Come November, the presidential election won't be the only one that draws people to the polls. Closer to home, six candidates—three Democrats and three Republicans—will be vying for three open trustee seats in the Village of Mamaroneck.
In the next few weeks, Larchmont Patch will be running a series of Q&As with the candidates so you, the voters, know where they stand on issues impacting your community.
This week we'll be presenting the Village of Mamaroneck Democratic Party candidates.
Andres J. Bermudez Hallstrom
Bio (from the Village of Mamaroneck Democrats website): Andres J. Bermudez Hallstrom is a resident of Washingtonville and an attorney with a practice in Mamaroneck. Bermudez Hallstrom has served as a volunteer member of the Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee since February 2012. He was first exposed to the flooding issues facing the village when he served as a volunteer with the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service and was deployed during the 2007 Nor’easter flooding. Bermudez Hallstrom started his public service at age 17 as a volunteer in the Carnegie Mellon University Emergency Medical Service, where he reached the rank of operations manager. He subsequently joined the Civil Air Patrol and now serves as a captain and commander of the Lt. Anthony L. Willsea Cadet Squadron in Harrison. Bermudez Hallstrom earned a B.S. in political science from Carnegie Mellon University and a J.D. degree from Pace University School of Law. He graduated from Fordham Preparatory School.
Larchmont Patch: What are some of the major issues facing residents in the Village of Mamaroneck?
Andres J. Bermudez Hallstrom: The economic downturn has forced individuals, families, and municipalities alike to make hard financial choices. The best way to face this challenge is openly and with input from members of the community. I believe the general lack of transparency and communication from village government is a threat to the character of our village. When residents are empowered with more information and engaged with more respect, our community will be better equipped to make budget and land use decisions that reflect our values and protect our quality of life.
Larchmont Patch: As a board member, how would you help make the village a better place to live?
Bermudez Hallstrom: If elected, I plan on ensuring that board decisions are made in the open, with information being shared with residents. I believe that backroom deals are not what residents want or deserve, and that the old ways of running the village have lead to unnecessary and avoidable problems such as litigation and conflicts between village boards. I will also seek, consider, and respect feedback from the various volunteer committees and the public at large. These resident volunteers have vast experience, and it wasteful and disrespectful not to make the best of that knowledge.
As for village finances, I will work to implement long-term financial planning to ensure that public infrastructure is properly maintained so that we fix small problems now before they become larger and more expensive. By way of example, consider the Beach Pavilion roof, which has been leaking for years, had money budgeted to repair it for at least three years, yet has not been repaired, potentially causing long-term problems that may cost even more to fix. I will also seek alternate sources of revenue such as collection of unpaid parking tickets, so that we can ensure the village is less dependent on property taxes for its operations.
Finally, there is the issue of development. As a trustee I would insist that development be responsible and preserve the quality of life for the village. To consider only the potential tax revenue from development is myopic. The overall impact to the village, from traffic, to schools, to parking, to flooding, must be taken into account when considering new development. I also believe the village will be best served by considering zoning comprehensively, instead of through piecemeal and ad hoc variances.
Larchmont Patch: As a resident of Washingtonville, you live in one of the areas that suffered the greatest losses from both the 2007 Nor'easter and Tropical Storm Irene. How do you think this shapes your perspective towards future flood mitigation policies or actions that the village should take to prevent further losses in the coming years?
Bermudez Hallstrom: I was one of the many residents who was forced to evacuate during Irene. The major problem I had as a resident was a lack of information. The village put out alerts saying people in flood-prone areas should evacuate, but did not describe where those areas were. Residents who were not around for previous floods had no way of knowing if they were required to evacuate. A lack of timely information causes chaos, which could lead to unnecessary losses should we get hit by larger storms.
During my time helping out in the shelters, I noticed many specific issues. During both the 2007 storm and Irene, the shelter lost most of its power. The emergency lighting was completely inadequate and made operations and living in the shelter much harder than it needed to be. The wonderful Red Cross volunteers were able to handle the problem, but this issue could be easily avoided by the installation of a generator. I brought this issue up in the Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee, but the village has taken no action so far. I also noticed a lack of presence from village officials and a lack of official information. Evacuees were relying on information from unofficial sources, which caused widespread confusion and a unnecessary stress for residents who were unsure if their homes had been damaged, or where to go for assistance, or even whether the shelter would be available for more than a night. I believe the village must be ready and able to provide accurate, multilingual, and timely information to residents before, during, and after an emergency.
Larchmont Patch: What made you want to run for the VOM board?
Bermudez Hallstrom: I’ve lived most of my life in Westchester, and I really love living and working in the Village of Mamaroneck. We enjoy a special blend of small-town character, diversity, opportunity, and natural beauty that makes this a great place to live and to raise a family. I also strongly believe in the importance of public service. My ongoing commitment to the Civil Air Patrol and my work with the Emergency Medical Services have been extraordinarily rewarding experiences. I believe the ability to serve the public is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a citizen, and I welcome the opportunity to apply my skills and dedication to the betterment of our village and my fellow residents.
Larchmont Patch: Although there are many contentious issues in the village, one that seems to have resonated with local residents is a recent violation from the EPA that the village received for high fecal coliform counts in various spots throughout the village. Do you think this issue is one that can be resolved within a reasonable time frame and, if so, how?
Bermudez Hallstrom: I believe we must first figure out the cause of the contamination before we could possibly hope to commit to a timeframe for fixing the problem. If the contamination is caused by faulty sewer lines, it could be another example of short-term savings that end up costing us much more in the long run. If the contamination is being caused by illegal sewage hookups or dumping, then we must dedicate appropriate resources to enforcement and correction of the problem.
Whether the cause is broken lines, improper hookups, dumping, or inconsiderate geese, it is our obligation to ensure that our waterways are kept as clean and safe as possible. Whatever the cause, I believe that with the Board of Trustees focused on the issue, the village will be able to deal with and fix the problem in a timely manner.
Larchmont Patch: How will your background in community services like EMS and Civil Air Patrol inform your work on the board?
Bermudez Hallstrom: My volunteer work taught me how the smallest things can make all the difference to a person in need, and a group of people working together can change the world for the better. Being a squadron commander in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and former operations manager of an EMS Squad taught me that getting people to work together requires more than just being the person in charge. True leadership requires gathering opinions and information from subordinates in order to be able to reach one’s goals.
On a more practical level, being in CAP and EMS has given me an opportunity to work with various government agencies and departments (police, fire, Office of Emergency Management (OEM), military, etc…), and has taught me the importance of coordinating across departments and organizations in order to be effective.