Saltaire Summery

Saltaire SummeryBy Hugh O’BrienOkay, we’ve had the Village election. It’s no secret that many residents have expressed dismay and disappointment about many aspects of the race just concluded, and much of this is fodder for further frothing. First, however, the results:Trustee John Zaccaro, Jr., narrowly unseated incumbent Mayor Bob Cox, 178-157, in a race that generated both record registrations and record turnout. Former Trustee Hillary Richard staged a comeback by winning election as a write-in, while incumbent Frank Wolf also won easily.But let’s squarely face the hard truth: that much about this race has been of little credit to this community. Claims and counter-claims, questions about integrity and truthfulness, the fevered election practice of signing up as many people as possible to vote for you, and a great deal more, have all plagued the village for weeks. Candidates and residents alike complained of election fatigue, of being overwhelmed by the politicking, the prevalence of personalities over policies, and the desperate scramble for every last ballot, however questionable its provenance.No one person is responsible for the gradual decline of the civility of our public life. So who is? This isn’t something that’s just happened in 2016 – it’s been a slow trajectory downward for many years now, more intensely felt with each successive election. The answer, as clichéd as it is true, is simple: all of us. Certainly, the candidates share a big chunk of the blame. Those who’ve held or run for public office the past 20 years or so have tried to affect the outcome of each race in one way or another. Each candidate has made his or her own contribution to this coarsening of the public polity, ranging from making dubious claims to frantically trying to register every last pal (no, not that Pal) as a voter to help insure their election. The whole process has become a desperate struggle for individual votes, from which every…indiscretion…has flowed.             Yet not even this ill can be entirely laid at the sandy feet of the candidates. Sad to say, the entire community is complicit as well, because we, each of us, have allowed this situation to develop and metastasize. We complain, but in some part we all contribute to it – actively or passively. We substitute rumor for issues; being a buddy instead of being a responsible citizen; personal agendas for the good of the entire village. We don’t like it, but we abet it. We tolerate it, and worse, now seem to accept it. Until and unless you, not just the next guy, care enough to demand a change in how our elections are conducted, expect more of the same. Mocked elections lead to bad policy – a Board reacting to public whims and demands in place of hard facts and sound judgment, just to make sure of that next election.Right now, with John coming in as Mayor, Hillary back on the Board and Frank, Alex Chefetz and myself continuing as Trustees, the Board at least has the benefit of experienced hands. We’ve held discussions all weekend and are hopeful about the future. It would be nice to think a corner may be turned. We’ll know by next Memorial Day.One last note, a tribute to Mayor Cox. Bob has guided this village through some of its most difficult years, the last four of his six concerned mainly with recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Bob has worked incessantly hard these past few years, initially shuttling back and forth between Washington and Albany, with localities in between, meeting with officials and helping get funding and other assistance to bring this community back from the abyss.People may complain about the size of the market or the height of the boardwalks or other things, but stop – stop – and remember the state this village was in at the end of October 2012. It’s easy to forget, now that the worst of the damage has been repaired, just how badly Sandy struck this community, the absolute devastation left in its wake, an uninhabitable village under prolonged quarantine. Lots of people helped pull us out of that quagmire, and Mayor Cox led the effort, at no small personal cost. The rebuilding of a village is not a one-person job, but it takes one person at the head to make the decisions and guide the recovery, and in a time of great calamity for this community, Bob Cox more than rose to the challenge. We all owe him a great deal.Photo 2MarketOne of the legacies of both Bob and the board that served with him in the crucial years 2013-2015 is the new Saltaire Market. Many have been critical of one thing or another about this project, but now the place is open and operational, and from most accounts this first full weekend, pretty successful. Manager Patrick Adams reported he was absolutely swamped last Saturday, a crush only partially relieved Sunday by the Fire Company’s first Memorial Day pancake breakfast in years, at which two of the younger diners discovered the joys of flapjack Frisbee. (There’ll be another breakfast on Labor Day.) The store’s still only in the shakedown portion of the operation – or is “shakedown” the wrong word? I mean, you know, talking about a business and all – but by all accounts things are settling in and any bumps and grinds should be ironed out over the next couple of weeks. Good reports about the store-produced goodies, too. I can vouch for the pizza. Cottage cheese, on the other hand, may be an issue.Photo 1 Pancake BreakfastAs for the Yacht Club…. Well, it’s beginning to look like its promised self, but it’s been a longer and more difficult path to realization than originally thought. The projected project ran into some delays that have pushed back the opening a few weeks. The Club is still promising an “exciting” year, and it surely will be, but at the moment most excitement rests in the betting pool for opening day. June 17. Eh, why not?To have something included in the next Saltaire column, Hugh can be emailed at [email protected].