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1919 Agreement Challenged

Residents have mixed reactions to run-off elections

Three Garden City Property Owners’ Associations ran run-off elections on Tuesday, Jan. 29 due to unprecedented challenges by two residents and a current trustee.

Garden City operates under a non-political form of government called the Community Agreement, with origins dating back to 1919. The mayor and board of trustees, as well as members of various boards and commissions, are village residents who are nominated by four POAs (Western, Estates, Central and Eastern) and serve without compensation. This is a typically unchallenged process, though the last two years have resulted in challenges and run-off elections.

Village Clerk Brian Ridgway advised that three simultaneous run-off elections and one made by a sitting trustee was unusual. Ridgway is election officer for village elections annually held in March. This year’s election, for the slate of run-off winners, will be held on March 19.

This year residents residing in the West headed to the polls, for a run-off election, to vote for their mayoral candidate while Estates and Eastern residents voted for their trustee.

Resident Greg Blair challenged trustee John DeMaro, the Estates POA’s nominee, while Francine Ryan ran against Dennis Donnelly, the Eastern POA’s candidate. Sitting trustee Larry Quinn challenged John Watras for mayor. Watras was unanimously nominated by the Western POA.

Residents at polling locations had mixed reactions to the run-off elections.

Voter Maureen Moynihan, of the Western section, found the run-offs an opportunity to come together and be supportive.

“It’s a positive sign for residents to have a desire for these positions and the run-offs allow us to make our own decision.”

Western resident Joan Collins described the run-offs as “democracy in action” and conceded that the village’s Community Agreement is unique.

“It’s good to rock the boat,” shared Collins. “I know both of the Western candidates to be of high character. They are good citizens with different approaches who are committed to volunteerism.”

However, fellow resident, Michael O’Conor felt the run-offs went against the spirit of the way the governing process was set up.

“The POA candidates are tremendously well qualified and a challenge is inappropriate,” added O’Conor.

Jonathan Kashimer, co-commissioner of the Western POA, said the overall feeling of the election was quite positive, describing the polling center as a lively atmosphere.

“I’m proud of the community involvement and excited about our residents’ participation in the process.”

Volunteers, including board of education members Tom Pinou and Barbara Trapasso, came out to lend a hand and support the property associations’ efforts.

Estates resident Barbara McElroy relayed that any opportunity for an open election is healthy but decried the “old guard” system.

“It’s time for the Community Agreement to be challenged for the farce that it is,” said McElroy.

Perhaps that comment holds a grain of truth among residents. The facts are that out of 16,000 registered voters in the village, 1,529 voted in the three run-offs resulting in a 9.5 percent turnout.