Councilman Richard St. Paul Interview
In the March 24 Westchester Guardian
This year there will be an election for the entire New Rochelle City Council as well as the Mayor of New Rochelle. Councilman Richard St. Paul has been extremely vocal about many issues which will effect the City’s future. If he were to run for Mayor and be elected, he would be the City’s first Mayor of color. A lawyer, St. Paul was involved in the minority district lawsuit in New Rochelle. His background includes working on the Bush 2004 election campaign. He also served as the Help American Vote Act (HAVA), as its legal director in West Virginiafor the Bush Campaign`and having served in the Naval reserve for eight years. Recently in New Rochelle he led the fight to reopen the New Rochelle train station bathrooms. Westchester Guardian posed these questions.
Westchester Guardian: Why did you think the Council majority should not have supported a plan for redistricting which did not include the support of the residents?
St. Paul: My feeling is that this was another missed opportunity to show the public that we believe that the legislative body of the City
is truly supportive of transparent government. I think in addition, the appointment of a consultant (Andrew Beveridge) by the majority Democratic Council members despite the obvious conflict of interest highlighted by the consultant’s financial support of the mayor (a campaign contribution) has essentially politicized the redistricting process.
Westchester Guardian: How did the non-partisan Redistricting Commission for evolve?
St. Paul: The initiative for the citizens Redistricting Commission was organized by the members of the Executive leadership of the New Rochelle branch of the NAACP. They contacted other people and organizations in the city. On March 8 a group of supporters they organized asked for the support of the City Council for this initiative. This was coincidentally the same day the Mayor presented an alternative plan for redistricting. So rather than opening the process to allow the citizens to shape the redistricting process, the Mayor presented a plan with a process he could control
Westchester Guardian: What direction do you think would be most beneficil to follow for the future of New Rochelle?
St. Paul: It is important for the City to go forward and to invest in small bujsiness which is the backbone of our economy. We also need to take care of old pipes in the city before we build new pipes, adding stress to our already aging infrastructure.
Westchester Guardian: What in your opinion are the mosts pressing problems in New Rochelle today?
St. Paul: We need smart development that puts the interest of the people first, not the interests of the developers. We need smart develop;ment which would include a thorough cost-benefit analysis that p;otentially effects the whole city and school budgets We don’t want to find ourselves struggling to pass a budget that includes cuts in services because we did not calculate the people’s cost of development.
Westrchester Guardian: Very ofen at City Council meetings you often articulagte insights which are are variance with other Council members. Do these differences have any political party differences which may be harmful to the citizens of New Rochelle?
St. Paul: A lot of my opinions on Council derive from my thought processes which are aimed at protecting the taxpayers. I am doing what is best and that is how I look at my role. I think some people are uncomfortable with the questions of how we do things and how careful our analysis is holding people accountable.
Westchester Guardian: The Industrial Development Agency (IDA) tax abatements (PILOTS) have been an on-going concern.
St. Paul: City Council should have the final say over all tax abatements because tax abatements directly effect the budget of New Rochelle. The City could change to the County IDA and then the City Council would have the final say because County regulations allow the municipality to make the final decision on tax abatements.
Westchester Guardian: I understand there is a possiblity you may run for Mayor of New Rochelle. What special qualities do you bring to the Council?
St. Paul: I have made no decision to run for Mayor of New Rochelle. I love living in New Rochelle and enjoy having a public service role in the city and look forward to continuing to serve the city in whatever capacity is best. I think during my time as a council member I brought forward an independent transparancy and acceptable platform that seeks to put the interest of the people of the cityi ahead of politics and large developers.