Politics

Americans lost on Pearl Harbor are honored during a previous remembrance in Port Jeff. File photo

By Rich Acritelli

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve.”

Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, the architect of the attacks on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, supposedly uttered these words as he assessed the immediate aftermath of Dec. 7, 1941. Up until Japan attacked, most Americans still subscribed to the popular sentiment of remaining out of the conflict, inspired by the words of Charles Lindbergh — “America first.” The America First Committee openly resented any notion that the United States should prepare for war. Even the first peacetime draft conducted in 1940 that expanded the military forces received stiff anti-war congressional opposition. While German tanks easily invaded France and later pushed through the Soviet Union, officers like Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley and George S. Patton still saw the cavalry play a major role within the mobility of the Army. All of this changed when Japanese fighter planes swarmed into Hawaii and attacked the air, naval and Army bases that manned the “jewel” of our forces in the Pacific Ocean.

When word of the attack spread to Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Cordell Hull was in the midst of negotiating with his Japanese counterpart. After a couple of choice words for the diplomat, the nation was rapidly placed on track for war. Within seconds, Americans were on lines blocks long to enter the service. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation with his “Day of Infamy” speech that was adopted as a rallying cry by American citizens to defeat the Axis powers. Unlike the political gridlock seen today, Roosevelt’s words were accepted without reservation, and supporters and opponents of the president’s New Deal listened to the beloved leader. The “sleeping giant” of productivity, strength and endurance was awakened to defeat a global enemy. Prominent baseball players like Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg and Yankee Manager Ralph Houk hung up their uniforms during the prime of their careers to support the war effort. By the end of 1942, the size of the U.S. armed forces had doubled from the previous year. The enthusiasm could be traced to a commitment to avenge Pearl Harbor and defeat Hitler and the Nazis.

Americans today do not realize how close the Allies came to losing the war. Although the U.S. government was fully committed to fighting and helping its allies, America had a steep learning curve in teaching its young men the ways of modern warfare. The Japanese crippled America’s naval forces and Hitler looked unstoppable in Europe, but Roosevelt promised armed forces would be fighting the enemy in the Pacific and in North Africa before the close of 1942.  Americans were drafted so quickly into the military that there were not enough uniforms, weapons, tanks or trucks for them to utilize for their training. Longtime Wading River resident Michael O’Shea, who passed away in 2009, was a navigator in a B-17 Flying Fortress and experienced the earliest aspects of the war efforts.

The New York City kid watched Yankee games and attended Stuyvesant High School. Like other young men, O’Shea was horrified by the attack on Pearl Harbor and wanted to forgo his senior year to enter the military. His parents were adamant that he finish high school before enlisting. As a young recruit into the Army Air Force, O’Shea for a brief time was stationed in Atlantic City, N.J. He was not issued a uniform, did not have many knowledgeable instructors, and the lack of heat in the military housing made people sick. The local resident flew 24 combat missions and had the rare experience of being shot down twice over Europe. He was later imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, the same camp depicted in the film “The Great Escape.”  In the spring of 1945, Patton’s Third Army liberated O’Shea. He was present to see the noted armored general speak to all of the freed Americans. O’Shea was a good friend to Rocky Point High School, where he was a proud representative of the “Greatest Generation” and spoke about his crusade against totalitarian powers.

It was 75 years ago that America was propelled into a war it did not choose, but the people worked together and completely sacrificed for the safety and security of a thankful nation. Citizens like O’Shea, without hesitation, risked their lives for the well-being of the country. On this Pearl Harbor anniversary, may we never forget those men and women who were lost and wounded in the defense of this nation and continue to do so today at home and abroad.

Joseph Lalota of the Rocky Point History Honor Society contributed to this story.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

The North Country Peace Group attends Port Jefferson’s Dickens Festival for a sixth consecutive year to share their message about social injustices. Photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson’s 21st annual Dickens Festival brought together members of the community and neighboring areas for a weekend full of events based off Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 3 and 4. But for a group of local activists, the event was a reminder about social consciousness.

The North Country Peace Group, established in December 2002, has been periodically visible on the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket to share its message. For the last six years members of the group have used the village’s holiday festival to expand their audience.

Myrna Gordon, a member of the group since its inception, was among the people passing out informational flyers and holding props in front of their faces to simulate being behind bars, which included the message “Debtor’s Prison — Justice for some, not for all,” among others with similar themes.

The group believes in nonviolent activism as a means to combat social injustice, poverty and inequality. They use the festival as a platform to highlight analogous issues in Charles Dickens 19th century London and present-day America.

“It’s important that people don’t forget while they’re moving around and being festive and being joyful, that we have a lot of things in our country that are filled with social injustice, economic injustice, class injustice — and we’d like to bring attention to it to let people think about it,” Gordon said while standing on the corner of East Main Street and Main Street in Port Jeff Village, where the group set up shop for the afternoon. “While they probably have thought about it for the last 18 months, it’s something that we’ve been doing here for six years now, and we feel it’s important to be part of this event. I’m a Port Jefferson resident, so I feel that this is my way of making a statement but in a different way.”

Gordon referenced the outcome of the presidential election as evidence that instances of social injustice may be heading in the wrong direction in 2016 America. She said she was concerned about the future of the Supreme Court, health care for women and education, among other issues going forward as a result of Donald Trump’s (R) surprising victory.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said she had no problem with the group’s message or desire to use a popular village event to spread their message, given that they are conscious of keeping sidewalks and streets clear for festival attendees.

“That’s democracy at its highest form of expression,” she said during a phone interview. “I applaud them for taking time out of their day to come down and relay their message.”

Gordon has lived in Port Jefferson for almost 50 years, she said, and called the area a microcosm of the United States.

“I think Port Jefferson does have things that can be better, as in any small community,” she said.

Despite the celebratory nature of the event, which features performers in Dickensian attire, and the group’s use of props, Gordon said she wasn’t worried their message would be construed as part of the festival.

“They may not get the full scope of it, but I think once they see the signs a connection is being made,” she said. “Especially when they see the words ‘debtor’s prison,’ and then they read the contemporary statements underneath the signs. The same things went on then that are going on now.”

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli
Father Frank Pizzarelli

Many are still recovering from the most historic presidential election in our lifetime. This campaign season was probably the most horrific. It was disgraceful. The lack of respect for the dignity of all people, never mind all Americans, reached a despicable all time low. The ad hominem attacks were heartless, demeaning and unchallenged. So much money was spent this campaign season on paper and digital propaganda that it was scandalous. If only that money had been better invested in feeding all the poor and the homeless in our nation, we would have cared for their needs for almost a year!

Shame on all our elected leaders for fueling the “Swamp,” the media that exploited all of the negativity being expressed by all those running for public office this season; shame on so many of our church leaders, who kept silent about the hate, degradation and social injustice. No one with power called our candidates to speak about the issues and the policies they believed in.

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, changed the course of American history. The Electoral College elected a wealthy businessman as our commander-in-chief. That vote clearly rejected business as usual. Our president-elect is a nonpolitician, a person who’s never served in the military or held public office. On Jan. 20, 2017, he will assume the most powerful office in the world without the majority of the popular vote. Trump will begin his tenure as president with a very divided nation; a nation riddled with anxiety, fear and hate. His first order of business must be to attempt to bring us together and begin the important process of healing.

As president, he must build a bridge among us, not a wall! He must end the rhetoric that is divisive and hateful and take on a language that speaks of love, respect and inclusiveness of all Americans. Our nation is deeply divided; that has been best illustrated by the ongoing demonstrations around the country based on profound dissatisfaction and fear.

Early on Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, President-elect Trump stated that he was the president for all Americans, no matter what their race, religion, sexual orientation or economic circumstance. He spoke sincerely about healing our nation and moving forward.

The president-elect is correct. We are deeply wounded and still bleeding as a nation. We need our president to lead in that healing by example. Words are empty if they are not accompanied by actions. How great it would be if he began his tenure as our president by apologizing to the nation, to all Americans, for his inappropriate rhetoric during his campaign and stating that he intends to listen and lead all Americans to a more unified and stronger America!

If he had the courage to do that before or at his inauguration, we could stand in solidarity once again and celebrate the untapped potential that is there for every human being blessed to call our nation home. Remember hope does not abandon us — we abandon hope!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

The divisive and inflammatory nature of the 2016 presidential election has raised concerns across the country about Americans’ ability to “come together” now that the dust has begun to settle. One Suffolk County organization was concerned enough to send a letter to school districts with a warning for administrators and teachers.

“We are concerned for the safety and well-being of the students of Suffolk County as we know you are as well,” the letter dated Nov. 10 from leaders of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and Anti-Bias Task Force read. “We are reaching out to ensure that all school climates are one where students feel safe and supported physically, emotionally and academically.”

The Human Rights Commission has existed in Suffolk County since 1963 and it focuses on investigating claims of bias and discrimination. Rabbi Steven Moss has been the chairman of the organization for more than 20 years. He said they were compelled to write the letter in light of incidents, both local and across the country, that have been reported in the aftermath of Election Day.

“New York is, and will always be, a place of acceptance, inclusion and a bastion of hope for all people. We will never allow fear and intolerance to tear at the fabric of who we are.”

— Andrew Cuomo

“I’m sure [people] realize bullying has occurred before the election and will continue onward,” Moss said in a phone interview. He said most incidents reported to the commission thus far have involved elementary-level students making references to deporting classmates.

Moss said he believes incidents involving younger students can easily be traced back to conversations at home, and because of this the commission plans to send a similar letter to local Parent Teacher Associations in the hopes of spreading the conversation beyond classrooms.

At Northport High School swastikas were drawn in spray paint on the walls of a theater storage room this week, according to Suffolk County Police. Moss said it is important for school administrators to act decisively and harshly with incidents like these, even if they fall short of constituting a crime, and Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer is taking the action seriously.

“Our primary objective as a school district is to educate our students in a safe and respectful environment,” Banzer said in an email. He added an investigation is ongoing. “The recent events in our high school have challenged us and make us realize that, although our students participate in many opportunities to build a respectful and safe environment, work remains.  Our high school principal Dan Danbusky is meeting with the student leaders to generate ideas about how best to address not only the recent incident but to help the school community further enhance dignity, respect and acceptance for all.”

Banzer also said the administration plans to meet with local religious leaders to gather their input and insights and assess programs to help the district meet its goals of being a more inclusive school community.

Port Jefferson Village organized a peaceful vigil that was held Nov. 20 at the Village Center designed to show community support for “all segments of society,” according to a press release.

“In response to the fear and hurt felt by so many, Suffolk County needed the opportunity to show everyone our support and commitment to ensuring their freedoms, and to reassure them that they have a safe space here,” Cindy Morris, a Suffolk County resident and co-organizer of the event said in a statement.

Moss said he is hoping much of the inflammatory conversation during the election season, especially from the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump (R), was rhetoric designed to dominate news cycles and spike polling numbers and eventually it will die down.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) shared many of the same concerns as Moss and the Human Rights Commission. He announced several actions Nov. 20 to protect civil rights and combat hate crimes in the state, including the creation of a State Police unit to investigate such crimes. He also plans to advance legislation that would expand protections of the state’s human rights law to all students, and to establish a legal defense fund to ensure immigrants have access to representation regardless of status.

“New York is, and will always be, a place of acceptance, inclusion and a bastion of hope for all people,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will never allow fear and intolerance to tear at the fabric of who we are.”

The commission’s letter also called on school districts to share programs they already had in place designed to promote unity and togetherness. Some of those include a Gay/Straight Alliance, the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate campaign, the No One Sits Alone Campaign and suicide awareness and prevention programs, to name a few.

Banzer indicated Northport has several programs aimed at promoting inclusive school communities through unity and respect, and the district plans to continue that effort going forward.

Those who have experienced incidents of hate or discrimination are encouraged to reach out to the Human Rights Commission by calling 631-853-5480 or emailing humanrights@suffolkcountyny.gov.

Additional reporting contributed by Victoria Espinoza.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, the incumbent, will continue to represent the 1st Congressional District. Photo by Alex Petroski

Results of the Nov. 8 election have America seeing red.

While President-elect Donald Trump (R) won the presidency with 279 Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton’s (D) 228, many of the North Shore races produced Republican victories as well.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) was one of the Democrats who survived. He outscored his Republican challenger Wendy Long 59.94 to 38.26 percent, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections. New York State Sens. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and John Flanagan (R-East Northport) earned fresh terms, as the public reelected the incumbents.

“I am so gosh darn proud to be a Republican, to be here working with you,” Flanagan said. “Let’s keep pulling ahead.” He thanked everyone for joining him at Mirelle’s Restaurant in Westbury and congratulated his fellow local Republican politicians while the audience continued to cheer him on.

Assemblyman Andy Raia addresses the crowd. He will be entering his ninth term. Photo by Kevin Redding
Assemblyman Andy Raia addresses the crowd. He will be entering his ninth term. Photo by Kevin Redding

Flanagan won his race 63.57 percent to his Democratic challenger Peter Magistrale’s 32.46 percent. LaValle earned 67.18 percent of the vote to Democrat Gregory Fischer’s 32.73 percent.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), another incumbent who kept a firm grasp on his seat, applauded his opponent following his victory.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the 1st Congressional District,” he said during his speech at The Emporium in Patchogue. “A powerful message was sent across New York.”

That message was the sea of red that swept across not only the state but also the nation.

“We are going to have a new president of the United States, and his name is Donald J. Trump,” Zeldin said prior to the national election results. “We’re going to make American great again.”

Zeldin defeated his Democratic challenger Anna Throne-Holst handily with 58.93 percent of the 1st district’s votes. The congressman also mentioned in his speech his desire to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Throne-Holst honored the results of the election and conceded the race.

“Suffolk County represents the very fabric of America, with hardworking men and women determined to support their families and build a democracy that moves our country forward and makes our communities stronger,” Throne-Holst said. “I’d like to thank everyone who has supported our campaign over the course of this incredible journey. It is our collective vision of a fair and unified America that will guide the road ahead and shape the future for our next generation.”

Throne-Holst said in a statement she will continue to fight for families and children in future pursuits, and added she is honored to have the faith and confidence of men and women throughout the 1st district.

“May we come together in the wake of this divisive campaign season,” Throne-Holst said, “to establish a more resilient country for us all.”

“It is our collective vision of a fair and unified America that will guide the road ahead and shape the future for our next generation.”

— Anna Throne-Holst

Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), another Democrat who won a seat on election night, will succeed Rep. Steve Israel in the 3rd district. He fell short with Suffolk County voters, 48.27 percent to Republican challenger Jack Martins’ 51.68 percent, but when coupled with his Queens votes, he bested Martins 52 to 48 percent.

“This race has really been about the values my dad taught,” Suozzi said during his post-results speech at The Milleridge Inn in Jericho. “I’m going to need everyone in this room to help me because if I stick my head up and say something that’s not the normal thing to be said, they’re going to try and smack us down.”

He added regardless of the results of the presidential election, “we really need to do some soul searching.” He referenced figuring out what will happen with health care coverage, the shrinking middle class, immigration reform, climate chance, gun violence and the tax code. He added there’s more important work to be done.

“We have to figure out what’s going on in the country,” he said. “We need to figure out how to bring people back together again to work together.”

In local races for the State Assembly, incumbents continued to sweep the North Shore.

Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) edged his opponent 58.91 percent to 41.03 percent to continue representing the 4th district. His challenger, Steven Weissbard, called the assemblyman a “goliath,” and added, “If you want to win, you can’t be afraid to fight.”

Anna Throne-Holst, Democratic nominee for the 1st Congressional District, addresses the crowd following her loss on election night to incumbent Lee Zeldin. Photo by Lloyd Newman
Anna Throne-Holst, Democratic nominee for the 1st Congressional District, addresses the crowd following her loss on election night to incumbent Lee Zeldin. Photo by Lloyd Newman

Incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) outscored Rich Macellaro 69.81 to 30.17 percent in the 8th district to earn his eighth term in the Assembly. Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) won the 10th district with 58.24 percent of the votes over Democrat Ed Perez for his fourth term, and Andy Raia (R-East Northport) will enter his ninth term in office after garnering 65.26 percent of voters’ support over Spencer Rumsey (D) in the 12th district.

“Chad and I — we do our thing, we go to Albany and beat our heads against the desk with the supermajority of New York City,” Raia said during his postelection speech at Huntington Station’s VFW Post 1469. “But we make sure that your voice is heard day in and day out, because you’re what it’s all about. You’re the reason we live out of a suitcase six months out of the year — because you’re the bread and butter of this.”

Robert Murphy (R) will continue to patrol the highways of Smithtown as its highway superintendent. He reigned over Justin Smiloff (D) with 69 percent of the votes.

Candidates on both sides viewed this election season as a turning point for the state and country.

“It’s not about us candidates, it is about all of you here together and fighting this good fight and wanting to make change, and wanting to make sure that we are representing the people that we know need good representation,” Throne-Holst said during her speech at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 25 in Hauppauge. “We need to bear in mind that we are about unity. We are about moving forward. We are about public service. We are about the issues that matter.”

Her opponent expressed a similar sentiment.

“When we wake up tomorrow,” Zeldin said, “we have to come together.”

Rebecca Anzel, Victoria Espinoza, Donna Newman, Alex Petroski and Kevin Redding contributed reporting.

Check out #TBRVotes on Twitter for our reporters’ on-the-ground and up-to-the-minute coverage of tonight’s election results.

National Election

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-4-41-14-pm

United States Senate

Chuck Schumer (D) v Wendy Long (R)
chuck-schumerwendy-long
      59.94%               38.26%

Following his victory, Sen. Chuck Schumer (R-NY) took to Twitter to express his reaction. “Humbled by the trust that my fellow New Yorkers have put in me to continue to do my job and represent them in the U.S. Senate. I promise to work every day to be deserving of your trust. I’ll never forget what it means that you gave me the honor of working for you.”

New York State Senate

1st District: Ken LaValle (R) v Gregory Fischer (D)
 ken-lavallegregory-fischer
      67.18%               32.73%
2nd District: John Flanagan (R) v Peter Magistrale (D) v Stephen Ruth (I) 
john-flanaganpeter-magistrale
     63.57%              32.46%

Congressional District

1st District: Lee Zeldin (R) v Anna Throne-Holst (D)
lee-zeldinanna-throne-holst
        56%                    39%
After incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) was officially declared the victor, he said, “We applaud our opponent. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the 1st congressional district.” He said while his victory is sweet, that New York is “powerful message.” He made reference to Donald Trump (R) being named president. If that were to happen, Zeldin said, “we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. We’re going to make America great again.”
3rd District: Tom Suozzi (D) v Jack Martins (R)

tom-suozzijack-martins

          52%                        48%

Assembly

4th District: Steve Englebright (D) v Steven Weissbard (R)
steve-englebrightsteven-weissbard
      58.91%               41.03%
After hearing of the incumbent’s win, Steven Weissbard (R) said, “If you want to win, you can’t be afraid to fight. He called his opponent a “goliath.”
8th District: Mike Fitzpatrick (R) v Rich Macellaro (D)
mike-fitzpatrickrich-macellaro1
      69.81%               30.17%
10th District: Chad Lupinacci (R) v Ed Perez (D)
chad-lupinaccied-perez
      58.24%              41.71%
12th District: Andrew Raia (R) v Spencer Rumsey (D)

andrew-raiaspencer-rumsey

      65.26%              34.70%

Highway Superintendent

Smithtown: Robert Murphy (R) v Justin Smiloff (D)
robert-murphyjustin-smiloff
         69%                  30.96%

*All results are from the Suffolk County Board of Elections

State Sen. Ken LaValle will build on 40 years of service with another term. File photo by Barbara Donlon
State Sen. Ken LaValle will build on 40 years of service with another term. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Voters in the first senatorial district have two excellent candidates to choose from on Election Day. Incumbent Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1976 and has been re-elected 19 times since.  He prides himself on being one of its most productive legislators in terms of bill introduction, bills that pass the Senate and bills that go on to pass both houses. He calls this a record of “relevancy” and we agree. He works hard for our district, understands its problems and thinks there’s more he can do — especially in combatting the heroin/opioid addiction crisis and increasing environmental protections.

His challenger, Gregory Fischer (D) has some interesting ideas and brings the perspective of a business background to his analysis of the issues facing the district and the state. A self-professed reformer, he believes that the Senate needs new blood — and more specifically, blood of the Democratic persuasion.

We endorse Senator LaValle for a 20th term because we believe he has done great work for his constituents and will continue to do so for another two years. His seniority in a body that rewards it, makes him an even more powerful advocate for our interests.

Rich Macellaro, right, wants to unseat long term Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, left. Photos by Donna Newman

Incumbent Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) will square off against Kings Park resident and Democrat Rich Macellaro on Election Day for the right to oversee the district that spans Smithtown Town and a portion of northern Islip. Macellaro has made unsuccessful bids for office, first in the Assembly in 2010 then for a Smithtown Town board seat in 2013. The two sat down for an interview in the TBR News Media main office.

During his 14 years in the Assembly, Fitzpatrick has sponsored legislation to establish a two percent property tax levy increase cap for school districts and to cap pensions for elected officials as a means to stave off financial hardships for the state. Macellaro prided himself on his work with civic and community organizations and projects in Smithtown, and his ability to bring a new set of eyes to a district in need of change.

“There are some storm clouds on the horizon. The lack of jobs, the lack of housing — I think the stress that life on Long Island puts on people, on families, maybe people are using as an outlet.”

— Mike Fitzpatrick

High property taxes and swollen government budgets have contributed to a litany of issues specific to the 8th district, but also to the region as a whole, according to Fitzpatrick. Some of those issues include a cost of living far higher than most of the nation, and fewer high paying local careers as an incentive to keep young people  here after graduation. He also suggested the community’s high rates of opioid- and heroin-related deaths could be a byproduct of the tough economic times in his district.

“There are some storm clouds on the horizon,” Fitzpatrick said. “The lack of jobs, the lack of housing — I think the stress that life on Long Island puts on people, on families, maybe people are using as an outlet. Obviously they are.”

Fitzpatrick was also involved in the passing of a series of bills earlier this year designed to combat addiction on the North Shore and beyond. As a result, insurers must cover the costs of life-saving Narcan to families with individuals suffering from substance abuse. Substance abusers are now offered 72 hours of emergency treatment, instead of 48 hours, so they can be stabilized and connected to longer-term addiction treatment options while also balancing the individual rights of the incapacitated individuals, among other benefits.

Macellaro said he believes penalties for dealers could be harsher, though it is not the only possible solution to the problem.

“We need to have increased penalties for drug traffickers and dealers, and we also need to get those folks who, unfortunately, for whatever reason, become addicted to opiates — we need to get them immediate rehabilitative services.”

“The two percent tax cap is great because it forced government into reducing their costs. We have to do anything possible to prevent any increase in property taxes.”

— Rich Macellaro

The Assemblyman said he believes in the “invisible hand” as a means of economic development, meaning government policies cause more harm than good in the private sector, and called the statewide START-UP NY stimulus program a failure.

“Government-directed economic development does not work,” he said.

Macellaro has a different, if outside-the-box, plan for economic development through a measure that would lower property taxes.

“I think now is the time to look at how we rein in the cost of providing education in Suffolk County and Nassau County, of which there are 124 school districts,” he said. “There are 13 towns in Nassau and Suffolk — three in Nassau, 10 in Suffolk. My proposal is simple: one school district per town. So from 124 school districts, we’ll get down to around 13.”

He said the idea would allow districts to pay for services like maintenance, athletic fields, security and even administrators in “bulk.” He strongly supported legislation to cap increases to property taxes.

“The two percent tax cap is great because it forced government into reducing their costs,” he said. “We have to do anything possible to prevent any increase in property taxes.”

Greg Fischer, left, and incumbent State Sen. Ken LaValle, right, will compete to represent New York’s 1st Senate District. Photos by Alex Petroski

Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has been a New York State senator for nearly four decades, and although he’s joked about retirement, he doesn’t plan on vacating the position just yet. That won’t stop Democratic challenger Greg Fischer from trying to unseat him Nov. 8.

According to a 2015 New York Public Interest Research Group Report, LaValle was ranked second of 63 legislators in words said on the Senate floor, second in bill introduction, fourth in those that passed the senate and second in those that passed both houses.

“It’s a record of relevancy that I think is pretty good,” LaValle said in an interview at TBR News Media’s main office when the combatants sat down to discuss their campaigns.

LaValle said he’s excited for the chance to amend the East End’s Community Preservation Fund, which is responsible for the preservation of more than 3,000 acres of vacant land on Eastern Long Island and also improves parcels of historic, recreational and environmental value. He also noted the $400 million in construction going on at Stony Brook University Hospital that will produce jobs for doctors, clerks and others.

Fischer is a business consultant who has a passion for economics, he said, and he sees the economy as the “most important issue of our day, especially for the district.”

“We’re constantly on this treadmill of tax and spend, tax and spend,” he said. “And even though I’m a Democrat and you hear Democrats labeled for that, my background is in business and my background is to find the best value.”

The candidates are in support of the two percent tax levy increase cap for property owners as a means to curb government overspending, though Fischer said he isn’t sure the policy goes far enough. “It’s only applying the brakes gently — it’s not fixing the problem,” he said.

Fischer is running on the mantra: “It’s time for a turnaround.” His platform is about reform, which he said would be a product of his background. He’s not a lawyer like many other legislators.

Fischer said he thinks new blood and a democratic representative are needed to be able to better address not just the district’s issues, but statewide issues.

“There’s so much we can do, but we’re moving so slowly,” he said. “I think that’s the danger. We all know where we’re headed. People want to move out of state. Students want to be accepted out of state so they can stay out of state.”

To combat that mentality, LaValle said he’s been conducting research on millennials, regarding whether or not they want to be homebuyers or renters, or drive a car as their primary means of transportation. LaValle co-sponsored legislation to allow municipalities to continue tax exceptions for first-time homebuyers of newly constructed homes as an incentive. He is also a supporter of New York State’s School Tax Relief Program, which lowers property taxes for owner-occupied primary residences. As chairman of the Higher Education Committee, LaValle said he’s also trying to address how to minimize millennial debt.

Fischer said he’s a proponent of free tuition for Suffolk County and New York State residents.

Fisher has run unsuccessful campaigns for Riverhead Town and local school board offices. He previously sued the Long Island Power Authority and conducted his own audits of Riverhead school district. More recently, he filed a lawsuit claiming Stony Brook University named its football stadium for LaValle after he secured $22 million in state funds for the venue’s construction, stating in his notice of claim that “It is ludicrous for sitting legislators (seeking re-election or otherwise) to have public structures named for them for the de facto benefit of their personal political careers.” Fischer asked LaValle’s name be removed from both the Nov. 8 ballot and the stadium. The arena was opened and named after LaValle in 2002.

Fischer said another issue he’d like to address is corruption in the courtroom, and added he’d like to see cameras allowed in state courtrooms.

“I think there needs to be more scrutiny of the judicial process,” he said. “We have a huge problem with corruption. There have been a lot of problems where the transcripts are changed after the fact, and things happen that are problematic.”

Fischer also said he believes legislation takes too long in New York, and cited response to the growing opioid abuse issue as an example. While LaValle said it’s his No. 1 priority — adding that many of his colleagues say the same — he believes increased penalties for dealers could put a dent in that problem.

Fischer said he understands enforcement sells, but added it’s only part of the solution.

“Of course we have to do some more enforcement, but it’s a mental health issue,” he said. “We have reasons for people doing these drugs — even in the suburbs — it’s despair. By the time you’re detecting use, you’ve already got a real problem going on. We have to have a whole new way of thinking about deterrence and really scaring children into the reality that, as a first use, you could have a dependency for life.”

Robert Murphy. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Robert Murphy (R) is the man with experience.

As interim highway superintendent for Smithtown, re-electing a candidate who has already gotten his feet wet — learning how the department operates and how best to allocate the budget — is in Smithtown’s best interest.

He’s proven to be the guy for the job, and can bring trust and confidence back following the communities concerns after former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R) resigned.

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) noted receiving more complimentary calls at the beginning of this year — with the handling of two snowstorms — than any other year.

Murphy is a lifelong resident of Smithtown, minus a 12-year stay in Arizona, so he’s familiar with the area and has almost 25 years of experience in the engineering field. Prior to being named the deputy highway superintendent in 2012, he spent two years as a capital projects manager for Suffolk County.

He believes in supporting an uptick in worker morale, bringing in jobs and projects to workers that will leave them with a sense of pride, and we applaud his efforts.

While his challenger, Democrat Justin Smiloff, is young and enthusiastic, he does not have the same set of skills. He has his own advantages, including his age, with ideas to modernize and upgrade the department, but we think Murphy is the right choice.