Should village mayors be honored on a plaque?
A discussion at the end of the February 2 Village Board of Trustees’ meeting about creating a plaque to honor village mayors became heated when outgoing mayor Nicholas Episcopia and incoming mayor Brian Daughney disagreed about it.
Just prior to public comments on February 2 the Board of Trustees had completed updates from the executive staff and Village Administrator Ralph Suozzi. Deputy Mayor Brian Daughney brought a final action item up as he made a motion to suspend the meeting rules, which was quickly seconded. The next municipal business decision seemed to annoy Mayor Episcopia as he watched two trustees to his immediate right – Daughney and Trustee Robert Bolebruch – stand firmly against the idea of spending of village funds and placement of plaques on village-owned properties. A resolution approved at the meeting solidified their stance and ultimately it prompted a debate.
Adding more than a twist of irony, Daughney is expected to become Garden City’s next mayor on April 3 at the Board of Trustees’ reorganization meeting, as he was nominated for the top post by the Estates POA.
However, the discussion will on the agenda at the next meeting of the Board, on Tuesday, February 21st. Mayor Episcopia said the plaque is on the agenda per a request from Trustee John Delany.
This week the mayor told The Garden City News he previously spoke with Administrator Suozzi and Joseph DiFrancisco, secretary to the Board of Trustees, to find out the cost of a small plaque. He said the measurements could be around three feet tall by 30 inches wide. They had come up with an estimate of $850. Mayor Episcopia said to date, no person he has talked with about the plaque has rebutted the idea that it would be a good thing. The concept even started with alumni of the Board of Trustees.
“A bunch of people in the village over the course of time – relatives of deceased mayors, some ex-mayors and those who are elderly now – spoke with me and said we don’t have anything that says we or others were the mayors of Garden City. Most Long Island villages feature pictures of the former mayors going all the way back, now almost hundreds of years. I said ‘ok’ and asked village staff to look into the cost. Somebody went and told Deputy Mayor Daughney and he went crazy over it. Then again he is just attacking me,” the mayor says.
Instead of cost factors, on February 2 he challenged Daughney’s philosophical assertion against the plaque, as the meeting dialogue turned contentious.
“Let me understand, you are saying there’s been such a proliferation of plaques over the last few years that you honestly feel that a budget expenditure for plaques is excessive? Do you know when the last plaque went up?” Episcopia asked Daughney.
Next Daughney presented the issue that prompted his resolution regarding the Board of Trustees’ purview of village property and finances. He began by stating a new resolution, saying the Board of Trustees, “in recognition of the longstanding tradition that members of the board and mayors serve as volunteers of the village community” finds it injurious to our Garden City tradition to commemorate individuals who have served as trustees and/ or mayors with the placement of memorial plaques on or at village owned facilities.”
“The Board of Trustees hereby forbids the spending of any village funds for any such plaques or the placements of any such plaques at village facilities without the prior affirmative vote of the majority of the Board of Trustees,” Daughney read from a prepared copy of the resolution. His further explanation to Episcopia touched on a few backbones against the mayor’s idea.
“Personally I don’t like it when I’m walking or driving by Eisenhower Park and I see a big sign about a politician who takes credit for whatever. I don’t want that happening here in the village. I don’t like that it has gone up in the past here – I think we are here to volunteer and not to get our names up on the walls. I don’t like them and I do not think we should be spending taxpayer money to put our names up on some wall as if we did something so great. That’s my reason to ask for this resolution,” he told Episcopia.
On February 2 Trustee Bolebruch asked for a vote on the resolution, and it was approved with the mayor’s counterargument – and the ‘plaque of mayoral legacies’ – voted down as Mayor Episcopia was outnumbered. Prior to it the mayor tried to reason with Daughney, saying he heard him explain because the community has volunteerism that doesn’t make it a better idea to forego the plaque. He told Daughney in all of the time he’s attended village board meetings, going back almost 20 years, and having served as a trustee since 2005 this ranks at the very top of “petty and ridiculous” ideas or resolutions. Episcopia said it makes virtually no sense.
“Somehow he (Daughney) thinks this is some real evil if a plaque did happen, and it would be visually offensive to I don’t know who….If you walk through the Village Justice Court and its offices there are pictures of every justice going back many years. If you walk into the firehouse there are pictures of all the fire chiefs going back, these people are all volunteers. I really don’t understand this – the comparison to Eisenhower Park is completely beyond me. Where is this proliferation of plaques that is in violation of the volunteer system that we have? If I remember right the last time we put up a plaque for anything in the village was when the library reconstruction was completed (2007) or when we constructed the clubhouse at Community Park. Then all of a sudden these plaques appeared and the Library Board of Trustees had put up a plaque themselves,” Mayor Episcopia said at the meeting.
The plaque will appear next on the Village Board’s agenda for February 21. Stay tuned.