HARRISON, N.Y. - Mayor and supervisor candidate Ron Belmont (R, C, I) and incumbent Joan Walsh (D) were faced with pressing questions about the town Wednesday night, giving voters a closer look at their positions.
The candidates spoke in a West Harrison public forum hosted by the West Harrison Neighborhood Association on issues including privatizing the town's department of public works and civility at board meetings, to illegal landlords and hiring a town manager.
Belmont said he was "open minded" to the concept of hiring a town manager in Harrison, but he also said residents should consider the negatives.
"Yes, it should be considered," Belmont said. "It's up to the residents of Harrison."
Belmont said a town manager would reduce the power of the town's mayor, which could negatively impact the town.
Walsh also said she was open to the concept, but spoke with less enthusiasm for the idea.
"It's a thought," Walsh said. "It can work well. It can also be disastrous."
Both candidates also addressed Harrison's growing illegal housing problems, largely agreeing that changes must be made to combat them. Their methods, however, differed.
Walsh said the town should increase the fines given to landlords in Harrison who violate the law. Belmont said the town simply needed more boots on the ground.
"The program [to stop illegal housing] has to be funded," Belmont said. "And overtime is the way to fund."
On the issue of out-of-order board meetings, Walsh said the town should remember free speech when addressing public discourse.
"It has always been a tradition in Harrison to allow people to address the town board," Walsh said. "It is their right to speak."
Belmont said that though civility in town board meetings is a problem, those running them need to be better. He said the television broadcasts of heated town debates make Harrison an unappealing destination to outsiders.
"The meetings have been run poorly," Belmont said. "Town board meetings are for residents to get knowledge of the town government and not be entertained."
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