Christopher Bednarz, a Pelham Bay resident, newly inducted Eagle Scout, and recent graduate of Regis High School, got a taste of the life of an elected official on Tuesday, June 30, when he shadowed Councilman James Vacca as Councilman for a Day. Throughout the day, as the pair made d to a local senior center to a Stated Meeting at City Hall, Bednarz witnessed firsthand the range of responsibilities for local representatives.
“I would sincerely like to thank Councilman Vacca for allowing me to serve as Councilman for a Day,” said Bednarz. “Following the Councilman through a routine day in his schedule, I had a truly eye-opening and enriching experience. What truly caught my attention was Councilman Vacca’s unwillingness to simply sit behind his desk. Instead he reached out into his community to make ‘house calls’ to community members, met with local business owners, and traveled to City Hall to vote on citywide issues.”
Bednarz, who will attend Manhattan College in the fall to pursue a degree in chemical engineering under the highly selective John J. McDonnell Scholarship, met Vacca at a meeting of Boy Scout Troop 182, when Bednarz told Vacca about his Eagle Scout Project. He and fellow scouts had executed a much-needed re-painting of the stairwell of the First Lutheran Church of Throggs Neck on Baisley Avenue.
“I was immediately impressed by how driven and focused Christopher was when it came to making a positive impact in his community and doing what he has to do academically to chart a successful career path,” said Vacca. “It was a pleasure spending the day with Christopher and hearing his outlook on how the City Council operates and how constituents interact with their elected representatives. As someone who got involved in public service at a very young age, it is always inspiring to meet a young person who is interested and engaged in government.”
Arriving at Vacca’s E. Tremont Avenue office at 9:30 a.m., Bednarz started the day chatting with Vacca about the role of a Council Member before accompanying him on a site visit to Giegerich Place in Locust Point, where neighbors reported that two street trees were tearing up the sidewalk and creating dangerous conditions. Vacca and Bednarz then headed to RAIN Middletown Senior Center to take part in a special event.
Shortly after noon, Vacca, Bednarz, and a staff member hopped in Vacca’s car and drove to City Hall, where Bednarz enjoyed a tour and got to witness a Council Stated Meeting, where all 51 members gather twice a month to cast votes on legislation and land use items. That day, the Council created a Small Business Task Force to review over-burdensome regulation of small-scale businesses; passed a bill creating a three-month amnesty period for those who owe penalties to the city as an inducement to pay; and approved an expansion plan for Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus.
Said Bednarz, “After my day with the councilman, I can confidently say that I am more aware of the workings of our city’s legislative body, the problems our community is facing, and what it is like to be an elected official confronting those issues head-on.”