Hastings-on-Hudson residents will have the chance to cast their ballots in an uncontested election on March 19 for the mayoral seat and two seats on the village board of trustees.
The voting will be held on Tuesday, March 19 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the James Harmon Community Center at 44 Main St.
The Democratic incumbents are Mayor Peter Swiderski and Trustees Bruce Jennings and Meg Walker.
See our Q&A below to learn more about your candidates.
- Name: Bruce Jennings
- How long have you living in Hastings-on-Hudson? Since 1982, 31 years
- Age: 62
- Family/Significant Other/Pets: Married to Margaret Jennings (41 years). One son, Andrew Jennings, who currently lives in Nashville, TN. One cat named Shadow.
- Job Title/Profession/Number of Years with Company: Director of Bioethics, Center for Humans and Nature; Research/Ethics and Policy Analysis/Teacher and writer; 7 years with the Center for Humans and Nature
- Education: Yale University, BA; Princeton University, MA
- Other activities and current/past community involvement:
- I am currently active in a number of voluntary community service activities, both in Hastings and Westchester, and nationally, including: Andrus-on-Hudson, Board of Directors; Methodist Home for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Board of Directors; Sound Shore Medical Center, Hospital Ethics Committee; New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornel Medical Center, Hospital Ethics Committee; Westchester Collaborative on Palliative Care, Board of Directors; Westchester End of Life Care Coalition, Board of Directors; March of Dimes, National Bioethics Advisory Committee, Chair. Past activities include: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Board of Directors; Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, Board of Directors; Ethics Advisory Board, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chair; Town of Greenburg Ethics Committee; Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee
- Have you served in office before? From when to when? Where you elected? Have you run for any other office before?
- Hastings Village Trustee, 2000-2006; 2009-present. I ran for reelection in 2006 and was defeated. Three years later, I ran again and was elected. I have not run for any elective office other than Village Trustee.
- Party: Democratic
- Endorsements: Hastings Democratic Party Caucus
Why are you running for another term on the Hastings-on-Hudson Board of Trustees?
Since 2009, when a new mayor and two new trustees (including myself) took office, Hastings has developed a very pragmatic and effective approach to effective government and achieving clear community goals. Despite the recession during this period, we have made significant progress on waterfront cleanup, downtown revitalization, village comprehensive planning and environmental sustainability. We have improved the financial health and budgetary process of the village.
We have also significantly improved the communication, involvement, and transparency of government in relationship to the community at large.
I am seeking another term of office as trustee because our leadership team is working very cooperatively and effectively right now, and there are several important activities that are in progress to which I can contribute. I do not wish to leave such business half-finished.
How do you feel about the fact that the election is uncontested?
Would be challengers are politically astute. Contested elections at the village level are essential when there are clear differences in policy and direction reflected in the citizenry. They are less important when the incumbent government is open and inclusive in its approach, and when a broad problem-solving consensus exists. At the moment, I believe Hastings in very much in a problem-solving mode with a widespread sense of consent and legitimacy.
Personality and ideological conflicts are in the background at this time. I think this is a healthy state of affairs, and for this reason I am not concerned that running in an uncontested election is a sign of an unhealthy democracy or that it might undermine my effectiveness or credibility in my next term of office.
What makes you the best candidate for a seat on the board? What do you bring to the board as a member?
My principal qualification is my ability to contribute in an ongoing way to several of the important initiatives mentioned earlier and to assist in moving them forward. These are waterfront and downtown revitalization, village planning, environmental sustainability and fiscal responsibility.
I work effectively with other board members, with village staff and with community groups. I have a professional background in public policy analysis and strong communication skills. I am highly motivated by a love of Hastings and a vision for its future. I believe that I am able to share that vision and to inspire others.
Explain your stance on the following issues, and how you would address these issues as a council member?
- Property taxes: I do not believe that local government in this area is fiscally sustainable on the basis of property taxes alone. Regionalization and the consolidation of public services are inevitable and desirable over the long term. The state 2 percent cap on property tax levies is not a real solution—particularly if the state government is unwilling to provide additional support and continues to mandate local expenditures—but I support it as a guide and benchmark for us in Hastings. I support the measures we have taken to keep our property tax increases within the bounds of the cap. At this time, I would not support overriding the cap in Hastings.
- Deer Control: I support the experimental trial of immuno-contraception now being planned in Hastings as a long-term and affordable approach to controlling the deer population. I believe that culling through the use of net capture and an air pressure bolting device would neither be financially nor psychologically acceptable in Hastings. We would spend tens of thousands of dollars attempting it, find that we are unwilling to sustain it over many years, and in a short time the deer population would rebound and we would be right back where we started. Other lethal culling methods (firearm and bow culling by licensed professionals or traditional hunting) are not well suited to the dense, semi-urban built environment of southern Westchester and are hampered, if not prohibited altogether, by state and county law. Non-lethal population control may or may not work, but it is the most reasonable option open to us at this time. Simultaneously, I support efforts to install devices (barriers or reflectors) that would lessen traffic dangers and collisions with deer, efforts to protect against Lyme disease, and measures to change gardening, landscaping, and maintenance of our parks so as to protect biodiversity and limit the ecological damage the overpopulation of deer cause.
- Waterfront Cleanup/Redevelopment: I fully support the current remediation plan required by the NY state DEC and the federal court and accepted by BP/ARCO. I will support village government efforts to closely monitor and to cooperate with the clean up over the next several years to ensure that it is done properly and in a way that provides the most beneficial future development and use possibilities for the village. As regards development planning, I fully support the framework set forth in the Comprehensive Plan and look forward to the recommendations of the Infrastructure Planning Committee. In the next few years I believe that Hastings must play a proactive role as a partner in development efforts with future owners and investors of the site. We must not get into a reactive mode so that developers propose inappropriate schemes, which the village then has to resist and fight against. Good planning now can prevent falling into that trap later.
- Saw Mill River Lofts: I support moving the project into the phase of Planning Board and environmental review. I support up to date studies as a part of that process, and rigorous scrutiny, particularly of the drainage and flooding issues on the site. I support the affordable housing component of the current version of the project. My vote on final approval of the project will be contingent on the findings of the Planning Board review and recommendations. I have not made up my mind about it one way or the other at this time.
What are other issues facing the village you feel are important, and how would you address these issues?
I think inter-municipal cooperation and coordination is very important to the fiscal future of Hastings and also to sustaining and enhancing the excellence of its programs and services. I strongly support the exploration of initiatives in this area.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments while being on the board?
The two accomplishments of which I am most proud involve conservation and sustainability. I have assisted with the development of amendments to the village building code to enhance energy efficiency and to reduce our carbon footprint. At this time, these amendments are under consideration by the board of trustees.
I also worked to write and promote the village’s Sustainability Action Plan, which was adopted by the board of trustees in 2009 and which informed the pertinent sections of the Village Comprehensive Plan.
What is your favorite thing about Hastings-on-Hudson?
One favorite thing? The composite of all these: The character of its people. The caring and compassion of its community. The beauty of its river and landscape. The promise of its children, and the loving way we rear and educate them.
Anything else you would like to add?
The other best thing for me about Hastings is that living here has provided a truly wonderful life for my family and me over the years. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to give back to it, including serving in public office. I still flourish thanks to Hastings and still strive to help it prosper.