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Bedford Town Board Q&A: Meredith Black

Meredith Black is one of two Democratic candidates running for council seats on the Bedford Town Board. She is a land use attorney for the law firm Zarin & Steinmetz and is a Zoning Board of Appeals member. The interview is edited for formatting but not for content.

Patch:
Why are you running?
Black: I am running for Town Board because I have ideas on planning, transparency, and outreach which I believe could improve the way the Town and its residents interact.  Sitting on the Zoning Board of Appeals I have had the opportunity to observe impact and operation of various Town laws, and I believe that there are laws and policies we can change, and processes which could be improved. 

Patch: How well do you think the current town board has governed and what, if anything, would you change?
Black: The Town Board has done well, but I believe that the decision making process could be more transparent.  Stakeholders and the public should be invited into the decision making process.  Agendas and meeting minutes must be regularly posted in advance of, and following meetings, so that the public can actively, and timely understand the issues the Town Board is discussing. 

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? 
Black: 
Independent.  The quality and cost of our schools significantly impacts our community, having canvassed the community, I am greatly concerned that rising taxes will push many residents out, and discourage new residents from moving in. As such, I believe it is imperative that the Town Board try to work more closely with the School Board on budgetary issues, as well as common topics, so as to ensure that our communities remain affordable.    

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?
Black: Traditional septic systems are failing, and all options and possibilities for improved wastewater treatment must be explored.
  
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?
Black: Property revaluation is a challenging issue, however, in order to effectively and fairly equalize property valuations, particularly as they relate to school taxes, all municipalities within the respective school districts must participate in the revaluation process.  

Patch: The idea of updating Bedford's comprehensive plan was recently brought up by supervisor candidate Chris Burdick during the League of Women Voters candidates' forum. Do you support updating the comprehensive plan?
Black: The Comprehensive Plan is the vision for the Town, and the basis for all future development.  The Comprehensive Plan was last updated in 2002, and by its own recommendations should have been updated in 2012.  Since its last revision, our community suffered through an economic crisis, a real estate downturn, and several significant weather events, we also opened a water treatment facility, and enacted environmental and historic preservation laws and regulations.  It is time for an update which reflects our present reality and improved vision for the Town.  
  
Patch: How should Bedford proceed, going forward, with handling Westchester County's affordable housing settlement?
Black: Review the recommendations of the Housing Monitor; conduct a critical, internal review of our Zoning Regulations and Town Code; evaluate and analyze the Town's housing needs; and revise the Comprehensive Plan, and thereafter the Zoning Regulations and Town Code accordingly.   

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?
Black: Safety is a critical component of the community. Alternative public safety arrangements may work in other communities, but each community is unique.  Before spending money studying an alternative public safety arrangement, as a member of the Town Board I would first seek to better understand the service and effectiveness of the current public safety program we have in place.  

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? 
Black: As a member of the Town Board I would seek to maintain and improve as many public amenities as possible, and seek the input of Town Department heads and residents on how to modify programs so as to ensure that the Town lives within its means.  

Patch: How would you describe the relationship between the town board and the merchants in the hamlets? Is there anything you would change?
Black: The relationship between the Town and the merchants appears to be open and friendly, however, there is always more that can be done to support and promote our local merchants.  As a member of the Town Board I would hope to meet with local merchants to understand their issues, concerns, and ideas, as well as determine ways in which to promote their businesses and the economic success of various hamlets.

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