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White Plains Candidates Face Off in Forum

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The Republican challengers railed Thursday night against the Democratic Common Council incumbents during a forum at the Woman’s Club of White Plains, saying they prevent debate and transparency.

James Arndt, a Republican running to finish the remainder of the council seat left vacant by Mayor Thomas Roach, touted himself as an “outsider” in his concluding remarks.

“We promise to make an open door for the people of White Plains,” said Arndt, 44, a manager at Hugo Boss who ran for the Common Council unsuccessfully in 2009. “Right now the council doesn’t hear us. It’s about accountability.”

The eight Common Council candidates and two county legislator candidates running to represent the fifth district answered a handful of questions submitted by the White Plains Council of Neighborhood Associations, which co-sponsored the event with the Woman’s Club.

Most candidates pledged to curb property taxes, discussed the need for an updated comprehensive plan and praised the creation of “complete street plans” that include designated spaces for bikers, pedestrians, mass transit vehicles and cars.

However, candidates split mainly along party lines when asked whether the process for seeking a special permit application should be adjusted in light of Gedney Farm’s fight against the French-American School of New York operating on the former Ridgeway Country Club, and other development projects.

All Republicans except Michael Donnelly, 30, said the special permit process should be reconsidered, while Democrats, including Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona, 57, said the analysis process was very thorough.

“Special permits are there to allow for changes,” said Lecuona, an architect and urban planner. “It’s there to allow for flexibility.”

Republicans continued to extol the party as an unexplored alternative to the current city hall politicians, with Terence Guerriere, the president of the Gedney Association, telling the audience, “The time for change is now.”

Democrats like Council President Benjamin Boykin, 61, claimed their experience was needed in such economically challenging times.

“With me, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a thoughtful individual. Someone who will be fair, who will think about the issues and then make the best decision as for the long term interest," he said. "That’s what I’ve been doing in my nearly two decades of public service to you."

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