GOP incumbent town councilman Bell’s campaign statement: Expand services while holding taxes down

Editor’s note: This statement from Town Councilman Blake Bell was provided by Team Pelham, which is what the candidates for town office on the Republican, Independent and Conservative lines are calling themselves.

Why do I seek re-election to the Pelham Town Council after eight years of previous service?  Put simply, I love Pelham.  I recognize, of course, that there is nothing unique about that.  We all love Pelham or we would not live and raise families here.  I have worked, however, to demonstrate my love for our community by donating my time, my few talents, and my hard work to town government and to the betterment of our community through town government for two decades.  I want to outline some of those efforts and continue them with your vote.

My wife, Janice Ingram, and I raised our family here.   More than two decades ago we looked at communities throughout Westchester and chose Pelham as a uniquely-special place.  We never have been disappointed.  Our son and daughter flourished in Pelham schools and have found themselves well prepared for their post-high school academic careers.

As you might know, I love not only our community, but also its history.  I began researching and studying that history the day we moved to Pelham.  Shortly after arriving in Pelham, I began attending dozens of Town Council meetings as a member of the public.  I shared some of what I learned about the history of our community in those meetings and in articles published in The Pelham Weekly.  Soon, I was asked to volunteer to work for the Town Historian, Mimi Buckley.  I became Deputy Town Historian, a volunteer position.  I worked hard to help Mimi and played a major role in organizing dozens of activities and events during the successful year-long celebration of Pelham’s 350th anniversary in 2004.  That year, as part of the celebration, I published a book on the history of Pelham and weekly newspaper articles on our history for 52 consecutive weeks.

When Mimi Buckley retired after a long and very successful tenure as Town Historian, I was appointed to her position, again as a volunteer.  I continued to attend Town Council meetings and learned everything I could about the Town and its government affairs.  Once ready, I became Town Clerk where I learned a tremendous amount about our Town, the municipal laws of the State of New York, and the day-to-day, behind the scenes work that ensures the smooth and competent provision of Town services such as real property assessment services, tax collection, criminal courts, ambulance and fly car services, emergency management and sheltering programs, recreation programs, senior programs, and licensing programs. I became a member of the Town Council in 2012 and have since had special responsibilities for legal affairs, assessments, Town courts, and Town Constables including provision of prisoner transport services and criminal court protection.

My mantra, and that of the entire Town Board, has been to achieve progress and move the Town forward through expanded and new Town services while holding the line on Town taxes.  Indeed, I am proud that the Town has expanded the services it offers while, at the same time, maintaining four consecutive years of virtually zero percent tax levy increases and a fifth year of a 1.79% increase due to mandated health care and pension cost increases – well below the rate of inflation during each of the last five years.  This has resulted in a decrease in your Town homestead tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value from $0.5485 to $0.4625 over the last six tax years.  I urge you to consider that multi-year record when you cast your vote in the next three weeks.  Indeed, in assessing my ongoing campaign promise to keep the Town tax burden as low as we can while maintaining and even expanding Town services, I urge you to consider our long-term record of delivering on that promise annually during my tenure.

Although my work for our Town has taken a large share of my personal time for the last two decades, I also have worked during that time as an attorney with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, a 975-lawyer firm headquartered in Manhattan.  I served for many years as an Elder and as Clerk of the Session of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church (and taught Sunday School there for nearly eight years.)  I have served on the boards of local organizations including, most recently, the Westchester County Historical Society (Executive Committee) and the Society of the National Shrine of the Bill of Rights – Friends of Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site (Chairperson).  I coached and managed nearly two dozen Pelham recreation and travel sports teams as our son and daughter grew up.  I was among the founders of Friends of Pelham Sports and was responsible for shepherding its successful 501(c)(3) process to enable the raising of the funds to construct the turf field at Glover Field.  Additionally, as labors of love, I published the Web site for many years and also have published two books on Pelham history (with a third scheduled for next year), more than eighty articles in print journals, magazines, and newspapers on Pelham history, and nearly 2,400 digital articles on Pelham history in the Historic Pelham Blog.

My family and I love Pelham.  I would be honored to continue my fiduciary responsibilities as a member of the Town Council to continue to serve you and your loved ones.  I ask you to vote for my re-election and for the election of my colleagues, Dan McLaughlin (for Town Supervisor), Michelle Marcellino (for Town Council), and Antoinette Clemente (for Town Clerk).  We have been endorsed by, and are running on, the Republican, Independence, and Conservative lines this November so that our Pelham friends and neighbors can vote for us on a party line of their choice regardless of party affiliation.  We want to continue making Pelham an even better place to live, work, and raise families!  We humbly ask for your vote!

I ask for your vote to re-elect me to Town Council and to vote for all of my Team Pelham teammates.  Please vote to re-elect John DeChiario for Town Justice; to elect Dan McLaughlin for Town Supervisor; to elect Michelle Marcellino for Town Councilwoman; and to elect Antoinette Clemente for Town Clerk on November 5th.