what we felt was best educationally, most prudent for taxpayers and a project that voters would support.


What do you see as the top three challenges facing the Village of New Paltz?

1) Developing a Master Plan. The village and town must stay committed to developing immediate and long-term steps for an infrastructure Master Plan. Our community character and tax base depend on intelligent and environmentally sensitive planning for parking, sewage capacity, stormwater management, potable water and how they relate to existing and potential residential and commercial development.

2) Communicating about aqueduct repairs. This has been a challenging, multi-step process undertaken by our local officials, but we need to improve communication and decision-making about the pending aqueduct repairs and our water system going forward. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been working with the village and the town, but many questions remain unanswered. We need explanations about how DEP funds will be used: Will they simply fund a temporary solution, or can we leverage this money for a long-term solution that is independent of the aqueduct? I will work with all parties to make the best possible decision for both the short-term and long-term water system.

3) Safe and affordable housing. Many, including myself, have been frustrated for some time with inadequate enforcement of village zoning code. Village government needs to do a better job working with inspectors to ensure the purpose of our code is clear and the Building Department officials feel their feedback is valued before the Village Board spends time and money on legislative changes. A robust process is imperative to maintain and support our community’s character, residents’ safety and our tax base.

Zoning code enforcement and more thoughtful planning is important because we are on a path where village housing is becoming unaffordable for too many. Our housing market is propped up by artificially low borrowing rates for investors and a predatory student loan market that is burdening students who, on average, are graduating with debt approaching $30,000. We are compromising the quality of our village’s character when fewer young professionals and working families can afford to remain in New Paltz. An imbalance has been created locally that requires local government awareness because of potentially irreversible unintended consequences.


If elected, what would be your top three priorities?

My three platform priorities include 1) Community, 2) Defensible Environmentalism and 3) Management and Process.

1) Community: We must work together to achieve common goals. I make a point of listening and learning from community members with differing viewpoints. Disagreement is healthy and expected. We must remember that most of us are here because we care about a better New Paltz. I am someone who can follow through on a task and see that we maintain momentum and not get mired in conflict by style or opinion differences.

2) Defensible Environmentalism: Our community cares deeply about renewable energy and green initiatives. But environmental goals must make economic sense and taxpayer money must be spent prudently. Projects that merely feel green but do not make investment sense are wasteful and give naysayers fodder. For example, why is the village using a $4,000 “Big Belly” solar trash can whose main function is to reduce collection trips? I would not invest in premium-priced solar garbage cans that accomplish little, if anything, besides seeming green because they are outfitted with solar panels. SUNY New Paltz also has these trash cans that compact recyclables, trash and compostables together — forfeiting the potential for recycling and composting. At least the village’s solar compactor is next to a recycling bin. But then there are still the same amount of trips, because the recycling bin mandates the same number of collections. Expensive solar trash cans are a waste of taxpayer money.

3) Management and Process: While large initiatives garner headlines and attention, the mayor needs to focus on management and process to maintain day-to-day operations. Local government needs to be more mindful of our unique mix of families, SUNY students, young professionals and longtime residents. We tend to get lost speaking about big-picture ideas and lose sight of less-noteworthy opportunities. The Village Board can provide better support to our Village staff, which may feel mundane but actually be quite impactful. As mayor, I would like to make sure our government is addressing necessary day-to day management and process to support and empower village staff.


Amy Cohen

Why did you decide to run for the position of mayor of New Paltz?

New Paltz is an eclectic and magical place that needs a mayor to advocate for all of our residents to be heard and honored, our students to be empowered, safe and respected and our businesses to be given the resources to host our many guests.

I have been volunteering in the Town of New Paltz for the past five years in the capacity of New Paltz Town Police Commissioner, the Human Resource Consolidation committee, Citizens’ Improvement Team/Clean Sweep), the New Paltz Democratic Committee and as a New Paltz Town Planning Board member. Awhile ago I considered going to graduate school, but decided to educate myself on our local municipal governments instead. My knowledge of the operations of our local municipalities, coupled with my 25 years of business experience and my ability to communicate with the public, are the foundations of my mayoral campaign.

The more I am able to see my fresh ideas come to fruition and to build relationships within our community, the more I realize we can create positive change. The only thing holding us back is political discord and a lack of communication between our residents, business owners and our current village government. As a mother, an advocate and a social-change-driven woman, I am compelled to run an energized campaign that recognizes the needs of all of our residents. Our community needs someone real to voice their concerns and to take action that will have a positive impact on our community.


What skills/experiences/qualifications do you have that make you believe you would make a competent mayor?

My journey has been one of determination, accountability, honesty and leadership. I graduated from Cornell University hungry to learn about business, the flavor of the world and positive management in the workplace. At 22 years old I became a floor manager at Macy’s in New York City. I leapt into managing 45 adults — twice my age — engaging in respectful dialogues and finding the path to leading while listening. Two years later my career (selling and designing high-end textiles) led me around the world (Europe, China, Japan, India, Thailand et cetera), negotiating with international factories and ensuring safe working conditions.

I met my husband, and 18 years ago found myself “at home” in New Paltz. The Groovy Blueberry proved to bring a fresh rainbow splash to Main Street, and our lives here grew. We have four children raised in our schools. Our family and our business have flourished here. We opened a second location, believing in our downtown riverfront. Groovy Blueberry became a national brand found in stores like Lord and Taylor and Bloomingdales. We ship our homegrown designs worldwide, and all of our garments proudly promote New Paltz on every tag.