The Front Page:
Democrats nominate Robert Greer.
Select Bill Ryan to run again for County Legislator in District 5.
"The Man Who Was There" comes back to oust Ryan and will run with Rita Malmud, Glen Hockley and Tom Roach for Common Council
Corcoran bid is denied.
Union leaders shocked at Greer comeback.
Working Families Party promises a third Mayoral Candidate to "send message to Democratic Party they cannot ignore labor."
By John F. Bailey
CityLine: April 20, 2001 -- 170 East Post Road, Democratic Headquarters
Robert Greer was nominated Thursday evening by the Democratic Party District Leaders to run for Mayor in the November campaign.
The veteran Councilman wrested the nomination from William Ryan, in a reported close secret ballot at Democratic Party Headquarters. WPCNR has not been able to confirm actual figures yet. Voting counts were not announced.
The Greer comeback victory overturned the recommendation of the Democratic Party Nominating Committee which had chosen William Ryan on April 4 to run for Mayor.
A relentless two-week telephone campaign beginning April 6 by Mr. Greer convinced District Leaders that he was better qualified to run for Mayor than Mr. Ryan.
The unexpected victory, that even Mr. Greer himself said was "a real horse race," was announced at 10:35 PM, after a suspenseful 45 minute counting of the ballots behind closed doors while District Leaders milled around waiting for the result.
After Mr. Greer's name was announced to warm, polite applause Chairman Adam Bradley of the Democratic Party Committee, announced the slate chosen by District leaders, some 80 strong. They packed the medium sized white walled room on the second floor of 170 Post Road, lined with pictures of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and other famous Democrats. The room held a white refrigerator in a corner, some old campaign signs and district identification signs in another corner. It was wall to wall people.
Greer is joined on the slate by Common Council President Rita Malmud seeking her reelection to her third term as a member of the Common Council, and Glen Hockley, a marketing manager for a collections agency in White Plains and strong community activist for the hungry, the homeless and a campaigner for tolerance, and Tom Roach, an attorney with legal experience with the Legal Aid Society and a 12-year career in zoning law.
After 5 minute speeches by Mr. Ryan and Mr. Greer the first District Leader roll call was taken. Every District Leader was given a small white 3 x 5 ballot with their district named at the top and the names of Mr. Greer and Mr. Ryan on the slip. Each marked their choice with a pencil and when their district was recalled by Mr. Bradley, the individual leader proceeded to make their way to the front of the room and place his or her ballot into a black box, as far as this reporter could see over the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.
Then there were five minute speeches by each of the four Council Candidates, Malmud, Hockley, Roach and Corcoran. After the speeches, the voting procedure was repeated, first with the handing out of the ballots and then each leader being called to deposit their marked ballots. Each Council ballot had the nominees four names on it, and each leader was to vote for one.
There was a jovial mood to the crowd, with many one-liners in the air about dimpled chads, comments about when the Florida ballot counters were going to arrive, and for a tightly contested race, this was an amiable easygoing meeting. Even when results were announced, there was sadness, but no bitterness.
Bill Ryan, the County Legislator, led off the Mayoral Statements with a solid, reasoned fiery address, keynoting his address with the remark that 63% of city residents recently surveyed "viewed White Plains as either just plodding along or dead in the water. The people responding to the survey felt we could do better. And so do I."
Ryan told the Leaders "White Plains is at a critical point. The decisions we make now will determine whether our city realizes its true greatness and full potential....We need to provide a dynamic vision for White Plains that will unite our people and their government in a common quest for a better life. The people need someone who understands how to lead and who's not afraid to share the responsibilities of governing."
Ryan described two of the big challenges he would work on: the downtown which he described as "a hodge podge of things that a developer is willing to put there," stating "a vision" is needed. He said, "All that we've had so far is the mayor's failed plan, a plan that few in the community believed would revitalize the downtown. How could it: it lacked vision. What it didn't lack were tax giveaways and massive debt to be shouldered by our taxpayers...things used by financially distressed cities...cities in trouble."
The Legislator told the leaders he would concentrate on housing, saying "For four years he's wrestled with the question: How do you get people to drive downtown? Well, if you can't get them to drive there, get them to wake up there. I'll focus on housing as the key component of revitalization. I see our downtown as the next great neighborhood of White Plains."
Ryan also assailed the Mayor's handling of the New York Presbyterian Hospital matter, saying "We have City Hall reviewing Plan B, an industrialized use of residential property. We have CCOS and neighborhood activists that feel the Mayor has never engaged the community on this critical issue. Is this where we want to be? Putting our south-end neighborhoods at risk? Disregarding some of our most active and concerned residents? We're fortunate to have so many good people who care so much about this city. We're less fortunate to have a City Administration that doesn't seem to care much for them or their ideas and suggestions."
Ryan closed, running slightly overtime, saying, "We need a Mayor who understands that the people are our City's strength and not his Administration's weakness," telling the city's leading Democrats, "I will be the People's Mayor."
Robert Greer challenged the Ryan nomination expressing his experience and accomplishment within the framework of the city government, with a somber air, saying "I do not take this step lightly. I have been a District Leader since 1983, I was the Chairman of this party, and a Democratic Councilman who has carried our unified banner to victory four times since 1990. No one understands better than I the importance of party unity, but still I must challenge the Nominating Commitee's Mayoral Recommendation."
Greer was blunt, forceful: "This is no wild-eyed insurgency, and it isn't a matter of personal ambition either. Instead before you is a serious questions about whether the Nominating Committee made the best decision for our party and our city."
He cast apprehension about Ryan's ability to lead: "We are about to choose a person, who when elected, will lead a community which generates $90 million in revenue and expense per year. Business experience and financial expertise are critical elements of the job."
He painted Mayor Delfino as a man who can be beaten: "In this campaign, we will be battling an incumbent with a thin record of accomplishment during 4 years of the most robust economic growth in our country's and region's history. Your decision tonight can have a profound effect upon the future progress or decay of White Plains."
Greer asked District Leaders to "compare my qualifications and experience with those of my rival. I have had a successful 36 year business career and am in my 11th year of service on the White Plains Common Council where I have served as Common Council President and chaired the Budget and Management and Audit Committees."
Using the recurring theme of "I was there when..." Greer noted a series of accomplishments on the Council:
He was the decisive vote for road improvements leading to The Westchester Mall.
"I was there...as the only councilman to assist our Human Rights Commission in advising calm to Winbrook residents during the time of the Rodney King riots."
"I was there...when I supported SHORE's imaginative plan for combining housing for working families and formerly homeless families when the angry NIMBYS were accusing us of ruining their neighborhoods."
He said he was "also there" to save The Greenway, fight for movies at Main and Mamaroneck (instead of the Hole in the Ground), and "there to lead the fight for a Stop & Shop supermarket versus a now bankrupt Shop Rite Market, " and "there" to sponsor legislation establishing minimum fines for landlords violating occupancy codes.
Greer, using a smooth, confident delivery, promised that revitalizing the downtown, protecting the environment, using 21st century technology to make government more accessible, improving morale among city employees, ending the badge drain, adding "sparkle and substance" to city culture, and increasing minority representation on Boards and commissions and increasing opportunities for affordable housing were his main priorities.
His killer close focused the issue: " Fellow Democrats, the choice is too important to be left to only 5 people (the Nominating Committee). Tonight the choice is not about a poll or the agenda of any particular interest group. The choice is about integrity, leadership and who has the ability to restore an underperforming city to its rightful place as the jewel in Westchester's crown."
Inspired, he closed the deal with: "I will be beholden to no one except to all of you and the residents of our city. I have faith in every one of you to make your own decision about who would make the better Mayor for White Plains. If you put your faith in me, I will spare no effort or expense. I will walk this city from North Street to the End of North Broadway, from Battle Hill to Woodcrest Heights, from public housing at Winbrook, Schuyler DeKalb and Lake Street to the stately mansions of Soundview and Hillair Circle to secure a victory for me and our Democratic team this November!"
Council candidates touched briefly on their experiences.
Rita Malmud presented a rambling biography of her life in White Plains and in public service and her experience on the council, signaling that she would continue placing downtown revitalization as a priority.
Glen Hockley presented dynamically, saying how proud he was to be nominated and be part of such a good slate.
He said his success in fighting the arcade proposal in The Galleria was accomplished working as a team. He remarked that his work in establishing Hunger No More brought him together to work with a number of personalities like Dennis Power of WestchesterARC, members of the Hispanic Coalition and others, and pointed out this was one of his strengths. In working with Andy Spano's anti-hate crimes effort, and helping to form the Interfaith Holocaust project, Hockley said "I didn't do that alone, it was teamwork."
Hockley was the only council nominee besides Candyce Corcoran who named specifics he would work for. He said he was for an "outside source to take a look at the proton accelerator (proposed for New York Presbyterian Hospital) to judge if it is what it is."
Hockley said "the badge drain we need to plug up," that speeding through the White Plains neighborhoods could only be controlled by patrol officers, remarking "we spend $100,000 to train our patrol officers and they leave for Briarcliff Manor for another $10,000 a year." He called for more patrol officers to cut down on the speeding in the neighborhoods.
Warming up, Hockley called for closer cooperation between the school board and the Common Council, "to work more visibly together so we do not have a Columbine (school attack) in White Plains."
He wrapped up with promises of working toward "town hall meetings, an opportunity for citizens to speak out. I will be in the neighborhoods once or twice a week at least."
Tom Roach, personable and youthful showed an engaging sense of humor which ingratiated himself with the audience, making a series of self-deprecating remarks about his youth in White Plains and his younger days, drawing genuine laughter. He commented that his most profound career experience was working as a Legal Aid Society attorney for three years before going into zoning law where he has specialized for a dozen years. (WPCNR has requested a full biography.)
He has a 1-1/2 year old son and believes strongly that the public schools should stay strong.
On the downtown: Roach compared Mamaroneck Avenue as on a precipice of turning into another Newburg or Poughkeepsie whose downtown main streets had been allowed to deteriorate in Roach's opinion. "It (Mamaroneck Avenue) can go up or go down. Someone fell asleep in Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. We don't have to accept an Eiffel Tower with a rocket ship on it (in the downtown)."
Candyce Corcoran, last to speak, delivered a serious fact-filled speech about why she was "The People's Choice," pointing to a long record of accomplishment in a number of endeavors in the city. She felt she was "electable" because of her visibility and contacts through the city for many years. Ms. Corcoran pointed to her business experience and proven ability to start projects and finish them successfully working with virtually every community group in the city. Her speech evoked a passion for the city and commitment to it that none of the other council candidates expressed, and it was delivered with dignity, commitment and sincerity.
In the end, her effort, which had perhaps inspired Robert Greer to fight the nomination, was not enough to win enough District Leaders to vote for her. Going into Thursday evening, she had received assurances that she was very confident she would win a seat.
The buzz of Bradley's announcements of the winners spread down the hall to where your reporter and several members of the White Plains Professional Fire Fighters union were awaiting the results. Your reporter, spotted by Mr. Bradley before the results were counted at 9:50 PM, was told by Mr. Bradley the meeting was "closed to the press," and escorted me out to the stairwell out of earshot of the meeting.
As a District leader came up to us, the WPPFF leader, Adrian Scapperotti appeared shocked when hearing that Greer had wrested the nomination from Ryan. Moments before the firemen had been discussing the prospects of Ryan's beating Delfino.
Another union official, representing the Working Families Party, Mike Boland, also a White Plains fireman, not a White Plains resident, visibly upset said "I have another scoop for you. The Working Families Party will run a candidate for Mayor. We have a candidate. We will announce in three days."
Boland continued, emotional, and stung by the Greer news, continued, "We're going to show the Democratic Party they cannot take labor for granted."
At this time, we moved back down the hall to observe the brief victory speeches, and were not asked to leave.
Robert Greer standing with the slate of Malmud, Hockley and Roach, when we came into the room was stating how he was going to be a voice for labor in the city: "I'm a friend of labor and will work to improve the employee morale in this city."
William Ryan, appearing visibly hurt, stood with Greer, shook hands.
Most nominees, flushed with triumph said simple "thank you's."
In a voice vote, Adam Bradley nominated Bill Ryan to run for County Legislator, and asked the District Leaders to approve him by voice vote and a hearty "Aye" rung out in the room.
George Latimer, Chairman of the County Board of Legislators, congratulated the nominees describing the evening as "White Plains rising." Amy Paulin, Assemblyperson, was also on hand.
Candyce Corcoran sat to the left of the nominees, observing with a proud, strong poker face, and stayed to the end. Through the handshakes. Through the good-byes and the congratulations.
Bill Ryan shook my hand as he left the meeting room, saying "we will talk."
Until everything was over, but the campaign was just beginning.
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