SHS ’20 graduate Andrew Morin’s brilliant letter [“Scarsdale’s nonpartisan electoral system is ‘flawed,’ discourages debate of issues,” June 26] unmasks Scarsdale’s hypocritical and “fundamentally undemocratic” electoral system. Andrew’s letter provoked a misleading response from six current and former chairs of the Citizens Nominating Committee and School Board Nominating Committee [“Setting record straight about Scarsdale’s nonpartisan system,” July 3].
The CNC/SBNC letter contends the nonpartisan system was created to enlist a wider pool of talented community volunteers than the few who nominate themselves and campaign politically. In truth, the nonpartisan system was established by white men (largely Protestant) of the Town Club to prevent the recurrence of a failed backroom political deal in 1909 between the Republicans and Democrats. The village elite decided they would “tap” “appropriate” residents to run unopposed for village office. And no one they selected dared turn them down. This system began a decade before women had the right to vote, and there wasn’t a Jewish mayor until 1969.
To be fair, the “nonpartisan” system is no longer blatantly sexist and discriminatory, but the CNC has yet to nominate a person of color for village office, and the SBNC has only selected two for school board.
The letter claims the nonpartisan system focuses on the largest problem first — the perennial shortage of residents who wish to volunteer to serve in time-consuming, unpaid civic roles. The Establishment perpetuates this myth to cement its control over village and school offices without the nuisance of competition. The reason more (and more diverse) candidates don’t run for office is the unpleasantness of the vicious, ad hominem attacks and the challenge of countering the power and war chest the entrenched “nonpartisan” Establishment unleash when contested by outside candidates like myself.
The letter portrays the candidate selection process as highly principled and unbiased. The reality is a stilted process, manipulated by committee members intent on having their own candidates nominated. I know. I was chair and vice chair of the CNC several years ago. I repeatedly stopped committee members from misbehaving.
The “due diligence” process is where the real backstabbing happens. The candidate provides references, which are checked, and are generally positive. But committee members set out to destroy candidates and position their favorites. These committee members — or the community references they report — attack and discredit the candidate; the candidate has no opportunity to dispute what’s alleged, and cannot cross-examine the reference.
When I presented as a potential candidate, a person I didn’t know circulated a slanderous lie to the CNC, saying I was a convicted embezzler. Who knows what other less atrocious falsehoods slip through unchallenged?
The nonpartisan system has been an albatross across the neck of good government in Scarsdale for the past century. We suffer from rudderless leadership in village government, extremely high property taxes that depress our real estate values, costly patronage appointments to key village staff positions, uncontrolled spending, and a lack of commitment to open, transparent and inclusive governance. That’s why I am proudly running with Bob Selvaggio and Sean Cohen against the CNC candidates in a contested election for village trustee on Sept. 15.
VCP candidate for village trustee