Don Scott is the Republican candidate for Republican supervisor. The office has no incumbent running this year because Lee Roberts chose not to run for another term. Scott's experience includes having served on the Katonah-Lewisboro school board, as a Katonah Fire District fire commissioner and on the town's wetlands commission. This interview is edited for formatting but not for content.
Patch: Why are you running?
Scott: I am running because I know I can help. The experience I bring as a former school board president, a locally based small business owner, a Fire Commissioner, a Katonah Village Improvement Society board member, allows me to see the big picture as we look forward to the challenges ahead. I have worked closely with Supervisor Lee Roberts; her encouragement and support to seek this position are also major factors in my decision.
Patch: How well do you think the current town board has governed and what, if anything, would you change?
Scott: I think the town board has governed well under Lee's leadership. It's been said that the difference between management and leadership is that, management is doing things right, but leadership is doing the right things. I believe that Lee has done both. I will strive to do the same. Elections are about the future, not the past. Going forward, to meet the challenges that lie ahead, we have to improve communication, engage the community in these important decisions, and make sure that we work together to get to the right answers. I have a long track record throughout the community of moving organizations forward, collaboratively.
Patch: How would you describe the town board's current relations with the school boards of Bedford Central and Katonah-Lewisboro? Should the town board work with them more closely on common topics?
Scott: I think the relations with the two school districts are good. Could they be better? Yes. Both entities taxes are coming out of the same pocket. We can work more closely together going forward. We have to. There are several examples around the state and around the County of school districts and towns working together to cut costs for their taxpayers. This will be an area of focus for me as supervisor. Taxes can't grow faster than our incomes or the system stops working.
Patch: Earlier this year Patch reported on the possibility of having Bedford Hills and Katonah use alternative wastewater treatment instead of traditional septic systems. Would you support a switch?
Scott: I have to agree with my running mate and town board member Francis Corcoran on this one, “What is taking so long.” The County has really dragged its feet on these alternative systems. DEP has allowed them is other places in the watershed. I look forward to the opportunity to use alternative solutions. It is more cost effective to address these failures on site rather than a “big pipe” solution. They are definitely part of the solution going forward, as many of our septic systems are under stress. As with many things, it is not a simple process. When I was on the school board, I got a great education on septic and sewer issues. I worked with Supervisor John Dinin when the DEP tried to force large wastewater treatment plants to be built in the Hamlet of Katonah. We were successful in having those projects stopped. Luckily, the technology has advanced, giving us more options for workable solutions. As supervisor, I will work hard to advocate for our town with the county to move these projects along.
Patch: Bedford is among a group of municipalities thinking about doing a joint property revaluation. Should Bedford continue with the process or should it stop?
Scott: It makes no sense for Bedford to move forward with revaluation. However, the challenges of the wild swings in the tax burden among communities due to changing equalization rates must be dealt with. The solutions must be addressed regionally. That said, I support gathering information about the process and sharing it with our residents.
Patch: The idea of updating Bedford's comprehensive plan was recently brought up by your opponent, fellow supervisor candidate Chris Burdick during the League of Women Voters candidates' forum. Do you support updating the comprehensive plan?
Scott: The comprehensive plan should be looked at as a living, breathing document that is constantly updated by various stakeholders. Looking through many of the elements of the comprehensive plan, nearly all have been dealt with and discussed at various board meetings. With the immediate challenges that lie ahead it is not a wise use of time and resources to rebuild the comprehensive plan from scratch as Chris has suggested.
Patch: How should Bedford proceed, going forward, with handling Westchester County's affordable housing settlement?
Scott: First, we must make sure that we are in control of our zoning decisions here locally. I will be an advocate for that. We are a home rule state. Unlike Chris, I am concerned about the impacts of this settlement on Bedford. Bedford has adopted the model ordinance. We have a great record on affordable housing through our Blue Mountain Housing Corporation. I will work hard to find opportunities to build affordable housing in our community in appropriate locations.
Patch: Mount Kisco is considering whether to consolidate its police department with the Westchester County Department of Public Safety. Somers and Lewisboro note that they have part-time police departments and have state police support. The town, meanwhile, was given a fiscal projection study that predicts budget deficits for several of the coming years. Should Bedford study a switch to either model as a budgetary savings measure, given the deficits projection?
Scott: Our police department does a great job. One of the many things that people value in Bedford is the fact that we have a full service police department. I would not support a change to have anything other than a full-time, full service department. Like all departments that I will be working with, we must live within our means. Working together, we can do that.
Patch: Bedford's three hamlets have several of their own recreational services, such as separate pools and separate camps. However, given the deficit projections released recently, can having three of each recreational amenity be sustained?
Scott: Yes it can. Our recreational facilities are world-class. Our parks and pools are the largest employers of our young people for summer work. For many it is their first real job. This is a vital program that I'm dedicated to maintaining. Much of the revenue comes from user fees, so to a certain extent it is self-sustaining.
With respect to the deficit projections, I am proud to have been the one who requested the town publish a five-year look-ahead budget and share it with the community. They did that in a work session in August. And yes, it reflects a structural deficit of 6.5 to 8% on average going forward. That is a challenge, but it is solvable.
Patch: How would you describe the relationship between the town board and the merchants in the hamlets? Is there anything you would change?
Scott: Based on many conversations I have had with merchants, I think the relationship is good. However, all things can improve. I am proud of the work that I did over the past several years with the Katonah Village Improvement Society hosting the town forum. KVIS worked with the chamber on one of them and will work more closely with them in the future. We surveyed residents about the kinds of businesses they would like to see in the Hamlet. We invited landlords, chamber members and business owners to the forum to participate.
I served on the KVIS government affairs committee, which went to the town to express concerns when CVS was considering moving to the Arrowway site. As supervisor, I will be proactive about contacting the chambers, residents, and business owners and organizations to help to attract and support the kinds of businesses that will help our hamlets thrive. Because of the economy, that is more of a challenge than ever before. When I was on the school board, we hosted regular gatherings with business leaders to foster communication. I would like to institute something like that as supervisor as I think it was very beneficial for all concerned. Successful leaders engage all the stakeholders. I know I can help.