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Government & Politics
Sleepy Hollow News

Sleepy Hollow Mayoral Debate Pitted Experience Against Analytics

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March 16, 2023

By Barrett Seaman—

The League of Women Voters’ debate between Sleepy Hollow’s seven-term mayor, Ken Wray, and political newcomer Martin Rutyna on March 15 was civilized and substantive. Much of the discourse focused on management of the village’s phenomenal growth brought about by the development of the massive 1,177-unit Edge-on-Hudson riverfront housing complex, with deference to the need to unite disparate elements of the community and revitalize its downtown.

Rutyna, a marketing executive who was recently elected a chief in the village fire department, repeatedly stressed the need for transparency and inclusivity in village government, suggesting that Wray has been running a closed shop. He advocated enlarging the membership of the Local Development Corporation (LDC) from its current four members to its full capacity of 15 members. He said he wants to “make sure everyone has a voice in how that new parkland (known as the Common) will be developed.”

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Wray did not disagree with Rutyna’s big picture goals but repeatedly argued that under his leadership, the village was already headed in that direction. As to Rutyna’s charge that Sleepy Hollow risked getting itself into a stifling long-term debt situation, Wray contended that the combination of property tax revenues from Edge-on-Hudson residents, $10 million in development fees and state grants, like the recent $4.5 million from the New York Forward fund, the village would be able to pay for improvements, including the 28-acre Common that is projected to cost up to $80 million to complete.

The handful of flat-out opposing views expressed by the candidates tended to revolve around administrative policy. Rutyna said he thinks Sleepy Hollow should move its elections to November, like every other municipality; Wray wants to keep them in March when villagers can concentrate on local candidates and keep them from being subsumed by national issues and candidates. Rutyna wants not only to broadcast all official meetings but also make prep notes for meetings available to the public in advance of regular meetings. Wray would reserve remote meetings for another pandemic. Rutyna favors limiting elected officials to four two-year terms. Wray countered that “We do have term limits already: you have to get elected or re-elected. If the voters think you are doing a good job, they’re going to re-elect you.”

Drawing distinctions between the candidates on some of the knottier problems involving parking, traffic and room on the roads for bicycles and pedestrians was harder. The challenger advocated working with the State Department of Transportation to untangle the traffic mess on Broadway at the intersection of Bedford Road and Beekman Avenue. He also called for more cooperation with the school district, both on short-term parking relief and the long-term prospect of moving the school. “We’ve been experimenting with some of those already,” countered the mayor. Our senior van is very active during the week. We also using it as a free shuttle during tourist season.  We already work with the board of education and use the school parking lot already every day.”

Residents viewing the debate in hopes of hearing a practical solution to problems along the Route 9 corridor were most likely disappointed. The complexities inherent in the fact that Broadway is a road governed entirely by the state as well as a principal north-south commercial corridor seemed beyond the scope of a one-hour debate.

The exchange grew distinctly sharper when the two men gave their closing arguments.” I want to bring a fresh new voice to our village government, and I believe that in 14 years we’ve had a consistent government,” said Rutyna. “But it’s time for that to be replaced.”

“This election is about results versus rhetoric,” said Wray. “In the five years that Martin has lived here, he has never involved himself in local government except now [in order to] to become mayor, which I find to be an interesting leap. He never asked to be considered for the Zoning or Planning Board; didn’t volunteer to be on the ad hoc committee to guide the process in developing the new Comprehensive Plan and hasn’t shown that he can build consensus, which is critical for a mayor who is just one vote of seven on the board of trustees.”

“I like Martin,” he added, apparently without irony. “You are articulate; you have an analytical mind, and after this election I hope you ask to join one of our boards.”

That veiled criticism prompted Rutyna to request a rebuttal, which the League’s moderator granted. “I do a lot inside this community,” he retorted. “Please don’t underestimate what it takes to walk inside a burning building or to dedicate the hundreds of hours it takes to do that. It takes consensus to be elected chief, to build consensus inside this campaign. “

The election is Tuesday, March 21st. Those who wish to see a replay of the debate can find it at https://youtu.be/KcI3c5_WtX4.

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