YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Few towns in Westchester County are as evenly split politically as Yorktown, where administrations regularly fluctuate between Democratic and Republican control.
At Town Board meetings, for example, sharing the dais with political foes, particularly following contentious campaigns, has sometimes led to combustible moments of disagreement. But, officials say, they rarely let their professional spats develop into personal animosity, noting that respect is an essential ingredient of a well-functioning local government.
In the wake of a recent incident in which Councilwoman Alice Roker, a Democrat, said she was threatened by a resident, Town Board colleagues on both sides of the aisle are calling on the public to show that same level of respect to one another.
“This community, which I came to in 1985 and love, is tragically being divided,” Roker said at the Town Board’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Though she declined to elaborate on the nature of the incident to Yorktown News, the councilwoman said it involved her perceived views on policing. Roker clarified at the meeting that she supports both the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements and that she has never expressed support for the “defund the police” movement.
Town Supervisor Matt Slater, a Republican, referenced late Supreme Court Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, who were good friends despite being diametrically opposed both politically and philosophically. The morning after Town Board meetings, Slater said, his first call is to Roker.
“You can be on opposing sides and still be friends and neighbors,” Slater said. “We can disagree all night, and I still forward to that call on Wednesday.”
Councilman Tom Diana, a Republican, said such vitriol is becoming an upsetting trend in Yorktown.
“When we had the big March storm a couple of years ago, I was appalled by the way some Yorktowners had spit at and cursed at the high [power] line workers that were out there from Quebec, for God’s sake, to try and help us,” Diana said. “That is unacceptable behavior at any level. What happened to Alice was unacceptable…It’s an appalling thing to think that is what’s happening in not only our town, but towns across the country.”
Nobody deserves to be threatened over their political opinions, perceived or real, said his fellow Republican Councilman Ed Lachterman.
“It’s just disgusting to say, ‘I’m going to jump to a conclusion and let me hate the person for it.’ It’s a shame. It really is,” Lachterman said. “Maybe people should, if you have a problem, ask a question. If you don’t like [the answer], agree to disagree. There is no need to be nasty, no need to be rude, no need to be filled with hate.”
Slater said such incidents, no matter how rare, give Yorktown a “black eye.”
“That’s not the Yorktown that I’m a part of,” Slater said. “That’s not the Yorktown that I work my butt off for every single day…We work for the good of this town. We recognize the good of this town and what motivates us is to be able to point to the good of this town. There’s plenty of it, and that’s what keeps us going. But we need to stand firm against any type of action, any type of hatred.”