Five run for two open seats on New Paltz Village Board

In this year’s New Paltz Village Board election, five residents are each seeking one of the two four-year trustee seats, including one incumbent. Trustee Thomas Rocco, whose term ends in May, is not seeking reelection. To aid voters in making their decision, candidates were provided with the same questions and encouraged to provide succinct responses. In order to vote in the May 2 election at the Plattekill Avenue firehouse, residents must register with the Ulster County Board of Elections no later than April 22.

 

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

KT Tobin

Tobin is running on the Progressive party line.

How long have you lived in the village, and how did you come to be here?

I moved here in 1991 to finish my Bachelor’s degree at SUNY New Paltz, and have lived in or near New Paltz ever since. I’ve lived in the village since 2007.

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What inspired you to run for village board this year?

I finally finished my [doctorate] last year, and was waiting to achieve that milestone before running for public office again. And then Trump won the election, and the next day I woke up knowing it was time. After attending the Women’s March in D.C. with my teenage daughter, I was inspired to announce my run for village board.

What experience would you bring to the position?

For the past decade I have been actively involved in our community and in politics. I’ve served on numerous municipal committees ranging from the village’s Global Warming Task Force to the Affordable Housing Board to our joint town-village Local Emergency Planning Committee. In my professional life, I regularly work with local governments seeking to improve efficiency and effectiveness, on topics ranging from shared services to their use of technology to better communicate with the public. I know how local government works, as a researcher, collaborator and an engaged citizen.

If elected, what will be your number-one priority to address?

It’s hard to single out one particular thing, because local government must always keep its focus on multiple issues and priorities. This is especially true these days when we can no longer rely on our state and federal governments for support. Rather than one top priority, I have three: local resistance to the Trump agenda, water security and appropriate development. I elaborate on these in the next response.

What do you believe are the major issues facing village officials right now?

Over the next four years, I believe local government will play a critical role in thwarting harmful federal actions while demonstrating how to govern our communities for a sustainable future. I foresee many instances where people who are already vulnerable and at risk now are going to be even more vulnerable and at risk under the Trump administration, and local government needs to intervene and protect them whenever possible. We also need to be vigilant in our commitment to providing safe and affordable communities in spite of deep cuts in federal funding. These are significant challenges. Secondly, we need to resolve our water supply issues. We have come a long way on this and I see a light at the end of the tunnel in the recent NYC DEP proposals, but there is still work to be done. Lastly, building needed commercial and residential development while protecting our natural resources and open space is critically important. How we guide the development of our village will have huge implications for our near- and long-term futures. My view is: how are we going to create a New Paltz that can adjust to our ever-changing world, not with a vision for the next couple of years, but a vision for the next 50 or 100?

 

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Rebecca R. Rotzler

Incumbent Rotzler is running on the Innovation party line.

How long have you lived in the village, and how did you come to be here?

I have lived in the Village of New Paltz since 2000 after moving to the town in 1992. I am originally from Alaska, and have never lived anywhere for a greater length of time. The main impetus for moving here was for my son to attend our school district and for me to attend SUNY New Paltz. It has turned out for the best.

What inspired you to run for village board this year?

Having left after one term in 2007 with a number of projects that were seemingly complete, it was obvious when returning in 2013 that continuity is a precious factor in getting work done. With this election, seated board members will have a total of two years on the board with potentially two new members. I must say it has been wonderful working with Tom Rocco the past two years and [I] will miss his words of wisdom, clarity and kindness. Without him, I feel we need my experience and institutional knowledge, especially with the water issues he has devoted so much time to seeing through.

What experience would you bring to the position?

A lot. Being elected from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2013 to 2017 involved much work and simply being able to recall a year when a project was proposed/deliberated/done is of great value, let alone the other details. Also, I was a SUNY student in the mid-90s and worked with Mayor Nyquist and Corinne Nyquist who was a part of the SUNY library system. We had student groups very active with village government therefore my “term” started well before 2003 in terms of direct involvement.

If elected, what will be your number-one priority to address?

This is an impossible question, in government one needs to have many priorities. I have been working on the Mill Brook Preserve easement and confident for resolve in this current term, therefore am looking forward to a few other priorities to follow. We have the fortune to have funding coming that will allow us to build a new fire station, as well as a substation where we can also explore further infrastructure enhancements in other areas of emergency services. Our professional volunteer fire department has recently increased their rating and we need to give all the support we can in that area. Water supply will undoubtedly be an ongoing concern, and I believe our options are much more open than they seem.

What do you believe are the major issues facing village officials right now?

Finishing the water issue is major. Fortunately, we have great village employees who are proactive in looking out for the greater good and they are one of our greatest strengths in this area. Smart development is key along with preserving our natural resources where residents can enjoy our natural resources. I love the fact that neighbors will be able to take their children to listen to frogs while romping in the woods without spending a dime. We do not own the land, we care for it.

 

William Murray

Murray is running on the Villagers People’s party line.

How long have you lived in the village, and how did you come to be here?

My wife and I have lived here for 14 years, first living in the town, then moving into the village seven years ago with our three young children. I’ve lived in our state for 50 years, having grown up in Binghamton, another vibrant college town like New Paltz. That rewarding experience, growing up, of interacting with a bustling college campus, with its culture of education and activism, is something I wanted for my children, along with good schools and beautiful natural surroundings. I’m happy to have found all of that here! The village is an ideal place to be raising kids who are enrolled in our public schools and who take advantage of campus community offerings, much like I did.

What inspired you to run for village board this year?

Serving on our village planning board, I’ve become aware of the need for someone with my range of qualifications to serve on the village board of trustees. Working on the planning board, and additionally as the village representative on the Ulster County Planning Board, has exposed me to a great deal of what is happening in our village and the surrounding community. These meetings allow you to see firsthand what is working, and what is not. Additionally, I’ve been reviewing and rewriting our out-of-date building codes in a group effort for more than a year. A difficult, sometimes tedious task (strong coffee helps), but much needed. Clarity, fairness and thoroughness in our code is essential to the health and well-being of our community. There are some code issues that need a good renovation, and that keeps you going! My work as a member of the New Paltz Fire Department has added further valuable perspective on code and community issues as they pertain to safety. So, to answer the question, my inspiration is the work I see needing to be done.

What experience would you bring to the position?

My life experience has a lot to offer, even beyond my experience on the planning boards, as a New Paltz interior firefighter and as a village homeowner. I’ve been working as an arts administrator for four decades. I work with leading theater, dance, music, education, and visual arts organizations to keep their challenging pursuits alive and thriving. This work involves comprehensive strategies involving marketing, communications, short- and long-term planning, tight budgeting, grant writing and fund raising — difficult tasks in an underfunded and often underappreciated environment. I see many parallels between this work and what the village board does. Our village, much like the arts, needs to be wise with spending and must work to get the most out of our community’s dollars. Grants, which are a financial backbone for arts institutions, have become increasingly important to municipalities, as well. Drawing attention to achievements is critical to success, both in the arts and for a small village. Trying new, creative ideas and approaches to solving problems is also essential to both.

If elected, what will be your number-one priority to address?

I would say safety. Sounds sort of boring, but it’s fundamental and encompassing. For example, we are making laudable efforts to increase both bicyclists on our roads and pedestrians on our limited number of sidewalks, but we need to make sure we are protecting these citizens. Kids, novice cyclists, those who need ambulatory assistance, even experts need safe roads, sidewalks and street crossings. I also want to see that our population of tenants is safe and secure in the places they lease. We have very expensive rental rates, yet many apartments are overcrowded, under maintained and lack proper safeguards. I’ve seen firsthand safety issues and unmet tenant safeguards. These are problems with solutions, many of which have been found by other communities and can be implemented here.

What do you believe are the major issues facing village officials right now?

Reaching consensus. Working well with other officials. Obtaining outside funding to support needed services or repairs. Incorporating alternative energy sources in our village, such as solar, that haven’t been adequately addressed. Protecting our fragile environment while allowing for responsible growth. Completing a long-overdue village and town comprehensive plan. Tax control. Finding ways for better capturing tourism dollars while encouraging a broader range of businesses to make New Paltz their home. Recognizing that even a place as great as New Paltz can be improved, not just for ourselves, but for our future residents as well.

 

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Celeste Tesoriero

Tesoriero is running on the Tenant party line.

How long have you lived in the village, and how did you come to be here?

On and off for a decade. I’m from the area.

What inspired you to run for village board this year?

I’ve been doing a lot of work on tenant and low-income issues in New Paltz, and I was hoping to get some supportive legislation passed in the next few years on those issues. Those aren’t going to get passed if Kathleen, Bill or Rebecca get into office, so very late in the game we decided to run two candidates as a team, myself and Galo Vasquez. We are aligned on what we see as the issues facing this community and how they should be addressed. You get two votes in this election, and anyone that is casting one vote for me needs to cast the other vote for Galo. It’s going to take both of us to turn things around.

What experience would you bring to the position?

If elected I would be the only attorney on the board. I started my career in poverty law in the Bronx, working at a nonprofit addressing an array of legal issues for low-income individuals. I have spent the last two years giving free legal advice after work to tenants in New Paltz. I chose to volunteer in housing because I feel that housing is deeply connected to poverty. When working as a poverty lawyer, I found that while not all of my clients had done jail time or had health problems, nearly all of them had a landlord.

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If elected, what will be your number-one priority to address?

Housing. The majority of people who live in this community are renters, with 70% of properties being rentals. Intersecting that statistic is that 30% of our community are living below the poverty line. Not only are the rents here crippling, but there is a real consumer protection crisis happening in this village. Regarding security deposits, repairs and lease breaks, tenants in New Paltz are being taken advantage of, and that’s not going to change without passing a law. Probably the best evidence of how much I would help tenants is how much local landlords don’t want me to get elected. When you have area landlords saying, “Anyone but her,” if you are tenant, I would take that as a very strong sign that they think I’m going to help you, and they’re right.

What do you believe are the major issues facing village officials right now?

Themselves. Mayor Tim Rogers is a rich investment banker who has spent the past two years advancing the interests of other rich people in this community. He has a network of very wealthy friends, many of whom are business owners and landlords, and he is completely beholden to them. Two of these people are candidates Bill Murray and Kathleen Tobin. Tim, Bill and Kathleen all earn more than 97% of village residents. Please don’t be distracted by the fact that they ride bikes or wear Bernie pins, these are incredibly rich people with an entrenched network of supporters that they will be beholden to once elected. Electing incredibly rich people and trusting them when they say they are going to help average Americans has worked out incredibly poorly for this country, and this village.

 

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Galo Vasquez

Vasquez is running on the SUNY Student party line.

How long have you lived in the village, and how did you come to be here?

I’ve been going to college in New Paltz for almost four years now and planning in stay here another four.

What inspired you to run for village board this year?

I’ve always felt the need to get engaged with something bigger than myself and make a positive change. It started out with getting involved with Students for Sustainable Agriculture on campus, helping local farms and educating students, but the more I got involved the more I realized positive change comes in the form of political change. A lot of our social inequalities are directly correlated with economic inequalities. When presented with the opportunity to bring change to the community I took it and working with Celeste we started a campaign engaging students and the village community. Right now the tenant union is trying to improve housing situations for all and it’s going to take the efforts of Celeste and I, plus others to see these improvements.

What experience would you bring to the position?

Studying in the sciences and humanities in both my fields of physics and education I think I’m able to judge from the facts with a sense of humanity for all. I’ve worked with many groups, from farms, food pantries to political organizers and protest organizers. I work hard to communicate with people from across all backgrounds and understand their needs. I think part of my valuable experience is simply the experience of coming from a working class family and being deeply invested in the struggle of all marginalized people.

If elected, what will be your number-one priority to address?

Housing and water protection efforts are my two top. But right now the main focus is housing. There is great abuse of housing demands in the village in terms of security deposits, rents and repairs. Tenants are constantly being ripped off and need consumer protections.

What do you believe are the major issues facing village officials right now?

I think right now there are some difficulties arriving at a consensus amongst the officials particularly on affairs concerning protections for immigrants and then there are issues [with] the village and town water sources that need to be fixed promptly. Transparency is incredibly important and the community needs be actively included in the working of the governing body. Officials need to do what’s best for the average New Paltz resident.

There is one comment

  1. K.

    Not one has offered to put up a referendum to dissolve the village. What is the pay again for a trustee and mayor these days. How much does a fire chief make here

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