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Carvin: Low Voter Turnout Is 'Horrific' and 'A Stain On Our Community'

Port Chester's refusal to air "meet the candidate" videos this election season is a blow to voter participation, said Rye Town Supervisor Joseph Carvin.

Should Port Chester allow political advertisements on its government television channel?

That was the central question of a debate last week, when Rye Town Supervisor Joseph Carvin urged Port Chester's trustees to allow campaign-style, "meet the candidate" videos on a channel normally reserved for meeting broadcasts and community announcements.

Citing unofficial figures from the Board of Elections that show some 1,500 fewer voters cast ballots in this year's election, Carvin said the low voter turn-out was "horrific" and "a stain on our community."

Candidate videos can help voters familiarize themselves with political hopefuls and local issues, Carvin said. The supervisor pointed to national political and economic woes to bolster his case.

"Quite frankly, in my view America is being challenged as never before. If we don't take serious consideration in terms of how we want to run our communities...then I think the future of the U.S. is in real peril," Carvin said.

Most trustees did not agree. The problem, they said, is that opening up the local government channel to political advertising would create an additional burden on village government.

Currently, Port Chester's understaffed clerk's office is responsible for scheduling programming on the government access channel. If Port Chester allows candidate programming, the clerk's office would assume the additional burden of making sure all candidates receive equal time and access, said Mayor Dennis Pilla.

"The requests didn't come from the Town of Rye, the requests came from the candidates to air what I'm going to call one-sided advertising," Pilla said.

The mayor said he sought advice from Village Attorney Anthony Cerreto, who said it would be "inappropriate."

Trustee John Branca agreed that the videos are tantamount to campaign advertising, but suggested an alternative: Port Chester could grant specific time slots to the Town of Rye, and the town would be responsible for ensuring equal access and parity in programming.

"Whatever you want to broadcast in your time slot, that's your call, and we'll leave it at that," Branca said.

Republicans pointed out that Port Chester has agreed to air similar campaign videos in past elections, and Trustee Sam Terenzi said new programming wouldn't come at the expense of current content on the channel. Most of the time, Terenzi pointed out, the channel simply shows rolling announcements.

"If we were knocking somebody off the schedule, I could see your point," Terenzi said. "But there's plenty of open space on that channel."

The discussion had its tense moments as Carvin and Port Chester's Democrats exchanged muted criticism. At one point, Pilla held up copies of mailers Carvin had sent to constituents: One mailer, which was funded by taxpayer dollars,  detailed progress on Carvin's campaign promises to voters. Another mailer was paid for by Carvin's campaign, but featured the town's "Spirit of 1660 logo," making it appear as if the letter was an official town government communication.

Daniel Brakewood, also a Democrat, said Port Chester should continue to make a distinction between campaign advertising and non-political communications to constituents.

"In the Town of Rye, it appears that distinction has been blurred," Brakewood said.

Carvin accused Pilla and Brakewood of political grandstanding, at one point saying he could go line-by-line through Port Chester's budget to criticize the village's elected leaders.

But he ended his remarks by saying he simply wants Port Chester's leaders to consider his requests and apply the same rules to candidates of every party, in every election.

"Come up with a policy that's coherent and logical," Carvin said, "and we'll respect that policy."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post did not make a distinction between a pair of mailers sent to voters by Carvin. One mailer was paid for by Carvin's campaign. The other was financed with town money, but included references to Carvin's campaign promises. The text has been changed to reflect the distinction.

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Peter Pascale November 30, 2011 at 01:40 PM
The people who would watch this programming would be the people who already come out to vote. Airing political videos would not increase voter turnout. I don't know what would but, it is a shame that voter turnout is so poor.
Silvio V. Buccieri November 30, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Mr. Carvin, Where have you been all these Voteing years? it has been like this for years, only when they elect a president for the USA. they come out.I know its a shame.but can you do??
Pastor Jim O'Hanlon November 30, 2011 at 10:06 PM
If there was time on the public channel it should be produced by the league of women voters or another independent group and not a campaign commercial. The attack ads are part of the reason people are tuning out.
Aidan November 30, 2011 at 11:51 PM
Since when is educating the public a dangerous event? Of course, the content should be fair and properly balanced. Every candidate should have equal time to present their views. And to suggest that such an effort isn't possible is a cop-out. That local access channel toots radio noise for much of the day. Is that effective use of technology in this day and age? Stop arguing over dumb stuff. Just provide us all with the information we need to be better citizens and informed voters.
Dick Hubert December 01, 2011 at 01:25 AM
A note to Pastor O'Hanlon and others commenting on this post. Supervisor Carvin is referring here to half hour Meet the Candidates programs for the Town of Rye candidates of all parties which are produced free of charge by LMC-TV, the cable production team in Mamaroneck which is supported by franchise fees from Cablevision and Verizon FIOS. The only effort required by Rye Town candidates of ALL parties is actually to SHOW UP at the studios with some kind of program plan, and the guests and host to pull it off. The LMC team does the rest, including three camera production, a director to call the shots, lower third and show titles, in short, everything a producer would need. Again, FREE OF CHARGE. Why would any candidates turn down this opportunity? Well, ALL the Democrats didn't even bother to call and arrange a time for production. Now, whether a few showings of these videos on Rye Brook and Port Chester TV channels (they are routinely shown to Rye Neck viewers) would boost voter turn-out is a legitimate question for debate. But to prevent these videos for candidates of ALL parties to be cablecast? That - with all deference to certain members of the Port Chester and Rye Brook Boards opposed to these program telecasts, is absolutely foolish.
Dennis Pilla December 01, 2011 at 05:42 AM
We have been advised by our village attorney that airing such political ads on the government channel would be an inappropriate use of government resources. There is a separate Public Access Channel that exists for other public purposes such as this. I had offered to assist Mr. Carvin to place his programming on this more appropriate public access channel. There's no grandstanding here. We likewise turn down requests from the Scouts , civic organizations and Churches etc. We are simply following our cable franchise agreement. This is not partisan bickering but rather following the rules which are clear. Nor is it the Clerk's role to get at all involved with individual campaign ads. Just because it had been done before doesn't make it right. We are cleaning up all kinds of problems in Port Chester. This is just another example. It would be grandstanding for anyone to represent this as anything else. I certainly mean no disrespect to Me. Carvin, but only seek to keep Port Chester out of harms way.
Dick Hubert December 02, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Mayor Pilla, let's get to the heart of this issue. The question is: What can YOU do to facilitate public awareness of local political campaigns in Port Chester and Rye Town and contribute - even in a minor way - to increase voter participation? Surely that's a non-partisan question, yes? And a non-partisan civic minded goal, yes? If you can cope with that position, I would suggest to you that you should leap on Supervisor Carvin's bandwagon campaign against low voter turnout and pledge Village cable facilities to communicate long form candidates' messages FROM ALL PARTIES AND GROUPS during election season. Since, especially for Rye Town, those messages can be produced FOR FREE, there would be no barriers for entry, period. I don't think Supervisor Carvin (or yours truly) really care which Port Chester government channel carries such messages, as long as they are available to all FIOS and Cablevision customers. Will this increase voter turnout? Maybe not. But it will help to inform committed voters who are starved for information on the candidates. Oh, by the way, have your Village Attorney talk to the law firms that represent Larchmont and Mamaroneck, where LMC-TV routinely carries Meet the Candidates videos from all political parties. It would be interesting to find out why they can use their government channels for these communications while your attorney tells you it is impossible for Port Chester to do the same.
Dennis Pilla December 04, 2011 at 02:24 PM
LMC TV is not the "Government" channel, Mr. Hubert. It is the "Public Access" channel. The City of Rye does the same thing. Each community pretty much has the same set-up. It's called "PEG": Public Access, Education & Government channels. Respectfully, if you and Mr. Carvin did your homework, you'd also find that even Port Chester has a free production studio to create those candidate ads or any programming you want to air on the "Public Access" channel which we have on cable (Cablevision & Fios). I looked into this. Rye does the same, and in fact they take even their individual Council member's news program (which they consider Government business) off the Government Channel 8 weeks before an election. They DO allow candidate videos on RyeTV, their cable Public Access channel (like LMCTV). Please, let's not create a political issue out of something that appears to be mere confusion. To me, the HEART of the issue is voter turnout, not whether political ads belong on Government TV. What am I doing? I have fought to bring "Early Voting" to Port Chester. I am proud we are the only community in NY that has an IN-PERSON polling place at Village Hall that is open 1 week before our Trustee election day - even Sat & Sun . I have been working hard to bring this more broadly in Port Chester, and throughout NYS. We had ~15% higher turnout with early voting in our last Trustee election - higher than even the Mayor's election (which is typically higher).
Dennis Pilla December 04, 2011 at 02:43 PM
BTW, as I stated early on to Mr. Carvin, and again above, I am happy to work with him or ANYBODY to better utilize our Public Access Channel. SInce, Mr. Hubert, you say you don't care which PC channel carries such messages, as long as they are available to all FIOS and Cablevision customers, why don't we end the discussion here, and why don't you & Mr. Carvin take me up on my offer to help you air campaign videos in the right place, the "Public Access" channel. That channel is CONTENT NEUTRAL. They can't stop you. We are re-negotiating our Cablevision franchise agreement. I will ensure they make it easier for Public Access programming to be submitted, since Mr. Carvin claims to have had a problem with that. I mean none of this disrespectfully to anyone. I only seek to clarify the facts. Best regards to all . DGP
Dick Hubert December 04, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Mayor PIlla, I gather after reading your two lengthy and recent posts that you are finally and indeed on the Carvin Bandwagon and will work to a) get candidate videos on Port Chester's Public Access TV channels in future elections and do whatever it takes to try to remedy the absolutely horrendous low voter turnout - as exemplified by the last Town and County elections. I just wish you had come to this conclusion effortlessly. Remember, Supervisor Carvin came to your Board to appeal for making it easier for all candidates to get their message out to the public (via Village managed cable channels as a start) AFTER having won a landslide election with 62% of the vote. He wants to make it easier for his future opponents (his Democratic Party opponents failed to make any candidate videos at any public studios) to have more effective video communications in future elections! I've never heard of anyone in public life with a refreshing position like that! Onward.
Dennis Pilla December 04, 2011 at 11:33 PM
"Finally on the Carvin Bandwagon", Mr. Hubert? Let's get real please instead of being so political. Perhaps you did not read my first post from DECEMBER 1st above which clearly explained that Mr. Carvin is asking to put it those political videos on the wrong channel. I am glad to see above that you FINALLY realize it belongs on the "Public Access Channel". My conclusion has not changed Mr. Hubert. Yours has, my friend. What wasn't effortless was my need to explain this 5 times (in my original email response to Mr. Carvin, at the Board Meeting, and in the 3 posts above). Sorry for the tone. Now I realize why I don't post here often. Over and out. DGP
Bea Conetta December 05, 2011 at 12:03 AM
It is my opinion that our government channel should not be used for anything politically connected. However I, too, believe that voter turnout is terrible, and something should be done to get the voters to realize that it's their duty to vote. Many years ago, with the superintendent of schools permission, I visited the principal of each school and inquired about what they did to inspire students to want to vote. I still have my spiral notebook with the responses. At that time, it was Edison school that impressed me the most. Inspiring students to want to vote as much as they can't wait to be able to drive or reach 18 so they can drink should start at a young age. I wish I could think of a way to do this, because I think voting is probably one of the most important things in our lives. Why don't the people who govern our town and villages put their heads together and try to solve this problem. Maybe they can get together with the school officials and work something out. We should use every means at our disposal to make voters aware of the importance of voting. Issues don't mean a thing at election time. Getting out the vote is the only thing that is important.
Dick Hubert December 05, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Mayor Pilla, gee, we will miss your posts. But I am grateful for Bea Conetta's on target comments. For the record, and for future campaigns, here's a review of who will and will NOT take Meet the Candidates Half Hour Videos. 1) FIOS will cablecast them throughout Westchester, even if they are only for the Town of Rye (That's the way their system is built). 2) Cablevision will put them on a public access channel which reaches Rye Neck and Port Chester, but NOT Rye Brook. 3) LMC-TV will cablecast all Meet the Candidates videos throughout the Rye Neck area. 4) Rye Brook refuses to cablecast any Meet the Candidates videos on any of their channels, including their public access channel that features the Yak-Yak Girls. 5) And with the above posts on Patch, Mayor Pilla of Port Chester pledges that Meet the Candidates videos will be telecast on Port Chester's public access channels in the future. Again, this may not move the voter participation rate at all, but informed committed voters will have a chance to learn more about those running for local office. Now, boosting voter participation is still the next big target.
Nik Bonopartis December 05, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Mamaroneck and Larchmont haven't spent millions fighting a federal voting lawsuit, and they're not under federal supervision for the next half-decade. It's unfair to compare those towns to Port Chester, which up until recently was still paying FairVote for mandatory voter education services, and paying legal fees to Michael Carvin for the voting case appeal. I believe Port Chester is also still paying legal fees to the plaintiff's attorney in that case. With that in mind, heeding the advice of the village attorney seems like a sensible thing to do.
Dick Hubert December 05, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Nik Bonapartis, I am totally confused by your post. Mayor Pilla, with his comments in this posting string above, is offering up the Port Chester Public Access Channel as a venue for future Meet the Candidates videos. He must have checked with the Town Attorney before making that commitment. So what are you trying to tell us?
Dennis Pilla December 05, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Mr. Hubert, read closely what I said. I said that I would help Mr. Carvin air them. You are quite the spin doctor. wow! Frankly his is getting too much play - more than it truly deserves, especially considering the gross distortions and accusations against Port Chester and now Rye Brook. READERS BEWARE!
Dick Hubert December 05, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Mayor Pilla, you just broke your self imposed vow of posting restraint (see your post in the string above)! Too bad. You should be helping all candidates, INCLUDING YOUR FELLOW DEMOCRATS, to get their video messages out on Port Chester's Public Access Cable Television Channel. Supervisor Carvin was appealing on behalf of ALL candidates for local office when he spoke at your Board Meeting. So include Gary Stracuzzi, the Rye Town Democratic Chairman, and officials of ANY other political group with candidates on future ballots, along with Supervisor Carvin, in your offer to be of assistance in getting these videos on the PC Public Access channel (I assume you will find a Village employee to schedule and load-in the DVD's of these programs). And as far as Rye Brook is concerned, their ban on telecasting Meet the Candidates videos on all their public access channels was clearly enunciated by Rye Brook Mayor Joan Feinstein at an RB Village Board meeting at which Supervisor Carvin spoke.To paraphase sportscaster Warner Wolf, Mayor Pilla, just go to the on line videotape.

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