Residents gradually filled St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for “Meet the Candidates,” hosted by the Sea Cliff Civic Association on March 15. Members of the village had the opportunity to ask Mayor Ed Lieberman, trustees Dina Epstein and Jeffrey Vitale, and Open Government Party trustee candidate Deborah McDermott one question per resident.
The purpose of the forum was to assist voters on March 21 when they go to the polls at the Stenson Memorial Library, 281 Sea Cliff Ave. from noon to 9 p.m., to vote for a mayor and for two trustees. Three candidates for trustee will be on the ballot and Lieberman is running uncontested.
Ann DiPietro, president of the Sea Cliff Civic Association, created the format for the meeting, which allowed for a five minute opening and closing statement for the candidates. They were permitted to utilize one or two minutes to answer questions from residents. Candidates and residents complied with this format for the most part during the two-hour meeting.
“Just being here makes us a winner,” DiPietro said to the candidates before she opened up questions to the audience.
The village was well represented, with other members of the Sea Cliff Civic Association, the North Shore Board of Education, and the Legislative Action Committee in attendance at the forum. The candidates were asked a variety of questions concerning the village. Although each had the opportunity to answer, sometimes they did not. The public wanted to know what the candidates would do about the Garvies Point Waterfront Project, what their vision for the future was, and what strategies they would implement to ensure transparency between the board and the community.
McDermott, who has run her campaign seeking transparency, addressed the question. “It is important for everyone to know what’s going on and be informed at all times,” she said. “Once you start to learn about [what’s going on in the village], you’re going to want to get involved, because there is so much at stake.”
There were a few moments when residents disagreed with what candidates said, but DiPietro was able to stop the situations from escalating. She also made lighthearted jokes and remarks after each candidate answered a question, much to the delight of the audience.
Lieberman said although he is running for re-election unopposed, he remains aware of the community’s concerns and what he needs to do to be a part of the village’s progression.
“It is much better not to have opposition but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking over my shoulder,” Lieberman said. “I am always cognizant of what’s on your mind.”
Throughout the evening each candidate shared their personal ties to the village. They each expressed their appreciation for the village’s support and they seemed excited for the opportunity to serve their community.
“This is not about being a Republican or a Democrat,” Vitale said. “This is about choosing who you think is going to have the appropriate skills to be a trustee that can actually do something.”
Epstein reminded the audience that even though this forum was designed to focus on the candidates, they should not forget how this village was developed. “All of the wonders of Sea Cliff did not happen overnight,” she explained. “They are the result of hard work and volunteerism, which has always been a hallmark of our village.”