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Clarkstown Councilmen Frank Borelli and George Hoehmann have brought the possibility of a new way of running the town of Clarkstown to the public. At the Clarkstown Town Board Workshop meeting on May 19, the room was packed to the brim with members of the public eager to discuss their ward system proposition.

Borelli and Hoehmann, who is also a candidate for town supervisor, want the public to decide this November on whether they would like a ward system installed in place of the current “at large” system. Having a ward system would split up Clarkstown into six different districts, where each district would have a specific elected official to represent them in the town board.

Each board member would have a term of two years and a salary of $30,000, down from four years. The wards would not be split up until the vote was approved, at which time an independent body would draw the lines. “We are simply offering to let the citizens decide in November,” said Borelli.

Hoehmann explained how there are 14 other first class towns, like Clarkstown, within New York State that have the ward system in effect. He said that he spoke to some of the other towns and got overwhelmingly positive feedback.

“I believe the ward system is an essential part of reform, along with term limits,” said Hoehmann.

Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner made it very clear that she is against the idea of having a ward system. She said she hasn’t formed an opinion yet on whether she thinks the idea should be put to a vote by the public.

“There isn’t a proposal that shows the need for it. I think creating more division in our community is not a good idea,” she said.

Councilwoman Shirley Lasker agreed. She questioned the wisdom of allowing residents to vote for only one out of the six board members and how it would be very unstable to change members every two years. She thinks it would be harder to get big projects done, as certain wards would only be concerned about what happened in their own ward.

The public was also very divided on the topic, some people thinking it’s an excellent idea, others worried about the division it may cause, while others wanting a vote on it.

“I think politically it would be smart to let the people to decide,” said Mike Hirsch, adding “It is a threat to our quality of life not having the ward system.”

“Today isn’t to battle over the ward system,” said Pete Bradley of the Clarkstown Preservation Society. “It’s to decide to let the people vote on the ward system in November.

Steven Kunis, a former town board member, stated that it takes a lot of time and money to run for an election, and that by having a ward system, it would make the process more accessible to qualified people.

Resident Bob Stein disagreed. He said, “I’m troubled by the notion of turnover. I’m in favor of competence. If they’re doing a good job, I’d like to keep them.” Stein noted that he’s worried that in a ward system little groups would be created that would only look after themselves.

Enid Weishaus, a Clarkstown resident and former aide to Hillary Clinton, said the current system works very well as far as she can tell, so questioned the purpose in changing it.

Mike Parrietti, who is part of the fight for the ward system in the Town of Ramapo, spoke in favor of the system. He said that by putting such a system in effect now, Clarkstown could avoid problems that many  believe Ramapo has. He indicated that organized groups have taken control over the entire board, leaving many people without a voice.

“It’s reassuring when you have representation, not divisiveness,” he said.

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