Campaigning as write-in for Cold Spring board
Michael Turton interviewed Frank Haggerty, who is campaigning as a write-in candidate for one of the two open trustee seats on the Cold Spring Village Board. The election is March 21. Haggerty moved to Cold Spring with his wife in 2008. Click here for his candidate’s statement.
Why are you running for a seat on the village board?
I’m trying to bring up issues that are not brought up, such as looking at the root causes of village’s finances circumstances and its chronic inability to accomplish what it needs to do. The village is underfunded. Until we have sufficient funds we have to be careful with how we use them. I’m looking for better management.
This is the second time you’ve run as a write-in candidate. Why that approach?
Both times I grappled with running or not running — until the board did something that showed extremely poor judgment. This year it was wasting time on the idea of changing the speed limit, a very low priority and unnecessary effort. Last time it was changing the date of the election. I didn’t agree with that.
What in your background makes you a good candidate for trustee?
I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, applied science, which is useful in a village with infrastructure issues. The subset of my degree was the environmental aspects of energy development. There was an argument over whether the boat club remediation was a white elephant. It was real, very bad for human health and not a joke. I also studied international relations, which is akin to political science.
Which of your personal traits would help make you an effective trustee?
I’m relatively independent which allows me to think independently. I don’t feel I’m pressured or influenced by other people. When there’s something that people are missing, an issue they are not thinking about – society needs people who won’t necessarily go with “group think” or “go with the flow,” reflect independently and come back and say “This is what I’m seeing.”
What are the top three issues facing the village?
The absolute No. 1 issue is we must recognize that the village is underfunded. The tax base is almost 100 percent related to real estate. There’s a disconnect. Commercial activity can be taxed but the village doesn’t get revenue sharing.
No. 2 that we need a functional firehouse, community center and emergency shelter.
No. 3 is that members of the board are overloaded. A solution would be to increase the size of the village board, possibly to seven. And the mayor is part-time. He can’t do what he could if it was a full-time position.
Which issue would you most want to work on?
The lack of funding. As an alternative to revenue sharing I’m proposing a special business improvement tax district that would be used to fund Main Street. It receives the greatest wear and tear and demand for infrastructure – lights, quality sidewalks, garbage pickup. A Main Street special tax assessment would provide the needed funds. It shouldn’t be spread over the whole village; the business district should pay it for.
You serve on the Parking Committee. What has it accomplished?
A major accomplishment was the parking meter in the municipal parking lot. I agreed to that because I saw a dangerous level of congestion in the village in peak months. I voted to have a safety valve where people who need a place to park when there is none – can pay to park. I don’t believe metering is needed during the week or at night, only high-demand periods. If there is little or no demand, the fee should be lowered or eliminated.
In what areas could the current board do a better job?
There has been some progress on fees but we need to look at revenue sources. The state doesn’t allow a tax-rate increase without voter approval. We need to find out what voters think about this. If they are in favor, we can increase tax revenue. If people are confident the board is spending money wisely and spending its time appropriately they would be more inclined to approve increasing village taxes.
If residents are not well-informed, if they feel there is some secrecy, that creates concerns about what is going on. Then rumors start. Some may be based in reality but get stretched.
It’s not the perfect or only answer but we need to seriously look at a business district to get significant additional funds – at least $100,000 a year.
What knowledge or skill would you need to improve to be an effective trustee?
We should be open to learning new things … things we’re not aware of. Everybody has to develop skills to collaborate, to communicate in a way that is understandable to groups that don’t have the same perspective. We come to the village with certain preconceptions, understandings, assumptions. We have to be able to explain why we see things another way, to understand where we’re each coming from – rather than arguing over whether this happened before that or that happened before this.