Remember the poll tax? The poll tax existed in southern states in order to disenfranchise African Americans after the Civil War. The 24th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (1964) outlawed property qualifications for voting in federal elections by abolishing all poll or other taxes as a voting requirement. In 1966 the United States Supreme Court ruled in HARPER V VIRGINIA BOARD OF ELECTIONS that state poll taxes violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. During the Revolution most states required voters to be property owners. During the Civil War states had eliminated nearly all property requirements for voting.
Earlier this year the Greenburgh Town Board appointed Barry Kessler (a former member of the Central 7 School Board) to the three member Hartsdale Parking Authority. Mr. Kessler is a long time resident of Greenburgh, a commuter and an attorney. He is an independent thinker. The parking district objected to his appointment and retained the services of their outside counsel to fight the appointment (which takes effect on January 1, 2010).
Today the law firm that was hired by the Hartsdale Parking Authority appeared at a Town Board meeting and advised the Board that the Parking Authority would not recognize Barry Kessler’s appointment. The reason: There is a little known NY statute (that was approved before the Civil Rights laws went into effect) requiring all members of the Hartsdale Parking Authority to be property owners at the time of their appointment. When Mr. Kessler was appointed to the position the property was in his wife’s name. Since that time Mr. Kessler became a part owner of the property. However—the parking authority won’t recognize the change in property ownership because it took place after the assessment rolls were announced.
The Town Attorney will be taking this matter to court. We will be asking the courts to issue a declaratory judgment –finding that the law is unconstitutional on its face. In addition, we will be seeking an injunction requiring the Parking Authority to seat Barry Kessler. I plan to file a freedom of information request seeking copies of all the legal bills the Hartsdale Parking district has spent trying to deny Mr. Kessler his appointment.
The statute requiring property ownership is offensive and prohibits more than half of the town from serving on this Board.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor
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