Question about moving village election date will be on the ballot
If three out of five Village of New Paltz trustees have their way, this year’s election will be the last one that will ever fall on the first Tuesday in May. The majority of trustees voted at their April 14 meeting to put a question on the ballot that will ask if voters wish to put local elections under the auspices of the county’s election commissioners, moving the date to November and replacing any village rules on its conduct with the ones already in place at the county level.
The two reasons that have been brought forth in support of this change are to increase turnout and save money. Trustee William Wheeler-Murray voted against this referendum, expressing reservations out of concern that shifting to a partisan election — as this would — may not be a good thing.
Mayor Tim Rogers is “comfortable” that in a small community like this village, voters would continue to choose candidates based on personal knowledge rather than simply voting a party line. Neither the mayor, nor Murray, nor any other trustee, provided any data to back up their views on what might happen.
Speaking to the implied concern about ballot access rather than the implied concern about mindless party-line voting, trustee Alex Wojcik noted that under county rules candidates may secure a ballot line with an independent nominating petition. What Wojcik did not say is that in a partisan election, ballot order is a political process, which it is not in the current non-partisan elections. It was also not made clear during the discussion how the number of signatures on nominating petitions might differ under county rules; right now all Village Board candidates need to gather the same number, but with partisan rules the number of signatures is based on the number of people registered to that party in the village.
Murray believes that the barriers to entry would be higher for someone who did not secure the support of a formal political party, but Rogers believes that the impact is not as noticeable at the local level. Again, no one provided any data to back up these positions.
One point on which Rogers did have data is the fact that changing the date would allow village voters to take advantage of early voting, which is not now an option in village elections.
Trustee Michele Zipp speculated that the fact that reducing the number of times individuals need to vote is good for democracy and that running village elections concurrently with others might lead to more political engagement by residents. Certainly, residents are more likely to see lawn signs and political mail in November.
It is not actually clear it would cost any less to have village elections run through the county, because no data have been presented; it would, however, shift those costs from the village tax roll to the county. That would clear save money from the village budget, but whether it saves taxpayers in general any money has not been determined.
Wheeler cast the only dissenting vote. KT Tobin had left the meeting earlier, and did not vote on the question.
Next budget approved
Village of New Paltz trustees approved the 2020-21 village budget at their April 14 meeting. Mayor Tim Rogers pointed out that while this was the sixth successive budget with no increase to property taxes, it “was not an easy budget to do.”
Skate park plans being formalized
Activity around the idea of building a skating area in Hasbrouck Park in New Paltz are coalescing. Village of New Paltz trustee Alex Wojcik reported last week that volunteers are collecting video footage around the community and in nearby skate parks to use for fundraising purposes. The project will be paid for through donations, but village funds were used to make a design for it. At $1,500, the design, if realized, will be larger than any in the county thus far. Mayor Tim Rogers expects that a request for proposals will be prepared and that the bids received will make it clearer how much money would need to be raised to make this project a reality.
More pandemic relief
Village of New Paltz trustees reported on state-level actions that will help people who have been struggling during this pandemic. One bill — not yet signed as of the April 14 Village Board meeting — would extend the moratorium on utility shutoffs for another 180 days or more. Anyone in arrears already should contact a representative at that utility to certify their need.
There is also $2.4 billion in rental relief coming, but the details on how it will work have not yet been finalized. An application form for the funds is being developed, and it’s believed that both tenants and landlords will be able to make the request.
Who gets to use village parks?
A request to waive a requirement for insurance led to a lengthy discussion about the philosophy of requiring permits for park use at the April 14 New Paltz Village Board meeting. Mayor Tim Rogers in particular was concerned about where the line is drawn between residents showing up to use the facilities in a large group, and an organized group filing a permit application. “Do we even need an application for this?” Rogers wondered. Other trustees appeared to agree that demanding liability insurance when all village property is already insured may be excessive — but they’ll check with their attorney, as they do. If they do dispense with permits, there would still be a need to manage scheduling.