Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill still deserves better


To the editor:

Exactly one week after Peekskill’s State of the City Address, where our city was touted as being on “strong” footing, The Peekskill Herald, Lohud, and The Examiner all broke the news of a sitting council member being charged with filing petitions containing forged signatures in order to run for a seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators last year.

If this wasn’t concerning enough, there’s been a new slew of car accidents and injuries, including a flipped car and hurt child, our taxes are going up, a million dollar default judgment against the city, and Peekskill Herald stories have dropped detailing uncollected and under collected taxes.

What else? I can’t keep track of it all. Does this sound like Peekskill is on “strong footing,” or are we being gaslit with no end in sight? These things aren’t happening somewhere else, in the abstract, where we can all agree they are serious but don’t actually affect us. It’s all happening here in Peekskill and it is imperative the community understands that these things are not “out of our control.”

Last November, I wrote an opinion piece for the Herald, “Peekskill Deserves Better”, where I tried to pinpoint material, factual ways I thought our current council was making less than good decisions, ultimately shortchanging this city’s future.

I thought the breadth of the shopping cart ordinance was cruel, the rule change about letters written to the council unwise and less than transparent, the council’s trying to push through sudden, unpopular budget items ignoring departmental reports, and their apprehension of smart growth and expanding the tax base for the benefit of all, deeply stressful. I also knew the world wasn’t going to end. Peekskill will still be here, we will keep moving forward, and I will keep trying to do right by the place I’ve made my home, running both a business and nonprofit, and raising a family here. There’s plenty of time to do more good.

But this flurry of bad things happening to a good community is different. This isn’t a matter of how one views Peekskill or policy differences, and as before, I implore the reader to “look closer.” What is happening is reflective of a longstanding issue in Peekskill, and we are out of time to address it. The moment is now. We have to change how politics works here.

Involving Rob Scott, the sitting councilman, yes, we are all innocent until proven guilty, however this isn’t a personal legal matter that perhaps warrants some deference and privacy. Other than an unlikely acquittal, the best-case scenario for Mr. Scott is that he receives a misdemeanor for election related fraud.

Mr. Scott should not continue to hold his seat on the council and participate in votes while this case is pending, period. Our mayor’s comments regarding withholding any judgment until after the case proceeds are dismissive of democratic norms and just tone deaf. People in Peekskill are understandably upset after learning of this; the council has known about these allegations for the last six months, at least.

How Rob Scott came to sit in his council seat is a long, complicated story, but one that goes back over a decade. The gist is that Rob Scott did not seek out office. He was encouraged to run by the same small group of people, some who don’t even live in Peekskill, who encouraged our former mayor (now living in Beacon) to run several years ago and have been deciding who gets one of those council seats for the last 10 plus years in order to garner pliable, sympathetic votes for their personal agendas.

The Peekskill Democratic City Committee should really consider the cost of their successes these past years. I wonder if we could have had the same success in a more honest, transparent manner. We cannot govern Peekskill by small table, backroom decree. We need to build a vibrant, sustainable city that is inclusive of all, including our children and neighbors-to-be. And we cannot do that on top of a shoddy foundation. This moment should be a reckoning, for our council, for the PDCC, and for everyone who still believes their voices matter and that we can do better.

“Start where you are, use what you got, do what you can.” Get involved, friends, because Peekskill deserves so much better than this.

Brian Orsi, Nelson Avenue