Letter to the Editor: A Letter to the Village of Rhinebeck from David Miller


I am very upset about the ongoing bickering over Tuesday’s Village election. The 2016 Presidential election, that divided our country, seems to have spilled into our Village. A week ago, we had a candidate form in Town Hall and the headline for the feature article in The Hudson Valley News was “Shut up, no you shut up.” I was there and saw a room filled with very angry people. A few near me were so mad with each other that I thought at any minute they might come to blows. I found it very disturbing that friends were angry at friends, neighbors were angry at neighbors. This was not a picture of the Village that I know and love.  

I have volunteered for many organizations since moving to Rhinebeck and I know first-hand how difficult it is to find people, who are very busy with work and family, to step up and help make Rhinebeck a better place to live. It is fortunate that we have 6 people who are willing to do this. However, being a Republican or a Democrat does not make any of them a bad person, just someone with different views about the way the country, state, town and village should be run.

Ten years ago, I ran for Mayor of the Village of Rhinebeck. People came up to me during the campaign and told me that we have to get the Democrats into power in the Village. I told them that partisan politics had no place in our Village election. If elected Mayor I could not bring the troops home from Iraq or solve the nation’s budget problems. I said that the Village election issues are about quality of life in our Village dealing with things like traffic, parking, sidewalks, trees, maintaining our water and sewer services and encouraging local businesses while preserving our historic Village. I said that I wanted their vote because they believed that I would do a better job than my opponent, and not because I was a democrat.  

I have been very impressed with the job that has been done by our current Mayor Heath Tortarella and I am writing this letter in support of all four of the candidates of the Rhinebeck Together Party. The 4 candidates represent 4 different political affiliations and that is exactly what I was talking about during my campaign 10 years ago.

I urge you on Tuesday to think about the 6 candidates and pick the ones that you believe can serve the Village of Rhinebeck best and make it a better place to live.

Thank you, David Miller


  1. I would like to second David Miller’s endorsement of the Rhinebeck Together Party candidates for Mayor, the Village Board and Judge. As a life-long resident of the Village of Rhinebeck, a former Trustee and Deputy Mayor and long-time Planning Board member I have had the opportunity to work with many fine people. Some were Republican, some were Democrats, and others with had no major political party affiliation. Party affiliation was not a defining feature of any.. I have known Heath since he was a kid playing sports with my nephews years ago, Howie for fifty-plus years growing up in Rhinebeck, Sara since she babysat my children, and Willie from many basketball games over three decades ago. They all share a common respect for the Village of Rhinebeck as well as a genuine understanding of the complications the go with providing leadership in a small Village.. I am confident that they will support the best interests for the Village of Rhinebeck and navigate Town, County, State and even Federal opportunities and interference to the best interest of the Village of Rhinebeck. Please support them on Election Day and they will support you as Rhinebeck moves forward and protects the past.

    Tim Decker

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful comment, and thank you for your service to our community. I agree with your assessment of the intensity of feeling. It is different and troubling. So is the situation in our nation. Here’s the rub: we need to acknowledge that the incumbent Mayor played a significant role in stoking the anger and division that you find so upsetting. Look at just one recent action: when Heath failed to secure the Dems support at their January caucus, he actually tried to have his opponents kicked off the ballot. Does that struck you as the response of a conciliator, a leader ready to reach out to opponents and bring his Village together? That’s the bare knuckle stuff of partnership. Well, stuff like that has now combined with the threatening tenor of the national political discourse to create the divisive atmosphere you deplore. I see it this way: This is a sign of a healthy democracy. People are off the couch and at the debates. If their discussion got a little too lively–better that than complacency. Let’s hope the turnout is high and that this level of political engagement continues in the years ahead. Again, thank you for your thoughts and your work.

  3. Dear Mr. Fuerst:

    With all due respect you are misinformed about who “actually tried to have his opponents kicked off the ballot.” Had my letter to the Village of Rhinebeck been posted you would have known that it was a staunch Democrat who filed the complaint with the Board of Elections…I was that staunch Democrat who filed the complaint, not to get any one kicked off the ballot but rather to protest the way the caucus was conducted.

    Please do not continue to cast asperions against Mayor Tortarella.

    Feel free to contact me if you need additional information.

    1. Ms. Merritt: Thank you for your comment. After the Jan 28 Caucus, I discussed all of this with members of the local Democratic Committee, and I was relying on their side of the story, which everyone can read at http://www.rhinebeckdemocrats.org/what-happened-at-the-caucus.html. Please allow me to step back for a moment and consider what both of us saw unfold in that Caucus: A bi-annual nominating conference opened with a packed house and high spirits. Two two hours later, by the time Heath left, it was weird and divided, with everyone dissatisfied, including you. My wife, who went to the recent candidate forum, told me Heath’s performance there had the same effect, maybe worse. (I was out of town and did not see that.) None of this acrimony is Heath’s fault–alone. Some is the fault of irritable Democrats. Some is “the Trump effect.” But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Heath’s leadership style has become a contributing factor in all this rancor. He came into office with Democratic support. Two years later, he’s barely on speaking terms with Dem leaders. Village/Town communication is badly fractured at the very time we need intense collaboration. Don’t you agree that we should be placing a premium on leadership that can pull government agencies together? From what I can see, Heath’s pushing things in the opposite direction. So, at least to me, this whole thing about “we’re for people over politics” comes across as shallow and cynical. But I certainly realize that slogans sound different and events look differently to others. That’s part of any community. Whatever happens on Tuesday, I would very much like to find a time to sit down and hear your views on all of this. I hope our neighbors will feel the same way when the votes are counted.

      1. Dear Mr. Fuerst:

        I welcome the opportunity to sit with you after the election, no matter the outcome, to engage in a thoughtful discussion. For “too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” This John F. Kennedy quote is the guiding principle I try to live by each and every day.

        Best regards,


  4. I agree David. There is no place for this sort of negativity in our village, and I honestly have no interest in anyone who brings that sort of sentiment with them. I believe in Heath and Howie and team, and will be supporting them with my vote.

  5. While I believe the candidates on both slates — and the writers here — have laudable intentions, I think we are over looking a simple fact: the slate that says it is apolitical and non-partisan has been endorsed and is presumably funded by the Republican Party. What that party is doing at the national level makes it impossible for me to support a local candidate endorsed by them unless those candidates disavow the values represented.

    For instance, I want to hear them recognize that the new leadership at the EPA threatens the Hudson River and our water supply. I want to hear them recognize that climate change is real and intensifying and threatens all of us, our children, and grandchildren. I want to hear them recognize that proposed cuts to domestic programs will undermine regional, county, and local services. And, I want to hear them recognize that diversity enriches all communities.

    Without these kinds of explicit statements, I have no choice but to vote for candidates aligned with the Democratic Party.

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