Politics

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta goes over legislation to suspend the camera program. Photo by Phil Corso

The Legislature may not be behind them, but Suffolk County residents are still calling the red light camera program a money grab and a safety hazard.

People cried out in support of county Legislator Rob Trotta’s (R-Fort Salonga) bill to suspend the county’s program during a Public Safety Committee meeting on May 26, but the Suffolk legislative committee stopped it from coming to fruition. The vote was 5 to 3 against a motion to move the bill to the full county Legislature for voting after nearly 20 residents spoke up against the use of the cameras.

Stephen Ruth Jr., pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on June 3 to 17 counts of criminal mischief after allegedly tampering with 16 red light cameras at intersections along Route 25 in Coram. He also spoke at the Legislature meeting late last month.

“Red light cameras are a detriment to Suffolk County,” he said. “The risks and damages to the well-being of Suffolk County residents far outweigh the benefits. We all know now that red lights cameras are a systematic form of extortion and nothing more. … Traffic signals were manipulated for revenue and it was only made possible by Suffolk County’s reckless willingness to do anything for money.”

Stephen Ruth mugshot from SCPD
Stephen Ruth mugshot from SCPD

Residents cited statistics to try to back up their issues with the program, using a 42 percent increase in rear-end collisions in 2014 as evidence of the program’s shortcomings, and said nearly half of the locations where cameras were installed showed an increase in personal injury.

“You’re not here working for the middle class people, you’re actually hurting them,” Hector Gavilla said. “The program is not working at all. We were promised that these red light cameras would stop these incidents.”

But overall, crashes have decreased by 3.1 percent, while T-bone crashes have decreased by 21.6 percent. The data also reflects an overall decrease in crashes involved injury by 4.2 percent, based upon data from the New York State Department of Transportation’s most current data available as of December 2014.

Rachel Lugo, who has worked in highway safety for over 20 years, was the only person to speak in support of the cameras. She said that although crashes have increased, she believes it’s not because of the cameras, but as a result of more new drivers on the road, and “increasingly dangerous” issues like texting and being distracted while driving, drinking while driving and being under the influence of drugs.

“You can’t say that these crashes are increasing because of red light cameras,” she said. “What about stop signs? Let’s take them away also. Why won’t we just take away traffic lights? Red light cameras are not the problem. Teaching the motorists to change their behavior behind the wheel is where we need to start. If everyone stopped at the red lights we wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going on with fines and who is making money.”

There are statistics to back her up.

Paul Margiotta, executive director of Suffolk County’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, said that between 2012 and 2013, the county saw a 34,000 increase is licensed drivers, where prior to 2012 the average was trending down. He said citations for texting and driving and distracted driving doubled since 2011, which tends to cause rear-end crashes.

Legislature William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) joined Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) in voting to pass the bill.

Spencer asked to put the program under a microscope.

“We have to do something,” he said. “It’s hard for me to discount the public outcry. There’s a lot of smoke here. I want to make sure I’m doing my oversight job to make sure I have looked at this with a very detailed eyed.”

A county report says Indian Head Road and Jericho Turnpike in Commack saw crashes increase since a red light camera was installed in 2014. Photo by Phil Corso
A county report says Indian Head Road and Jericho Turnpike in Commack saw crashes increase since a red light camera was installed in 2014. Photo by Phil Corso

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) agreed, although she stated that there was always an expectation that there would be an increase in rear-end crashes.

“Many things we deal with here are not black and white,” she said. “The policy decision was to institute an enforcement mechanism that will decrease the right-angle crashes which cause the more serious injuries and death, with the chance of and the expectation that there will be some uptick in rear-end crashes.”

She said she would like to see a report done on the intersections where there were a large number of rear-end crashes, to see if a majority of them were a result of the cameras, or other things like texting and driving.

According to William Hillman, Suffolk’s chief engineer, that investigation is ongoing. The county is in the process of reviewing crash data at the 42 intersections it controls. The state controls the other 58 intersections with cameras.

“These intersections where there’s been that high uptick, all-due haste is needed in reviewing what is going on so that we have a real answer,” Hahn said. “There’s a huge increase in crashes just in general because of distracted driving. This is happening more and more and red light cameras are not going to stop that. What red light cameras were designed to do was for the folks who were choosing to put their foot on the gas when the light turns yellow, to rethink that. They will actually stop at a red light, and that will save lives when people know that there could be consequences for running a red light. And that probably already has, because we’ve seen a decrease in T-bone crashes, which are more serious and life-threatening, and that is the purpose of the program.”

Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Two village trustees are unopposed for re-election this month, each with his own goals for improving Port Jefferson.

Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller are seeking a fourth term and a second term on the village board of trustees, respectively.

Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Miller wants to keep up his work to get the Port Jefferson power plant upgraded, known as repowering. The aging power plant runs on outdated technology and many residents and officials fear the loss of its significant property tax revenue if it were to shut down without being rebuilt.

“It’s something that I’ve been doing for about 20 years,” he explained, between his work on the Port Jefferson school board and with the local group Grassroots Committee to Repower Port Jefferson. “I want to try to see this thing through. I think it’s very important to the community. I have other interests but I have I think significant expertise in this area and think that I can benefit the people of the village.”

Miller is also interested in environmental issues, and said he has been working with the village’s conservation committee on making the village more energy-efficient and on strengthening the power grid in Port Jefferson to better withstand storms. He is helping put together a proposal to receive grant funding for a microgrid, which would be independent of the regional grid and rely on its own power-generating resources — and thus keep the community, which includes two hospitals, going during power outages.

For those who may vote for him, Miller said he strives to “keep in mind [the idea of] a small maritime New England village.”

Bruce D’Abramo is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Bruce D’Abramo is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The other candidate, D’Abramo, is running for two more years because “I love what I’m doing in Port Jefferson and I love the difference that we’re making.”

He said his top priority in the past and in a new term is to “turn uptown port Jefferson around into a community that we can all be proud of.”

One thing he is particularly proud of accomplishing in his third term, however, is in the downtown area: the beautification of Old Mill Creek.

The polluted creek winds through the west side of lower Port, including under Barnum Avenue and behind Village Hall, before flowing into the harbor. In addition to being contaminated by chemicals that had been dumped at an industrial site in Port Jefferson Station and had traveled through the groundwater, it was plagued by invasive plant species. But in the last year, the village put a plan into action to clean up the creek, improve its flow and remove the invasive species and replace them with native ones.

Another project he is proud of is using money left over in last year’s budget to pave additional streets in the part of the village referred to as the “poets section,” which includes Emerson Street, Longfellow Lane, Hawthorne Street and others.

“Every time we can put some money into the infrastructure, we’re doing something that’s going to last for a while; that’s going to make a difference,” D’Abramo said.

To the voters going to the polls later this month, the trustee said, “If they’re interested in seeing upper Port Jefferson change, then consider voting for me.”

Voting is at the Port Jefferson Village Center on June 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is also a village judge seat on the ballot, to complete the three years remaining on the term of Justice Peter Graham, who died in office in October, a few months after being re-elected. Graham, who was known for his colorful personality, had served the village for more than 30 years.

Bill Glass was appointed to replace him in the interim, and the lawyer is running for election to stay in that role. He faces challenges from Tara Higgins and Scott Zamek.

File photo by Elana Glowatz

Both sides of a disagreement over public records have dug in their heels, insisting over the last few days that the fault lies with the other.

Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant originally expressed regret over a report from nonprofit group Reclaim New York — which focuses on government transparency and finances, employment and the economy — that said both her village and the Commack School District had failed to properly respond to requests for public records through the state’s Freedom of Information Law. But shortly afterward, her office sent a letter to TBR News Media responding to Reclaim New York’s claim that its appeals for spending information were ignored, saying, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The Reclaim New York office has since confirmed receiving more than 1,200 pages of documents on Tuesday morning from the village, fulfilling that public information request.

New York State’s Freedom of Information Law requires governments and school districts to respond to records requests, commonly known as FOIL requests, within five business days, whether with the information requested, a denial or an acknowledgement of the request that includes an estimated date when one of the former two will occur. Denials can be appealed, and agencies are not allowed to deny a request “on the basis that the request is voluminous or that locating or reviewing the requested records or providing the requested copies is burdensome because the agency lacks sufficient staffing.”

As part of a project it dubbed the New York Transparency Project, Reclaim New York sent 253 Freedom of Information requests to school districts and municipalities on Long Island. It reported on its findings, saying that while many entities complied with state guidelines on processing such public records requests, on Suffolk County’s North Shore both Port Jefferson Village and the Commack district did not.

Entities that it said complied included Suffolk County; Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns; Belle Terre and Lake Grove villages; and the Port Jefferson, Kings Park, Huntington, Smithtown, Mount Sinai, Miller Place and Rocky Point school districts, among others.

Reclaim New York spokesperson Doug Kellogg also said Commack denied part of the FOIL request, “making big chunks essentially useless,” and that Port Jefferson Village at first was “underprepared” to properly respond to its request for 2014 information on vendors, including what the village made purchase orders for and who it made checks out to.

“Port Jeff never worked with us from there, they just ignored the appeals and our phone calls,” Kellogg wrote in an email last week.

Village Clerk Bob Juliano challenged that claim last week, noting that the same day his office received the FOIL request via email, on March 7, he acknowledged receipt. He said the treasurer was working on compiling the information, estimating it would be done by the end of May.

Commack School District spokesperson Brenda Lentsch also responded on May 20 saying that the district answered a first FOIL request, then received a second that required private information be redacted and would have come at a cost of $0.25 per page, which the district communicated to Reclaim New York.

Garant’s initial email response to the TBR News Media story was that she was “beyond disappointed” that she did not know about the FOIL request to the village.

“I would have made sure the clerk provided everything necessary in order to prevent such a bad blemish on the integrity of my administration to be pronounced in my own local paper,” she said. “I have now demanded that the clerk and the treasurer work nonstop to provide the necessary documents ASAP.”

She followed up with a letter that called Reclaim New York’s request “a blatant transparency test” that asked for extensive information: “Several village employees have had to spend significant time away from their duties serving the village in order to gather these records. So far, approximately 4,500 pages of documents have been identified and are in electronic format and the work goes on.”

The mayor said Treasurer Dave Smollett worked with the nonprofit on two occasions “to help them tailor a more focused request which would better meet their needs,” but the group “never attempted to work with the treasurer to fine-tune the request” or followed up to check its status.

“Is our village to be punished because it strives to provide comprehensive responses to records requests?” she wrote in her letter. “Would it have been better to provide a quicker response with fewer records and missing documents just to be able to say we responded?”

Reclaim New York noted an appeal email sent to the mayor’s office on April 11 that said the group had not heard back on its FOIL request, and Executive Director Brandon Muir challenged the mayor’s contention that his group attacked the village in a statement this week.

“Reclaim New York’s Transparency Project treats every municipality the same,” he said. “It’s designed to create more open government for the people of our state.”

He said he hoped the village would work with Reclaim New York to provide the spending information it requested.

“People deserve to see how their local government spends their money,” Muir said. “It’s an important step toward holding officials accountable, and giving people more confidence in government. We don’t see how anyone could argue with that.”

Legislators not letting Bellone off hook

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is searching for ways to improve the county's financial outlook. File photo by Alex Petroski

A high stakes political finger pointing battle is ramping up in Suffolk County.

Top Suffolk County officials have been left to answer for the promotion of former Chief of Police James Burke, who in February pleaded guilty to charges of a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice, which occurred following the arrest of Smithtown man Christopher Loeb in 2012.

On Tuesday Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) held a press conference at the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead where he and fellow legislators, including Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), called for both County Executive Steve Bellone and District Attorney Tom Spota to resign from their positions.

On Thursday, Bellone joined the list of people including the legislators and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco calling for Spota to resign.

“For refusing to cooperate and work with federal law enforcement to prosecute crime in this county, for refusing and blocking federal law enforcement who were working on the Gilgo Beach serial murder case, for allowing violent criminals to go free to protect political friends, for lying about Jim Burke and conspiring to conceal his past…” Bellone said Thursday afternoon on the steps of Spota’s Hauppauge office. “Tom Spota, you must resign from this office so that we can begin the process of reforming this place governmentally and politically in a way that we can ensure this doesn’t happen again. If you fail to do so, I will call on the governor to exercise his authority under the constitution to remove you from this office.”

Trotta arrived while Bellone addressed the media, and interjected that reporters were speaking with a “co-conspirator.” Trotta reiterated his stance on Thursday that Bellone is as much a part of the political corruption problem in the county as Spota for his role in promoting Burke, and standing by him despite evidence of Burke’s troubled past.

“I have never said that I have never made mistakes in my public career,” Bellone said. “I’ve made many mistakes. But they have never, ever been with ill intent and I’ve learned from my mistakes and I don’t repeat them. When I promoted Jim Burke I consulted District Attorney Tom Spota. When I fired Jim Burke I did not consult Tom Spota.”

Bellone said he promoted Burke not because of recommendations from Spota or others, but because he was a “charismatic” and “impressive” person who made a memorable presentation.

Bellone handed a letter calling for Spota’s resignation to one of his employees inside the office, and Spota later met the media to respond Thursday.

“It’s a very, very difficult day for me,” Spota said in a video of that press conference. “He has delivered to me a letter asking for my resignation. I have absolutely no reason why I should resign, or should I be removed from office.”

Spota fired back at Bellone, suggesting his motivation was a “personal vendetta” against Spota for investigating and prosecuting people Bellone was close to.

On Tuesday, Bellone responded to Trotta, Cilmi and McCaffrey’s calls for his resignation through an email from a spokeswoman.

“Rob Trotta and Tom Cilmi are partisan politicians who just don’t get it,” the statement said. “This is not a partisan issue, this is about sweeping out a culture of abuse and corruption in the district attorney’s office.  I regret that I trusted the word of the district attorney regarding Jim Burke, and I have learned from that error in judgment.”

Trotta made it clear following Bellone’s comments that the county executive should not be let off the hook.

“It was an Academy Award winning performance,” Trotta said of Bellone’s press conference. “Forty-eight hours ago we were partisan, and we were political hacks. Now all of the sudden he responds to a Newsday article, he sees what’s going on and he tries to jump in front of it. It’s ridiculously absurd…He’s a total, unadulterated liar.”

Legislator Rob Trotta, left, calls on Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to resign. Photo by Alex Petroski

Corruption is a word used often relating to Suffolk County government recently, and at least three legislators have had enough.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) spoke at a press conference at the Suffolk County Legislature, Evans K. Griffing Building in Riverhead on Tuesday in which he called for the resignation of County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and District Attorney Tom Spota. Trotta also called for Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer (D), who is also the Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman to step down from one of the two jobs.

“At this point we are calling for the district attorney to step down and to let normalcy come back,” Trotta said, adding stories that continue to come out relating to former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, who pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice in February, are “disgusting.” Spota, Bellone and Schaffer were all critical in Burke’s career rise and promotion despite evidence reported by Newsday the men were warned of Burke’s troubled legal past.

Trotta’s calls for Spota’s resignation also stem from his backing of Chris McPartland, a corruption prosecutor in Spota’s office, who Newsday reported in January is under investigation by a federal grand jury for political corruption.

“People need to be held responsible for their actions and right now, in this county, they’re not being held responsible,” Trotta said. “I don’t mean in federal courts or being arrested, I mean morally and socially.”

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) joined Trotta at the press conference. Cilmi stopped short of calling for resignations when pressed, though he made a statement condemning Bellone and Spota’s alleged actions relating to Burke.

“People always have a sense that their political system is corrupt,” Cilmi said. “But day after day, week after week, year after year they’re seeing those fears play out right before their eyes in Suffolk County and it’s disgraceful. Whatever integrity Suffolk County has left is evaporating in a murky haze of finger pointing and deceit.”

Cilmi also echoed Trotta’s sentiments about Schaffer and suggested Schaffer’s two positions created a conflict of interest.

“The people of Suffolk County didn’t elect Schaffer,” Cilmi said. “The people of Babylon elected him town supervisor. Is he able to keep his government role separate from his political role?”

Schaffer could not be reached for comment but Bellone responded to Trotta’s comments in an email through his spokesperson, Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

“Rob Trotta and Tom Cilmi are partisan politicians who just don’t get it,” she wrote. “This is not a partisan issue, this is about sweeping out a culture of abuse and corruption in the district attorney’s office. I regret that I trusted the word of the district attorney regarding Jim Burke, and I have learned from that error in judgment, which is why I nominated former federal prosecutor Tim Sini as police commissioner after vetting him for more than a year.”

Bob Clifford, a spokesperson for Spota, responded in a similar fashion.

“This predictably partisan press conference calling for the resignation of the duly elected district attorney is nothing but a political challenge to the effective leadership of Thomas Spota, who has spent the last 14 years putting criminals in jail,” he said.

McCaffrey and Trotta refuted any claims that the legislators’ motivation was driven by anything other than morality.

“I can tell you there’s Democrats in there that want to be standing here with us,” McCaffrey said, gesturing toward a legislative meeting going on at the same time. “They are ashamed of what’s going on in Suffolk County right now.”

Trotta said he invited Democratic legislators, though none attended.

“This is not about Republicans — this is not about Democrats,” Trotta said. “This is about corruption. Our job as representatives is to look into this. My constituents don’t have the ability to look into it like I can. Having been a former detective for 25 years I came to this job and I am sickened by what I see. Sickened.”

Anna Throne-Holst. Photo by Phil Corso

By Phil Corso

The Democrats’ race to regain the 1st Congressional District is on, as a former Southampton Town supervisor has stepped up to challenge for the red seat.

Anna Throne-Holst photo by Phil Corso
Anna Throne-Holst photo by Phil Corso

Anna Throne-Holst had a potential final term at the head of Southampton’s town board, but declined to run so she could free herself up for a congressional campaign. She, along with Setauket native Dave Calone, will face off in a federal primary on June 28 to determine who will run against freshman U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in November.

Zeldin unseated six-term Democrat Tim Bishop by a wide margin — 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent — in a contentious election back in 2014, and saw Democratic challengers stepping up to reclaim the spot within a matter of months. Throne-Holst entered the race in the latter half of 2015 and has been aggressive in her attacks against the Republican lawmaker ever since.

In a sit-down with TBR News Media, Throne-Holst described Zeldin as a conservative, climate change-denier who votes largely along party lines.

“When we have legislators who are focusing on being destructive rather than constructive, I think it’s time to make a positive change,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse with Lee Zeldin. He has just voted straight down the line.”

Government tracking website GovTrack reported 45 percent of Zeldin’s 11 bills and resolutions had both Democratic and Republican cosponsors in 2015. The site also showed Zeldin cosponsored 116 bills and resolutions introduced by other members of Congress, rating his willingness to work with others to advance policy goals as second lowest among the New York delegation.

Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Zeldin, said Zeldin has pursued an aggressive agenda on behalf of his constituents on Long Island, working to protect America’s security at home and abroad, help grow the economy, support veterans and first responders, improve the quality of education, repair the nation’s infrastructure and safeguard the environment.

“Congressman Zeldin has been working all day, every day across party lines, delivering results on important issues facing his constituents,” DiSiena said in a statement. “He has been recognized as the top freshman Republican likely to co-sponsor legislation with members of the opposite party.

“Congressman Zeldin believes the climate has always been changing. Instead of taking a position on so many issues that matter most to NY-1 voters, these two Democratic candidates are desperately trying to distract and deflect, to throw up anything at all against the wall to see what politically charged attack can stick.”

Throne-Holst said she had a proven track record while serving in elected office that could translate to the national level.

Before entering public office, Throne-Holst co-founded the Hayground School — an elementary school dedicated to supporting children with different learning needs. After serving as a councilwoman, she was the first Democrat to be elected supervisor in Southampton since 1993, overcoming a heavy red-leaning electorate on the East End. She touted her experience as supervisor working to reduce spending and help the town achieve a AAA bond rating. She worked closely with Stony Brook University, helping to secure funding for a clean water research center and seeking ways to improve Long Island’s septic system technologies. She also said she supported bipartisan efforts to preserve Southampton’s shorelines, resulting in the saving of 1,200 acres of open space.

She has garnered support from some of the Democratic Party’s biggest players, including Bishop, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who Throne-Holst said was pivotal in convincing her to run.

“Anna is exactly what we need in Congress,” Israel said in an email. “She has strengthened the community with job creation and launched economic growth with downtown revitalization.”

If elected, Throne-Holst would be the first woman to represent the 1st District, which covers virtually the entirety of eastern Long Island from Smithtown outward.

Her campaign has raised close to $1.1 million, compared to Calone’s $907,000.

Her Democratic opponent has collected key endorsements too — from State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor) and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell (D). In a previous interview, Calone, who has never held elected office, said his hands-on experience helping Long Island businesses thrive was a driving force behind his decision to run. He works as CEO of Jove Equity Partners LLC, a venture capital firm that helps start and build technology companies.

“This area was a great place to grow up and a lot of my classmates have already left and don’t come back,” he said in June 2015. “We need to be a leader in the economy of New York and worldwide.”

File photo
Grace Marie Damico, St. JamesGrace-Marie-Damico-Presidential-Primaries_2016_05_barkleyw
Q: Will you vote in the primary?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: Because I think that the country is in dire straits right now, and the more people that get out and vote for who they prefer, the better the country will be. Hopefully we can bring this country back.



John Hayes, CoramJohn-Hayes-Presidential-Primaries_2016_04_barkleyw
Q: Will you vote in the primary?
A: Yes
Q: Why?
A: Because it’s too dangerous not to vote. It’s a very important election. I believe Donald Trump is a very dangerous man. I believe that every vote counts against him. If you don’t vote, it’s a vote for Donald Trump.



Charles Spinnato, Port JeffCharles-Spinnato-Presidential-Primaries_2016_06w
Q: Will you vote in the primary?
A: Yes. I want to choose who I want to vote for [and] who I want to be the nominee for the Republican Party. So I would vote in the primaries to make that choice. [It’s a] very interesting election this year.



James Turrill, MasticJames-Turrill-Presidential-Primaries_2016_01_barkleyw
Q: Will you vote in the primary?
A: I’ve never voted in the primaries before but I want to.
Q: Why?
A: I’m fed up with politicians. Look what [U.S. President Barack] Obama has done to this country. He’s destroyed it. I want somebody not like him.

By Giselle Barkley

The 2016 U.S. presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle made their way to New York to continue rallying support this week.

And by next Tuesday, New Yorkers can make a difference when they vote for their nominee in the closed primary.

Suffolk County Republican Chair John Jay LaValle said this is the first primary in three decades where New York State’s vote is this relevant.

“By the time the vote gets to New York, it’s usually over and it’s a functional exercise when the candidates run,” LaValle said.

When asked how running in New York differed from campaigning in other states, LaValle said, “New Yorkers like to hear it straight.” The Republican chair added that voters in this state are very engaged, intelligent and are more skeptical when it comes to casting a vote.

But Lillian Clayman, chair of Brookhaven’s Democratic Committee said “unless there’s this huge ideological chasm with the candidates,” running in New York isn’t much different than in other states.

The presidential primaries allow voters to help determine the presidential nominees for their respective parties. Of the nominees, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is doing well on Long Island, LaValle said. He added that people are getting tired of hearing the typical political rhetoric they hear from the other 2016 presidential candidates.

Although Clayman said she doesn’t know what’s to come for next week’s primaries, she said Democratic nominees, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) have energized residents, even those who usually don’t vote during the primaries.

Registered voters can choose their nominees on Tuesday, April 19.

Visit elections.ny.gov for more information on deadlines and where residents can vote.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. File photo

At least one Suffolk County legislator believes that money in politics can be linked to corruption in local government, though he said he’s yet to gain any support from other lawmakers.

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) introduced a bill in March that would limit donations to $2,000 per election cycle to elected officials running for office from contractors and public employee unions that do business with the county. The bill would limit the hundreds of businesses and unions that have contracts for services with the county. A full list of contracts can be found on Suffolk County’s website.

“It is not uncommon for people and organizations doing business with Suffolk County to make donations to the political campaigns of county officials and candidates seeking county office,” Trotta said in press release on March 23. “Such contributions can be interpreted by the public as a ‘pay to play’ that results in government contracts being awarded on the basis of connections and contributions.”

Trotta said in a phone interview Monday that he hoped to gain support from other legislators, though so far he hasn’t gotten any.

“This bill is the first step in trying to clean up the cesspool that is county government,” Trotta said. “Anybody who says the money doesn’t affect them, they’re lying.”

Trotta said the indictment and guilty plea of former Suffolk County Chief of Police James Burke is an example that a lack of oversight on county government has allowed corruption to run rampant. Trotta was a member of the Suffolk County Police Department for 25 years, according to his page on the county’s website.

Trotta also referenced Edward Walsh, the Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman, who was found guilty of defrauding the Sheriff’s Office on March 31. Walsh could be sentenced to up to 30 years in jail, according to a release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

“I’m trying to take the money out of politics,” Trotta said. “Clearly, there’s a conflict there. This is why you’re seeing all of this corruption.”

Trotta said the unanimous county Legislature vote to approve the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association contract in October 2012 was another example of potential corruption. He said he introduced a bill shortly thereafter that would shine more light on county organizations like the police department, though it didn’t gain any traction.

“It makes no logical sense that there is no oversight,” Trotta said.

The Suffolk County PBA and a media representative for County Executive Steve Bellone (D) did not respond to requests for comment.

Trotta said he did not pour money into his own campaign to get elected to represent the 13th legislative district in 2013. He said he does not accept donations from unions, and the largest donation that he has received was about $2,500 from a friend.

“I have to thank my constituents for giving me the ability to do this,” Trotta said. He added that he is fortunate to be from a strong, well-versed community who elected him despite his modest campaign spending.

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich answers questions from the audience at the Paramount in Huntington. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The race for commander-in-chief made a pit stop in Huntington on Monday with Republican presidential candidate John Kasich (R-Ohio) stumping at The Paramount.

Kasich, the governor of Ohio, spoke face-to-face with New York voters ahead of the April 19 primary with hopes of gaining momentum against his Republican counterparts in the race. He received some of his loudest cheers from the audience after delivering a line about his approach toward what has been a contentious campaign cycle battling the likes of Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich greets the crowd at the Paramount in Huntington. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich greets the crowd at the Paramount in Huntington. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“I may have been ignored for six months in my campaign because I spent my time taking the high road to the highest office, not the low road,” Kasich said.

Trump, a businessman, is currently leading in national polls as he has been for several months, but Kasich has been picking up speed as the Republican primaries make their way to the east coast. Real Clear Politics said Kasich has more than doubled his poll numbers from March 1 to April 1 going from 9 percent to almost 21 percent.

Audience members in the Huntington theater asked Kasich questions, many about whether or not he can actually take off the gloves and take on Trump, who has become known for his outlandish rhetoric and heated campaign rallies.

Kasich said while of course he could do it, he doesn’t necessarily want to.

“I don’t want to live in the negative lane,” he said. “I’ve got two 16-year-old twin daughters and a heck of a lot of people… in the state of Ohio who at this point are pretty proud of what I’ve done. I’ll fight, but I’m more interested in giving you the visual. I’d rather do it in a more positive, upbeat way, giving people hope.”

The governor tried to convince voters that he would be able to defeat both his Republican challengers, and eventually the future Democratic nominee by securing votes from both sides of the aisle.

“These things can’t get done with just one party,” he said. “If I’m president, we’ll have a conservative agenda, but we are not going to tell our friends in the other party to go away, to drop dead or demean them. We are going to invite them in. Before we’re Republicans or Democrats, we are Americans.”

In terms of specific policies, Kasich made several promises for his first 100 days in office, if he were to be elected.

“We will have a system that puts a freeze on all federal regulations except for health and safety, so we stop crushing small business,” he said. “I can tell you that we’re going to have lower taxes on businesses so they’ll invest in America and not in Europe, we’re going to have a simplified tax system with lower taxes for individuals and we’re going to have path to a balanced budget.”

He also addressed how he would handle immigration, an important subject to Suffolk County residents.

According to the Long Island Index, the number of white residents has declined in the past 10 years, as Hispanic and Asian populations have continued to grow. According to the United State Census, in 2014, foreign-born persons made up nearly 15 percent of the total population.

Kasich said he would implement a guest worker program that would help the 11.5 million illegal immigrants who have not committed a crime find a path to legalization.

“We’re not going to hunt you down,” he said.

Kasich said that Suffolk County is a diverse area with residents on all ends of the political spectrum, and he acknowledged he could represent more than just one party.

“I happen to be a Republican but the Republican Party is my vehicle, not my master,” Kasich said.

From left, Olivia Santoro, Daphne Marsh, Victoria Daza, Aaron Watkins-Lopez and Blanca Villanueva, representing advocacy groups for education funding delivered a petition to Sen. John Flanagan’s Smithtown office Wednesday. Photo by Alex Petroski

A small group of people carried the voices of thousands of New Yorkers standing up for the students across the state.

Activists representing four New York State and Long Island groups in support of education funding — especially for low income districts — dropped off a petition with more than 9,000 signatures from across New York to state Sen. John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) office in Smithtown Wednesday. Those in support of the petition pledged their support for state Assemblymen Carl Heastie’s (D-Bronx) “millionaire tax bill,” which was introduced in February and proposed an increase in taxes to those who earn upwards of $1 million annually.

The petition was also in support of a full phase-in of the money still owed to pay off the Campaign for Fiscal Equity resolution, which ensured that $5.5 billion would be committed to mostly high-need districts in 2007, and was supposed to take effect over the course of four years. This was a result of a lawsuit started in 1993, which eventually reached the New York State Court of Appeals, which ruled that high-need districts were being neglected. About $781-million of that money is still owed to Long Island schools, according to advocates of the resolution.

The groups represented at Flanagan’s office included New York Communities For Change, Jobs With Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition and Alliance for Quality Education as well as community members from across Long Island. Flanagan was not in his office, and a legal aide who took the petition declined to comment.

“We need to address the emotional, physical, social, needs of the child and the Senate has shown that they are not caring right now with the budget they have proposed,” said Blanca Villanueva, an organizer from Alliance for Quality Education. “We need them to represent us because they represent all of Long Island and all of New York State.”

The petition was also delivered to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office, Villanueva said.

Flanagan has said in the past that he is against the millionaire tax bill. He did not respond to a request for comment regarding the petition.

“As a constituent of Sen. Flanagan’s, I am calling on him to support the millionaire’s tax,” said Olivia Santoro, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “I valued my public school education and I want the same opportunity for students growing up in his district and across Long Island. That means that we need to fully fund our schools.”

On March 21, a group of about 40 wealthy New Yorkers in conjunction with the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Responsible Wealth Project sent an open letter to Cuomo in support of Heastie’s millionaire tax bill. Those in support included Steven C. Rockefeller and Abigail Disney, among others.

Flanagan’s proposed 2016-17 budget would eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which has cost districts across the state millions of dollars over the past several years in an effort to close a deficit. It also included almost $600 million for education, though Villanueva said at Flanagan’s office that it was not enough.

“We’ve got this Campaign for Fiscal Equity that we’ve been working very hard to support and we hope that [Sen. Flanagan] can stand with the students in making sure that they receive a quality education and the funding that’s necessary in order to deliver that,” Melissa Figueroa of New York Communities For Change said Wednesday. “We need this support, and I hope that he gets down with us.”

Figueroa is also running for a school board seat in Hempstead School District.

Signs held by those in support of the petition read, “Stand up 4 kids, NOT billionaires,” “Sen. Flanagan, who do you represent?” and “Millionaires Tax: Raise taxes on the 1% by 1% to raise billions for public school education.” The petition was launched on ColorOfChange.org, an organization dedicated to fighting institutional racism.