Kent hopes for return to political civility

(Original publication: , 20)

Town hopes for return to political civility

A campaign sign posted by local Democrats proclaimed "It's time for a change in Kent," and residents, officials and others are wondering if last week's vote will provide enough of a transformation next year for the sometimes contentious Town Board.

"Absolutely," said Wilma Baker, who along with her husband, Jim, has battled with the board over the town's recycling center, funding for the new Lake Carmel firehouse and planning and zoning issues. "They're not going to be at each other's throats."

Returning civility to the sometimes raucous board meetings was a major issue for many of the Kent candidates. From Philipstown to Patterson, the present board five Republicans and one Democrat is known for what one Kent resident described as "the professionalism of a second-grade class."

"I wouldn't even say it's a rumor," Patterson Councilman Ray O'Neill said. "That's the kind of attitude people in the county have" about Kent's meetings.

Meetings occasionally feature yelling as board members talk over one another and scold residents. Inside and outside of Kent, some are looking ahead to Jan. 1, when newcomers Kathy Doherty and Lou Tartaro are sworn in as board members, along with GOP Supervisor Annmarie Baisley.

"Hopefully, (Doherty) will calm some things down over there," said Stephen Rosario, chairman of the county Democratic Party and a Garrison resident.

Chairwoman of the Lake Carmel Park District, Doherty appeared on the Republican, Democratic, Independence and Conservative lines, along with an independent line. She garnered 2,475 votes on Election Day more than her two closest competitors combined. Republican Louis Tartaro won the second open seat on the board. Councilwoman Patricia Madigan, seeking her second, four-year term, came in fourth more than 100 votes behind perennial challenger Richard Quaglietta.

In addition to Madigan's seat, 16-year Councilman Dennis Illuminate's spot was up for re-election. He decided to run for supervisor instead. Illuminate has butted heads often with Baisley, whom he blamed for many of the board's conflicts. Yesterday, he said he had no plans to stay involved in town politics and would "be retiring gracefully."

The election was a "popular uprising," said Jeff Green, a Kent resident who maintains a Web site,, that focuses on town matters. Doherty, he said, was the only candidate with a clear mandate to sit on the Town Board. Baisley received only 40 percent of the vote in a three-way race for supervisor, besting Democrat William "Bil" Tulipane by just 100 votes on her way to a third term. Green faulted Baisley for not providing enough oversight of town affairs.

"Two-thirds of the people voted against her," Green said. "She has no mandate. She has to change."

Baisley denied Green's assertions but she, too, is looking ahead to 2002.

"I think we'll have a very good Town Board. We will be working together," Baisley said.

A former county legislator, Tartaro said he would "state the obvious" when asked about the new board's potential personality.

"I'm really guardedly optimistic that it will be less contentious," said Tartaro, a South Lake resident.

Michael Ravert, a Lake Carmel resident, said he hoped the board could engage in discussions without arguing. Maybe, he said, its professionalism next year will rise beyond the primary school level.

"I guess we'll know that come the first meeting of January," Ravert said.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005