The four candidates who are running for two council seats on the Bedford Town Board each tried to make their case at a candidates forum.
The gathering was held Thursday at Fox Lane Middle School and supported by the League of Women Voters' chapter for Bedford, Lewisboro and North Salem. Running for the seats are Republican candidates Francis Corcoran and Mary Beth Kass, and Democratic candidates Meredith Black and Julia Hallowell Vulpescu.
Corcoran, who is the only incumbent running, touted his record on the town board, highlighting its stewardship amid a recession and while keeping a AAA rating. He also highlighted his record outside of Bedford, including as president of a stock exchange, and in being a board member of the state's Environmental Facilities Corporation. He also has long-standing local ties, having gone to John Jay High School growing up and now being the parent of a Fox Lane High School student and a graduate.
Referring to his background, Corcoran called his skill sets “second to none.”
Kass, who has lived in Katonah for about 20 years, brought up her environmental experience, including as founder of Bedford 2020 and in helping with the creation of the town's climate action plan.
“This job is not for everyone," said Kass, adding that the board's role "is to represent the entire community."
Kass highlighted in the importance of consensus building and in finding common ground.
Black moved to town about four years ago, is a land-use attorney with Zarin & Steinmetz, and now serves on the zoning board of appeals. She believes that her experience can help, and stated that she is seeking the position “because I believe that I can do more.” In addition, Black believes in the need to compromise and work with others.
Vulpescu has lived in Katonah for about 17 years. She also went to Fox Lane when she was growing up.
“I have great memories here.”
Vulpescu brought up her non-profit experience, which included several prominent organizations, such as the American Museum of Natural History and the United Way of Westchester and Putnam. Currently she works for New York University's Langone Medical Center, and described herself as both an attorney and fundraiser. She also brought up financial challenges that Bedford faces, including the property tax cap and increasing costs.
The candidates were asked about the environment, which is a major issue in Bedford.
Vulpescu described it as being “among the top priorities.” She also focused on forest management, deer population control and in bringing in stakeholders for energy conservation rather than dictating.
Kass, who has been visible on environmental issues, highlighted her work and noted that the town board has been supportive. A role for Bedford 2020, she explained, was to help with implementation of the town's climate action plan. She also highlighted the importance of energy efficiency, noting that a lot of money is wasted due to what she described as a hidden holes that are in homes.
Corcoran feels that Bedford has been a leader on the environment and energy, bringing up the creation of a corporation that helps homeowners to finance retrofitting to reduce energy costs. He is also interested in how it relates to residents and the town financially.
What appeared to be the only explicit rift of the forum came when Black was somewhat critical of Bedford 2020. While she praised the group for communicating about opportunities and programs, she also felt that it could it go further and at another point felt that bigger projects may not be affordable for some. She felt that there are simple steps that can be done, such as dealing with "vampire" electricity, which means dealing with an item that is plugged in and uses it, along rain barrel usage instead of wells or the town's newer water supply.
One person asked how the candidates would handle viewpoints from other board members.
Kass described building consensus as a "real skill" and noted its importance when representing people.
Corcoran discussed the board's effectiveness despite differences from members, also bringing up how they agree on most issues.
Vulpescu suggested asking residents how they expect the board members to interact. She also wants engagement with stakeholders.
Black brought up her ZBA experience and how board members had differences, then emphasizing the need to find middle ground.
Another person asked the candidates how they would govern in a way that is different from Republicans and Democrats in Washington.
“It's rather shameful what's going on there," said Corcoran, who supports congressional term limits.
Black said that there are “too many people that are not willing to compromise.”
Kass praised values such as engaging, listening and communicating, which she feels that there should be more of in Washington.
Vulpescu feels that Democrats and Republicans locally have more maturity as opposed to in Washington.