Politics

Republican candidate Dan DeBono, far right, with this family. Photo from DeBono campaign

First-time political candidate Dan DeBono said there are two different kinds of Republicans. One supports the little guy, and the other only helps the rich get richer.

There are corporate Republicans and then there’s, like me, middle-class Republicans,” he said. “Corporate Republicans will seek to apply all government power to help conglomerate corporations… enrich the big guy and hope that trickles down to the small guy. Middle-class Republican’s vision of leadership is creating an environment where the middle class can thrive.”

There are corporate Republicans and then there’s, like me, middle-class Republicans.”

— Dan DeBono

DeBono hopes to bring his vision to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 3rd District,  challenging incumbent Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) on the Republican party line for the seat this November.

His campaign focuses on middle-class issues due to his upbringing. Born in 1968, he grew up in Northport and graduated from Northport High School. DeBono then attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts on a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship that allowed him to join the U.S. Navy SEALs after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. The candidate spent four years as an officer in the Navy serving overseas during the Gulf War and U.S. and NATO’s intervention in Bosnia.

After serving, DeBono went to The Booth School of Business at The University of Chicago where he obtained a master’s degree in business administration. He spent the next 20 years in the finance industry. DeBono became involved in the local politics as a committeeman for the Town of Huntington’s Republican Committee and provided financial advice to the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney (R) and Rudy Giuliani (R).

The Republican candidate said he sees a host of challenges facing Long Island stemming from regulation, taxes and infrastructure problems. It’s hit a breaking point where he says businesses and people do not want to stay here. Given the high cost of living, he sees more and more young people deciding not to stay on the island.

It’s too expensive to live here and raise a family.”

— Dan DeBono

“It’s too expensive to live here and raise a family,” DeBono said. “The balance between income and cost of living has gotten so out of whack that generally young people are not returning after college.”

He wants to put pressure on both the federal and state government to supply funds to ensure the Long Island Rail Road is overhauled. DeBono also supports plans to cut small-business regulations and reduced state income taxes to help alleviate Long Island’s high cost of living.

While he largely agrees with cutting taxes, the challenger said he would not have voted for the 2018 federal tax cuts simply because the amount of allocated for individuals in lower tax brackets was too small and the duration was too short, only going until 2025. He also said the loss of state and local tax deductions will have a negative impact.

In his campaign, DeBono points to corporate Republicans as those who think of large businesses first and top-down economics whereas he wants to strengthen Long Island’s economy by building up the middle class. DeBono is campaigning on a platform of specifically targeting corporate mergers and consolidations, which he said creates anti-competitive monopolies and oligopolies, as well as targeting regulations that hinder new businesses rising up to compete.

Industry after industry have concentrated down into three to four players. This is a huge contributor to the destruction of the middle class.” 

— Dan DeBono

“The same pattern of consolidation has occurred in nearly every industry in the United States,” DeBono said. “Industry after industry have concentrated down into three to four players. This is a huge contributor to the destruction of the middle class.”

On other national issues, DeBono said he believes in strong borders and supports efforts to build a wall, or barrier, along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Republican candidate also said he believes health care prices are crippling America’s middle class and he would prefer a market-based solution — but did not rule out a national single-payer system.

DeBono strongly believes in a free and competitive market, but he also supports unions.

“A robust free market will always form the most reasonable and durable form of job protection,” DeBono said. “We have structural issues that must be addressed first before those protections can kick in. At this point in the cycle unions are more important than they’ve ever been.”

DeBono is holding an open house at the Huntington American Legion Post 360, located at 1 Mill Dam Road, Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Michael Marcantonio speaks at his July 30 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio will be removed from the ballot for the 12th Assembly District after courts ruled he failed to meet the residency requirements.

A panel of four judges in New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Brooklyn ruled Aug. 22 that Marcantonio, 31, of Northport, did not meet the five-year state residency requirement to run for state Assembly. The political candidate called it “unjust.”

“I’ve been punished simply for exercising my right to vote,” he said.

“I’ve been punished simply for exercising my right to vote.”

— Michael Marcantonio

The panel’s decision found that when Marcantonio cast a ballot in the 2014 elections in North
Carolina, where he was enrolled as a law student at Duke University at the time, he had severed his connection to New York. The issue first came to light in July, when three supporters of Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), whose seat he was vying, Ralph Notaristefano, Paul D’Alessio and Kathleen Barnhart filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court.

“I did everything everyone else does when they go away to school, I did nothing different — the only difference is I tried to run for office afterward,” the political hopeful said. “It’s going to discourage young people from running for office.”

Marcantonio said he was unsure of bringing the case to the state Court of Appeals, citing that the court has the sole discretion to determine whether or not they’ll hear his plea. Ultimately, he said he believes time will show the judges’ decision was in error.

It’s a symptom of the cancer in our body of politics in New York State.”

— Michael MarcAntonio

“It’s shocking that the court, who is supposed to be the guarantor of our democracy, our justice, our voting and electoral rights would instead disenfranchise our district from having a real choice in this election and undermine young people’s right to run for office,” Marcantonio said.

As Marcantonio was found ineligible, Raia  will run unopposed. Raia could not immediately be reached for comment. The incumbent previously weighed in on the issue stating to TBR News Media that anyone who may want to run for office after attending school in another state should use absentee ballots.

Now barred from running, Marcantonio said he will continue to support the campaigns of several other Suffolk Democrats up for re-election this November including state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) for the 16th District, Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) and challenger Jim Gaughran who will run against state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset).

The political hopeful said he already spoke with Rich Schaffer, supervisor of Suffolk County’s
Democratic Committee, about bringing the fight to the state Legislature when it reconvenes in January. Schaffer and other members of Suffolk Democratic Committee could not immediately be reached for comment.

I will be a candidate moving forward for whatever office I have the opportunity to run for.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Marcantonio wants there to be changes made to the five-year state residency requirement to make clear the intention is not to punish students who pursue higher education in another state.

“It’s a symptom of the cancer in our body of politics in New York State,” he said. “Our elections laws are not structured in a way to incentivize youth participation or incentivize people to get involved in the process. They are designed to make it as difficult as possible.”

He also states he will continue to work to encourage the young voter to get to the polls this November given the “unprecedented levels” of young engagement following recent events such as the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, high school shooting.

Marcantonio said the outcome has not discouraged him from taking part in political endeavors.

“This will not be the last time you hear of Michael Marcantonio,” he said. “I will be a candidate moving forward for whatever office I have the opportunity to run for.”

Democratic challenger files immediate appeal, keeps eyes on November's general election

Michael Marcantonio speaks at his July 30 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

A judge has ordered Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio’s name be removed from the ballot for the 12th Assembly District.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Horowitz issued a decision Aug. 17 that Marcantonio, 31, does not meet the minimum residency requirements to run for state Assembly.

His campaign has already filed an appeal of the decision, a staff member of Suffolk County Board of Elections confirmed Aug. 20.

“We will be proceeding with an appeal not just for our campaign, but for young people across our state that would be disenfranchised if this decision was allowed to stand,” Marcantonio said in a statement. “Long Island is facing a loss of our young people as they obtain education and are forced to seek opportunities elsewhere. This decision would place further barriers between young people and their ability to serve our communities.”

“We will be proceeding with an appeal not just for our campaign, but for young people across our state that would be disenfranchised if this decision was allowed to stand.”

— Michael Marcantonio

In July, 12th District residents Ralph Notaristefano, Paul D’Alessio and Kathleen Barnhart filed a lawsuit contending Marcantonio did not meet New York’s residency requirements to run. Under state law, any candidate for state office must show he or she has resided within the state for a minimum of five years and in the assembly district for one year.

The judge ruled that because Marcantonio registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election in North Carolina, where he attended law school at Duke University from 2012 to 2015, he did not meet the five-year New York State residency requirement, according to a statement issued by Marcantonio’s campaign.
Marcantonio could not immediately be reached for further comment. His campaign did not immediately provide a copy of the judge’s decision upon request.

At a July 30 press conference at Cow Harbor Park in Northport, Marcantonio said he believes his right to run for office is protected under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Symm v. United States (1979), which he said allows for students’ right to vote without losing their residency.’

“Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker,” Marcantonio said July 30.

The Democratic challenger remained on North Carolina’s voter lists until he graduated with his legal degree in 2015. He changed his registration to New York for the 2016 presidential primary, and cast a ballot in the last Northport school board election.

Marcantonio had previously said if he lost the lawsuit, he feared it could bar young people from voting while attending out-of-state school and then coming back to run for office.

Incumbent state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), whose seat Marcantonio was vying to grab, previously weighed in on the issue stating anyone who may want to run for office after attending school in another state should use absentee ballots.

From left, New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia and Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio. File photo, photo from Facebook

New York 12th Assembly District Democratic candidate is facing allegations that he has not lived in the state long enough to run for office.

District residents Ralph Notaristefano, Paul D’Alessio and Kathleen Barnhart filed a lawsuit July 25 in New York State Supreme Court contending Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio does not meet New York’s residency requirements.

When you change your car registration and open up a new voting registration in another state and that state says you must be resident of that state to vote, that’s pretty clear cut for me.”

— Andrew Raia

Under state law, any candidate for state office must show he or she has resided within the state for a minimum of five years and in the assembly district for one year.

Current state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said the more contentious issue in the lawsuit is whether Marcantonio, 31, has been a resident for the mandatory five years.

Marcantonio attended law school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election as an enrolled student from 2012 to 2015.

“When you change your car registration and open up a new voting registration in another state and that state says you must be resident of that state to vote, that’s pretty clear cut for me,” Raia said.

In a July 30 press conference at Cow Harbor Park in Northport, Marcantonio said he believes his right to run is protected under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Symm v. United States (1979), which he said allows for students right to vote without losing their residency.

“Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker,” he said.

Marcantonio remained on North Carolina’s voter lists until he graduated with his legal degree in 2015, He changed his registration to New York for the 2016 presidential primary, and cast a ballot in the last Northport school board election.

The Democratic candidate said if he loses the lawsuit, he fears it could bar young people from voting while attending out-of-state school and then coming back to run for office.

“What we’re seeing today is an assault on young people,” Marcantonio said. “If we lose this lawsuit every single New Yorker who goes out of state for school and [vote,] they would be barred from running for office for five years after they graduate school.”

Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Raia said that if anyone wants to run for office after they attend school out of state that they should send absentee ballots. Marcantonio countered that filing absentee ballots is too difficult for young people because they have to get it notarized. One has to get a absentee ballot notarized in South Dakota and North Carolina, according to Vote.org.

Raia said Marcantonio does not primarily reside in Northport, but rather lives in a New York City apartment closer to where he works at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Marcantonio has taken an unpaid leave of absence from his job to campaign, saying his main residence is his Northport family home, Marcantonio said he keeps a city apartment to use when he’s too tired to travel after work.

Raia also argued that Marcantonio is not well connected to the district. Marcantonio had raised more than $100,000 by July, more than double Raia’s campaign, according to financial disclosures filed with the state Board of Elections. Yet, only approximately $1,500 of the Democrat’s war chest came from nonfamily members in the voting area. Marcantonio said he expects his campaign to acquire more local donations in the months before the election.

Judge Richard Horowitz of the New York State Supreme Court is presiding over the case. The date was postponed but both parties are now due in court Aug. 17.

Marcantonio said he expects to win the lawsuit. “Northport is a great place to grow up — it made me who I am today,” he said. “I want to spend the rest of my life here, raise kids and send them to the same great schools I went to.”

Michael Marcantonio speaks at his July 30 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

Northport native Michael Marcantonio said his life has been shaped by two major events of the 21st century, 9/11 and the Great Recession, that now define his first campaign for political office.

Marcantonio, 31, is running as the Democratic candidate for New York State’s 12th Assembly District against incumbent, Andrew Raia (R-Northport) in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. A self-identified millennial, he seeks to address theissues of high taxes, public transportation and LIPA lawsuit that he feels threaten Long Island’s future.

Born in Huntington Hospital, Marcantonio said growing up during 9/11 and the Iraq War colored his vision of the United States as a country while attending Northport High School. He said the 2008 financial crash and subsequent recession greatly affected his ability to get a job after graduating from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania in 2009.

There is a mass exodus on Long Island of young people who can no longer afford to live here.”

— Michael Marcantonio

“It was a disaster for many people in my generation, but it’s remained hard,” Marcantonio said. “I was fortunate that I had a family that was able to weather that storm, but your whole life can’t start when you’re still living at home without a job.”

In 2012, the first-time political candidate enrolled at Duke University in North Carolina to earn his doctorate in law. After returning to New York in 2015, he was hired by the Manhattan office of law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP as an associate, where he and many other young partners work close to 80 hours a week. He considers himself a part of the young generation who have had to struggle with the high cost of living on Long Island, which has been worse for youth than other areas, he said.

“We are working much harder, much longer with and much less job security than we ever have before,” Marcantonio said. “People our age would be getting involved more if it weren’t for these structural hurdles that have been holding us back. … There is a mass exodus on Long Island of young people who can no longer afford to live here.”

We are getting gouged in taxes on Long Island — we are getting absolutely soaked.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Marcantonio said he is running in support of the youth on Long Island, and he is currently battling a lawsuit that contends he does not meet the five-year requirement for living in the 12th Assembly District because he registered to vote in North Carolina where he went to school. Marcantonio considers the lawsuit an assault on young people’s ability to run for office.

One of Marcantonio’s main campaign promises is to upgrade Long Island’s infrastructure, starting with investing in rebuilding Long Island Rail Road. He also called for an expansion of Suffolk County sewers to replace cesspools he said are affecting the water supply. He added that Albany should foot the bill to pay for those upgrades.

This is not a Suffolk County specific problem, this is a New York problem,” Marcantonio said. “Suffolk County should not have to borrow at higher interest rates because we have less borrowing power than the state.

He said he plans to advocate for strengthening unions in both the public and private sector, to make higher education more affordable and for more public sector job opportunities in areas such as health care, teaching and construction.

This lawsuit is a total fraud, an utter and total fraud, and we are going to fight this.”

— Michael Marcantonio

“The decks are stacked against us,” Marcantonio said. “You can’t even raise a family on a private sector job because you don’t have the job security, and you’re not getting the pay you would get to sustain a family. We don’t have as much access to credit if we would want to buy a home.”

He also said that there cannot be any further state tax increases on Long Island, in order to lower the area’s high cost of living.

“We are getting gouged in taxes on Long Island — we are getting absolutely soaked,” he said.

The Town of Huntington is currently in the midst of an eight-year ongoing legal battle due to the Long Island Power Authority lawsuit over the value of Northport Power Station, as LIPA claims it has been overtaxed. LIPA is seeking a 90 percent reduction of its annual taxes, a difference of approximately $56 million and growing. Marcantonio said he believes the town should not have to pay a dime in back pay.

“This lawsuit is a total fraud, an utter and total fraud, and we are going to fight this,” Marcantonio said. “We need a legislative contingency plan.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

Although politicians in Brookhaven Town are not up for election this cycle, voters will be asked a question with long-term implications for town government in November.

Brookhaven Town board voted unanimously to establish a referendum on the ballot Nov. 6 asking town residents to weigh in on changes to terms in office for elected officials, specifically increasing terms from two years, as is currently the law, to four years for councilmembers, the supervisor and highway superintendent. The referendum will have a second component as part of the same yea or nay question: limiting officials to three terms in office. That component would impact the above positions, as well as town clerk and receiver of taxes. Both components will appear as part of a single proposition, according to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto. Putting the issue up to a vote was established as a result of an Aug. 2 public hearing. If passed the law would go into effect for terms beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

“[The voters] have, in the past weighed in, and whatever they weighed in to is not being listened to now,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said during the hearing. “Maybe that’s fine with them, maybe it’s not, but I would like to go back and ask them, ‘what do you think?’”

In 1993, residents voted to implement a limit of three, four-year terms on elected officials, 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 hearing.

Several members of the public commented in opposition of various aspects of the referendum, saying the two components should be separated to be voted on individually; there’s not enough time to untangle issues with the language of the law, like what to do with an individual who served as a councilperson for 12 years and then is elected to another position such as supervisor; and how to handle time already served by current members. Others cited shorter terms as fostering more accountability for elected representatives.

“I think it’s too complex to be one resolution,” said Jeff Kagan, a resident and representative from Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization. “I think you’re asking the voters to vote on somethings they like and somethings they may not like.”

Anthony Portesy, the Democrat candidate for town highway superintendent in 2017 and a private attorney, spoke against extending terms to four years, but said he would be in favor of three years because having to campaign every two years can be “arduous.”

“While I’m not opposed to the extension of terms per se, four-year terms is an eternity in politics, too long for hyperlocal town races,” he said. “We don’t want to create electoral feudalism in Brookhaven through the coercive powers of incumbency.”

Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri spoke in favor of going to four-year terms during the hearing about having to run for office every two years, saying it can get in the way of accomplishing goals set forth at the beginning of a term. Romaine and councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) each expressed similar sentiments when asked if they intend to support the idea in early July when the public hearing was set.

“You don’t have the constant churning in politics that can sometimes undermine the system,” Romaine said. “It allows for long-range planning and programs. It takes the politics out of local government.”

Eaderesto said the town’s law department will draft the wording as it will appear on the ballot in November and share it with the town board prior to submitting it to the Suffolk County Board of Elections by Oct. 1.

Protesters carried a variety of signs against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in Huntington Station June 30. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

While the Trump administration has rescinded its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents as they cross the U.S-Mexican border, local groups have continued to protest what they see is a huge miscarriage of justice.

“It was government sanctioned child abuse,” said Dr. Eve Krief, a Huntington pediatrician and founder of the Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate advocacy group. “Some kids might not ever see their parents again, and that’s horrendous — its criminal.”

Krief has worked along with fellow advocates Sharon Golden, co-founder of the political action network Together We Will Long Island, and Pilar Moya, co-founder of Latinos Unidos of Long Island, who have been hosting Families Belong Together rallies since the beginning of June to protest the family separations. The second rally was held June 30 as part of a nationwide day of protest. Nearly 50 organizations and close to 1,000 people attended, according to Krief.

From left, Sharon Golden of Together We Will Long Island and Dr. Eve Krief of Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate have organized the Huntington area Families Belong Together rallies, pictured above. Photo from Eve Krief

Before the 2016 presidential election, Krief said she was politically aware but had never been much of an activist. After Charlottesville Unite the Right rally that saw neo-Nazis marching in the street and events leading up to the death of a young political activist, she decided to establish her group to protest the Trump administration’s policies.

In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted the zero-tolerance policy that meant any adult that was arrested upon entering the United States would have their child given over to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and be placed with a sponsor. The policy has led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents at the border.

A federal judge ruled that the separation was unlawful and gave two dates that the children must be reunited. All children under 5 were to be rejoined with their parents by July 10, and then all other children by July 26. Those dates came and went, and though the federal government claimed it had reunited all separated children, close to 700 were still not reunited with their parents due to some having criminal records and other red flags, or because some have already been deported while their children were still left in the U.S., according to CNN.

“Clearly, people thought that the problem was gone and resolved,” Krief said. “It’s clear that this administration had no plan when they separated them to reunify them.”

The groups will continue to protest. On July 29, the advocacy groups hosted another Families Belong Together rally at the intersection of Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 in Huntington Station. They are advocating for congressional oversight and transparency into the actions of the Trump administration during the period of family separation and for the children who must still be reunited with the parents, that the children receive trauma counseling, that the children and parents not be moved into detention centers and that those who came to the country seeking asylum be given the opportunity to go through the legal asylum process.

Nobody it seems is looking to heal these children. When a child is crying out for their momma, when babies are being taken away, they have no information to give them.

– Shannon Golden

Latinos Unidos Moya said that her nonprofit organization aids Latino immigrants and groups across Long Island and that the rallies that they host go beyond politics.

“I think it is more of a humanitarian crisis,” she said. “Our efforts are in finding common ground among all the parties, Republicans Democrats and Independents.”

Golden, who works as a therapist, said she has seen the traumatizing effects of children being separated from their parents in some of the adults with whom she has worked.

“These effects are life-lasting,” she said. “Nobody it seems is looking to heal these children. When a child is crying out for their momma, when babies are being taken away, they have no information to give them.”

There is no firm estimate about how long it will take the government to fully reunite the children with their parents, or what its policy will be if they are unable to find every parent who had been separated from their child. Meanwhile, Krief and her allies said they plan to continue holding rallies and
protesting. Their only hope is that awareness of the issue does not die.

“We will continue as long as we see there hasn’t been justice,” Krief said.

Youth coalition pushes for ‘wave of orange,’ support for politicians in favor of more regulation this November

More than 600 people gathered together loudly chanting, “Enough is enough,” and calling for measures to help bring an end to gun violence in schools at a Huntington Station park this past weekend.

Members of Students against Gun Violence LI, a student-led coalition calling for stricter gun control measures, were joined by parents, Huntington area residents and community members in a rally July 29 at Breezy Park. This event aimed to build on the momentum gathered in the March 24 marches in response to the February Parkland, Florida, school shooting, encouraging young adults to voice their opinions on gun control issues at the polls this November.

“America just loves its guns more than its people and if that’s not f****d up, I don’t know what is,” said Lucy
Peters tearfully, as the niece of Dix Hills native Scott Beigel, who was killed in the Parkland shooting. “We need to elect ‘orange’ politicians who see gun control for what it is — a human issue and not a political issue.”

We need to elect ‘orange’ politicians who see gun control for what it is — a human issue and not a political issue.”

– Lucy Peters

Orange has been adopted as the color worn and displayed by those protesting stalled gun control measures.

Peters stood alongside relatives of other Parkland shooting victims: Commack resident Paul Guttenberg whose niece, Jaime, a student, was killed, and Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel, in calling for stricter gun control measures.

“On Feb. 14, 2018, a 19-year-old was not mature or trustworthy enough to handle a beer but was mature and trustworthy enough to handle a weapon of war, an AR-15 assault rifle,” Beigel Schulman said, in questioning gun control laws. “In what world does that make sense?”

The mother of the 35-year-old Parkland shooting victim called out Long Island politicians who have offered their “thoughts and prayers” to victims of mass shootings but have not voted in support of gun control legislation, specifically naming U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford). Beige Schulman said in the wake of Scott’s death, she had chosen to make gun control reform her life’s mission and encourages others to take action.

People ask me, ‘What can we do to support you?’ My answer is so simple: Make sure you get out and vote.”

– Linda Beigel Schulman

“People ask me, ‘What can we do to support you?’” she said. “My answer is so simple: Make sure you get out and vote. Then make sure to tell at least two more people to get out and vote.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who co-sponsored the Huntington rally, stressed the importance of high school and college students continuing to voice their opinions on national issues by registering to vote and holding politicians accountable for their viewpoints in the upcoming
midterm elections.

“We need young people to continue to keep a youth movement going in this country to focus on this issue of gun violence,” Suozzi said. “This is a unique time in history. The adults have failed and we need young people to keep this going.”

Huntington resident Owen Toomey, who has been actively involved in March for Our Lives Long Island, stressed that the movement has defined five major legislative goals that it is fighting for. First on that list is universal background checks for gun purchasers.

I accept that my innocence has been eroded by the fear of gun violence, but I refuse to accept that same fate for upcoming generations.”

– Gia Yetikyel

Other goals of the movement include upgrading and digitalizing the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives registry; a ban on the sale of high-capacity gun magazines and semi-automatic assault rifles, and getting Congress to approve funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research and study gun violence.

“When people ask what you are rallying for, tell them our goals,” Toomey said. “Remind them we aren’t banning guns, remind them we aren’t taking their guns, remind them we aren’t taking away their sport or self-defense — we are just making it harder for someone to kill 15 people in the span of six minutes.”

Gia Yetikyel, of New Hyde Park, recalled how terrified she was 17 years old and her high school experienced an incident that required a lockdown. While crouching in the corner of the classroom, she reported sending out text messages to her mother to ask about a younger brother’s safety, sending messages to beloved family and friends all while making a list of goals she had yet to accomplish.

I’ll be telling them the young on Long Island have never rested or stopped fighting for what is right.”

– Avalon Fenster

“I accept that my innocence has been eroded by the fear of gun violence, but I refuse to accept that same fate for upcoming generations,” she said.

Yetikyel said she still suffers effects from that day and, as such, fights for stricter gun control measures.

“We send out condolences to the families of the dead, but I’m still sending them to the living for having to fight this battle that shouldn’t even exist,” she said.

March for Our Lives Long Island co-founder Avalon Fenster, of Dix Hills, announced that she will be taking her pledge to fight for gun control legislation to the national level. She’s been invited to join the “Road to Change” national March for Our Lives Tour as a representative for Long Island alongside Parkland survivors Emma González and David Hogg. The tour stopped in Greensboro, North Carolina, from July 31 to Aug. 2 to rally for gun control while showing active opposition to the National Rifle Association.

“I’ll be telling them the young on Long Island have never rested or stopped fighting for what is right,” Fenster promised those gathered. “We will resist. We will register, and we will bring justice.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. speaks during an interviw at TBR News Media in Setauket July 20. Photo by Kyle Barr

Seven months into Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.’s (D-Lake Grove) term, several issues have become top priorities. He sat for an exclusive interview at the TBR News Media office with the editorial staff July 20 to detail the road ahead.

Staffing issues within Sheriff’s office

The sheriff’s office is short-staffed specifically due to officers retiring or leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere, according to Toulon.

“I’m almost signing one to two retirement letters a day,” he said. “We just lost two — one going to [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] police and one going to the New York City Police Academy. I’m expecting to lose two in the near future; more going to other law enforcement [jobs].”

The department is short on 76 mandated posts that the two county corrections facilities are supposed to have. This has led to an increase in overtime for existing corrections personnel. Toulon said he sees the low starting salary for Suffolk County corrections officers as the primary driver of the staff shortage. Those in the positions are paid $30,000 per year initially, reaching about $76,000 after 12 years. Starting salaries in Nassau County or New York City corrections are about $10,000 more.

“The people in our custody that have detainers are not good people. I wouldn’t want them on our streets – I wouldn’t care what their status is.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

Toulon said 30 people will be graduating from the county academy Aug. 8 to fill some of the vacancies.

A pay raise would have to be approved by the Suffolk County Legislature, though Toulon said he supports it.

School Security

As the occurrences of school shootings seemingly increase nationally, especially after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, security has become a hot topic amongst school districts and communities. The sheriff’s office is working on the issue as well. Toulon said getting everybody on the same page when it comes to securing schools is a tough but essential job, which requires coordination between school security, police departments and the sheriff’s office.

“When you are going into these schools you frequently realize some of these schools have armed security, some have unarmed security, and some have security that are armed because they hired retired law enforcement, and it’s not publicized,” Toulon said.

School security officers obviously do not have standards as far as uniforms across county school districts. Further confusing local law enforcement, each school might have different protocols in engaging an active shooter, whether they will actively engage the shooter with a firearm or focus on getting the children to safety.

Toulon said he and his officers have gone into schools at the request of the districts to perform security assessments. So far 10 out of 69 school districts in Suffolk County have taken the Sheriff’s department up on the offer.

Toulon said an ideal setup might be having standardized training for all school districts and school security officers in the county not only so they would know what to do in a school fire, bomb or shooting scenario, but also because it would train them to interact with any local police that arrive on the scene.

The sheriff’s office plans to host a forum for Suffolk County school superintendents August 16 at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue to talk broadly about school security and to share ideas.

Dealing with gangs and immigration officials

Toulon said that while county jails only hold people charged with local crimes, they do work with the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency when it comes to some inmates.

“I’m almost signing one to two retirement letters a day.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

“The sheriff’s office doesn’t profile people,” Toulon said. “If you blow a stop sign or a red light, we are going to pull you over. The people in our custody that have detainers are not good people. I wouldn’t want them on our streets – I wouldn’t care what their status is.”

Toulon stressed that the sheriff’s department does not participate on any ICE raids. He advised the immigrant community to know their Miranda Rights, that they do not have to communicate to police without a lawyer, and that anyone concerned about an arrest could contact the sheriff’s office.

Many people in local communities are concerned about activities perpetrated by the local incarnations of the MS-13 gang. Several high-profile gang murders were prosecuted in the past few years, including the 2017 murder of two young girls in Brentwood, complicating community-law enforcement relations and heating up a polarized, politically-based national discourse. Stories of abuses of power carried out by the federal agency, mostly in areas nearer to the southern border, have not been representative of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office’s dealings with ICE, Toulon said, adding that he would not tolerate inappropriate behavior from any uniformed officer within the facilities he oversees, be them staff under his purview or otherwise.

Toulon said comments made by President Donald Trump (R) on the matter have made his job tougher, especially when dealing with local immigrant communities.

“The tensions that I see in the immigrant community come from what they see going on in the rest of the country,” Toulon said. “The fact that our current president tweets about it and makes comments about a whole population – that is not fair, it makes my job a lot more difficult.”

Hurdles remain for project, which could have environmental and economic implications

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

They’ve got the power.

Brookhaven Town voted 6-0 with one abstention in favor of lifting a restrictive covenant on an application by Caithness Energy LLC to construct a new, 600-megawatt energy generation plant in Yaphank at a July 12 meeting. When the board approved the independent power producer’s initial 2014 application, when it sought to construct a 750-megawatt facility, it imposed strict regulations aimed at preventing Caithness from making any changes to its plans, or face starting over from square one getting approvals. The power company asked town officials to lift the covenant for its present-day plans that feature newly available technology — which is what required the second vote, preceded by a June 26 public hearing.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) abstained from the July 12 vote after voting against the application in 2014, which passed 5-2. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) voted “no” in 2014, but approved the lifting of the restrictive covenant this time around.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright voted against Caithness’ application in 2014, and abstained from the vote to remove a restrictive covenant on the application July 12. File photo by Erika Karp

“In requiring such covenant proposed in 2015, the town board did not intend to require the applicant return for covenant amendments when technology changes or improves, or to construct a less impactful energy generating facility,” Brookhaven Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto read from her office’s findings on the matter. “In fact, the town board finds that in consideration of the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the town, the town shall not regulate or restrict the technology that may be used by the applicant.”

Caithness President Ross Ain said in a statement the company was pleased to hear the town had repealed the restriction.

“We now look forward to consideration and approval of the site plan filed with the Planning Board for what will be the region’s cleanest, most fuel-efficient, and most water-conserving power plant,” Ain said.

Cartright explained she was abstaining from the vote to repeal the restrictive covenant because she thought a vote to either approve or disapprove of Caithness’ entire application would be more appropriate. She also raised a concern about the special use permit issued to Caithness in 2014, which according to her interpretation of town law, expired July 15, 2018.

“That’s under consideration,” Eaderesto said of Cartright’s concern in a phone interview.
The town attorney said she expected the Planning Board to decide if Caithness will be required to reapply for the special use permit for the Yaphank site this week.

Don Miller, a spokesman for Caithness Energy, did not respond to a question raised by email regarding Cartright’s suggestion the company’s special use permit expired Sunday.

Caitness’ renewed request comes as Port Jefferson Village and the town have said a settlement is nearing in an eight-year-long legal fight with Long Island Power Authority over the utility company’s contention its Port Jeff plant’s property taxes are over assessed based on the decreasing energy demand. The settlement would smooth the impact of a potential substantial loss of revenue for the village, Port Jefferson School District, Port Jefferson Free Library and Port Jefferson Fire Department based on a reduced assessment of the plant. It would also prevent the village from being held liable for years of back pay should it have chosen to play out the legal battle in court and lost rather than settling the case. The village has argued a way to make good with LIPA over its decreasingly needed plant could be to increase its output capacity. If constructed, the Caithness II plant, which would be built nearby the company’s first Yaphank plant opened in 2009, could theoretically kill plans to repower the Port Jefferson plant.

However, according to Ain, as of June 26 LIPA has made no commitment to purchase power from the company should a second facility be constructed in Yaphank. It does purchase power from the first Caithness plant.

“The construction of a Caithness II facility will have the inevitable effect of pushing our community off the economic cliff.”

— Margot Garant

The June 26 public hearing drew comments from those in favor of the proposal, many of whom being Longwood school district residents who would likely see a reduction in property taxes, similar to what Port Jeff residents enjoy currently for housing the Port Jefferson Power Station. Environmental groups and other residents opposed the plan, as did Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who each submitted statements to be read into the record by Cartright against the proposal and urging the board to vote it down June 26.

“The construction of a Caithness II facility will have the inevitable effect of pushing our community off the economic cliff at the end of the proposed period of gradual reductions, while leaving us to deal with an enormous, closed, unusable industrial site which will need serious environmental remediation,” Garant said in her letter read by Cartright. The mayor said she has sent a similar inquiry to the town board as was raised by Cartright regarding the life of the applicant’s special use permit, though has yet to hear back from Brookhaven.

A representative from Sierra Club Long Island, a local chapter of the national nonprofit dedicated to environmental advocacy, spoke out against Caithness II during the June 26 hearing.

“The Sierra Club strongly opposes any attempt to construct a new gas plant on Long Island, and we oppose the Caithness II proposal regardless of the technology involved,” said Shay O’Reilly, an organizer for the nonprofit. “It is absurd to argue that building more fracked gas infrastructure will allow us to meet our clean energy and pollution reduction goals.”

This post was updated July 17 to include comment from Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant.

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