Ask Lanny: Supervisor Gilbert talks about the Town’s infrastructure and more
Every month or two, we sit down with Supervisor Lanny Gilbert and discuss his work and current events in Yorktown. Have a question for him? Email AskLannyGilbert@gmail.com.
Has there been any progress on Yorktown’s storm recovery?
Yes. We’re still getting information from the utilities about the last round of storms and working to use that information to make sure we’re more prepared for the next one. I’m afraid that this is our new normal; our weather is getting more severe, particularly heading into thunderstorm season.
What have your first three months in office brought?
They’ve brought many things I did expect: the dynamics of working with the department heads and the town board members, for example. But I didn’t expect that more than a full month would be devoted to storm prep, storm management, and storm cleanup.
Tell us the story of how you came to Yorktown.
Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I were looking for a community where we could raise our family. We lived farther south at the time, but we’d always come to Yorktown to go to a restaurant called Huckleberry’s and to go shopping and it stuck in our heads as a great place to live. We found a solid, affordable house where we could raise our children [now 26 and 23], in the Lakeland School District which attracted us because of its strong reputation, size and diversity. It made sense for us to set down roots here.
What do you do for a living?
I’m an attorney and I practiced law for 34 years. I’m not currently working as a lawyer, but my legal experience comes in very handy in the work I’m now doing as Deputy Commissioner of the Probation Department. It’s a community supervision organization that works to both hold offenders accountable and help them address underlying factors, such as drug addiction, in order to help them make better choices, reduce recidivism and thereby further public safety.
How would that inform your work on the Town Board?
Over my entire career, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to people and also researching, seeing how seemingly different issues are related, working together and finding common ground in order to get the job done. I know how to identify problems, cut through red tape and I know how to find solutions. I appreciate the importance of transparency, fiscal responsibility, creating workable budgets and building partnerships between institutions, and I would bring that expertise as well.
I also have to distill complicated issues into an understandable form for many different audiences. In the courtroom, you have to speak to many people at once—a judge, other lawyers, clients, their families, spectators and jurors—and that’s a skill that would be valuable in town government.
What issues would you target if elected?
I want to attract more businesses here, and I want to think creatively about who can really help us do that so that we both increase our tax base and plan a robust future for our town. There are lots of wonderful, engaged young people here, and many of them are very attuned to the needs of our community; I would love to create a partnership with young people to look to the future about businesses in the town, as well as our stewardship of the environment.
I see a town that’s rich in assets, like the bike trails, Turkey Mountain, the theater in town, successful working farms, beautiful open space—and we need to figure out how to link them together, build on them and create an economy around them that generates revenue and prepares Yorktown for the future.
I would also focus on mental illness and addiction—things I address in my work every day, and issues that affect many of our neighbors. There’s a lot of work to do to destigmatize and support individuals, families and our first responders, especially our police department in the fight to restore people in our town to good health and productivity. And, I want to engage young people in the political process and listen to their ideas. I think it’s a responsibility of local government to get that in motion.
What other responsibilities do you think local government should take on?
Town government is about quality of life, making plans for the future, and finding ways to make life better for our residents and attract new ones. I do not view it as a forum to discuss larger philosophical and moral issues. Government has enough trouble with credibility without elected officials using it as a platform to advance their own personal agendas.
And I believe that the truth is really important. Oversimplifying or mischaracterizing issues to gain political or personal advantage shouldn’t work in relationships between people, and it absolutely should not be tolerated from elected officials. They have an obligation to be honest with you, and I guarantee I will do that.
Anything else you’d like to add? I am really hoping to see more women in government. I’ve been in leadership roles for many years, and increasingly, I think we’re all coming to realize something we women have known for a long time: Women are very hard working, and we do not quit, because we CAN’T quit. We plow through any number of obstacles to get the job done. We bring a more collaborative approach to solving problems, and every branch of government could benefit from that — including, especially, our Town Board.
by Larry Kilian and Mary Jane Kilian
Co-chairs, Issues and Resolutions Committee
Yorktown Democratic Committee
Are we paying attention to how the New York State Senate works? All too often it represents special interests and not us. Case in point: using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. In an attempt to improve our schools, New York State started using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. There is now a consensus of opinion that that was a very bad idea. Two years ago, the NY State Education Department put a 3-year moratorium on the practice because of concerns about its validity.
On May 2, 2018, the NY State Assembly, by a vote of 133 to 1, passed a bill (A10475) to remove test scores from teacher evaluations. In support of this bi-partisan effort, a similar bill (S08301) was introduced in the NY State Senate with the support of 54 co-sponsors (only 32 votes are needed to pass a bill in the senate). Problem solved? No. Enter special interests.
In New York, the for-profit charter school industry has spent millions of dollars to influence state legislators and oppose legislative candidates who do not support their for-profit industry. Why should we care? Charter schools are funded with public money, taking much needed dollars away from our public schools.
The Republican leadership in the State Senate never brought this bill—with 54 co-sponsors—up for a vote. Instead, they introduced and passed a bill (S8992) with the support of our senator, Terrence Murphy (SD40), which included an increase in the number of charter schools. It also weakened the requirement for non-public schools with extended day programs to provide instruction equivalent to public school instruction—a position favored by Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who votes with the Republicans to give them a one vote margin to control the legislative agenda of the Senate. The result: the law requiring the use of test scores to evaluate teachers is still on the books—problem not solved because of special interests.
Another example: gun violence. In the wake of yet another horrific school shooting, in March 2018, the State Assembly—with bi-partisan support—passed a bill (A089768), 115 to 20, which would allow a judge in cases of extreme risk to remove guns from dangerous persons even if they were not yet charged with a crime. Inexplicably, our Assemblyman, Kevin Byrne (AD94), voted against this bill. A similar bill (S07133A) was introduced in the Senate with 30 co-sponsors—with 32 votes need to pass. Enter special interests.
Tom King, the president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and NRA board member, opposed the legislation. It was never brought to a vote in the NY Senate. The result: nothing done because of special interests. If our Republican representatives had asked us what we thought, we bet they would have found that even a majority of gun owners wanted them to pass this bill to protect our children from school shootings and families from domestic violence. Special interests prevented the measure from coming up for a vote—State Senators can block measures without making their position public. We need to know. This needs to change!
Special interests have the right to spend millions of dollars to contribute to candidates’ campaigns and oppose those candidates who fight against them. We, the people, have a right to judge whether our representatives are representing us or special interest money.
In both cases described above, there was broad, bi-partisan support for a bill in the Assembly and no vote in the Senate. Take the time to find out what your representatives are doing in Albany. That’s harder than it used to be. For, example, local newspapers typically do not cover how our representatives vote, their positions even on important issues, and which special interest groups are giving them money. Are our representatives accepting contributions from special interests such as the charter school industry, public utilities regulated by the state or businesses working on the gas pipeline?
Vedat Gashi, NY State Assembly candidate (AD94) and Pete Harckham, NY State Senate candidate (SD40) have told us that they will represent us and not special interests. Let’s pay attention and work together to change Albany so it works in our interest.
By Larry Kilian and Mary Jane Kilian
Right now, pull out your car insurance policy and look at what you are paying to pay for uninsured motorists. It’s surprisingly high, given that the vast majority of drivers do have insurance as required by law. However, if all motorists were not required to have insurance, the cost would go up astronomically. Apply the same analysis to predict what will happen to the cost of our health insurance if everyone doesn’t have to be covered.
By Larry Kilian and Mary Jane Kilian
Low voter turnout, particularly among young people, has reached crisis proportions – and few people seem to notice. In terms of the percent of people voting, the United States ranks near the bottom among developed countries; New York ranks near the bottom among states. If we do nothing, we can expect fewer than 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds to vote in the coming mid-term election. We need to act now to increase voter registration and turnout.