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Letter to the Editor: Why Joseph Kenner Wants to be a Port Chester Trustee

Kenner is up for re-election in March 19 Port Chester village elections.

I moved to Port Chester 15 years ago, not long after I graduated from Williams College with a BA in Political Economy.  I worked on Wall Street and in corporate America, went to business school part time to get an MBA in Financial Management from Pace University, and I decided I wanted to “give back” to the community that had become my home, Port Chester.  I decided to wade into the civic waters.  I first became involved with the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) because I wasn't pleased with the decisions being made regarding our waterfront, and I wanted to see economic development become a priority for the local government.  During that time, the Board of Trustees surveyed the village to fill a vacant Board of Trustees seat.  It was an enticing opportunity, so when the appointment was offered, I grabbed it. 

When I sought that appointment to the Board, I was motivated by my concern that escalating property taxes in Port Chester, and all of Westchester County, were driving young professionals like me out of the area.  Many of my friends and I felt that the taxes we were paying were not commensurate with the services we were receiving.  I was once a renter who bought a place, not once, but twice, in Port Chester.  I love the urban, yet small-town feel of Port Chester.  I see now, as I saw then, the enormous potential that is waiting to be unleashed in Port Chester.  What I have learned is that the old models of governing no longer work.  Unfortunately, what I have also learned is that our governing bodies are also not working.  We need to create new alliances that accomplish things for our residents.  That is why I am running on a unity ticket that is a fusion of a registered Democrat, Conservative and non-affiliated voters, and me as the lone Republican . . . all of us on the Republican ticket, mind you. 

When I ran for Trustee three years ago, I promised to hold the line on taxes, spending and debt.  During the 2011-12 budget cycle, I was part of a fiscally responsible majority that amended the Village Manager’s budget and did what very few governing bodies do these days:  we cut the tax levy and decreased year-over-year spending.  Specifically, we took about $1.3 million out of the tax levy and reduced spending by approximately $100,000 – all without one lay-off.  In fact, the Auditors Report for the 2011-12 budget year showed that we ended that budget cycle with a $250,000 surplus. 

We also put an end to long-term borrowing and spending, shifted to lower cost, short-term borrowing that shaved nearly $4 million of long-term debt off of our balance sheet and saved $300,000 in debt service.  Not only are we now receiving monthly financial reports from our Treasurer, we also have a draft, five-year operating budget that will be instructive to the Board as we move forward and plan for the future.  These were all things I advocated for while on the previous Board.  For me, this was not just about keeping promises that I had made; rather, my expectations were happily exceeded by the results of our decisions.   There are too many households in Port Chester fighting to take “every penny a prisoner” during these uncertain and challenging economic times.  What our local government can and should be doing is providing relief and not adding to our residents' tax burden. 

This brings me to some of the issues I would like to focus on in a second elected term.  We desperately need to fix a Code Enforcement and Amnesty program that may have begun with the best of intentions, but in reality has contributed to the angst of our residents.  I also want to focus on smart economic development as it relates to the United Hospital site and the waterfront.  Only by focusing intensely on these issues can the Board continue to deliver a fiscally responsible budget as we have done since 2011.

As I have walked our Village these past few weeks and spoken with our residents, it is clear that the latest Code Enforcement effort and Amnesty program is handicapping property owners who simply trusted a system that was irretrievably broken.  We must not lose sight of the big picture.  We must focus on the real culprits who have willfully violated our Code for decades, thereby threatening the health, safety and welfare of those who own their properties.  We need to redouble that focus, and make sure that we do not punish the law-abiding homeowner who thought they were abiding by the rules.  Our homeowners simply should not pay for what the government failed to do.  I would like to consider grandfathering certain properties and forgiving open permits.  The Board needs to take a hard and close look at what is happening with Code Enforcement, the Amnesty program, and the Building Department, and make smart investments to enhance the professional staff and increase inspections, particularly on multi-family properties. 

We can’t begin a conversation about economic development without talking about the 15-acre lot on our Route 1 corridor.  When it comes to considering the United Hospital site, owned by Starwood Capital, I think it would foolhardy not to engage investors who may be willing to invest in what could be a $200 million-plus project.   I have said repeatedly that I oppose Starwood’s proposed plan of 800+ residential units.  I would like to work with Starwood to develop a vision for the site that is consistent with the people’s vision that is reflected in our Comprehensive Plan.  We need a project that will bring net revenue to the Village and not negatively impact our school system or infrastructure.   In my managerial roles on Wall Street and for other Fortune 50 companies like Chubb & Son or PepsiCo, Inc., I learned that you can’t negotiate a deal in a vacuum.  Our Comprehensive Plan offers a vision, and it is time for the Board of Trustees to lead, and not stymie, the discussion.  Let’s realize the potential of the United Hospital site and consider a host of alternatives by working with an investor(s) who are willing and able to infuse badly needed economic development capital in our Village.

Economic development in the Village can also be greatly enhanced if we were to finally revitalize one of our best, but most severely underutilized assets, our Marina and waterfront area.  I was proud to shepherd through the Board of Trustees a resolution that tasked stakeholders from the Village, the Industrial Development Agency (IDA), and the Waterfront Commission to develop a comprehensive vision that will make our waterfront a destination not only for Port Chester residents, but for residents from all over Westchester.  It is time we turned an area that has sadly become known as a “parking lot” and make it into a thriving marina area that can and will generate revenue for the Village. 

My goal is to look for creative and innovative ways to generate revenue for the Village through smart economic development.  Let's stop the tax madness that has plagued government at all levels for too long.  I've never been one to shy away from making the tough calls that hold the line on taxes and spending, and I am especially determined to unlock the economic development potential of this Village by collaborating with investors who want to invest in Port Chester, and by being proactive about how we can make our greatest asset, the Marina and waterfront, a destination for all. 

My name is Joe Kenner and I would appreciate your vote for Trustee on March 19. 

Joseph Kenner
Port Chester 

Editor's note: This is an updated version of the author's original letter, updated at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday.

ralph March 09, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Aidan, I think we should show a little respect here. This is a personal issue with Mr. Terenzi in which he is taking care of. I believe he is the best man for the job to help resolve the problems facing PC. Taking cheap personal shots at people serves none of us who are concerned about the upcoming election. Were you this critical over Clinton and his affair in the oval office with his intern or over Obama doing drugs? You can't have it both ways, now can you AIDAN.
Aidan March 09, 2013 at 07:09 PM
I've shown no disrespect. Mr. Terenzi's issues are his issues. But that does not preclude folks from wondering if he is the best candidate for the job. I took no cheap shots at all ... I simply stated the facts. That not having it both ways. YOU want it both ways, Ralph. You go blind when it's convenient because you don't want to question what every one else is questioning: Is Terenzi the BEST possible choice? Btw, I loathe Clinton. And I loathe Obama even more. But they're not involved on this level ... don't visit their slop on the candidates we have here. It's apples and oranges.
ralph March 09, 2013 at 07:16 PM
Mr. Terenzi is the BEST choice!!!!!! WAKE UP. You obviously don't live in PC.
PC Lover March 09, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Ralph, how many tax warrants do you think is appropriate for a CPA to have? Would you hire a cop who steals or a doctor who is a drug addict? You see Ralph it stinks really bad and you know it but you have blind allegiance for reasons only known to you. If the same information came out about ANY of the candidates for trustee or Mayor on either side I would feel they should step down....but not you. Ralph, the crime is made even worse when you know better. Sam Terenzi knew exactly what he was doing, knew it was wrong, and did it anyway....on more than one occassion. By the way, how do you know he is paying his debt? In LoHud Sam stated he thought he owed $30K but the State says $220K so he is STILL lying and/or clueless. Wake up Ralph, Neil, Bart, and the rest of the old boy network in Port Chester...can't sweep this one under the carpet.
ralph March 09, 2013 at 07:27 PM
It seems to me you have an agenda against Mr. Terenzi. Have you looked at this record dealing with the PC budget????? I think he is the BEST man for the job. Your mental midget Pilla and his crew are sinking PC! Can you please do the math!
Susie March 09, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Once again the journal news strikes. This is right up there with listing the name and address of gun permit holders in westchester. I am sure many residents have some such of tax issue. Why not print their names also? I don't care to know about Terenzi's personal taxes, I only care what he does with the villages. He seems to had done a good job with the villages. Funny thing in Port Chester it is ok to drive drunk (as Mayor Pilla did) but it is not ok to have a PERSONAL tax issue.
PC Lover March 09, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Susie I agree that many residents have tax issues, but not that many are CPA's. And of the people who have tax issues most might have perhaps one or two, but Sam has 5 warrants....AND on the record he stated he thought he owed $30K when the correct number is $220K. It's sad that you and Ralph can't wrap your head around just how wrong this is. If any trustee or mayoral candidate had similar situation I would say they should resign. Sam included. And no, it's not OK to drive drunk, but Pilla is not running for Port Chester Taxi Driver. Susie, two wrongs don't make a right, so bringing up Pilla's shortcomings does not forgive Sam. I do not deny Sam the right to make mistakes, he's human, but in my opinion the particular mistakes he has made repeatedly, in light of his professional degree and occupation, put an end to any opportunity for him to help to manage my money...or my Village's. If you vote for Sam you might as well be drunk driving too.
ralph March 09, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Susie, yes this is true....we had a mayor (Pilla) busted for drunk driving. He, the one in the glass house needs to go. KEEP personal issues out of this election. Let's move PC forward. His record is total failure. I am with you Susie.
Aidan March 09, 2013 at 07:45 PM
I sure as hell do.
PC Lover March 09, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Pilla's not my mental midget....he's Port Chester's mental midget. He was duly elected by the people of Port Chester but is constantly attacked by a couple of disrespectful junk yard dogs who sit on the board of trustees. I'd like to see you function effectively under those circumstances.
Robski48 March 09, 2013 at 08:08 PM
PC Lover- while he isn't running for PC Taxi Driver, he is, due to being a member of the Board of Trustees/Mayor, considered a "Police Commissioner", due to winning a popularity vote and should have known better.
PC Lover March 09, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Robski I am not defending Pilla's DUI....just not sure what it has to do with Sam's tax evasion. Must we re-hash it all? Sam made the front page of the paper today, not Pilla. Should we muck up and discuss Bart's indefensible history as well?
Aidan March 09, 2013 at 08:39 PM
As far as I'm concerned, this is Terenzi's issue. It doesn't belong to Didden, Kenner, Brakewood, Pagano or Pilla. It's HIS issue. And now it's a voter issue.
Robski48 March 09, 2013 at 08:49 PM
PC Lover..This is a cut and paste, by me, from another thread in the Patch which sums up your question.... "while I do not approve of Terenzi's civil tax problems, I find it funny nobody had criticized or is criticizing Pilla for his criminal DUI arrest and the fact he kept it from the public until he was about to be exposed by, I think if my memory is correct, the Westmore News. Especially since DUI's, DUI hit and runs have been a hot topic for years now. Just for the record, so you don't think this post is political, I vote conservative and do not like any of their candidates. I will be voting the "Pride in PC" line. Just think the playing field should be kept level." Not defending Terenzi, but all but one of the judgements against him were from prior to him getting elected in June 2010 and it wasn't a issue then. Now it is. Shouldn't other mistakes be fair game then. Look at my past post and you"ll see what I think about Bart's issues. Like I said, just trying to keep playing field even.
Samantha Terenzi March 09, 2013 at 08:51 PM
Hello everyone, I will start out by saying that I am very dissappointed in myself for even reading any of this, never mind responding to it. I have to keep reminding myself that the Internet was created for people like you, nameless, faceless cowards. Now I must remind you that when you are throwing shots about people, wether public figure or civilian, you are talking about someone's father, brother, someone's friend. My name is Samantha Terenzi & in this case you are talking about MY father, & I hope you all can understand why i may not take too kindly to the things i am reading. I apologize for any rude things I may have to say in this forum. I will not hide behind an alias nor do I want to spend my Saturday afternoon insulting strangers on the Internet. So I would like to take this opportunity to publish my personal telephone # & invite any of you to discuss what you think you know about this situation with me, his daughter. Unlike you, my father is not afraid to put his name on anything & as we all know he is not afraid to show his face & very much like the man who raised me- neither am I. This "article" was not exposing a secret, his tax issues are PUBLIC RECORD, just like yours are! (914)320-0805, that is my # & now that's public record as well. Please call me, I may even invite you over for coffee. If you really believe my father is an evil tax monster with bad intentions for a village he loves so much, come over & I'll let you in on a secret- we have no secrets
John March 09, 2013 at 08:54 PM
You are the one who keeps posting the links stories about Terenzi. I can't help but wonder what's in it for you. Terenzi has done a good job here. Maybe your life is without blemish. You must be completely perfect.
John March 09, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Very good!!!
Samantha Terenzi March 09, 2013 at 09:21 PM
My father is a brilliant man with a great mind for business. The things he has accomplished in his life thus far, most of us simple minded people do no even have the brain capacity to even dream up the things he has done in his life. & like most of the things he has done in his life, it's was mostly for OTHERS. Have any of you even stopped to think how this could have happened to a CPA? Could it maybe have some thing to do with the 3+ businesses he owned over the years? & do any of you know why he owned those businesses? Well, I will tell you he did not acquire those businesses for his own personal gain- they were purchased with the intent to employ others & give those people, me being one of them, a future. All my father got out of any of those deals was what you read on the front page this morning. MY PHONE IS STILL NOT RINGING. If you are too afraid to speak the truth with me, then please ask any of his hundreds of his loyal clients what THEY think about his performance as a CPA. This situation is just another example of my father helping others before himself & trying to lift others up, especially in their time of need. It's the old "you can take a horse to water" thinking he has used & he's brought more than a few of us to that water. That's what a leader does & unfortunately, he's paying for it. So all of you with ignorant things to say- remember that you will never get ahead by trying to bring others down. You couldn't sit in his Trustee's seat if you tried.
Samantha Terenzi March 09, 2013 at 10:43 PM
I still have not received a phone call from anyone. I am very surprised! You all were so vocal the ENTIRE day on this subject & from what I've seen in your previous posts you are all very vocal (behind a keyboard, of course) almost everyday on every topic on the Patch. I'm very dissappointed, I was hoping to put my new coffee machine to good use today. I would be happy to reach out & call any of you, but no one has used their real names on here. My offer still stands, please call me, especially if you have more information on this topic than I do, because that's the way you have all made it seem. If not, i can only wish you all nothing but good things xoxo
John March 09, 2013 at 11:22 PM
This is politics. Tear down your opponent, instead of showcasing your own. It works, unfortunately. I'm unimpressed by the negatives, I know what good Sam has done.
Anthony R. March 10, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Samantha, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps your father is a wonderful Dad. And it's hard to learn via newspaper articles about your father's shortcomings on other fronts. But truly, whether your father has good fatherly attributes or not, he does not have the financial record one expects or demands of an elected official. Your father has a long history of tax issues. Yet he made a decision to run for public office! Nobody asked your Dad to run for a trustee seat. He is savvy enough to know that his past might be (and ultimately has been) exposed. While I sympathize with your plight, your pain does not excuse the actions of your father, who has committed a crime (whether or not Bart Didden agrees that it is in fact a CRIME) . He is running for re-election and in doing so his personal history becomes relevant. We entrust our trustees to oversee our village budget! Your Dad has oversight over the allocation of the taxes we pay. Given the massive financial issues he is facing, he should spend every minute of his free time fixing and righting his own personal financial disasters. We don't need tax cheats on our village board. The truth can be harsh, Samantha. I wish only good things for you, despite your father's financial shortcomings. And while I appreciate your heartfelt defense of your father, I am not going to vote for a tax cheat.
Samantha Terenzi March 10, 2013 at 01:42 AM
Please do not feel sorry for me "Anthony" as gaining anynonomus internet sympathy was not my intention. May I please remind you that nothing has been "exposed" here. This tax information is public record & has been all along & this article was NO surprise to me, at ALL. My family has been in this game a very long time. You missed my point or just did not understand it- I do not wish to debate my father's tax issues over the nameless & faceless internet & that is the reason I left my phone number for all that really wanted to respond who thought they had something to say. I can respect your opinion & do agree with some things you say, & I do not mean any disrepect sir when I say this, but I'm sorry "anthony" your response might as well be computer generated.
Gofigure10573 March 10, 2013 at 03:25 AM
I pay my taxes and expect elected officials representing me to do the same. No to tax cheats.
PC Lover March 11, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Amen, Gofigure. That's the bottom line.
PC Lover March 15, 2013 at 07:41 PM
And so the plot thickens. Bart and Neil in the newspaper today being exposed for trying to get their grubby hands deeper into our pockets. As usual, Bart defends and Neil ignores. Anyone who votes for these kissing cousins deserves whatever they get. http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303130117
ralph March 15, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Well then vote for the drunk driving mayor. Once again you don't do the math. Mr. Didden is all about LOWERING taxes and bringing business into PC. BTW drive around the roads and see what a DISGRACE this is. Pot holes everywhere.
Anthony R. March 16, 2013 at 03:39 AM
Ralph, how's he going to lower our taxes - by grieving his own? Talk about "you don't do the math." Get a calculator. Pot holes are inevitable. They happen every winter.
ralph March 16, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Good for him. He should grieve his taxes. Why should the hard working people of PC have to fund and pay for all the illegal aliens that are flooding the schools and closing our hospitals? The taxes in PC are way too high so we must stop the madness NOW.
ralph March 16, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Hey Anthony, I have been all around the world and the pot holes in PC are horrible! Do you live in Afghanistan???? YOUR tax dollars at work with Mr. Pilla.
John March 16, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Drunk driving is far more egregious than tax issues. Beyond that, I don't think Pilla has been very effective in PC. The quality of life has not improved at all.

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