“Ramapo Supervisor Michael Specht and the Town Board have ambitious plans for 2018, an agenda being watched closely by critics and supporters. Along with goals to improve services for residents, they are looking to change the culture of the town, one dominated by corruption, poor fire and building enforcement, over-development, and a lack of transparency. “We want to restore our credibility and demonstrate we are transparent,” Specht said recently during an interview in his Town Hall office. “We want to show we’re fair to all our residents. We understand this will take time. One major goal is to save the taxpayers money.”
After years of corruption convictions, newly elected Supervisor Michael Specht says he’s dedicated to cleaning up the town’s soiled image, improving life for residents and the town’s recreational amenities and improving the town’s fiscal ship.
Specht has established goals for the town but the agenda will be watched by critics, especially his plans for improving fire and safety enforcement of housing and schools, and controlling over-development.
Councilman Yitzchok Ullman, who pushed reforms as acting supervisor for six months in 2017, resigned Monday. The Town Board appointed Ullman as receiver of taxes to succeed Nat Oberman, who retired after 21 years. No replacement for Ullman on the Town Board has been named.
William Weber and Michael Castelluccio said they’ve heard Specht’s goals for the town and they’re taking a wait-and-see approach. Weber lost the supervisor’s election to Specht and Castelluccio is a long time leader with Preserve Ramapo, the grassroots political organization that had been critical of the administration. “The supervisor’s goals promise a townwide review, and a restoration of financial stability and civility,” Castelluccio said, “but until we actually see the how and when, we can only offer a skeptical open mind and a reminder that the clock is now running and public patience is perishable.”
Weber said the Specht-led government is at a crossroads, after nearly 17 years of leadership by former Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, who got booted from office when convicted of federal corruption-related crimes in May. He’s scheduled to begin 30-month prison term in March. “Even though Mr. Specht and his running mates were elected using the same playbook as former Supervisor St. Lawrence,” Weber, said, “will he do what the former supervisor didn’t do and use this opportunity to reach out to and represent all of the citizens of Ramapo in a fair and balanced way?”
Ramapo remains Rockland’s largest town with the most diverse population across 12 villages and non-village areas. In politics, the Democrats hold an overwhelming voter majority and hold every Town Board seats.
A bloc vote of more than 10,000 voters from the Orthodox Jewish communities control the elections. The town features two Hasidic Jewish villages — New Square and Kaser — among 12 local governments outside of Ramapo Town Hall, located in the village of Airmont.
Relations between the ultra-Orthodox community and non-religious residents have been strained at times, predominately over development, and the needs for residential private schools and housing for the religious community, the largest growing population in town and across the state.”
Read the full text of this Journal News article here.