Our Ideas

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A New Direction for a Lasting Change

 

Our diverse slate of candidates is united in one firm belief – that it’s time for a New Direction and fresh start for our town. We invite you to bring functioning and competent government to Town Hall – by voting for the New Direction for Ramapo candidates. We will end corruption and cronyism, lead with sound financial practices, and implement viable, fair, and balanced solutions for a dynamic, vibrant Town of Ramapo.

Governing with Integrity

The citizens of the Town of Ramapo deserve a high quality government that is responsive to their needs, open to their scrutiny, respectful of the highest ethical standards, well versed in best practices from around the country, and fair and impartial in its approach.

We will act rapidly to make it easier for citizens to find information about Town issues and actions.  Culture change to bolster professionalism, ethical performance, and inclusion for all groups will require a sustained commitment - one that we are eager to make.

KEY STRATEGIES

Increase Transparency and Accessibility for Citizens

  1. Make public meetings accessible and transparent through videotaping and live-streaming all public meetings, producing transcripts of recorded public meetings and making them available promptly, assuring accurate complete meeting minutes, and notifying citizens of meetings a month in advance through the website and other methods.

  2. Establish a Citizens Help Desk in Town Hall as a single point of entry for citizens contacting the Town.  Charge the Help Desk with being responsive to the needs of citizens, logging and tracking all calls made to the Citizens Help Desk, and logging actions taken.  Staff the Help Desk during all business hours.

  3. Reach out to all neighborhoods to solicit citizen input. Hold some board meetings in different neighborhoods to engage citizens of each section of Ramapo.  Convene community meetings to engage the public in decision making pertinent to their neighborhoods. Schedule monthly conference calls among citizens, the Supervisor, and members of the Town Board, allowing for questions and answers. Implement a neighborhood liaison system where needed.

  4. Establish a “suggestion box” phone number for suggestions and complaints to take up at Town council meetings, so citizens have recourse if anything in the Town does not function properly. Allow citizens to access the monthly calendar and other important information through the same phone number.

  5. Evaluate all Town employees in part on the basis of their responsiveness to citizens.  

  6. Follow all recommendations of the COOG (New York State Committee On Open Government).

 

Professionalize Town Government

  1. Convene a Task Force to reorganize and rewrite Town Code, beginning with sections on zoning and building, ethics codes, and financial decision-making.  Ensure that all sections of the Town Code include enforcement mechanisms.

  2. Stop the practice of changing Town laws to enable specific projects.

  3. Document any change in Town Code by recording in transcripts and minutes the purpose of the change, alternatives considered, content of citizen input, and oral and written opinions expressed by the Town Attorney. Reports from staff members and external advisors if pertinent should be preserved in files and made available to the public upon request. Require that staff memoranda explaining all proposed changes in Town Code address implications for the budget and all other Town departments that might be affected by the change. Changes to the Comprehensive Plan should be clearly identified and justified.   

  4. Reform the Town’s hiring process to assure that only experienced professionals, persons well trained, or persons educated in the appropriate field are selected through an open and competitive hiring process.  

  5. Emphasize a new, effective evaluation process and a clear termination policy for under-performing employees.

  6. Implement departmental reporting to the Town Board to ensure that the Town Board sees what departments are doing.

  7. Reform the Town Attorney’s office through an external expert evaluation of the Office and its personnel, and repeat the process annually.

  8. Establish a civil rights function within the Town Attorney’s office to ensure all Town actions are legal and to protect citizens from religious or racial discrimination.

  9. Create a Capital Improvements Plan that details the Town’s need for capital expenditures on items such as roads, sidewalks, parks, buildings, and other infrastructure.  Each year create a Capital Improvements Program in advance of creating the Town’s budget.

  10. Use the building moratorium period to launch a new Building, Planning and Zoning Department, to create a high quality, smart, 21st century department.

 

Develop a Culture of Accountability and Integrity

1.Develop ways for citizens and elected officials to serve as watchdogs over the fiduciary duty of elected officials to exercise the powers of office for the benefit of the public and not for the benefit of private interests.

2.Assure that the public can hold its officials accountable by making sure public processes and decisions are fully documented.

3.Create and enforce ethics codes for Town employees and officials.

4.Apply the Confidential classification only if it meets normal government ethical practices.  

5.Respect accepted human resources practices and protect the rights of employees if they become whistleblowers.   

6.Encourage employees to share non-confidential information with the public.

Actively Foster a Culture of Respect

  1. Set a standard of respecting all residents, promoting effective conflict resolution, and defending everyone’s rights.

  2. If the County level office of Civil Rights is not meeting the challenges of diversity in Ramapo, create our own Conflict Resolution board to proactively build bridges across cultures, spearhead efforts at finding new approaches to long-standing issues that have created tension and conflict, and manage situations that flare up from time to time.

  3. Create more open dialogue between the Town and Village officials related to land use issues.  Set limits on Village freedom to enact land use laws or practices that violate their own Comprehensive Plan or State law, or that impact residents of other Villages or of the Town.  

  4. Use the new civil rights function within the Town Attorney’s office to ensure Villages are operating lawfully and without violating the civil rights of any group or individual.  

Commitment to Fiscal Responsibility

Residents are suffering from a heavy property tax burden at the same time that other needs are not being addressed.  We call for a determined effort to reduce unnecessary spending, while searching for new revenue sources that will not add to residents’ property tax bills.  

We also will begin work immediately on a forensic audit so we can determine the true status of Town finances. Based on those findings, we will chart a financially responsible course so that taxpayers receive great value for their tax dollar.

KEY STRATEGIES

Reduce Property Tax Burden and Enhance Economic Development

1. Correct any deficiencies in the property tax assessment process to make it fair and transparent. Empower citizens to understand where taxes are going and their recourse on property tax assessment. Create efficiencies in managing the property tax function through an integrated process and software to ensure up to date property records, accurate valuations, and timely and accurate tax bills.

2. Implement best practices and full transparency to address debt servicing and repair the Town’s credit, which should eventually result in reducing the interest the Town pays and reducing overall cost to the taxpayers.

3. Prioritize the identification of new sources of revenue and cost savings.  Consider the feasibility of charging “fair share” user fees to fairly distribute the financial burden of services such as fire protection, road and street construction, and storm water management.

4. Expand the tax base strategically by bringing new businesses into the area to ‘expand the ratables.’ Accomplish this through rebuilding Ramapo’s reputation and re-branding the Town, marketing Ramapo and its proximity to New York City to attract businesses, carrying out a work force development program in collaboration with RCC to develop skilled labor, and identifying industrial corridors near the Thruway and locations for small and large businesses that will not negatively impact residential areas.

5. Shift some of the property tax burden to user fees that cover the true, “fair share” cost of providing services and utilities.  Assure that all categories of taxpayers, including multiple family dwelling owners, are paying their fair share of property taxes.  

6. Stop overcharging taxpayers to collect school taxes.

7.Employ skillful use of bonding authority to make the most strategic investments possible.

Cultivate Fiscal Responsibility

  1. Conduct an immediate forensic financial audit, and share the results with the citizens.

  2. Make sure money is spent on services that will be utilized by a significant portion of the populace rather than wasted on pet projects.

  3. Assure that debt is taken on thoughtfully and repaid as contracted.

  4. Engage a reputable firm to audit the books of the Town annually, and make results available to the public.

  5. Assure that the annual budgeting process estimates both anticipated revenues and expenditures realistically.

  6. Eliminate no-bid contracts.

  7. Expand the pool of bidders to bring in more competition on behalf of the taxpayer.

  8. Investigate realistic and legally defensible impact fees, professional calculated.  Impact fees are assessed only on new development to assure that the additional cost burdens attributable to the development are paid for by the developer.

  9. Maintain separate roles of Director of Purchasing and Director of Finance.

  10. Avoid lawsuits by following methodical decision-making processes.

  11. Develop options to address fiscal weaknesses, engaging interested citizens in the process.

  12. Conduct a cost/benefit analysis on the value of retaining each Town-owned property, including a study of the true cost of operating and maintaining each property.

Dynamic and Vibrant Ramapo

For too long, infrastructure needs have been neglected or addressed in a spotty, piecemeal fashion. We need to begin to address transportation needs systematically.  To make our code enforcement more fair and equitable, we must immediately reform the practice of ignoring the enforcement of existing laws.  We reject cronyism in government and will build a professional approach to transportation, planning and development approvals, and building codes.

KEY STRATEGIES

Overhaul the Traffic and Transportation System

1. Work with County and State to design and plan for financing a 21st century system of public transportation appropriate for the size and needs of the Town of Ramapo.  

2. Commission the highest quality expert analyses of traffic patterns and current roads to identify the most urgent problems and dangers, and to develop options for redesigning roads in Ramapo, in tandem with the Comprehensive Plan revision process.

3. Develop a capital improvements plan, based on expert analysis, collaboration with nearby Towns, and citizen input, to move Ramapo toward a safe, convenient transportation system poised to cope with current and future vehicular, ride-sharing, bicycle, and pedestrian needs and preferences.

4. Establish a policy forbidding piecemeal projects investing taxpayer dollars in partial solutions that are not consistent with the comprehensive redesign.

5. Design policies for limiting transportation-related noise and light at night for residents.

6. Include bike lanes and pedestrian zones as part of any plans to widen streets, as well as maintaining or even expanding green space.

7. Develop a school transportation reform plan to alleviate impact of school buses on traffic. Implement alternative school transportation approaches developed in other municipalities that have been studied for effectiveness.  Include car-pool safety and efficiency in the school transportation reform plan, as well as crossing guards.  Create a committee consisting of both public and private school parents to research the options and drive this initiative to make Ramapo safe for children.  

8. Assure that all new schools include safe and sufficient points of ingress and egress such that buses never cross the double yellow lines, never back up, and always have room to pull in off the road.

Develop Humane But Effective Code and Law Enforcement Mechanisms

  1. Serve as a reliable enforcer of State codes and laws as required under home rule law.

  2. Begin to immediately practice fair, firm enforcement of existing laws and codes. Remove incentives for code violation and the conditions that foster it.  Rules must be sensible and fairly enforced.  

  3. Incentivize good behavior rather than focus solely on punishing bad behavior.  Make it easier and less costly to follow the law than to violate it.  

  4. Work with the County fire department to develop expedited processes for those with compelling needs, such as non-profit institutions seeking to build new sites or expand existing sites.  Fire safety compliance monitoring should be proactive and standard, rather than reactive and punitive.

  5. Increase the availability of affordable housing that is built legally and safely and open to all who qualify, in order to reduce the incentive to maintain unsafe tenant conditions.  

  6. Initiate a high visibility campaign for educating citizens about their legal rights as tenants and their legal obligations as landlords, with an easy way to access support and conflict resolution for both tenants and landlords.

  7. Revisit codes and requirements that are confusing, expensive, or unnecessary.  When these are County or State level, the Town should advocate for reform.  

  8. Aggressively enforce building and other codes that are essential to the safety of tenants, the elderly, school children, or the general public.  These kinds of violations are dangerous and must carry severe consequences. Non-compliance with rules that support the ability of the municipality to monitor safety also should carry significant financial penalties.

  9. Work cooperatively with the County to ensure that all building permits are based on current and up to date contractor licenses and workers compensation policies.

  10. Offer greater support to those who have been ignorant or negligent in filing required reports in the past but who are interested in fully cooperating with the Town.  Assist cooperative people to come into compliance.

  11. Work firmly and proactively with building owners to bring buildings that house places of worship, educational facilities, other charitable organizations, and residential tenants into compliance with health and safety regulations.  

  12. Institute a new policy requiring demolition of any new construction that violates the law or fails to adhere to approved plans. Make potential buyers and tenants aware of this Town requirement.

  13. Develop legal policies and procedures to monitor over occupancy and to intervene when necessary.

Prioritize Planning and Sustainable Development

1.With the help of external consultants and residents, review and revise the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, imposing a moratorium on new building project applications for up to one year during the revision process.  The new plan must limit the quantity of planned development to an amount allowing adequate public services, including but not limited to water supply, sewage, electricity, schools, recreation, shopping, and green space.

2. Reform the functioning of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals by identifying ethics violations, training qualified board members, appointing a monitor to attend all meetings and report questionable ethical or legal behavior to the Town Board, and upgrading the Town Attorney’s training in planning ethics.

3. Resist “overdevelopment,” which increases density or demand beyond the capacity of current infrastructure and resources, changes the experience of living in the Town in undesirable ways that ultimately reduce the property value for a significant percentage of residents, or reduces the total acreage of undeveloped land below a certain threshold or reduces the amount of green space below a certain threshold.

4. Begin to rigorously enforce existing zoning laws and building codes.

5. Stop selling Town property, especially open land, unless the property is deemed as unneeded surplus.

6. Institute a policy in the Comprehensive Plan that rezoning to permit new schools should occur only on the basis of a comprehensive review of school needs rather than in response to the petition of one particular school or property owner.

  1. During the Comprehensive Plan revision, explore the benefits of clustering schools on campuses.  A key advantage of such a policy may be the enhancement of pedestrian and school bus safety surrounding schools.

  2. Register properties designated as Parklands with the NYS department.

  3. End illegal and inadvisable zoning practices such as spot zoning or granting excessive variances.

  4. Investigate incentives for the construction of new single family housing with tax breaks.

  5. Explore impact fees on new development based on the amount of impervious surface to assure that developers pay their fair share for the costs of rain water management.  Calculate these impact fees on a rational, scientific basis in order that new development fairly shares the financial burden of storm water management.  Consider awarding an incentive for developers who reduce the amount of impervious surface to a minimum required to serve the development.

  6. Require all future residences built to maintain adequate front yards and child play areas.  

  7. Address the need for vastly increasing the number of sidewalks for pedestrian use in the Comprehensive Plan, weighing sidewalk needs against sidewalk maintenance costs.

  8. Develop new initiatives to address drainage problems and the issues of flooding in Spring Valley in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan revision.

  9. Propose and enact a tree preservation ordinance, based on urban forestry advice and input from the public.

  10. Work with the Villages to form new BIDs (business improvement districts) where appropriate.

  11. Explore possible Town action on public health and safety issues such as the opioid crisis, mosquito control, and hazard mitigation.

Address Affordable Housing and Homelessness

  1. Challenge developers to think creatively about how to add affordable housing to their developments in an architecturally compatible manner.  

  2. Identify specific locations for affordable rental housing and affordable ownership during the Comprehensive Plan revision process, and publicize those results to interested developers.

  3. Address homelessness assertively through rapid re-housing in coordination with regional agencies and strategies in place.

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  • commented 2017-11-05 11:27:06 -0500
    Truly a comprehensive reform platform designed to correct 50 years of incompetent or self serving Town Governance. Hopefully the citizens will turn out in force and elect this dedicated slate.