Government

The former, albeit short-lived White House employee tells all in exclusive TBR interview

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci promotes his new book at Book Revue in Huntington before a crowd. Photo by Kyle Barr

Anthony Scaramucci, the one-time White House communications director and Port Washington native, swirled through the Trump Administration like a tornado during his 10-day tenure in 2017. Though if there’s any specific reason he didn’t last as long as he would have liked to, he said it’s because he tells it like it is.

“I’m not the type of person well suited for Washington – I’m honest,” Scaramucci said in an exclusive interview with TBR News Media Nov. 4. “I’m not going to spin like that, I told [President Donald Trump] that.”

Scaramucci travelled back to the vicinity of his old stomping grounds to promote his new book, “Donald Trump, The Blue-Collar President” for a book signing event at Book Revue in Huntington Sunday. Local residents asked questions about Scaramucci the man, but many were especially keen on hearing about his time and experience with the 45th President of the United States.

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci promotes his new book at Book Revue in Huntington before a crowd. Photo by Kyle Barr

Scaramucci was in the White House from July 21 through July 31, 2017, though before he was fired the man known widely as “The Mooch” stunned media correspondents with his uproarious Wall Street financier’s attitude, unafraid of using language not usually seen on air, let alone from the federal government’s top spokesperson. It was that lack of a filter that likely cost him his job, after talking to The New Yorker Magazine reporter Ryan Lizza and saying on the record, “I’m not [former White House Chief Strategist Steve] Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own [expletive].”

Though the former communications director said he owns up to the mistake, that bluster likely brought more than 100 people, both Trump supporters and critics, to Book Revue to ask questions about his experience with Trump, who he said he’s known for more than 20 years.

The author said there is a strategy behind Trump’s consistent attacks on news media. Scaramucci said the president aims to keep the media in disarray for the purpose of galvanizing his base, which seems to enjoy the constant onslaught.

“He is using the bombast as a firecracker to throw into the crowd of the media,” he said. “He tells a lie, a mistruth or creates puffery, they’re going to self-immolate on the air – they will be all upset – while his base is laughing at them. They’ve made themselves part of the story while he’s trying to galvanize that base.”

Though Scaramucci’s advice to Trump is to dial back the attacks he said, at least enough to make the nation’s overall political discourse less volatile.

“If you could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and still get votes, as you once said, why not try being nice for two weeks?” he said he told Trump. “The president has a very unique personality, and the market price is in, he’s going to say a lot of cuckoo, la-la things. The people who are replicating his strategy are having a hard time. You cannot beat the president on the field he’s playing.”

While Scaramucci said he had asked Trump to dial it back at some points, Huntington Village resident Dominick “Dominooch” Mavellia asked why he should when it was precisely that personality that won him the presidency.

“There’s a huge transitional opportunity for him to keep his base in check and appeal to the center … he’s going to need to secure reelection,” Scaramucci said, responding to Mavellia. “I don’t think he can recreate that map he created in 2016 because [the opposition] has now adapted and pivoted. If he calms it down a little, just moving it down to fourth gear from fifth, still being aggressive on the media, pushing the message towards the middle, and getting those independents he will win a resounding reelection.”

Scaramucci, a former Goldman Sachs banker and founder of the investment firm SkyBridge Capital, is not the first ex-White House official to scribe a book about the experience of working for the 45th president. Omarosa Manigault Newman, former assistant to the president, published “Unhinged: An insider’s account of the Trump Whitehouse” in August, calling Trump a “racist” and saying he was losing much of his cognitive ability.

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci promotes his new book at Book Revue in Huntington before a crowd. Photo by Kyle Barr

The author of this latest book on Trump said while he was originally approached to write a book just after he was pushed out of office, those publishing firms were looking for a tell-all book similar to what Manigault would later write. He was approached by another, conservative political book publisher Center Street, whom he said published the book to coincide with the midterm elections Nov. 6.

“I wanted to write about what Bannon’s like as a guy, what [White House Chief of Staff John] Kelly is like as a guy,” Scaramucci said. “[Trump’s] surrounded by cockroaches, and they all want to survive him. They think they’re going to be there forever.”

Scaramucci said half the book examines Trump’s 2016 electoral win as he witnessed it with Trump on the campaign trail in 2016. He pointed to states like Wisconsin, battleground states then-candidate Hillary Clinton has been criticized for neglecting to campaign in, where Trump made several trips, as the path to his electoral success.

The other half of the book goes into his short time spent in the White House, lambasting the people he called “snakes,” who he blamed for pushing him out of his position.

“I got an 11-day PhD in Washington scumbaggery, and as bad as people thought it was it all was, it’s way worse,” he said. “There’s an opportunity here for real people to enter into the system and break the corpocracy that’s strangling Washington … though we might not be able to break it.”

Representatives from Qwik Ride, Port Jefferson Village and the Port Jefferson BID announce the kick off of Qwik Ride in the village during a press event Nov. 5. Photo by Alex Petroski

Business owners and elected officials in Port Jefferson Village are confident they’ve finally found the antidote to the business district’s most talked about problem.

In an effort to open up parking for more visitors, the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District has partnered with Qwik Ride, a company that uses 100 percent electric vehicles summoned by a mobile phone application to alleviate parking constraints in downtown areas.

“We have tried a lot of different things,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “I think it’s fun, it’s mobile, it’s free — it solves all of our issues. It can help an employee park out of the village and open up a spot. It can bring a resident downtown and keep that spot open for somebody else. And I think they’re innovative and they’re flexible, and I think when you have a dynamic problem you need a dynamic solution.”

The service is offered free of charge to riders thanks to a sponsorship contract between the BID and Qwik Ride. One of the two cars allotted to Port Jeff Village is sponsored by the BID as a whole, while the second is sponsored by Tommy Schafer, restaurant owner, village resident and BID president individually.

“Parking is widely perceived as the major contributing factor to the demise of foot traffic in this village and the ultimate failure of so many businesses, so having an option to try to get around the parking problem by having people picked up and not having to bring their cars down into the village is an obvious benefit,” Schafer said. “They look fun to ride in too, so hopefully it’ll spur people on. The fact that it’s no charge, I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be a huge success.”

The contracts are for 20 months, with services being available beginning this Saturday, Nov. 10 from noon to midnight. Initially the cars will be running Thursdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. to midnight and 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Qwik Ride owner Dan Cantelmo said the company hopes to eventually have up to five cars sponsored in Port Jeff and service available seven days a week, though expansion will be based on demand.

Once operational, the service will pick up Port Jefferson residents in the 11777, and those traveling to the area from outside of the village are instructed to park in the CVS parking lot on Main Street near Earl L. Vandermeulen High School to summon the cars from there for transport downtown. The company has rolled out cars in Patchogue, Northport and Huntington villages earlier this year with great success, according to Cantelmo.

“All have a similar concept — trying to ease the parking and encourage people to park further away so that we can bring them into the town,” he said.

While the service is only planned to operate Thursday through Sunday in PJV at first, special events like the Charles Dickens Festival and popular nights out like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be covered as well.

The cars will be kept in the parking lot behind Village Hall when not in service, but the village has no other stake in the agreement, other than offering its support, according to Garant. During the summers of 2017 and 2018, the BID partnered with a valet parking company to offer a municipal parking service, an agreement that required village permission to use certain parking lots, though failed to garner enough usage to remain viable.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Roger Rutherford, general manager of The Port Jefferson Frigate. “ I think it’s going to mean more customers for us.”

Rona Smith is challenging Anthony Palumbo for his New York State Assembly seat. Photos by Alex Petroski

The North Shore’s easternmost New York State Assembly District — which juts as far west as Mount Sinai and portions of Port Jefferson — has been represented by an incumbent Republican since 2013, and a first-time candidate for political office is seeking to unseat him.

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) was elected in a special election to represent the 2nd District in 2013 and won subsequent races in 2014 and 2016. The 48-year-old practicing lawyer will be challenged this Election Day by 73-year-old Democrat Rona Smith, a newcomer to politics from Greenport with government experience, as she currently serves as the chairwoman of the Housing Advisory Commission for Southold Town.

The candidates sat down for a debate at the TBR News Media in Setauket in October to discuss issues impacting the district.

Health care

The future of health care is at the top of minds for candidates in federal and state races alike this cycle, likely because it’s on the minds of their common constituents. State law can be used in conjunction with federal law regarding health care, meaning the legislative houses of New York’s government will have an opportunity to stabilize health care policy for its residents as the federal Affordable Care Act waits in limbo for a bipartisan solution in Congress.

Democrats in the Assembly have passed a single-payer health care bill — meaning essentially everyone in the state would pay into a pool and everyone would be covered — which has gotten no traction in the state Senate, controlled by Republicans, and appears unlikely ever to become the law.

As the ACA suffers, Palumbo said he would suggest some simple tweaks to improve the current system, rather than implementing a single-payer bill, which he said he believes will be too expensive.

“When you think about the numbers, we’re talking about 900,000 people in New York state are uninsured — they’re between the Medicaid gap and the private insurance gap — that’s 5 percent,” he said. “Not a lot I think, generally speaking.”

He suggested bringing back the Family Health Plus option, a subsidized plan for low-income individuals, which wasn’t available under the ACA, rather than “overhauling” state tax code to afford a single-payer scheme.

“Nothing comes off the shelf perfect,” Smith said of both the ACA and the single-payer bill passed by the Assembly. “They’re not perfect, they’re attempts to try to make sure that everybody — rich, poor, old, young — has health insurance they can depend upon for any health need that comes up. We have got to figure out how to do it.”

Affordability and opportunity

The candidates agreed there are obstacles for people — but especially recent college graduates — for being able to live and prosper both in the district and in the county as a whole. The problem will only be exaggerated going forward by the capping of state and local tax deductions, a component of the new federal tax code bill that will disproportionately impact homeowners in high-tax states like New York.

Smith said she would home in on reducing student loan debt as a means to foster more affordability, in addition to investment in more affordable housing projects for low-income individuals, a plan she said Democrats in the Assembly are already working on.

She said students need access to mandated, objective advice when it comes to borrowing and affording college, rather than just input from for-profit loan collection businesses.

Palumbo said New York’s susceptibility to outward migration can be traced to out-of-control budgeting and spending.

“It’s conservative fiscal values that we need to have,” he said.

He said the Assembly has been working on a solution to mitigate the capping of the SALT deduction at $10,000, though so far the IRS has not blessed any of the fixes.

Infrastructure investment

Investing in projects that could stimulate the local economy is seen as a solution by members of both parties. Currently legislators in New York are gathering funds to study the feasibility of electrifying the Long Island Rail Road east of Huntington on the North Shore line, an idea many have suggested to increase opportunities for people to live and work in the area.

“I think investments in infrastructure always come back in salaries and benefits for people,” Smith said. “It might make housing more accessible.”

She said electrification might be the answer, but the state’s economy could be better served by using the LIRR to ship freight, an idea that would allow farmers and vineyards on the East End to ship fresh products beyond the direct vicinity.

Palumbo said he would go in another direction instead of committing major funds to electrify the LIRR line. He said he would like to see the results of a study examining LIRR ridership to the East End before going down that road and would prefer to see smarter leadership from the Metropolitan Transit Authority when it comes to train schedules and usage.

He also called on school districts to examine ways to scale down spending, which is the largest driver of increasing property taxes.

Smithtown Councilman Tom Lohmann will compete with Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for a seat on Smithtown Town Board. Photos by Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown voters can choose between incumbent Tom Lohmann (R) and Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for town council seat where both want to continue efforts toward downtown revitalization.

Fortunato and Lohmann stepped into the TBR News Media offices to debate about the problems and efforts circulating throughout the town’s eight hamlets.

After being in office 10 months, Lohmann said he has an appreciation for the inner workings of Smithtown’s government. While the councilman said he has worked hard with the town’s Highway Department to fix roads, he wants to see the local business districts built up to incentivize young people to remain in town.

“People I speak to don’t mind paying a little bit more if they have good roads,” Lohmann said. “These are things we use. You want to have businesses we can patronize. We don’t have businesses there because we let it deteriorate to something unsustainable.”

Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato is looking to break the Republican stranglehold on the town council, one that has been in place for more than two decades. She said the town needs to improve its communication and transparency with the community.

“Our towns look shabby, but we’ve got plenty of money, and our budget needs to move there,” Fortunato said. “What is so important is a comprehensive master plan — we’ve been talking about that for a long time, and I’m just concerned that the community has heard what we want to see in Smithtown.”

2019 Budget

On Oct. 5, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) released his draft 2019 budget that increases $4 million from this year, and includes a raise for all board members from $65,818 to $75,000. Fortunato said she
disagreed with the pay increase, especially when comparing the council members’ salaries to either Huntington or Brookhaven, two larger townships than Smithtown.

“I would not take that salary,” the Democratic challenger said. “[Supervisor Ed Wehrheim] should be longer in government before taking a raise.”

Lohmann said that, compared to previous boards, he and other council members are working full time on town matters. He says he is in his office full time, not including other night or weekend events. The councilman said the largest increase to the town’s budget is due the town’s employee health care costs, which he hopes to address if he gets another term.

“I think I’m worth $75,000,” the incumbent said. “One of the biggest increases is $1.1 million
to support health care costs. We’re on an unsustainable course of action. We have to look to
employees to subsidize their own costs.”

Lohmann was appointed to the board in January 2018 after the seat was vacated by Wehrheim.  Some, including Fortunato, originally protested the decision, saying that the move was unilaterally made without input from the community.

Infrastructure

The Town of Smithtown is involved in several sewer projects at various stages of development in Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James. Lohmann said that while New York State politics has put the project on hold by keeping an alienation bill required for the Kings Park pump station from being voted on in the state Assembly, he and the rest of the board are still wholly committed to these projects.

“We’re not going anywhere without sewers,” the incumbent said. “In Kings Park, it’s ready, but unfortunately what’s going on in Albany that died on the vine … A true comprehensive master plan has to involve community input and town hall meetings to drive the picture of what we want to see which is a living breathing document updated every 5 to 10 years.”

Fortunato said she is in full support of sewering, but that she wants the town to be open in relaying to the community what environmental impacts the new sewers could have.

“We got to be careful, and we want transparency,” she said. “We should have a public forum to present these options [for sewer treatment plants] and what we are looking at.”

Republican challenger Jim Leonick will take on incumbent Councilwoman Joan Cergol, on right, Nov. 6. Photos by Kyle Barr

There’s a hot race for a one-year term on Huntington Town Board that could tip the scale of the council’s political leaning.

Incumbent Joan Cergol (D) is a lifelong Huntington resident who was appointed in December 2017 to the seat vacated by former councilwoman Susan Berland, who was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature. She previously served as the town’s director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, executive director of the Economic Development Corp. and executive director of the Local Development Corp.

Republican challenger Jim Leonick should be familiar name with Nov. 6 voters. The East Northport attorney unsuccessfully campaigned for Town Board as a running mate with Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in 2017, coming up just short by less than 650 votes. Now he’s back, seeking to fill the remaining year of Berland’s term.

“I’ve heard more and more complaints of things wrong with the town,” Leonick said. “There are many people complaining about things that don’t have the wherewithal to do something, but I do and that’s why I’m running.”

LIPA lawsuit/Northport Power Station

The Republican challenger said he believes the most important issue in this election is Long Island Power Authority and National Grid’s lawsuit against the town over the tax-assessed value of Northport Power Station.

“It will have the greatest financial impact on town residents, and the tax bills of the Northport-East Northport school district,” he said.

Leonick said he supports levying a fossil fuel tax on the plant to recoup any lost tax money, believes the plant is not currently properly assessed for taxes given its gas and electrical transmission lines should make it more valuable, and is in favor of spending money investigating if using eminent domain to take control of the plant is feasible.

“I agree it’s an anvil hanging over the town’s head for seven years,” Cergol said. “We need to be a unified front.”

She agreed more information would be needed before considering proceeding with eminent domain, as it would require a townwide referendum. Cergol chastised the topic being used as a “political divisive tactic.” The councilwoman said she has been following the advice of the town attorney on how to proceed.

Development

Cergol said the most common issue she hears about is Huntington’s overdevelopment and its impact on the character of the town. She wants to see changes made to C-6 zoning code that affects apartments over commercial space and wants to require all parking needs to be contained by each individual project or on private lots. The Democrat also supports construction of a parking structure or other means to alleviate the village’s parking issues.

“Residents are not happy with downzoning, the town should stick to what the master plan says,” Leonick said. “People who have lived here 30, 40 years and paid taxes don’t want their community to start looking like Nassau and Queens.”

The Republican said a simple fix to the C-6 zoning issue would be to increase the number of parking spaces needed to build apartments. Leonick also criticized the town for not constructing a parking structure for Huntington village, suggesting a modular unit could be purchased and easily constructed.

Government Transparency

On issues like the LIPA lawsuit and parking, Leonick said he feels the town lack’s transparency on its actions. Cergol responded by saying the town’s website has an entire section dedicated to the LIPA lawsuit.

The councilwoman said she authored and co-sponsored the bill that led to live streaming of the town’s meetings and events. She also offered to host monthly forums at Town Hall to delve into topics like 5G cellular service transmitters, where residents can ask questions of town officials and discuss the issue.

Leonick said the town’s web page on LIPA doesn’t go far enough and suggested development of additional electronic communications with residents, like a blog.

2019 Tentative Budget

In review of the 2019 tentative budget and government costs, Cergol said the town has
reduced expenses by using technology to allow residents to apply for affordable housing and register for recreational programs online. She is willing to negotiate the number of full-time staff members per council member, which the tentative budget calls to cut from two to one each with a shared secretary.

Leonick said that he’s glad the proposed budget stays within the 2 percent tax cap but believes there should be an increase in personnel in the town attorney’s office to help reduce outside legal fees and that each council member should have two full-time staff.

Incumbent state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick will be challenged by Democrat Dave Morrissey at the polls. Photos by Kyle Barr

The two candidates running for New York’s 8th Assembly District, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) and Democratic challenger Dave Morrissey, agree on the area’s problems of high taxes and shrinking youth population. However, they disagree heavily on how the state should work to change it.

Fitzpatrick and Morrissey stepped into the TBR News Media offices where they discussed their varying stances on state and local issues.

Fitzpatrick is running again for his long-held seat on a number of fiscal issues, including
taxes, young people leaving Long Island and cutting back on government employee’s benefits.

“Unfortunately, when you look at the numbers, we continue to be a state in decline. We’re losing 100,000 people a year,” he said.

Morrissey, a local software engineer and project manager from Smithtown, is running heavily on reforming New York’s response to the opioid crisis. This comes after a personal tragedy where Morrissey’s son William died of complications due to opioid addiction in 2016.

“He wasn’t one of the statistics because he didn’t die over an overdose death, and there are many more deaths than most often reported because of this,” the Democratic challenger said. “All levels of government need to do more.”

Taxes/Cost of Living

Fitzpatrick sees a need to deal with union contracts and government employee pension programs, which he said is sapping the strength out of the economy. The assemblyman has campaigned to change automatic pay increases while employers and employees are in between labor contracts as well as pushing for a transition from pensions for 401(k)s for government employees.

“The tax burden is too high,” the assemblyman said. “You have to get every elected official out of the defined benefit retention system. That particular benefit and how we are compensated encourages fiscal irresponsibility.”

The Democratic challenger said that while his campaign has received union support, he would still push for school consolidation of resources. He opined best way to affect the school district’s taxes was to expand Long Island’s commuter infrastructure to appeal to young people and, hopefully, encourage new business growth.

“We need to have smart strategic investments that will have a real cost benefit,” Morrissey said. “If the only thing you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, and you can’t cut your way into prosperity.”

Health care/Opioid crisis

On the opioid treatment and health care, the challenger said there needs to be much more done on the state level. He supports medically assisted treatment for all drug or alcohol users who need it, opening up an addiction high school through the BOCES system, and opening up at least 11 more recovery centers, for which he suggests the state should get pharmaceutical companies to pay.

The incumbent said he feels it would be near impossible to get the pharmaceutical companies to pay for these programs, while agreeing it would help, he said funding from state government is never guaranteed.

Morrissey said he also believes in health care for all and supports the New York Health Act, which passed through the state Assembly but did not reach the floor of the state Senate. He said he would look to give the state more negotiatinpower with pharmaceutical companies.

“I think it’s a great system that needs improvements — something rolled out gradually,”
Morrissey said. “Big pharma has so much wealth, we should be able to negotiate on the process.”

Fitzpatrick said he disagrees with a health care for all program, and especially the New York Health Act. He would instead advocate for use of Health Savings Account programs, one where people can save money for health-related emergencies only.

“The system is not broken — it needs to be repaired and modified,” he said. “You want a system that attracts the best and the brightest doctors.”

Voters heading to the polls Nov. 6 who live in the Town of Brookhaven will find this proposition on the back of their ballots.

Brookhaven Town residents will have to flip over their ballots Nov. 6 to respond to a referendum pertaining to councilmembers’ terms in office, but they’d have to do backflips in the voting booth to be able to respond to the two-part question which allows for a single “yes” or “no” answer.

After a public hearing featuring speakers mostly in opposition in August, Brookhaven’s board unanimously moved to proceed with establishing a referendum on the back of this year’s ballot, an off year for Brookhaven’s representatives.

“Should the town code of the Town of Brookhaven be amended to establish term limits of three (3) four-year terms for elected officials, and amend the length of term of office from two (2) years to four (4) years for all elected officials commencing January 1, 2020?” the referendum will read verbatim.

Despite there being two components to the question, voters can only respond “yes” or “no.” The wording of the referendum was written by the town’s Law Department, according to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto.

When asked why they wanted to expand terms from two to four years councilmembers and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) in interviews and during the hearing offered similar, admittedly understandable explanations for the change. Having to campaign and fundraise for elections every two years is laborious, and makes getting things done difficult once in office, they said — both the Republicans and the board’s lone Democrat. While we can see how this would be a problem, we’d prefer to see adjustments to campaign finance law, requiring less fundraising and allowing more time for actual legislative work, before going with a solution that results in voters having less frequent opportunities to express their opinions.

Issues could be raised and conspiracy theories crafted for the motivation of the Town Board to advance a referendum like this during an otherwise ordinary August meeting based on the fact more than one member of the current board is nearing 12 years in office. If passed, based on the wording, term limits would begin to be instituted on councilmembers beginning in 2020, meaning years already served will not have started their clocks. Fair or unfair, the process did nothing to squash those theories. And even without those issues, there is still no way to reconcile that putting a referendum with perplexing verbiage before town voters will somehow yield the will of the people.

This is not to mention an additional element — that in 1993, residents voted to implement a limit of three, four-year terms on elected officials in Brookhaven thanks to a referendum, though that law was no longer applicable following a 2002 public vote to establish council districts, as state law dictates councilmembers in towns with council districts serve two-year terms, according to Emily Pines, Romaine’s chief of staff and a former New York State Supreme Court justice, who spoke during the August hearing. That interpretation has been questioned by many and could conceivably lead to a lawsuit if the referendum passes.

Add it all up and the answer became clear to our editorial staff: We’ll be voting “no” on Proposal One.

New York State sen. Carl Marcellino will face a challenge from Democrat Jim Gaughran Nov. 6. Photos by Alex Petroski

It’s a political rematch two years in the making for New York State’s 5th Senate District.

Incumbent Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), who was first elected to office in a 1995 special election, currently represents the mixed district consisting of Nassau and Suffolk residents. He claims to have successfully gotten 275 laws passed and serves as chairman of the Senate
Education Committee.

Democrat Jim Gaughran, of Northport, is a sole-practitioner attorney of nearly 30 years experience and current chairman of Suffolk County Water Authority. He’s previously served as a councilman for the Town of
Huntington and a Suffolk County legislator. In the 2016 race, he came up short against Marcellino by a slim margin of 
1,761 votes, or roughly 1.2 percent of the roughly 145,000 ballots cast.s. Now, he eyes an office in the state Senate.

“One of the primary differences is the senator is very happy with the way things are going, the way Albany works,” Gaughran said. “I think there’s a lot we need to do in Albany that hasn’t been done.”

Both candidates sat down for an exclusive interview with TBR News Media on state and local issues.

Education

The challenger recognizes that the federal government’s action to cap state and local tax deductions at $10,000 will pose a financial challenge to homeowners. If elected, he’d like to use it as a reason to increase state funding of public schools, while gradually cutting property taxes.

“To me, public education should be the No. 1 funding priority for the State of New York, period,” he said.

Gaughran said he believes there are too many unfunded mandates on schools, the state needs to provide funds for projects, and would like to decouple state testing scores from teacher evaluations.

Marcellino claimed he has increased state aid to school districts by approximately $1,500 per pupil while serving as state education chair. He supports the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap to keep taxes under control. Marcello said he also believes the state needs to study and review efficiency of school programs it sponsors and pays for. The incumbent said part of that burden also falls on school districts to be careful with what programs they introduce, ensure they are needed and all districts should consider consolidation.

Infrastructure

One area Gaughran said he’d like to see Long Island receive more funding is for infrastructure, particularly relating to improving water quality. He will fight for more state funding to upgrade sewer treatment facilities to state-of-the-art  technology and expand sewers. The Democrat said the biggest issue faced in Suffolk is to improve the water quality by replacing current cesspools with microsewers. He believed the state should provide tax incentives and grants.

Marcellino said he’s a strong proponent of environmental protection, citing his work requiring notification prior to pesticide application and a bill written to reform the state’s cleanup of brownfield and superfund sites in the early 2000s.

“Preserving of our open space and our clean air, preserving green fields is a key element here. It’s important we move forward with that and we do more of it,” he said. “Frankly, not enough is being done and we need to do more.”

The incumbent said the state needs to do more to partner with lower levels of government, help out financially where possible and supports offering state tax incentives.

LIPA’s lawsuit over Northport power plant

Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district residents have been calling on elected officials for their help and assistance this year in mitigating any impact Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari case could have on local property owners as it moves toward a trial.

Gaughran said he was a member of Huntington Town Board when the original agreement was made for LIPA taking over the Northport Power Station and believed that the town should be protected in the tax certiorari case.

“The state needs to support the Town of Huntington and its residents,” the Democratic challenger said.

Marcellino cited his efforts to aid the town and school district by drafting and co-sponsoring a bill that would have spread out the difference in taxes over a 15-year period and allowed access to state funds to offset any tax revenue difference. He said he would support possible LIPA reform and changes that he felt would benefit his constituents, but any action would need to be carefully thought through and studied in advance for potential ramifications.

His challenger said he would look to reform LIPA in two ways: First would be to make appointment to its board a process of government approval and confirmation by the state Senate; and, second, he would look to force the utility company go before the state’s Public Service Commission for approval of its consumer fees and rates.

Ethics reform

If elected, Gaughran said he would like to push for real ethic laws in New York State politics. As former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) appeals a public corruption conviction, the Democratic challenger said he fears others may be using public office for private benefit. He proposes to force state elected officials to not have outside employment while serving in state Legislature and push for campaign financial reform to close existing loopholes.

“We are capable of policing ourselves,” Marcellino replied. “No one likes to see someone game the system.”

The incumbent said to force state elected officials to give up outside income would cause many talented individuals to leave office, and anticipates those remaining as full-time legislators to request an increase in pay. He said changes like those proposed by Gaughran would require a statewide public referendum.

“Their ability to make change happen is there, but it’s not that simple,” Marcellino said.

From left, incumbent Assemblyman Steve Stern will run off against Republican Jeremy Williams Nov. 6. Photo by Kyle Barr, photo from Jeremy Williams

The New York State Assembly’s 10th District seat is up for grabs. Come Nov. 6, residents have the choice between age and experience, or a youth with enthusiasm.

TBR News Media was prepared  to host a debate with state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and his Republican challenger Jeremy Williams, but the latter candidate did not show.

Stern, a prior Suffolk County legislator for 12 years, won a special election to the state Assembly after Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) vacated the seat in January. Now, the incumbent said he has a great track record in government, sponsoring and helping to pass six separate bills in six weeks on a number of state and local issues.

“I was dropped into session and not even told where the bathroom was,” Stern said. “I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

— Steve Stern

The 22-year-old Williams is a lifelong Huntington Station resident, and now lives in a house close to the one his great-great-grandparents built. The Republican challenger said previously that he decided to run for office after commuting to his job in Manhattan, working as a public relations representative for several technology companies, and seeing how expensive it was to live on Long Island.

Williams said he wants to focus on getting more funds to Suffolk and that he would work to end what he called an unfriendly business climate, especially in regard to high tax rates and fees.

“We have to fast track the application process for these businesses, maybe with a five-year property tax abatement,” Williams said in a phone interview after the debate.

Stern said he also believes that businesses need incentives to come to and grow on Long Island. Specifically, he would want to offer tax breaks for companies looking to set up shop on Long Island, and that he would use state funds to incentivize the county to reduce its business and development fees, specifically environmental fees. The incumbent  also said that he will focus on making sure Suffolk gets a higher percentage back from the $5 billion in taxes it pays out to the state annually.

“The $5 billion that we send up to Albany is enough to fund both Suffolk County and a good bit of Nassau county as well,” the Democratic candidate said. “If we receive some significant percentage of that back, our taxpayers would be able to have a better quality of life.”

In development, Stern, who was opposed to enterprises like Villadom that would have created a mall on vacant land in Elwood, said there should be more incentives from the state to build new projects on developed parcels rather than on open space. “Before anybody goes knocking down areas of pristine property there has to be an incentive for redevelopment,” he said.

Williams said he agreed with redevelopment over new developments, but he emphasized the problems with modern transit-oriented developments don’t aid in helping young people stay on Long Island.

“Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older,” he said.

Stern said if re-elected he would work with Republicans and Democrats to provide commuters or their employers access to funds for transportation purposes, and encourage programs for college students to work with local businesses or startups.

Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older.” 

— Jeremy Williams

“There has to be a public-private partnership that has real meaning for the development of this company, but as local taxpayers, if we are to make investments into this company and provide the intellectual capital, that this is going to be a company that will commit to its future growth on Long Island,” the incumbent said.

Williams said he agrees with more public-private partnerships with businesses, especially if they are located in areas of Huntington,  like stretches of the Melville business corridor that have degraded in both looks and number of storefronts. The Republican challenger added if he is elected he would be both willing and able to work with the Democrats in the state legislature.

“Lupinacci and other people in the district seat were in the minority seat for years, and they still got a lot done,” Williams said. “The only people I am beholden to are the people in my community.”

Overall, Stern said he is more than willing to work across the aisle with Republican colleagues.

“I don’t care what letter you have after your name. The most important thing is putting points up on the board and delivering to my community,” he said. “If nobody has a sit down with each other or a working relationship with each other, then top priorities don’t get done.”

Above left, Democratic challenger Avrum Rosen and on right, incumbent Andrew Raia

Both candidates seeking to represent New York State’s 12th Assembly District are aware of the challenges the area faces, but have key differences on the solutions they propose.

Incumbent Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) was elected to represent the 12th District in 2002 and seeks to return to Albany for his ninth term.

His Democrat challenger is Avrum Rosen, an attorney specializing in bankruptcy and tax law at his Huntington-based practice.

Rosen jumped into the race after New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled Aug. 22 that Northport resident Michael Marcantonio, 31, Raia’s original challenger, did not meet the state’s minimum five-year residency requirements.

“When Michael Marcantonio got thrown out this race, I decided someone had to step up,” Rosen said. “While I like [Raia] very much, I don’t like his position on a lot of things. This is not a year when any Republican should go unchallenged in an election.”

LIPA/Northport power plant

Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari lawsuit against the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district over Northport Power Station is a top concern of district residents as mediation begins and possible court trial looms.

“There was never any pressure on [LIPA] to upgrade, do any of the things they needed to do to make it what it should have been,” Rosen said.

Rosen suggested the state should allow town officials to levy a carbon tax against the Northport power plant to encourage LIPA to upgrade it, ultimately raising the value of the plant.

Raia highlighted legislation he co-sponsored earlier this year that would allow the town to spread out any tax rate changes over a 15-year period and granted access to state funds to stabilize taxes. Raia said environmentalists rallied against it for proposing to take money from the greenhouse gas initiative funds.

“No matter who comes back, it’s something that should be reintroduced and maybe we get the money from another pot that the environmentalists are not so concerned about,” the incumbent said.

Taxes 

Raia said he believes the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap has been one the “best things” the state has done to control taxes and cost-of-living on Long Island. He wants to encourage consolidation of services among municipalities and school districts while supporting the lawsuit of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) against the federal government for placing a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. Raia said he has researched shifting from a property-based to income-based tax model, creating a commercial tax fund and other ways to ease the burden on Long Island homeowners.

Rosen agreed with his opponent that the SALT tax deduction cap needs to be addressed by the state. If elected to office, he proposes the state Legislature considers offering straight tax credits to those with student loans, those entering STEM professions and for parents paying childcare costs. The Democratic challenger said commercial taxes need to be addressed and he believes it needs to be done through a tristate regional approach that brings both New Jersey and Connecticut on board. Rosen questions if the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap can be kept in place in the future if the rate of inflation increases.

Gun Control

Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this February, gun control has become a larger national issue.

Rosen said he is in favor of microstamping guns, broader background checks and a red flag law that allows police or family to request firearms be removed from owners who might present a danger to themselves or others. He criticized Raia for voting down gun control measures in the past.

The incumbent said over time he has “evolved on the issue,” arguing against parts of various gun control bills for lacking due process. Raia cited that he voted in favor of taking firearms from those convicted of domestic violence once the language was tweaked to only include related crimes, and he wanted to enable investigators charged with researching the mental health backgrounds of those requesting gun permits to cross state lines.

Social

9,193FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,130FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe