Editor's note: Every candidate running for City Council in New Rochelle in the Nov. 8 election was sent the same list of questions. The answers were only edited for style. Shari Rackman is running against Stephen Mayo to represent District 6. Mayo's responses to the questionnaire can be found here.
Name: Shari Rackman
Family: Married with three children
Line(s) on the ballot: Democratic, Working Families
Patch: Last winter was particularly severe, taxing city resources. What can be done to avoid similar situations?
We need to be prepared; a winter like the past one poses serious challenges to every community and with our limited resources, New Rochelle needs to use what we have more prudently and efficiently. I support the changes instituted by Alex Tergis, the DPW Commissioner, to combine plow routes, which, while making them somewhat longer, frees up staff to address emergencies without disrupting scheduled snow removal efforts. Proactive planning such as this will help us maximize our services while minimizing our spending.
Patch: The city adopted the GreeNR Sustainability Plan recently. What should the city concentrate on in the short run and long run to implement it? Or should it be something that is implemented at all?
Environmental responsibility is vital to our future. GreenNR is a framework of what we as a community are seeking to achieve over the next five, 10 and even 20 years. We must, however, obviously be mindful of the financial challenges we now face. I would therefore encourage the city to move forward on any initiative that either does not put an added strain on our budget or demonstrates an immediate financial benefit. I would also look for alternative funding options and suggest putting ourselves in position to take advantage of recommendations that present themselves at times when they would be most beneficial.
Patch: Declining revenues and increasing costs seem to be a fact of life. How would you adjust the city's budget without hurting the quality of life for its residents?
With extreme fiscal responsibility and good judgment. We are facing tough economic times and there are no easy choices. Public safety must be maintained—police, fire and other first responders need the resources to properly respond to emergencies. Streets must be plowed, garbage must be picked up and potholes must be repaired. As such we need to be innovative, by for example looking at similar communities to see what has been successful for them and what we can emulate. Look at , which recently changed to energy efficient lighting and realized substantial electric savings. We too can look for savings opportunities and ideas throughout the city. Of course, this is but a small part, but it is the type of outside-the-box thinking required in these financially strapped times to get the most out of our budget and be able to effect positive changes that make a difference.
Patch: Parking is always an issue in New Rochelle. What is the solution?
There are rarely solutions to problems, only workable compromises. There is parking available downtown—the issue is should those who go there to enjoy our wonderful restaurants and shops have to feed meters after 6 p.m.? The administration decided so at the request of shop owners who felt residents were taking advantage of the free parking and making it difficult for their customers to find spots. The challenge is striking the right balance between ensuring that parking is easily available to those wanting to patronize our restaurants and shops while making the rates fair and easily understandable. The administration has implemented a new parking policy which addresses many of the issues, and while I have some concerns, I feel we have a responsibility to give this new initiative an opportunity and then review its success in six months. At that time we can decide if it is working or needs to be modified accordingly.
Patch: What are some concrete ways the city can bring more businesses to New Rochelle?
We are very fortunate to have hired Michael Freimuth as Planning Commissioner and I will encourage him to take the steps necessary to reach out to developers and business owners to get them interested in the benefits New Rochelle has to offer. I support the efforts of Kathy Gilwit, our Communication and Marketing Manager, who is very effective in publicizing the attractiveness of New Rochelle so businesses and developers will be more enthusiastic about coming here. I would also reach out to local commercial realtors, as well as those who live in New Rochelle but work elsewhere, to suggest they use their resources and acumen to encourage businesses to move here.
Patch: How can development be used to increase the quality of life for New Rochelle residents and help the city's coffers?
Smart development generates increased real estate and sales tax revenue, both of which will enable us to dedicate more money to our streets, mitigate our flooding issues and beautify our parks and ball fields. Commercial development however requires considerable time and planning. More immediately, I would act to bring viable new businesses to our empty store fronts which will revitalize our shopping areas and produce more initial tax revenue.
Patch: If there is anything you want to add or if you'd like to make a statement, please feel free.
I feel very privileged to live in New Rochelle and to have raised my family here, and will be proud to be an independent advocate for our fair share of resources for District 6. I will work collaboratively and earnestly with the entire City Council to ensure that our city remains safe, strong and vibrant while controlling our taxes. If you desire responsible, common-sense leadership and someone that shares your goals for our city and our community, then I respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8. We have many challenges ahead, I am prepared and would be honored to meet them on your behalf.