Tough questions asked at Amenia’s Meet the Candidates forum night

AMENIA — When faced with this year’s candidates for Town Board and town supervisor, about 100 people from the community asked their future leaders thought-provoking questions at the Meet the Candidates forum on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Sponsored by The Millerton News and moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Mid-Hudson region, the event was held in the Webutuck High School gymnasium. Attendees were given one card each to fill out to submit questions for the candidates, which were then asked by the League moderator Jolanda Jansen.

Following opening remarks by Millerton News Publisher Janet Manko, Dare Thompson of the League outlined the format for the evening and thanked everyone for their participation. Douglas Thompson from the League served as timekeeper.

The first 60 minutes of the event was given to the candidates for two Town Board seats, five of whom were there; Working Families candidate Stacy Mantel was absent due to personal reasons. The candidates introduced themselves, spoke of their experience in the community, their priorities and their hopes for the future.

Democrat Leo Blackman prioritized wastewater and affordable housing while Amenia Strong Republican candidate Brad Rebillard spoke about his Amenia roots and wanting to apply his experience in a new capacity.

Democrat Katherine Lee shared her goal to create a connected community while incumbent Republican Councilman James Morris said he wanted to use his experience and background as a lawyer to serve the town.

Amenia Strong candidate Jamie Vitiello said he wanted to bring compassion, competence and common sense to local government.

Once everyone had been introduced, Jansen proceeded with the first question.

“How will you improve communication between the Town Board and the people of Amenia?”

Each candidate shared their own frustration with the issue when they approached the mic; four of the five voiced their interest in making the Town Board more accessible while Morris said he felt communication has been “pretty good.”

They were then asked how they planned to address the wastewater issue. The answers  shed a light on their approaches to solving the long-standing issue, especially from the candidates who have made wastewater a key component in their campaign.

In a five-part question, candidates were asked if they were going to hold the luxury housing development, Silo Ridge Field Club, responsible to pay its fair share of property taxes and how they planned to address similar taxation issues in the future. This was a polarizing issue, with some candidates and audience members feeling strongly Silo Ridge residents are not paying their fair share, and that the lawsuits currently in the Dutchess County courts on this issue prove that. Amenia Strong candidates defended Silo Ridge’s approach and made the case for mutual cooperation.

Candidates were then asked how they will foster community collaboration. Vitiello stressed addressing the “isms” in the community and brought up a statement Blackman previously made that “the only crime in Amenia is incest,” sparking an outcry from the audience. After responding, Blackman explained the context of his “bad joke” and said he didn’t think he was “unworthy” to run for office based on that.

Borrowing the phrase “loose lips sink ships,” Rebillard said, “You can’t go into the community and say things like that… you can’t give you personal opinion as a member of this board.”

Following the closing remarks for the Town Board candidates, the two candidates running for town supervisor — incumbent Republican and Conservative  candidate Victoria Perotti and newcomer and Amenia Strong candidate Julie Doran — took to the stage.

Asked what she would do differently if elected, Doran said she’d bring transparency to the position and strong communication, while Perotti said the only thing to be done differently is the 2022 town budget. It would be under the tax cap, she said.

“We feel like we’re on a good path going forward in the town of Amenia,” Perotti said.

In what Doran later ascribed as “a vibrant exchange,” she and Perotti took turns answering questions, which asked how much money the Silo Ridge lawsuit has cost Amenia so far (about $100,00); how the town can start raising money and awareness for important causes; how they planned to solve current workforce housing issues; and how they plan to address the town’s wastewater needs.

There was a video taken of the event, which will air on Amenia TV, Channel 22 at various times daily up to the election. It is also available any time at youtube.com/ameniatv.

Latest News

Inspiring artistic inspiration at the Art Nest in Wassaic

Left to right: Emi Night (Lead Educator), Luna Reynolds (Intern), Jill Winsby-Fein (Education Coordinator).

Natalia Zukerman

The Wassaic Art Project offers a free, weekly drop-in art class for kids aged K-12 and their families every Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. The Art Nest, as it’s called, is a light, airy, welcoming space perched on the floor of the windy old mill building where weekly offerings in a variety of different media lead by professional artists offer children the chance for exploration and expression. Here, children of all ages and their families are invited to immerse themselves in the creative process while fostering community, igniting imaginations, and forging connections.

Emi Night began as the Lead Educator at The Art Nest in January 2024. She studied painting at Indiana University and songwriting at Goddard College in Vermont and is both a visual artist and the lead songwriter and singer in a band called Strawberry Runners.

Keep ReadingShow less
Weaving and stitching at Kent Arts Association

A detail from a fabric-crafted wall mural by Carlos Biernnay at the annual Kent Arts Association fiber arts show.

Alexander Wilburn

The Kent Arts Association, which last summer celebrated 100 years since its founding, unveiled its newest group show on Friday, May 11. Titled “Working the Angles,” the exhibition gathers the work of textile artists who have presented fiber-based quilts, landscapes, abstracts, and mural-sized illustrations. The most prominently displayed installation of fiber art takes up the majority of the association’s first floor on South Main Street.

Bridgeport-based artist Carlos Biernnay was born in Chile under the rule of the late military dictator Augusto Pinochet, but his large-scale work is imbued with fantasy instead of suffering. His mix of influences seems to include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s popular German libretto “The Magic Flute” — specifically The Queen of the Night — as well as Lewis Carol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” The Tudor Court, tantalizing mermaids and exotic flora.

Keep ReadingShow less
Let there be Night: How light pollution harms migrating birds
Alison Robey

If last month’s solar eclipse taught me anything, it’s that we all still love seeing cool stuff in the sky. I don’t think we realize how fast astronomical wonders are fading out of sight: studies show that our night skies grow about 10% brighter every year, and the number of visible stars plummets as a result. At this rate, someone born 18 years ago to a sky with 250 visible stars would now find only 100 remaining.

Vanishing stars may feel like just a poetic tragedy, but as I crouch over yet another dead Wood Thrush on my morning commute, the consequences of light pollution feel very real. Wincing, I snap a photo of the tawny feathers splayed around his broken neck on the asphalt.

Keep ReadingShow less