What the Candidates Say: Beacon City Council

In anticipation of the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, The Current asked each candidate running for the Beacon City Council to respond in writing to questions posed by reporter Jeff Simms.

There are six council seats — one for each of the four wards and two at-large — and each member serves for two years. Each voter can choose a candidate for his or her ward and each of the two at-large seats. The candidates are presented in alphabetical order.

Ward 1

How should the council address concerns about development?

Nelson

Terry Nelson (D): It should make certain that during the residential building moratorium they reset zoning for Main Street, the historic district and Fishkill Creek for mixed-use development. It’s imperative that it provides more clarity and specificity in zoning in order for the planning and review board process to operate more efficiently and transparently.

 

Theiss

Wayne Theiss (R): The council should thoroughly examine the concerns from Beacon residents with regard to some of the larger building projects that have already taken place in Beacon over the past few years. It’s clear to me that there is a collective unsettled feeling in our community with this topic. I think we are at a point where it is important to focus on commercial building projects to balance our growth.

 

Yeaple

Paul Yeaple (Green): It’s the responsibility of the council to go out and be involved with all they represent. If they do this well, they hear what people are saying. The people whom I have spoken to in Ward 1 overwhelmingly believe that our development schedule is too much. Many are in favor of a moratorium; many are optimistic that development is not bad but they don’t see how they are benefiting. In fact, they are wondering when all this prosperity comes to them. We have to keep the moratorium in place until we can clearly and easily translate to everyone why it would be beneficial to their lives.

Describe your vision for Beacon five years from now. 

Nelson: I would like to see Beacon become a Climate Smart Community and a leader in Dutchess County in using renewable energy. The theater at the University Settlement Camp is a site that has untapped potential. I would love for this building to get some modern upgrades and be used more often as an event site for movies, concerts, etc. Finally, I would like to see an expansion of the Parks and Recreation Department so that it could provide even more programming for our seniors and teens.

Theiss: As I’ve stated throughout my campaign, my vision is to help find a balance in development between commercial and residential growth. Over the next five years I would also like to help come to a decision on what direction the city plans to go in with regard to the firehouse consolidation project. It’s also important to create recreational and job opportunities for our youth because they are Beacon’s future.

Yeaple: The right decisions now pay off in the future. Investing in the right places will bring more quality of life for the people in Beacon. Five years from now, we should have more parks and more bike trails. Taxes that are the same as they are in 2017. Less trash and more parking on Main Street. A much-improved intercity shuttle system and economic development system. Free Little League baseball and soccer. I wish I had more space.

What qualities or experiences make you the right choice for the council?

Nelson: Having been consistently involved in this community over the last nine years through the Beacon Independent Film Festival, BeaconArts and the Beacon afterschool program, I’ve had the unique opportunity to interact with a wide and diverse range of members of this community. I have heard and listened to their various concerns over the years and plan to continue doing just that. They know that they will always have someone in city government that is attentive to their needs. By creating and helping build the Beacon Independent Film Festival over the last five years, I’ve built a reputation as someone who is not afraid taking on huge tasks. I’m a doer as well as a good listener and I believe those skills will translate well if I’m fortunate enough to sit on the City Council.

Theiss: I believe that I have some important qualities that allow me to stand out and take on the responsibilities of a city councilman. Throughout my life I have always been active in my community here in Beacon. I’ve been a team captain and leader as I came up through Beacon’s baseball program. Those leadership qualities have helped me build a successful HVAC business. I’ve also lived in Beacon all of my life so I have a firsthand connection to the transformation that has occurred in my community and a vision for how to continue growing in a sustainable manner for future generations.

Yeaple: As someone born in Highland Hospital, who rode the incline, walked that mountain round, crashed dirt bikes, played Little League, got a Regents, graduated from Dutchess Community College, SUNY New Paltz and the Institute of Culinary Education, and as a former VP and financial advisor with Chase Manhattan, homeowner, business owner, taxpayer, chef and, above all else, the father of Hudson and Talulah, I have experience. I see what Beacon is — a true gem of unbelievable magnitude. We should all benefit and getting that done is all I want to do.

Ward 2

Although his name will appear on the ballot on the Republican and Conservative party lines, incumbent Omar Harper said on Oct. 17 he is no longer running for personal reasons and endorsed his opponent, John Rembert.

How should the council address concerns about development?

Rembert

John Rembert (D): The council should extend the moratorium if necessary to find an alternative water supply due to population influx and reassess zoning as it impacts key areas of our city such as Main Street, the Fishkill Creek corridor, our waterfront and historic areas. We have learned from 344 Main how building size and its proportionality to its location matters in development.

Describe your vision for Beacon five years from now. 

Rembert: My vision for Beacon is a place that provides jobs for our youth and those who want to live where they work. I also envision our city building a community center that is accessible (possibly on Main Street) to all our residents and particularly our youth and seniors. Our community will have adopted sustainable practices and established energy goals.

What qualities or experiences make you the right choice for the council?

Rembert: While I am new to Beacon politics, I am not new to leadership. I retired as a first sergeant after 27 years of service and leadership in the U.S. Army, having been awarded the Bronze Star for training Iraqi police officers in a combat zone. I am an ordained minister at the Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church and am completing a master’s degree in Biblical studies. I have been endorsed by the Democratic, Working Families and Beacon United parties. I have also been endorsed by the Independence Party, in part, for its belief that I will be nonpartisan in carrying out my duties as the Ward 2 councilman. With a similar belief, Mayor Randy Casale appointed me last year to the city Charter Review Commission. I am also an active member in the American Legion in Beacon and in the Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons. Being involved in our community, having the ability to listen to the people and the leadership skills necessary to get the job done are critical qualities needed to progress our city forward. I am confident that I embody these qualities and will serve well as a voice for the people.

Ward 3

How should the council address concerns about development?

Gauzza

Andrew Gauzza (R): The council needs to address the residents’ concern of development in Beacon. We have had a period of unchecked development with no central plan for moving forward, and the people of Beacon understand this and are concerned about it as much as I am. The council needs to get “down and dirty” when it comes to the specifics and details. We should look into the comprehensive plan, and place provisions for the amount of residential zoning as opposed to commercial and office space as well as triggers for a comprehensive plan update/redraw for when we reach 60 percent of our resource capacity. The council also needs to assess large building projects’ effect over time (e.g., one, three, five, 10 and 20 years in the future) to determine impacts to city resources and adjust to meet the requirements.

McCredo

Jodi McCredo (D): I believe that government officials are elected to both lead and represent the people they serve. Right now, it’s extremely important for us to slow down development, review our zoning to make sure that our historic landscapes and structural architecture are preserved, and provide incentives — such as tax breaks, municipal assistance with hiring, and working with businesses and the school board to create professional internships that high school students can take in exchange for credits — to bring jobs into the community. When considering new projects, it is crucial that developers communicate with our school district and other Beacon entities about possible impacts. We should also pursue grants to bring green industry into Beacon. This will protect our environment while creating jobs and solidifying Beacon as a leader in progressive sustainable growth. One major concern among residents is that Beacon is losing its sense of community. I believe that more events geared towards residents will help. For example, I would like to establish regular Ward 3 meet-ups, so people new and old can get to know their neighbors better.

Describe your vision for Beacon five years from now. 

Gauzza: It includes thriving businesses, higher employment within the city and a higher volunteer base in terms of the fire department and emergency services. I would also like to see a plan for updates on the city’s sewage and water systems at least in place and ready to take off by five years, as well as a plan be passed for firehouse consolidation.

McCredo: I see Beacon as continuing to be an economically thriving, environmentally conscious, close-knit community. New residents will be able to assimilate into Beacon life through local job opportunities and events. Our newer structures will be energy efficient and make use of safe, low-toxin materials for products such as sealants and insulation. New businesses will want to open in Beacon because this will be a beautiful, thriving city with a local population eager and equipped to work. As they are today, my children will be proud to say, “I’m from Beacon.”

What qualities or experiences make you the right choice for the council?

Gauzza: Voters should elect me because I am a lifelong Beacon resident and because I am young and I have new ideas and a unique outlook on compromising historical preservation with smart and sustainable development and growth. I value organization and solid plans, which is what I want to implement to accomplish many projects that simply cannot be pushed off any further (sewage and water updates, firehouse consolidation and various other issues pertaining to either infrastructure or recreation) while recognizing that it is not the city who pays for these projects but the taxpayers. I also value bipartisanship and working across the aisle to get solutions to problems. I like to see both sides of every issue before I make a decision, which I believe is what makes a good leader.

McCredo: Community engagement is vital to the success of any city. I strongly encourage all residents to get involved and hold elected officials accountable. I learned a lot through my work with Advocates for Beacon Schools, a group that became necessary because the former school administration was ignoring the concerns of the community it was meant to serve. Through both ABS and the Beacon Commission on Human Relations, I have become someone locals seek out when they are having problems because I am passionate about helping them find solutions. This activism has also taught me a lot about Beacon’s diverse population, and their equally diverse needs. It’s not about money, race, politics, or how long you’ve lived here; if you are a part of this community, you are a part of its potential. I work from home and I am extremely active in the community, so I will be accessible and available to anyone who needs me. My experiences have taught me what’s expected of council members and I have a deep respect for community members who make the time to make a difference. I am not afraid to stand up and speak out for what I believe in and I will not be intimidated by any group or individual seeking to put their own interests before the best interests of Beacon. I am ready for this challenge!

Ward 4

How should the council address concerns about development?

Bopp

Christopher Bopp (R): The City Council should spend more time listening to residents before they make decisions about any development within the city. Unfortunately, this has not happened. The limited amount of exposure to the Planning Board doesn’t give residents enough input to our city’s future development. We need to revisit how we get this type of information to residents in a timely manner. Considering social media, residents should have ample ways to review and know about upcoming developments and I will work to make this happen.

Grant

Amber Grant (D): Beacon needs stronger, smarter control of development. It’s time to take stock of where we are and where we want to be in the long term. Based on our plan for the future, we move forward with legislation that strengthens our zoning — clearly defining building height, parking, setbacks and green spaces, to name a few. We can get the details right and reduce variances through stronger controls and zoning regulations. We should also ensure projects contribute to improving our city’s infrastructure and our community. With aging water, sewer and roads, we need to push for a tax base or contribution model that supports advancements in these areas and for our community as a whole.

Describe your vision for Beacon five years from now. 

Bopp: My vision for the city is that we continue to have the same financial ratings we enjoy now, or better. Considering all this development, this new tax base should require that we do not raise taxes for five years. I also look forward to Beacon being acknowledged as the cleanest and safest city in the Hudson Valley. I personally will never vote for tax increases for at least the next two years.

Grant: I see Beacon as a thriving city where people from all walks of life are welcomed. Residents have access to great recreation opportunities and services, and we’ve made progress toward more efficient, green energy sources. We have a Main Street where business owners are profitable and where the community and tourists alike enjoy shopping and eating. We’ve been able to bring in more local jobs, so people can spend less time commuting and more time enjoying our wonderful mountains, museums and community. We have affordable housing options that have helped keep our community diverse. The historic and architectural integrity of our surroundings has been preserved and enhanced through stronger zoning and controls.

What qualities or experiences make you the right choice for the council?

Bopp: As a longtime contributor to the community and past City Council member, I have sat on the Beacon Planning Board, was the treasurer of both the Howland Library and Howland Cultural Center, and I have served as a trustee for the Christ Methodist Church in Beacon. I am a trustee for the Beacon Elks 1493, which contributed more than $102,000 to the community last year. I am also a real estate broker and tax accountant with a successful business in town for the past 28 years, and I have lived in Beacon for the majority of my life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from SUNY New Paltz and have engaged in graduate work in financial planning at Marist College. I live and breathe Beacon and look forward to serving my constituents. My door will always be open for comments and input.

Grant: I am so glad we have such an active and engaged community, and I value the perspectives our residents bring to the table. My years of professional experience in project and budget management, digital technology, and long-term strategic planning will help move our community forward. These skills are needed on the council and I bring a fresh perspective, a proactive approach and a can-do attitude to tackling issues. I’d also seek ways to make government more accessible and understandable to residents — I feel it’s important to keep the community informed so I get their input. I’m very responsive and have proven leadership skills, both in my professional and community volunteer capacities. This mix of professional and personal experience makes me an effective leader. I will put the people of Beacon and our community first, helping to guide us toward continued success.

At-Large

Amando Downer (R), who is challenging incumbents Lee Kyriacou (D) and George Mansfield (D), could not respond due to illness.

How should the council address concerns about development?

Kyriacou

Lee Kyriacou (D): At this critical time in Beacon’s rejuvenation, we must quickly and firmly manage new development to fit our community’s character and needs. That includes: (1) limiting Main Street height; (2) reducing creekside density and requiring commercial development; (3) insisting on appropriate design; and (4) expanding historic preservation. I have been offering detailed proposals for the past several months even before passage of the development moratorium, so that we can quickly get changes in place in the six-month window of the moratorium.

Mansfield

George Mansfield (D): As one of the only two incumbents on the ballot this year, I have the opportunity to begin addressing constituent concerns regarding development immediately. In fact, we have already taken significant steps toward refining and clarifying our current zoning language so as to better predict and determine the kind of development we need at this pivotal time in our history. With ever-increasing costs in pensions, healthcare, infrastructure repair etc., we must look for additional tax revenues without burdening our current base. We are now in the enviable position of having significant developer interest in Beacon. However, we must remember that not all development is net positive regarding cost of services and infrastructure impacts. We have recently updated our comprehensive plan, imposed a building moratorium, begun redrafting zoning in the Fishkill Creek district and Main Street — all efforts to secure a sustainable future for Beacon. In its draft form, future zoning language will make it mandatory to include commercial space so as to encourage small businesses and subsequent job opportunities as well as limiting density to a degree that it helps maintain the vitality of Main Street without compromising our quality of life. Having served eight years on the council, I have witnessed the tail-end of the bust years and the ascendency of the boom years. None of those years have been without challenges and inherent peril. It is how we, as a community, chose to deal with them that has put our city on a path to success. As an elected official I have always tried to encourage community engagement, discourse and education. I have learned to value and listen to all voices, loud and soft alike. I have learned that each day brings new opportunities and problems that we must react to with deliberation and a clear, comprehensive vision.

Describe your vision for Beacon five years from now. 

Kyriacou: My original vision for Beacon as a councilman in the 1990s was the renaissance it has been enjoying for the past 15 years — transforming itself from a worn-out industrial city to a vibrant community of diversity, history, arts and entrepreneurs. Many viewed that as unrealistic, but here we are. My vision for Beacon today continues that transformation, but adds to it that we tightly manage development to achieve: (1) a sustainable, thriving and more attractive Main Street; (2) a Fishkill Creek with residential/commercial restoration of empty factory sites as well as extensive greenway trails; (3) an expansion of our preserved historic properties, viewsheds and open space; (4) the “greenest” community in the Hudson Valley in terms of energy, transit and recycling practices; and (5) an active and engaged community.

Mansfield: There is no denying the inevitability of change. The challenge is to change by embracing and valuing our past while simultaneously preparing for an unknown future. I cannot say what Beacon will be like in five years, but I can say what I would like it to be and that I will work diligently to see these hopes become reality.

  • MTA spur line will be reactivated as either a bike path or intermodal form of transportation.
  • MTA will develop primarily office space on the waterfront.
  • Solar farm will be complete at landfill.
  • Camp Beacon will be a major hub of innovative incubators for makers, local food purveyors, educators.
  • University Settlement will be fully utilized for innovative educational and recreational activities.
  • Craig House will be renovated for either commercial or educational purposes.
  • Route 52 corridor will be reimagined and developed for additional commercial/job opportunities.
  • “Zombie” houses will be released by the banks and offered to first-time home buyers.
  • Commercial/residential rents become more affordable as new units are added to the supply.

What qualities or experiences make you the right choice for the council?

Kyriacou: My passion and expertise is in zoning and planning (plus a penchant for hard-nosed budgeting). Within months of joining the Beacon City Council in the ’90s, I proposed and helped lead the community through a development moratorium that resulted in major residential zoning changes affecting half our properties. If re-elected, I offer that planning/zoning expertise and 16 years of service on the City Council.

Mansfield: I believe that my two years on the Planning Board and eight years on the council will provide the experience, historical knowledge and familiarity with the complex issues that will be necessary to address the challenges of tomorrow. I know that all solutions are the result of healthy debate, compromise and pragmatism. As the owner of Dogwood and a frequent presence on Main Street, I am available and accessible to my constituents on a daily basis.

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