Election News

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

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Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), above, discusses the 2015 election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) is always on the move.

The 38-year-old Brookhaven Town councilman, who is running for a second term, said he is trying to bring energy back to his district.

“You want to get people back into government,” LaValle said during an interview at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office. “[You] have to make people feel the government is their for them.”

His Democratic opponent, Christian DeGeorge, did not return a request for an interview.

One big accomplishment of LaValle’s first term was finishing negotiations for athletic fields by Hawkins Path Elementary School in Selden, near where Boyle Road meets Hawkins Road. The Middle Country area has long needed field space, and LaValle began targeting that property when he was an aide for Legislator Tom Muratore. The county now owns the land, and the town is utilizing it and making improvements to it.

LaValle said he wants to continue work on that property, perhaps adding a walking trail and a parking lot to make it easier for people to use.

Moving forward, taxes and road maintenance are two of the most important issues in the 3rd Council District, according to LaValle, who grew up in Centereach. He said he tried to prioritize the roads in need of maintenance, like filling potholes and improving drainage, in his past term and will continue to do so if re-elected.,

“I tell every resident this: We can’t pave every road. I’d love to pave every road, but we don’t have the money to do that.”

He also sees cleaning up graffiti as an important issue. Greentree Park in Farmingville, for one, has been tagged over and over. Since removing graffiti is costly, LaValle hopes to help law enforcement gather enough information to build a case and eventually catch those responsible for the graffitti.

To improve the flow of traffic and safety on the roads, LaValle wants to push more businesses along Middle Country Road to allow vehicular access between their properties.

“There’s so many entrances and exits [on Middle Country Road],” the councilman said. “There’s always somebody jumping out in front of you or the car in front of you. [It] backs up [the lane and] causes all the accidents.”

The cross-accesses would allow drivers to move between businesses without having to get back onto the road as frequently.

Regardless of the problem at hand, LaValle said action is important when it comes to improving the district.

“[A decision] may not change the problem tomorrow, but 20 years from now it could completely solve … a problem, so every decision you make, you always have to think four or five steps ahead.”

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County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley

By Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said he hopes to continue his work addressing the county’s top issues, including affordable living, financial issues and wastewater management. But in order to do that, he first has to get past Republican challenger Jim O’Connor.

County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley
County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley

O’Connor (R), a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Maroney O’Connor LLP, said he was hoping to unseat Bellone and get a handle of the county’s finances, which he argued are currently in bad shape.

“We are in massive amounts of debt,” O’Connor said. “Our taxes are a significant problem.”

Bellone said that he inherited a $500 million deficit when he arrived to his position in 2012, and during his short time in office he said he has been able to resolve a “legacy of issues” left to him — including minimizing that deficit.

O’Connor also said one of the issues looming over the next several years is the county’s handling of negotiations with police salary contracts.

“They are back-loaded contracts,” O’Connor said. “The real impact of these contracts won’t be felt until 2017 and 2018.”

O’Connor said he does not know how the county will pay for those salaries, and proposed to freeze them if he is elected.

“One of the things we can control is our labor costs,” O’Connor said.

Jim O'Connor photo by Giselle Barkley
Jim O’Connor photo by Giselle Barkley

Since his election, one of the examples Bellone heralded as evidence that he was working to streamline government efficiency and cut spending was his proposal — approved by public referendum last year — to merge the offices of the county comptroller and treasurer to cut costs. Bellone said it should save more than $1 million annually. He also said he has reduced the government by more than 1,100 positions.

Bellone said he is focused on shoring up the county’s water quality in his re-election bid.

“Unless we reverse the decades of decline that we’ve seen in our water quality, we are mortgaging our future,” Bellone said of why improving the county’s wastewater management is so crucial. Bellone celebrated SepticSmart Week over the summer, when he encouraged residents to stay informed on how to properly maintain their septic systems.

Both candidates discussed how they planned to fully utilize the county’s resources and make living in Suffolk more affordable.

To get there, Bellone said he wants to better utilize Stony Brook University, because “as Stony Brook University goes, so goes Suffolk County.” He said one the challenges and opportunities residents in the area have is enacting initiatives that better link Stony Brook University with other North Shore assets like Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

O’Connor said he and Bellone have a fundamental difference on how to go about dealing with affordable living in Suffolk County.

“I don’t agree that the way to do this is more [government] programs,” O’Connor said. “The way to do this and stimulate more economic growth is by turning things around and making sure Suffolk isn’t the second-most expensive place to do business and live in the United States. The only way to do that is by reducing the costs.”

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Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso

By Victoria Espinoza

A stark difference in opinion over the town’s management of funding is a key component of the race for Brookhaven Highway superintendent.

Incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso
Incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso

The incumbent, Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), squared off against Democratic challenger, Jason Kontzamanys, at the Times Beacon Record headquarters, where they discussed finances in the highway department, use of subcontractors and why they deserve the job.

Kontzamanys has worked in the department of parks and recreation in Brookhaven for the past decade. He said it was that experience that helps shape his workers-first mentality, which he hoped to bring into office: “As I worked my way up, I realized the most brilliant ideas come from the workers doing the work day in and day out.”

Kontzamanys said he wants to consolidate the department as much as he can in order to save money and streamline government. One way to do that, he proposed, would be placing the Holtsville Ecology Site within the jurisdiction of the town’s parks department.

He also said he thinks he can bring changes to a “financially mismanaged” department, especially by cracking down on the usage of subcontractors.

“I do not want to rely on subcontractors,” he said. “I want to embolden the unionized work force and expand it as much as I can.”

He said subcontractors should not handle routine projects like lawn cutting, drainage and tree removal. Instead, he said he wants to do as much work as he can in-house within a 40-hour week.

Jason Kontzamanys. Photo by Phil Corso
Jason Kontzamanys. Photo by Phil Corso

“To deal with them on a continual basis, as far as I’m concerned is a violation of public trust when it comes to tax payers money,” the challenger said.

In terms of hiring fewer subcontractors, Losquadro said he believes there is no way around it, as Brookhaven’s scope is so large that the town needs more hands to handle the amount of work it accrues.

“With 3,350 lane miles of road to maintain and 200 employees, there is no way we could get all the work done without supplementing and augmenting some of that work to subcontractors,” Losquadro said.

With another term, Losquadro said he wants to continue to reform and update the department. He said he has already modernized the department a great deal and improved communication.

“There were no radio communications that were reliable [when I came into office],” Losquadro said. “I designed and installed a new radio communication system which is the same technology that the police and fire service use.”

Losquadro said the new system is reliable and gives the department coverage in parts of Long Island with serious topographical challenges.

He also mentioned major storms over the past year in which the department was able to dispatch and respond to public safety concerns in real time.

Another improvement Losquadro said he has brought to the department is with the work order system. He referred to the old system as “archaic,” in which a routine work order took weeks of mailing to different departments.

The town already uses this system for severe weather events like snowstorms, but Losquadro said he was still in the process of rolling out a fully electronic work order system.

Kontzamanys said many of the updates that Losquadro has brought to the department have already been in effect at the parks department for years and he would like to see more updates on his watch.

“I would try to embrace solar projects through federal grants, including solar bike paths and solar sidewalks,” Kontzamanys said. He also said he would then sell the energy back to utility company PSEG Long Island for a profit.

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Longtime legislator faces challenge from newcomer

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Rohma Abbas

A longtime Democratic Suffolk County legislator, seeking a final term in office to represent parts of Huntington Town, will go head to head in an election on Tuesday against a political newcomer who said a fresh perspective is in order.

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern. File photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) has been in office for a decade and is seeking a sixth and final two-year term before being term-limited out of that seat. He’ll have to fend off a challenge by Tom McNally, a Republican attorney from Dix Hills, who is part of the Huntington Republican Committee’s executive board.

In phone interviews this week, both candidates talked about what they see as top issues in this year’s campaign. The topics centered on how to steer Suffolk’s financial ship, ways to fund sewers in Suffolk, the government’s role in assisting veterans and more.

Stern touted his signature legislation, the Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative, a package of bills that aims to end veteran homelessness in Suffolk through a number of avenues.

The legislator, who sits on the Suffolk County Veterans and Seniors Committee, said he wants another term in office to continue accomplishing goals in that package of bills — particularly being able to say “in the very near future, that we have ended veteran homelessness in Suffolk County.”

“I do believe we are going to accomplish that goal,” he said.

Meanwhile, while McNally lauds Stern’s veterans initiative, he said he’d take it a step further. The contender said he’d work to create legislation that would make sure vets returning from service have a job. “If they want a job, they have a job. If I’m fortunate enough to be elected, I would double down and continue forward with all the efforts Mr. Stern has implemented on veterans and senior issues.”

County spending is one of the main tenets of McNally’s platform.

Republican Tom McNally photo from the candidate
Republican Tom McNally photo from the candidate

If elected, he said he’d mandate a reduction in spending at all Suffolk County agencies by 2.5 percent per department, except police, and 1 percent for the police budget. Spending caps are necessary, he said, because of the county’s “huge, huge deficit.”

“It’s not impossible, it’s just a matter of doing it.”

The legislator countered, however, that the county has worked steadfastly to reduce the size of government in recent years by 1,100 positions, and by consolidating departments — like the recent merger of the county offices of comptroller and treasurer.

He said he has had to make tough choices as a legislator, like deciding not to continue operating the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility, an operation county taxpayers subsidized at the cost of millions of dollars.

“It was an excruciatingly difficult decision to make, but the right one for Suffolk County taxpayers.”

Another reason Stern said he’s running is to work on the county’s sewer issue. He called himself a leading proponent of sewer infrastructure development, cosponsoring legislation identifying what areas would best served by sewers and choosing how to prioritize which neighborhoods get developed first.

It’s particularly crucial to Huntington, he said, because that priority list includes the expansion of the Southwest Sewer District, which serves Deer Park, North Babylon and other western neighborhoods.

With expanded capacity comes the ability to rev up revitalization in Huntington, particularly in Huntington Station, where developer Renaissance Downtowns already has plans in place.

Stern said the county’s getting $388 million in funding from the federal and state government to embark on these infrastructure projects, something he wants to see through.

“Will we see movement on the issue? The answer is yes. We are starting to see that now.”

McNally, by contrast, agrees water quality is a big issue on Long Island, but doesn’t see how the county could fund such a large investment.

“I think it’s an investment we have to make, but I think we have to cut back in other areas. We’re not cutting back in other areas.”

Stern was critical of his opponent’s take on the issue, noting the $388 million in sewer funds the county has.

“These kinds of opportunities is where the money comes from,” he said. “If you just throw up your hands and say this is too big, too bold, can’t afford it, then you miss out on opportunities like we are participating in.”

Election Day is Nov. 3.

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By Phil Corso

A difference in philosophy underscored the race between an incumbent Republican legislator and his Democratic challenger.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) was first elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2013 and said his first term in office opened his eyes to the county’s financial woes. But to keep working at it, he must first win re-election against Kings Park resident Richard Macellaro.

The two sat down in the Times Beacon Record Newspapers newsroom last week to discuss their campaigns and demonstrate why they deserved to represent the county’s 13th District, which encompasses Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, Nissequogue, St. James, Commack, Head of the Harbor and East Northport. Trotta kicked it off with strong rhetoric.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience over the past two years. I am shocked and saddened at how bad the county is fiscally,” Trotta said, highlighting the crux of his concerns looking ahead in the Legislature. “I’ve seen serious, serious problems. Worse than anybody even knows.”

The legislator said the looming threat of the county’s bond rating being reduced coupled with the growing sentiment that it’s too expensive to live in Suffolk have made his job all the more challenging. The blame, Trotta said, rests on out-of-control spending, too much union involvement in politics, and too much money being tossed around in campaign contributions.

A mismanagement of funding was at the heart of almost everything Trotta discussed as key campaign concerns. He cited recent development — part of a downtown revitalization plan — in Wyandanch as “overkill” and cautioned that communities like Kings Park would benefit from his voice of concern as the community looks toward a similar revitalization.

Democrat Richard Macellaro. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Democrat Richard Macellaro. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Kings Park is a diamond in the rough, and we have a plan there when it comes to sewers,” he said. “But we don’t want it to be another Patchogue.”

Macellaro — who identified himself as a “new kid on the block” when it comes to seeking political office, despite unsuccessful bids for the state Assembly in 2010 and Smithtown’s Town Board in 2013 — said he wanted to put his experience as a civic member of the Kings Park community to work. With the campaign slogan “A different voice, a different choice,” the Kings Park resident said he hoped to use the office to prevent an increase in property taxes by consolidating all the county’s school districts, allocating just one per town. While a move like that does not rest in the hands of a Suffolk County legislator, Macellaro said he would use his office as a bully pulpit to enact the change.

“It can be done,” he said. “Someone has to begin to force the school districts to lessen property taxes for our residents.”

Another important issue he said he planned on addressing, if elected, was working to construct an all-encompassing master plan for the county. Doing so, he said, would revitalize downtowns throughout the county, enhance transportation and ultimately help entice young families to stay in Suffolk.

Beyond finances, Trotta said he was not a proponent of the county’s Red Light Safety Program, which utilizes cameras at traffic signals to catch and ticket cars that run red lights. He argued that some of its regulations, including the right-on-red violations, are nothing more than a money grab on innocent residents. But Macellaro, who has worked for the county’s traffic and parking violations agency in the red light division, said he disagreed.

“I think the government is functioning very well,” he said. “Taxes are what we pay for the lifestyle we choose.”

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Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso

By Elana Glowatz

Two neighborhood leaders are battling for Brookhaven Town’s 1st Council District seat, with incumbent Valerie Cartright leaning on her record of community involvement and challenger Ed Garboski on his background as a small business owner and civic president.

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski. Photo by Phil Corso
Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski. Photo by Phil Corso

In a debate at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office last week, Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who is seeking her second term on the town board, and the Republican Garboski, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, did not stand apart on many of the area’s biggest issues.

Both said they agreed that repaving town roads, upgrading parks and preserving open space were important, as well as holding the line on taxes. They also made similar statements about the need to crack down on illegal housing in the area, specifically overcrowded homes rented to raucous Stony Brook University students — Cartright and Garboski said the town has to work with the university to alleviate the problem.

But one issue for which they had different solutions was the pace of the town’s approval process for businesses looking to locate or expand in Brookhaven. Many stakeholders have argued the process for site plan approval and other planning and zoning concerns is slow and deters business, particularly in a sluggish economy. The candidates said they heard those complaints and had plans to address them.

“I was a home improvement contractor and had to deal with the Town of Brookhaven,” Garboski said, adding that he also witnesses the movement of business in his role as civic president. “The bureaucracy … [has] just too many rules and regulations.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso

He said the town should keep watch on businesses, but needs to move things along. According to the challenger, his first step would be determining whether the holdup is a personnel issue or can be attributed to the approval process itself.

The incumbent, on the other hand, pointed to a department restructure in the town in January 2014 — among other changes, the town board split up the building and fire prevention department, putting building into the planning department and fire prevention into the public safety department.

“I think it’s time for us to sit down as a board and evaluate that restructuring to see if it’s been more effective,” Cartright said. “To see if there’s any additional stuff that needs to be restructured.”

Another topic that received different responses was the issue of drug abuse and addiction on Long Island. While Garboski stressed the need for outreach programs in neighborhood schools and educating parents so they can identify a child with a drug problem, Cartright said Brookhaven should be assisting community groups that are already tackling the issue and should work with the county to get homeless people, many of whom struggle with addiction, the services they need.

In endorsing herself for re-election, Cartright said she has worked to bridge the gap between the government and the community, touting the bulletin that she sends out to residents with information about upcoming public hearings and proposed laws, among other outreach efforts.

Garboski said he agreed that bulletin is helpful to people like him, who are keeping an eye on town news. For his own part, he emphasized his experience as a business owner with negotiating and budgets, and said he has time to put toward alleviating quality of life issues.

The two community advocates will face off on Nov. 3.

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Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

A doctor and Democratic Suffolk County legislator is vying for another two-year term to lead the 18th Legislative District in a race against a Lloyd Neck resident and former congressional contender who feels he can do the job better.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) is facing a challenge from Republican Grant Lally in the election next week. The two men sat down with the Times of Huntington, Northport & East Northport in separate interviews earlier this month to chat about why they’re running for office.

Spencer touts a list of accomplishments in his four years in office, several of them health-related. He spearheaded a measure to stop companies from manufacturing energy drinks to kids. He worked to ban the sale of powdered caffeine to minors, and raise the age of selling tobacco products from 19 to 21. He also helped Northport Village obtain funding to update its wastewater treatment plant.

“I think that we’ve been able to start moving things in the right direction,” he said.

Lally, by contrast, was critical of the legislator at several points in the interview, and said taxes are a big issue in the district, something he feels he stands apart from Spencer on. Lally most recently ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) from his position. If elected, Lally said he would attempt to be more involved than Spencer.

“I’ll be more engaged,” he said. “He’s a very successful doctor. I salute him for that.”

Grant Lally photo by Rohma Abbas
Grant Lally photo by Rohma Abbas

If granted another term in office, Spencer said he would fight to go after pharmaceutical companies to support local anti-drug programs, claiming they’re part of the reason why so many people have become addicted to certain drugs. He also said the county is “terribly lacking” in outpatient solutions for those who do fall to addiction.

“I think we need more community support programs,” he said.

When it comes to crime, Spencer said while cops have made steady progress in making Huntington Station safer, the public still feels unsafe. He said he’d like to engage young people and help bridge a cultural gap between minorities and police, because minorities often feel the police aren’t there to protect them. He wants to add more bilingual officers and appropriately trained officers on the street.

“We have to capture the hearts and minds of these young people,” Spencer said. “ … I don’t think we can shoot our way out of this problem.”

Lally agrees there’s a crime issue in Huntington that needs to be addressed. He suggested doing so by having a stronger connection with federal law enforcement, coordinating resources to attack problems like gang activity, on a regional level.

“Gangs don’t just stop at the county line,” he said.

Spencer suggested tapping federal resources. He said he wants to compete with gangs to recruit young people — who gravitate towards them by societal pressure of not feeling wanted or belonging — to the good side. He said he wants to make it “unpalatable” for gangs to thrive in Huntington Station. “That’s how we change the culture.”

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Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Phil Corso

Larry Vetter is running for the Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Larry Vetter is running for the Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Over the past several years, if a Smithtown Town Board vote resulted in a 3-2 tally, chances were incumbent Republicans Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim were the lone naysayers. Both electeds have been seeking re-election this fall, as political newcomers from both sides of the aisle have stepped up for their seats.

Creighton, 77, came out on the bottom of a three-way Republican primary back in September, losing the GOP line on Tuesday’s ballot to both Wehrheim and Lisa Inzerillo, 50, of Kings Park, while still retaining a spot on the Conservative, Independent and Reform party lines. Meanwhile, Democrat Larry Vetter, 62, threw his hat into the race over the summer and has been vying to break the town’s all-Republican board.

All the candidates, except for Inzerillo, sat down with the Times of Smithtown last week to discuss top issues facing Smithtown and what their plans were to address them if elected.

Creighton said he hoped his record would speak for itself in his bid for another term, citing his background in law enforcement and private sector success before joining the Town Board in 2008. In the interview, both Creighton and Wehrheim discussed that familiar 3-2 split on the board and argued that dissension too often got in the way of progress.

Ed Wehrheim is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Ed Wehrheim is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Earlier this year, Creighton, who is in his second four-year term on the board, took to a work session to propose that the town consider installing commissioner positions similar to those held in neighboring townships like Brookhaven and Islip, which he argued would streamline workflow and make department heads more accountable. Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) was outright against the proposal and opposed it each time it was discussed before the board, which Creighton said stonewalled it from progressing.

“I’ve worked to try and change government a little bit and to make it more accountable, but it really hasn’t been acted on,” Creighton said of the plan, which Wehrheim also supported. “It will not be acted on until two of the other council people take a stand, which they will not do as long as Mr. Vecchio is there.”

Wehrheim, who is running for his fourth term on the board, said he would use another term in office to stimulate economic growth in the town, specifically with downtown business revitalization and infrastructure repairs in mind.

When asked how he planned on bettering his standing in the classic 3-2 Town Board split, Wehrheim said he would only keep doing what he has been doing — bringing business to every work session with hopes of spurring action.

Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“It’s a political issue that doesn’t need to exist. It might be great press, but I don’t pay much attention to the dissension,” Wehrheim said. “I bring business to every board meeting, because I have constituents that need me to discuss issues important to them.”

Wehrheim cited a recent legislative effort he championed alongside Creighton, adding that the two “went back and forth” over a minimum wage proposal for the town’s seasonal workers. That minimum wage hike was subsequently included in the 2016 preliminary budget in September.

Vetter, the lone Democrat in the four-way race, said one of the key points that set him apart from the rest, in his first run for public office, was his “outside looking in” perspective coupled with his extensive background in environmental science and business. He centered his campaign on attacking the “Long Island brain drain” and fighting to keep young adults in Smithtown by making it a more vibrant place to live and raise a family.

“I have four adult children — they’re all gone and off Long Island,” Vetter said. “I have three grandchildren I’m watching grow up on Skype. Everything springs from that, and that includes industrial development, downtown revitalization, housing initiatives, and other aspects, like sewers, infrastructure.”

Vetter said that if elected, he would only seek out one or two terms before removing himself from the board because of his strong support for term limits.

Earlier this month, Vecchio joined other marquee Republican names in Smithtown on the steps of Town Hall to endorse Inzerillo, flanked by councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) as well as Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James).

Inzerillo, however, did not respond to several attempts to organize a four-way candidate debate at the Times of Smithtown’s headquarters. She was also absent at other debates throughout the town, with the latest one a week before Election Day at the Smithtown Fire House.

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Town head has eyes on illegal housing, environmental issues

Supervisor Ed Romaine discusses his last term and his goals for another two years if re-elected. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After his first full term at the helm, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he thinks the Town of Brookhaven should look better than it does, and if re-elected plans to continue the town on its positive trajectory.

Romaine is running for another two years as supervisor against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko, who declined to attend a debate at the TBR Newspapers office alongside his opponent. Dittko also did not answer a request for an interview.

According to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee’s website, Dittko, a Manorville resident, is a civic leader who has worked to preserve open space and has been involved in other community issues.

For Romaine, re-election means finishing up current environmental projects, managing the town’s budget and introducing technology to make it easier for residents to interact with the town. While he said there is still work to be done, he highlighted improvements since his special election in early 2013, which put him into office for several months before he was re-elected to a full term.

“My predecessor left in mid-term and he left with a fiscal crisis. He was firing over 100 people as he left,” Romaine said, referring to former Supervisor Mark Lesko (D). “We stopped some of those firings — I haven’t laid off [anyone] since I took office.”

While in office, Romaine has helped get the town’s debt under control, and this year the town finished paying off its pension debt. One of the ways in which Romaine brought in funding to do that was selling the former tax receiver’s office in downtown Port Jefferson as well as the old town hall in Patchogue.

“I’ve worked on finances because I’ve learned from a long life that all issues of government are issues of money,” Romaine said.

One of the incumbent’s focuses in another term would be housing. Following the recession, there were more than 200 foreclosed homes that the town is trying to maintain or tear down. And residents of neighborhoods near Stony Brook University complain of illegal boarding homes bursting with college students. To combat that issue, Romaine and town officials have already enacted some restrictions, like making it illegal to pave over front lawns to make more room for parking.

Another goal the supervisor has for a second full term is expanding his single-stream recycling program beyond Brookhaven’s single-family homes. The single-stream system, in which residents can put all of their recyclables on the curb together, has already drastically increased recycling townwide, and has made money for Brookhaven because the town sells material it brings in.

He would also like to continue his efforts to encourage renewable energy use and reduce nitrogen pollution in local bodies of water.

“It’s time for us to wake up,” Romaine said. “We’re going to lose what we cherish about living in this town if we don’t start to preserve our waterways.”

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