PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – The Port Chester Daily Voice is profiling the candidates for the village Board of Trustees and for mayor in the March 19 election. Each candidate was asked the same questions.
Mayor Dennis Pilla, running on the Citizens for Better Government (CBG) ticket, is being challenged by Neil Pagano, a candidate on the Republican, Conservative and Independent party lines, for a two-year mayoral term.
Nine candidates are running for six 3-year seats on the Village Board. They include incumbents Daniel Brakewood (D, CBG), Joseph Kenner (R), Saverio Terenzi (R, C, I), Luis Marino (D, CBG) and Bart Didden (C, I). John Branca is not seeking re-election.
New candidates are Gregory Adams (D, CBG), Gene Ceccarelli (Pride of Port Chester), John Reavis (Coalition Party), Ricardo Dos Anjos (C) and Francis Ferrara (R), who serves on the Industrial Development Agency.
The Daily Voice asked Kenner about his background and what he would do if reelected to the Board of Trustees. Here are his answers.
Tell us about yourself and your family.
I am single. I have lived in the village for 15 years and Westchester County for 17 years.
Why are you running for the Village of Port Chester Board of Trustees?
My last three years as a Trustee can only be described as “promises made, promises kept.” When I ran for Trustee three years ago, I promised to hold the line on taxes, spending and debt.
During the 2011-12 budget cycle, I was part of a fiscally responsible majority that amended the village manager’s budget and did what very few governing bodies do these days: We cut the tax levy and decreased year-over-year spending. We took about $1.3 million out of the tax levy and reduced spending by approximately $100,000 – all without one layoff. In fact, the Auditors Report for the 2011-12 budget year showed that we ended that budget cycle with a $250,000 surplus.
We also put an end to long-term borrowing and spending, shifted to lower cost, short-term borrowing that shaved nearly $4 million of long-term debt off of our balance sheet and saved $300,000 in debt service. Not only are we now receiving monthly financial reports from our Treasurer, we also have a draft five-year operating budget that will be instructive to the Board as we plan for the future. These were all things I advocated for while on the previous Board as an appointed Trustee.
Looking to the future, Port Chester, like other local governments, is facing challenges on a number of fronts, from exploding pension and health benefit costs to declining assessments. What I have learned is that the old models of governing no longer work. Unfortunately, what I have also learned is that our governing bodies are also not working.
We need to create new alliances that accomplish things for our residents. That is why I am running on a unity ticket that is a fusion of a registered Democrat, Conservative and non-affiliated voters, and me as the lone Republican . . . all of us on the Republican ticket, mind you.
What qualifies you to be a village trustee?
In all of my personal, civic and professional roles, I have learned how to problem-solve, collaborate with others as part of a functional team and deliver results.
My educational and professional background prepared me to critically analyze complex financial problems and formulate solutions, while working with a diverse team of individuals.
My civic duties put all of the numbers, budget balancing and delivery of results into perspective. I always bear in mind that whatever I do as an elected official, I do my best to add to the quality of life of everyone I represent, for the greater good of Port Chester.
My goal is to make sure the legacy I leave is a solid one for those who follow me 10, 15, 20 years from now.
What are the three biggest issues facing the village today?
If elected, my priorities for a new term will be to continue to hold the line on taxes and spending through smart reforms and smart economic development. These smart initiatives include: reforming the code and amnesty programs, developing a comprehensive plan to revitalize our marina area, and negotiating with Starwood Capital to develop a sensible project at the former United Hospital site.
We need to reform the Code Enforcement and Amnesty programs to ensure that innocent homeowners are not unduly burdened by the system, and also ensure that willful violators are punished for threatening the health, safety and welfare of their tenants.
We also need to revitalize the marina area so that it is no longer known as just a “parking lot” with a collapsing bulkhead, but a true revenue generator for the Village that is boater friendly and provides attractive entertainment options for our residents.
Finally, we need to negotiate with Starwood Capital to develop a project proposal that reflects the vision of the comprehensive plan and does not adversely impact the school system and infrastructure. A viable proposal must add to the quality and character of our Route 1 corridor and be a realistic net-revenue generator for the village.
If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?
My goal has always been to look for creative and innovative ways to generate revenue for the village through smart economic development.
We certainly need to stop the tax madness that has plagued government at all levels for too long. My first budget as an elected official is proof that I have not been shy about making the tough calls that hold the line on taxes and spending. When it comes to sharing our library and fire department, I have supported partnerships with Rye Brook.
I have also supported the Rye Town dissolution study. The next Board of Trustees will seriously need to examine the recommendations from this study and determine how we move forward and what is feasible in terms of dissolving the town or implementing additional shared services.
Kenner has served on the board since 2007. He was deputy mayor in 2011-12 and has been vice chairman of the village Industrial Development Agency since 2009. He is currently vice chairman of the Port Chester Local Development Corporation, an Advisory Board Member at the Clay Art Center, and assistant treasurer, a deacon, and youth leader at Calvary Baptist Church.
Kenner is currently the senior advisor for governmental operations in Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s office. He has been a sales strategy and Treasury manager at Pepsico, Inc., an insurance analyst at Lehman Brothers, Inc., and financial institutions underwriter at Chubb and Son, Inc.