January 1, 2019
One thing this most recent election accomplished was clarity of vision for the village—voters in every election district want a village government guided by an engaged community and informed by experts.
In 2019, the Village of Ossining will build on our strengths as a diverse and historic Hudson River village, with a burgeoning entrepreneurial community. We have a strong foundation of knowledge from recent studies, as well as the expertise on staff, and the political will in elected office, to establish and implement a clear roadmap for the future of our village.
One of those studies was the Housing Needs Assessment that we undertook in 2017. It’s time to return to this list of recommendations, and to follow it, in order, as it was designed to serve us best. The recommendations include:
- Increasing leadership on economic development
- Proactive building code enforcement
- Expanding opportunities for mixed-use mixed-income development
- A more progressive affordable housing policy
- Updating the comprehensive plan
- Improving transit options
This is a holistic approach to addressing the greatest challenges we must overcome in our quest for a thriving community.
I am now entering my third term as mayor. With each term I have implemented new initiatives to improve connections between local government and residents. In my first term, I created Open Office Hours, and kept cameras rolling for public comments. With this most recent term, I began the Monday Mayor’s Message and embarked on a journey of Weekly Walks to explore every block of the village.
These efforts have established a more open and transparent government than has ever existed in our village. But these initiatives aren’t good enough. The people I am connecting with too often look too much like me.
Sometimes anger and divisiveness can be a reason for optimism… In this moment when our nation is more polarized than ever with a president who foments xenophobia, racism and isolationism, people are motivated to engage with their community in ways they never have. Right here in Ossining, this recent election shined a light on groups of people who feel underserved and disenfranchised. A goal for any municipal government should be to help its residents attain an equitable quality of life. That can only be accomplished if we find a way to bring everyone to the table, especially those who have not traditionally felt welcomed and included.
For years I have been told by experts, and colleagues, and even friends that it’s simply an unfortunate reality that the people who are going to engage with local government are going to be whiter, wealthier and older than most of the residents of our community. Every time we seek community involvement, we in government make a sincere effort to reach out in innovative ways to groups throughout the community. Time and again we make only marginal improvements. And that is not good enough.
Now is the time to try a new approach. I am proposing to my colleagues on the Village Board that we establish a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee. Fortunately, we would not be the first community to undertake this kind of initiative. This week I will be sharing with village trustees examples of approaches taken in other communities. Once we have a clear goal for what we are asking of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, we will turn to you, the community and ask for you to help us become a genuinely inclusive community so that we can celebrate our diversity and experience an equitable quality of life throughout Ossining.
Ossining has many reasons to be optimistic. We are in a moment when people are investing in our community. We have leadership in the village, town, and schools that all want to work together to balance our challenges and goals. We have a clear set of recommendations to set us on our path to a thriving community for all.
The Comprehensive Plan is a major component of this undertaking. It is multi-year task that will demand significant resources from village staff and elected officials. And it all starts with you. The Village is creating a Comprehensive Plan Committee to be comprised of community members with a diversity of skills, cultures and life experiences. This Committee will work to establish the vision of who Ossining wants to be in the next 5, 10 and 20 years.
So tell me, are we all feeling optimistic? YES, and with good reason.