Today we introduce you to Rye City council candidate Shari Punyon.
What are the three most important issues for Rye in 2014?
- We need improved oversight, and financial controls, and to refocus the city council on the needs of the city. Too much time and attention is wasted on personal disagreement rather than solving the problems we face.
- Infrastructure upkeep and repair. A strong infrastructure now is not just important now, it will save us money in the long run.
- Flood mitigation, support to our emergency personnel, and emergency management. Lack of attention to these areas will put our homes or even our lives at risk.
Rye Playland. Questions:
- Which of the Rye Playland alternatives do you favor? I support a solution that will make Playland financially viable and successful as an amusement park with beach, ice rink, restored boardwalk for walkers, Children’s Museum and other park features that support these activities. The financial viability and balance sheets of the various proposals have not been released. As a member of the City Council I will closely review all proposals, including financial information, as part of doing my job. We must pay special attention to protecting Rye neighborhoods from traffic, noise and other new activities that could impact the value and enjoyment of Rye homes. The current City Council has not applied proper scrutiny to the proposals. I will use my analytical skills to properly review proposals and issues before the City Council on any issue. I unequivocally oppose the proposed field house facility, which is not only too large, and which will displace needed parking, but will replicate many other similar complexes currently in a our area. Neighborhood residents are right to be concerned about the possible impact of the noise and lights, and year-round use.
- Do you believe the financial performance of Rye Playland has been misstated by the County Executive (yes or no) and should the financial statements of Rye Playland be audited by an independent auditor? Yes – The county budgets Playland differently than other county parks by charging debt service, police, bus service, and some employee benefit costs against the Playland budget when it does not charge these costs against the other parks. All county parks should be budgeted in the same way to fairly judge the current economics of Playland.
- What’s your favorite ride at Rye Playland and why? The Yellow Submarine, because I love the look on my daughter’s face when we go on together.
Rye City Budget and Infrastructure. Questions:
- What percentage of the city’s budget is comprised of healthcare and pension contributions? 27% according to the latest annual budget - please note that this includes all benefits and taxes, and is not just pension & healthcare.
- What can and should Rye be doing to control city employee healthcare and pension costs? There are a number of ideas, from adjusting the healthcare plan to asking more employee contributions. Health costs are determined by what health plans are negotiated between the City and each of the city’s four collective bargaining units. Savings should be sought through the collective bargaining process. More cost sensitive plans could lower costs for the city’s taxpayers and city employees at the same time.
- Infrastructure in Rye: The Central Avenue Bridge in Rye was replaced this year, six years after it was washed out in the floods of 2007. Questions:
- What are the three most important infrastructure projects in Rye City?
- I will prioritize infrastructure decisions based upon a number of criteria including cost effectiveness, urgency based upon public safety, and ability to pay, either through use of reserves set aside for capital projects or borrowing when interest rates are low. The City must balance all of these concepts in making wise project decisions. I would give special attention to flood mitigation projects.
- Is it ever appropriate to defer needed infrastructure maintenance or improvements even if in the end the deterioration results in a more expensive project? It is usually more cost effective to maintain our infrastructure than to allow roads, bridges and buildings to fall into into disrepair.
- What is the best way to fund infrastructure? Getting money from state, federal and outside sources is preferable. Where necessary, the City can also use a mix of funds that have been saved for capital projects and borrowing when interest rates are low.
- What are the three most important infrastructure projects in Rye City?
Flooding in Rye. Questions:
- What has been done in Rye since the 2007 floods to mitigate future flooding? The only major flood mitigation project the City has completed in the last four years is the sluice-gate project at Bowman Dam. This project was designed over four years ago.
- What still needs to be done to mitigate flooding concerns in Rye City? Unfortunately the City has not given flood mitigation a high priority. There are several proposals in process, including work at SUNY Purchase or the airport, but planning and analysis of new projects has lagged, and no new projects have advanced beyond the research stage. We need to do a better job on flood mitigation.
Rye Town Park. Questions:
- Should Rye City own and run Rye Town Park, yes or no? The City should review the operational issues in detail, and determine whether City ownership makes sense.
- If the government entity Rye Town is dissolved and goes away, should the park fall under the ownership and control of Rye City, Westchester County or someone else? I would strongly oppose Westchester County ownership. The City of Rye needs more control over activities at the park, and operation by the County or third parties will create an additional barrier to making the park responsive to the needs of our residents.
- Should dogs be allowed off leash in the park, yes or no? The park needs to come up with a more rational system to balance the needs of all park users including residents exercising their dogs. Off leash policies should be promoted when the park is empty. The leash law should be enforced when the park is busy.
The TD Smoke Shop on Purchase Street. Questions:
- Should the Smoke Shop stay open, yes or no? Yes
- Should the Smoke Shop stay open even if it means the City needs to intervene with the building owner or others, yes or no? This would depend on what is required, and what is meant by “intervene.” The City of Rye should explore any state or federal historic preservation programs that could benefit the building owner, and be wiling to advocate for the Smoke Shop.
The Rye Golf Club has been mired in scandal and badly mismanaged. Questions:
- Does the Rye City Manager Scott Pickup hold responsibility for mismanagement and if so, what consequences should befall Mr. Pickup? I am very concerned about what happened at Rye Golf and the lack of oversight displayed. The City Council and the City Manager bear some responsibility for not identifying these problems earlier. If elected I will carefully weigh all of the facts before reaching any conclusions.
- In the future, what needs to be done to place proper auditing and financial controls? Meg Cameron and I have called for a full review of city operations. As part of that review, I would like to improve our emphasis on accountability. This review is vitally important if we are to restore trust in City government.
- What specifically should happen with the dining facility at Whitby Castle? An analysis of options, including a potential RFP, is now underway. I will base my decision on the financial analysis of each option. It would be premature to offer conclusions before this information is made available.
- Should Rye Golf Club members be forced to pay a $300 food minimum, yes or no? No (spoken as an RGC member, not as a Council Candidate). The way the fee was instituted was flawed as there was not sufficient public discussion with Rye Golf Club membership before it was imposed. The decision should be for the membership and the commission rather than the City Council, but the Council should make sure that all City boards, commissions and other committees make their decisions in an open manner. Public participation is the best protection against bad decisions.
Green issues in Rye. Questions:
- Is Rye being overbuilt, yes or no? Yes. Many residents have expressed concern about this issue. Zoning laws are complex, and we should pursue a balanced approach, but we must address overbuilding that reduces the property values and experience of neighbors.
- Should there be rules about cutting down trees of a certain size or age? Yes. Rye’s tree rules could be stronger. Other Westchester communities have more sophisticated tree ordinances. We should review the alternatives and hear from the public.
- Do you support the plastic bag ban in Rye, yes or no? Yes
- Should we cull the deer population in Rye, yes or no? Based on my research so far, we would have to follow a complicated process to obtain permission, only certain kinds of culling would be possible, and there are some questions about the ultimate effectiveness of a limited cull. However, we must address the overpopulation of deer in our area, and the City Council should continue to pursue the matter.
- What else should we be doing to make Rye a sustainable city? We’ve developed a sustainability plan, and I would like to see us follow it. In addition, I would like to see us encourage use of non-bottled water. Not a ban on bottled water, but steps such as ensuring city fountains are in good repair and well marked.
[All Word Association questions were not answered.]
Tell Us About Your Campaign:
What “ticket(s)” are you running on? Democratic
Who else (if applicable) is running on your ticket? Meg Cameron
[All other campaign questions were not answered.]
Tell Us More About You:
Where do you live in Rye? Glen Oaks
How long have you lived in Rye – since what year? 1999
What’s your day job? Technical Writer/Project Manager
If your co-workers (from your day job) were to describe you in a single word, what word would they use?
I work with at least 50 people within the course of a few weeks. I can only give you the word(s) I hope they use!
Did you have a summer job in high school and if so, what was it? I had several jobs over the course of my high school career, as well as jobs during the school year.
Tell us about your family. I have a husband, two daughters (28 & 5), a son (30), a daughter-in-law and a 10 month old grandchild.
What’s your favorite Rye area restaurant for “date night” with your partner? On a special night - La Panetiere
What’s your favorite Rye area restaurant for take-out or delivery when you are having dinner at home with your family? Sunrise Pizza. I only wish they delivered!
Where might we find you on a Sunday morning? With my family
What is your political affiliation? Democrat
Your favorite major league baseball team: I am not a huge sports fan. When I consider baseball, I prefer the minor leagues, which are more accessible and fun - for example the Bridgeport Bluefish.
Your Facebook page: NA
Your twitter call: NA
Your campaign web site: RenewRye.com
I am running on the democratic line on a ticket with Meg Cameron for two of the three open seats on the City Council. We both have scientific and analytical backgrounds by training and believe the City Council needs members who will focus on factual analysis and problem solving. Like many Rye residents, we have been disturbed by the infighting and politics on the City Council. We hope we can change the direction of the Council with our approach.