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January 22, 2016


Palin envy

This week, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin resurfaced on the national political scene, endorsing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in his battle with conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the GOP nomination for the most powerful elected position on planet Earth.

Think of that.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Citizens Nominating Committee is, as The Inquirer goes to press, considering candidates to nominate for the three village trustee positions up for grabs in this year’s election.

Well, sort of up for grabs.

See, the CNC is the marquee component of the Village of Scarsdale’s nonpartisan agreement, which has been conceived, in part, to avoid the type of rancorous — frankly embarrassing — cavalcade of caricatures clawing at each other for the chance to lose to Hillary Clinton in the general presidential election.

Not that there would be many primaries if Scarsdale used a traditional partisan system to populate its board of trustees — though other communities in the area have seen them — but the point of the nonpartisan system is well made in that, typically, Scarsdale elections aren’t subject to the mudslinging and trip-hammer party posturing seen, not just nationally, but at the local level as well.

The Inquirer wouldn’t wish those things on the village in a park, however enjoyable it might be to cover, but is it possible there’s a happy medium between what we see at the national level and what we see in Scarsdale, where an ever-diminishing electorate dutifully pulls for the only choices available to it on the ballot?

It’s hard to deny, and so The Inquirer won’t, the nonpartisan system produces, by and large, a consistent crop of dedicated public servants who have the village’s best interests in mind and at heart. But those who find their way to the dais at Rutherford Hall almost always do so after years of volunteerism on Scarsdale’s volunteer boards and organizations, each dedicated to some aspect of village life, if not the future and prosperity of the whole of Scarsdale.

As a result, it seems to The Inquirer the same names spend years moving from the roster of one board, one council, one panel, to another which, by its very nature, limits the number of opportunities for new blood — be it in the form of recent arrivals or newly interested established residents — to make its way into the upper echelons of village public service.

The irony of this, of course, is the CNC has had trouble in recent years filling out its own ranks, which, again, perhaps ironically, is done through contested elections in each of the village’s five neighborhoods. While one might think therein lay the opportunity for interested parties outside the volunteering continuum to break into Scarsdale politics, who among the newly arrived or the heretofore unknown is going to readily step up to be demolished in a CNC election by someone his or her neighbors have known for a decade or two as a dedicated Scarsdalian? The Inquirer guesses few, and fewer still of those who might offer themselves up for such slaughter are likely to even know what the process for getting on the CNC is in the first place.

Or what the CNC even is.

And so The Inquirer finds it difficult to fully, or even substantially, condemn a system that produces a mayor like Bob Steves, or a trustee like William Stern, but, in the paper’s wildest dreams, would there be something so wrong with a spirited campaign like the one in which Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are currently engaged? Might not a Scarsdale election be energized by a legitimate independent candidacy, such as the one former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb is said to be considering?

In all likelihood, it’ll be some time before we know.

And so, assuming trustees Deborah Pekarek and Marc Samwick want to return to the board and are selected to do so, the departure of two-term Trustee David Lee from the dais means Scarsdalians will see one new name on the ballot in March.

The Inquirer can’t help but hope it’ll be a new new name.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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