From The Mayor's Desk

A collection of writings about small town democracy by Roy Reehil, Mayor of the Village of Cleveland, New York.

Optimism in November (1995)

With motivation from the cold snap in the morning air, the geese have gathered and fled south. How quickly this year’s brilliant foliage gave way to empty branches as old man winter woke us up with an early taste of his brisk wrath. The storm windows are sealed up tight now at our house keeping out the howling wind on this cozy Cleveland Saturday night. I feel thankful, as I often do, that things are all right for my wife and I, and I know that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’m also wondering how you are today.

How are you doing as you prepare for another long North Shore winter? I hope that good or bad, medium or maximum, that you too are able to feel thankful, and have a positive outlook for your future. That’s why I’m writing today, to talk about looking forward with a positive attitude, about feeling thankful for what we have and finding ways to make things better.

When a powerful snow storm hits, like the one we had at the end of winter a few years ago, and the roads were closed for several days people around here rose to the occasion with good will and a helping hand. Neighbors helping each other to shovel off a roof or move a snowed-in vehicle. It felt good to help a neighbor and it felt good to be helped. That kind of attitude and cooperation makes the work go faster and weathering the storm easier. We feel safer because we know that we can count on each other and that feeling becomes a community wide attitude. Call it village morale or village spirit. If we could carry that attitude throughout the year our village would be empowered to wonderful accomplishments with the feeling that we are a team, working together for common goals.

These days it’s easy to be down on government, to say “awe, those people in Washington or Albany… they don’t care about me”. What I want to tell you about our little village government is that we do care… that’s why we do it. We’re right here! It’s our village, and we believe that we can make it better. What it comes down to is believing.

Do you believe in negativism or in positive thinking? Do you prefer rumors… or facts? What’s more life enhancing, participation or apathy?

Positive thinking is much harder than being negative because in positive thinking you must invest in a hope or a belief that could very well fail. It’s easy to say “oh, that won’t work.” There’s no risk in being negative… but there’s also no reward.

It’s much harder to find the truth then to spread a rumor. A rumor might be hurtful, malicious and wrong but it spreads quickly because it’s so easy… no investment. You have to invest some time to get the facts, to find out what is really true… and you might even learn something in the search for the truth.

The biggest investment of all is in participation; sharing your time and your ideas. When you share an idea in a public forum it’s up for debate. Is it a good idea? Can we take that good idea and together as a team, make it even better? That kind of investment is scary at first and hard for some people, but the rewards are immense. You become part of the team, part of the engine that moves things forward and makes things change. Conversely, in apathy there is no risk, and no reward… nothing.

I would like to invite you to take a small gamble to make a sample investment of time, fact finding and positive thinking.

We have several upcoming meetings to establish a neighborhood watch in Cleveland. Invest a little bit of time to come out to one of those meetings. (If you don’t live in Cleveland find out when your town or village is holding its next meeting and attend.) Find out what your neighbors are doing in the community, and go into it with a positive attitude. You may be surprised at the dividends that your investment will pay and all you have to risk is an hour of your time.

As a village board we have a positive attitude as we look at every aspect of our village government trying to find ways to make it more productive and less expensive. To that end, here are some of our accomplishments since June, and some of our goals for the future.

  1. We’re amending existing village laws to make them more fair, and to bring them up to date.
  2. We’re examining our land use laws and procedures to simplify them and make them more fair.
  3. We’re maximizing the amount of money that we can keep in interest bearing accounts (safe money market funds) to earn more on village capital.
  4. We’ve written a new ordinance pertaining to our parks and lakefront to increase the safety of village residents and the enforceability of violations.
  5. We’re initiating a neighborhood watch program in conjunction with the NY State Troopers to organize our citizens and increase the police coverage of the village.
  6. We’ve changed insurance agents and are assessing the value of property that the village owns to make sure that we are not spending too much on insurance.
  7. We’re looking into the possibility of dredging the pond on Bridge and North Streets to keep it from filling in.
  8. We’ve set up a procedure for sidewalk replacements as they are requested.
  9. We’ve lowered our taxes and sewer rates.

We also intend to set up a list of village goals and priorities and we could use your input.

We are attempting to accomplish these things while still attending to the everyday business of the village. Some of our goals won’t be reached quickly, but I think we will do well. With the help of a few more concerned citizens, we will do even better.

I have a new and simple slogan that I’ve started to use as mayor because it makes sense. It goes like this:
It’s Our Village, Let’s Make It Better.

Roy Reehil, Mayor
Village of Cleveland, New York

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