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Election

2018 BOE candidates Ryan Biedenkapp, Mia Farina, Jason Kronberg, René Tidwell, Tracy Zamek and Ryan Walker. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Candidates for Port Jefferson School District’s board of education have thrown themselves into the world of public service at a tumultuous time for the district and education more broadly. To better inform voters about the positions of the six candidates vying for three trustee seats prior to heading to the polls May 15, each was asked to provide answers to the same  questions.

Candidate Mia Farina answered the questions during a phone interview while the other five chose to respond via email. Their answers to the questions, or answers in part, are provided below in alphabetical order by the candidate’s last name.

If the district loses revenue as a result of a LIPA settlement, how can the BOE scale down the budget without doing too much harm to existing programs?

There is the possibility of losing property tax revenue as a legal battle plays out between Port Jefferson Village, the school district and Long Island Power Authority, which has a plant in the village. The utility company contends Town of Brookhaven  overassessed and is seeking to reduce the assessment. The district receives about half of the revenue in its budget from taxes paid by LIPA based on the plant’s assessment.

The village and Brookhaven have publicly stated a settlement is on the horizon, the result of which will likely reduce the plant’s assessment, though few details have been shared. The district has publicized a plan for the budget should an official settlement be reached in time to impact the 2018-19 school year, with
proposed cuts to instrument rental availability, textbooks, athletic teams, clubs and overnight field trips, to name a few.

Budget highlights
  • $44,945,812 for total operating budget
  • 3.72 percent increase in 2018-19 compared to current year
  • Additional expenses would be covered with 2.27 percent tax levy increase and 2.23 percent state aid increase
  • All programs rolled over from current year in next year’s budget
  • Expense increase largely due to contractual raises and increasing health insurance costs
  • Second proposition on ballot to release capital reserves for roof repairs
  • Vote May 15 at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School

Ryan Biedenkapp: “There will need to be a scaling down of nonmandated costs by looking to trim where student participation fails to justify the cost. An increase in taxes combined with increased community participation in seeking alternative funding sources will also be required. Maintaining the academic integrity of Port Jefferson schools should be the guiding principle when deciding where reductions will occur.”

Mia Farina: “There’s actually grants out there — privately — [like] music grants that actually [pay for] musical instruments and pay for the maintenance of those instruments, so that alone would cover that lost revenue. I went to public school, and we did fundraisers. We could sponsor events. We possibly may lose revenue. If we could do anything to bring that back by having the community involved … ”

Jason Kronberg: “Depending on how severe the loss of revenue is, I’d like to hold forums with the community to come up with potential cuts to the budget.”

René Tidwell: “As a member of the BOE, I will work diligently to ensure the high standards the district has set for its instructional programs remain in place. I believe the district needs to form a Citizens Advisory Committee immediately, with the objective to assess the impact of the loss of LIPA revenue under various scenarios (such as 50 percent reduction of revenue, reduction on assessment or reduction on payments, etc.).”

Tracy Zamek: “The board can scale down the budget by looking at budget trends, participation rates, enrollment patterns and non-mandated costs. However, a combination of program adjustments and increased taxes will be necessary in order to absorb the significant loss of revenue. The community will once again be asked to provide input through a values survey and community forum response initiative. Understandably, not everyone is going to agree on every priority, but the most important thing to remember is our students come first.”

Ryan Walker: “Several suggestions that have been successful in other districts come to mind, such as encouraging increased philanthropic contributions, seeking out unused state and federal financial aid
opportunities and grant writing. The first thing to consider is what must the district have in order to maintain the high quality of education that makes families chose to move to Port Jefferson.”

Do you believe security officers and/or educators should be armed on school campuses?

Security in schools is never far from district’s and parent’s minds, though this has been particularly true in the wake of the latest mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, which left 17 dead. Neighboring districts have moved to employ armed security personnel, while some participated in the national discourse through walkouts.

Biedenkapp: “I don’t believe in arming teachers, ever. The idea of having an armed security person inside our schools is one that gives me pause. The retention of a single, possibly two, retired officers, who also was/were licensed air marshal that was carrying [a] concealed [weapon] at the front of the school at the vestibule or outside the school on the perimeter is something that I would be inclined to support.”

Farina: “Absolutely not. Their job is to educate, not to have the responsibility of a [carrying] firearms. Security officers, I believe, should be armed if they’re fully capable of being armed, meaning training is a huge priority.”

Kronberg: “Weapons-trained security can be an essential layer of protection for our schools. There is no definitive study on the effectiveness of this form of protection, but in my opinion it is something, with proper training, that can help prevent and deter violence. Arming teachers in schools is an irresponsible idea.”

Tidwell: “I believe the answer to this question is best answered by the community itself, and as a BOE member, I would recommend a town hall meeting to listen to the community’s ideas and concerns regarding security for our facilities.”

Potential cuts pending LIPA settlement
  • Reduction of rental of music instruments for students ($12,000) Reduction in equipment ($18,000)
  • Reduction of textbooks ($15,000)
  • Reduction of 6 budgeted sports teams based upon student interest ($37,000)
  • Reduction of 6 extra curricular clubs based upon student interest ($18,000) Elimination of overnight/long distance field trips (Busing/Chaperons) ($18,000)
  • Reduction in Board of Education organizational dues ($2,000)
  • Reduction in District Community Printing/Mailings (Newsletters/Calendars) ($10,000)

Walker: “I worked in two school districts as a nationally certified School Resource Officer for the New York State Police Department. At first, residents were hesitant to have a police officer in full uniform, which included a gun, in the schools. Resident hesitation swiftly dissipated as I worked to build a positive collaborative relationship with students, families, administration, teachers and staff.”

Zamek: “I absolutely do not support the idea of having teachers armed in schools. Guns do not belong inside our schools. However, I would welcome a village and community discussion about having professional armed security guards on the outside of schools, especially at arrival [and] dismissal and on the perimeter of fields during recess.”

Do you think BOE communication and transparency with taxpayers can be improved, and if so, how would you do it?

The district and board have been criticized by members of the community for a lack of transparency and for their communication methods on issues, like how the district informed parents of a social media threat made by a student in February long after it was received and via email instead of a robocall.

Biedenkapp: “We can absolutely improve communication with all stakeholders, as well as our transparency. With respect to the taxpayers the district Facebook page should be utilized to give a brief synopsis of each BOE meeting, along with the live video of the meeting and quick links to any pertinent web pages. The school’s web page is rather cumbersome, but design of a new website would be fiscally irresponsible at this time. Residents should have an ability to have their phone number added to the school robocall list.”

Farina: “I think there’s always room for improvement in any type of communication whatsoever. I haven’t really had an issue [with] school communication because I’m very active. … I would ask the community for ideas on how they would want to be notified. Who’s not getting information that wants information? How do you get your information?”

Kronberg: “Communication between the board and community, although strong in many ways, can always be improved. I’m excited for the ‘super team’ approach arrived at by the superintendent for this fall [which brings community members from different sectors together to come up with ideas to solve problems]. While the meetings are online and available, it may be a good idea to provide a question and answer email session with board members, where community members can write in and receive answers to specific questions.”

Tidwell: “I believe there are significant gaps in the BOE’s communication process with all the district’s stakeholders. I would establish a telephone communication protocol that includes all district taxpayers — not just the parents of children attending the district’s schools. I would ensure that taxpayers who currently do not utilize the internet or social media are informed of upcoming BOE events in a timely manner. I propose utilizing cellphone alert applications to remind residents of upcoming meetings, important announcements, etc., all of which could have ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ choices for all residents.”

Walker: “The current way of disseminating information is adequate for those with children attending schools in the district. However, everyone else must seek out information by checking the district’s web page on a daily basis to make sure they didn’t miss anything important. Printed newsletter mailings to residents are infrequent, costly and not always timely. All residents should have an opportunity to register their email addresses with the school to have the same information sent to them as parents of school children. Board members should make themselves more available to attend public functions, have face-to-face interactions with residents.”

Zamek: “There needs to be a greater emphasis on enrolling every community member on our connect-ed phone, text and email system. I have already started to improve communication between the school and village officials by creating a direct line of communication between the two offices. The school now informs the mayor’s office monthly concerning school board meeting dates and times and provides an agenda.”

Rocky Point board of education trustee Ed Caswell, on left, is running for re-election. Newcomer Gregory Amendola, on right, is also running following the step-down of Vice President Scott Reh. File photos

Two candidates are running for two open Rocky Point board of education seats this May.

Following the news of Vice President Scott Reh choosing to step down,incumbent Ed Casswell is choosing to run again, while newcomer Gregory Amendola chose to throw his hat in the ring for the open seat.

Reh, Mount Sinai’s athletic director, said he felt it was time to step down after nine years on the board.

“I did it for three terms, but it was very time consuming,” Reh said. “I think the board’s doing a great job. I think I’m leaving it in very good hands. I was honored and privileged to serve on it. I wish everyone the best of luck.”

Casswell, a 26-year Rocky Point resident, is serving his third year on the board.

“I’m hoping to continue serving to help oversee the operations of the district, specifically our charge to be fiscally responsible, provide opportunities for students — for college and career — and to strengthen safety protocols districtwide,” Casswell said.

“I did it for three terms, but it was very time consuming. I think the board’s doing a great job. I think I’m leaving it in very good hands. I was honored and privileged to serve on it.”

— Scott Reh

The trustee has been a member of the North Shore Little League for 10 years and is currently the principal of Center Moriches High School.

“I feel it is important to be an active member of a community,” he said. “High levels of altruism and service among citizens help create vibrant communities. This has always been my driving force and calling. I believe in these notions and love serving.”

Gregory Amendola is a 13-year resident who said he’s running to try and get the community more involved and informed on how the school district makes decisions.

“I wanted to be a voice for the kids in the district — I want to make sure every kid in the district is spoken for,” Amendola said. “I’m big on communication, and I still feel like there’s people in the dark who don’t even know we have board meetings. I feel the district for the most part is doing well, but I just want people to be more informed about what’s going on.”

Amendola works as a dental ceramist, making prosthetics like crowns, bridges and other implants. He was vice president for the Long Island Sharks football team board, has previously run St. Anthony’s CYO soccer club and has been parent liaison for the junior varsity and varsity Rocky Point Wrestling teams.

“My grandparents lived in Rocky Point before I moved here with my wife, so I always had a connection to the town,” he said. “It still has that small-town feel.”

Amendola said that he’s excited to be working with the rest of the board.

“I don’t have anything that I want to change right out of the gate,” Amendola said. “I want to get involved, find my place, find my rhythm, then as we go further I want to make my voice heard.”

The trustees vote will take place along with the budget vote May 15, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Rocky Point High School gym, located at 82 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road in Rocky Point. In July, at the board’s organizational meeting where the elected members from May will assume their trustee positions, the board will elect a president and vice president.

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The district is hosting a meet the candidates night May 2

Mount Sinai School District's budget and trustee vote is May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School, located at 118 North Country Rd. in Mount Sinai. File photo

By Kyle Barr

Two are running for two open seats on Mount Sinai’s board of education this month, with eight-year board veteran and president Lynn Capobianco stepping down.

Capobianco said she will not be seeking re-election, saying she believes it’s time for different community members to lend their voices to the discussion.

Lynn Capobianco. File photo

“All my children are through school, my youngest is now a freshman in college and I think it’s time for new faces and new voices to come in,” she said.

Incumbent trustee Michael Riggio is running for a second term and newcomer Steve Koepper is running first time. Both are running unopposed.

Riggio, the board’s vice president, is a 12-year resident of Mount Sinai finishing out his first three-year term. He has a 12-year-old daughter enrolled in the district.

Riggio is a retired officer of the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit who now provides security consulting. He said Mount Sinai’s push toward new security measures is something he has advocated for since he first arrived to the board.

“That’s one of the things I ran on three years ago,” Riggio said. “The new security’s working out, and it’s great to see it finally taking shape.”

Riggio said his focus is on making smart financial decisions to make sure school programs don’t get cut.

“Let’s say for example you have a senior and you have a kid in eighth grade,” Riggio said. “The senior was exposed to all these special programs and had great teachers, then, when the eighth-grader gets here, you want him to have the same things as the senior. You don’t want to tell the eighth-grader, ‘oh, we cut this program,’ and this is all gone because we have fiscal problems.”

Michael Riggio. File photo

Koepper and his family moved into their Mount Sinai home in 2000. He has previously volunteered on the district’s bond committee. The father of two said he understands the financial part of schools well, as he’s currently the superintendent of buildings and grounds for the Sayville school district.

“I have been involved with the community as a firefighter for over 15 years,” Koepper said in an email. “I felt now was a good time to offer more of my volunteer time in service to educational process to help shape the future of Mount Sinai schools. There are problems like declining enrollment that need to be looked at, and I’m here so that we can work together and move forward.”

He also has a 12-year-old daughter and a 3-and-a-half-year-old son in the district. Capobianco endorsed Koepper for the open seat.

“[Koepper] did a great job on the bond committee, so I think he will be a nice fit for school board,” she said.

Mount Sinai School District is hosting a meet the candidates night May 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mount Sinai Middle School auditorium. The school is located at 114 North Country Road in Mount Sinai.

Northport Village Hall. File photo

Votes are in for the March 20 Northport Village Board trustee election, and results show that an incumbent and a former trustee have captured the two open seats in the three-candidate race.

Ian Milligan, a trustee since 2014, has come out on top with 1,078 votes, while Thomas Kehoe, who served as a trustee for two terms from 2006-14, came in second with 788. Each candidate secured titles for the next four years.

Ian Milligan. Photo from Ian Milligan

Trailing Kehoe by just 16 votes was Joseph Sabia — a former Northport police officer, Northport-East Northport school board member and a mayoral candidate in 2014 — who received 772 votes, all according to the office of the village clerk at Northport Village Hall as of March 21. The trustee-elects will begin their terms April 6.

“I’m glad to be back on the board,” Kehoe said. “I was here for eight years, so people know me — they know my work ethic, know that I get things done and that’s what they want. They want someone who’s going to work hard for them and be ethical and transparent, so, I think that’s why they voted for me.”

Kehoe, the owner and operator of East Northport-based K & B Seafood for more than 30 years, ran on an agenda to push the village into the 21st century by updating its infrastructure and antiquated codes, maintaining its public safety by securing the future of the village police department and helping solve problems of the local business community.

When he was trustee, Kehoe served as the commissioner of commerce, police and sanitation, and created the Northport Business & Economic Development Committee — a group he said he plans to re-implement. He said the committee’s first mission will be to tackle parking in the village.

“I’m very thankful that, hopefully, Northport can now return to some stability,” he said. “We have a lot of different opinions and lifestyles in the village and we make it work and, so, I’m happy to get back to it.”

Milligan, a Northport native and the owner of Electric Harbor Inc. on Willis Street, has focused his bid for re-election on maintaining Northport’s quality of life for residents, keeping taxes low, continuing to better the Northport Village Dock and getting a rain garden into the village to absorb rainwater runoff to keep the waterfront clean.

Thomas Kehoe. Photo from Thomas Kehoe

He could not be reached for comment following the election results, but in a previous interview with TBR News Media, Milligan said of re-election: “I have enjoyed this work and there is more work to be done.”

Sabia, also a local businessman as the owner of Sabia’s Car Care on Fort Salonga Road since 1977, ran for trustee promising to keep taxes low, restore the village’s crumbling roads and sidewalks, update village codes and push to bring a full-time paramedic to the vilalge’s firehouse.

Despite his disappointment in the overall results, the challenger said he’s proud of how he ran his campaign.

“I think [my opponents] spent a ton more money than I did, and they had more manpower, and I think I did pretty good,” Sabia said. “I think the people of the village spoke based on the tight race. Fifty percent of the people in this village aren’t happy. God bless everybody and God bless all the people that voted for me.”

Asked if he plans on running for the position in the future, Sabia said he wouldn’t rule it out.

“You never know what’s going to happen in life — I leave all my avenues open,” he said. “I’m not a quitter.”

The results also saw the election of new mayor Damon McMullen, a longtime trustee and the unopposed mayoral candidate in the race who secured a total of 1,078 votes. Paul Senzer was elected village justice with 966 votes.

Run-off election will be held April 3

Attorney Ted Rosenberg defeated incumbent Ron LaVita for the village justice seat in Old Field. Photo from candidates

A race 20 years in the making ended in a tie March 20.

The Old Field village justice election between incumbent Ron LaVita, who has run unopposed for 20 years, and attorney Ted Rosenberg, ended in a 114-all tie after all the votes, including absentee ballots, were counted. A run-off election will be held Tuesday April 3 at the Keeper’s Cottage, located at 207 Old Field Road. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Absentee ballots will be re-accepted, and must be in to Village Hall no later than 9 p.m. April 3, according to Village Clerk Adrienne Kessel.

Both candidates received the news of the tie the night of March 20. A recount confirmed the vote totals.

Rosenberg, the village’s current associate justice and a partner with Rosenberg & Gluck LLP, said he was surprised when he heard the news.

He looks forward to a run-off election, and said after the results were in that he hopes this time around there will be a meet the candidates night and/or debate so Old Field residents can learn more about each of the candidates.

“If there’s another election, I think it’s an opportunity for the voters of the village to gain more knowledge about the candidates and our qualifications,” he said. “Particularly for me, because I’m not the incumbent.”

LaVita, a general practice attorney, said he was disappointed when he heard the results.

“I thought I would have a commanding lead,” he said, adding he should have notified residents who were unable to vote March 20 to submit absentee ballots while he was campaigning, feeling that would have helped him take the election.

LaVita said he is also open to a meet the candidates night and/or debate.

During the election, Michael Levine, who has been mayor of Old Field since 2008, ran unopposed and maintains his seat. Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro are the village’s new trustees. Feller and Pirro ran for two seats after Timothy Hopkins and Robert Whitcomb decided not to run for re-election.

This version was updated to include that the vote totals were confirmed and a run-off election is scheduled.

New York voters on the North Shore overwhelmingly approved passing all of the proposed budgets and extra propositions, despite low voter turnout May 15. Stock image

Follow @TBRNewspapers or check #TBRVotes on Twitter for our reporters’ on-the-ground and up-to-the-minute coverage of tonight’s election results.

Proposal 1: Constitutional Convention

Yes: 13.38%            No: 86.61%

Proposal 2: Amendment on public pension forfeiture

Yes: 69.19%            No: 30.8%

Proposal 3: Amendment on use of forest preserve land

Yes: 48.63%            No: 51.36%

 

Suffolk County District Attorney

    Ray Perini (R)               Tim Sini (D)
        36.41%                        62.08%

 

Suffolk County Sheriff

 Larry Zacarese (R)      Errol Toulon Jr. (D)
         48.93%                        49.41%

 

Suffolk County Legislator
5th District:
    Kara Hahn (D)              Ed Flood (R)
       63.39%                         36.56%

 

6th District:   
    Sarah Anker (D)      Gary Pollakusky (R)
          54.93%                       45.02%

 

12th District:
Leslie Kennedy (R)        Kevin Hyms (D)
         67.4%                         32.55%
13th District:
      Rob Trotta (R)        Coleen Maher (D)
           67.62%                     32.32%
16th District:
 Susan Berland (D)      Hector Gavilla (R)
          54.93%                      45.03%
18th District:

William Spencer (D)      Dom Spada (R)
          53.12%                      45.65%

Town of Brookhaven

Supervisor

  Ed Romaine (R)        Jack Harrington (D)
        61.91%                        38.06%

 

Councilperson
1st District:

Valerie Cartright (D)   James Canale (R)
          60.3%                      39.66%
2nd District:

   Jane Bonner (C)        Mike Goodman (D)
         63.53%                       36.42%
3rd District:

  Kevin LaValle (R)       Alfred Ianacci (D)
         65.52%                       33.98%

 

Highway Superintendent

Dan Losquadro (R)     Anthony Portesy (D)
         60.32%                      39.65%

 

Town Clerk

    Donna Lent (I)         Cindy Morris (D)
          57.26%                      42.36%

Town of Huntington

Supervisor
Tracey Edwards (D)    Chad Lupinacci (R)
         43.87%                       53.85%

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards conceded to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. “I want to wish supervisor-elect Lupinacci congratulations on a hard-fought race,” she said. “I have no regrets about not running for town board. I could not be prouder [of my party]. We ran together and ran a positive race talking about issues important to us.”

Town Board

Mark Cuthbertson (D)    Emily Rogan (D)
         25.49%                        23.91%

   Jim Leonick (R)             Ed Smyth (R)
          24.92%                        25.6%

Emily Rogan on her loss in her first political race: “Not the way we waned, but I feel so blessed and full of gratitude,” she said. “This is one election. We are not done yet.”

 

Town of Smithtown

Supervisor

  Ed Wehrheim (R)        Kristen Slevin (I)
          56.79%                       7.85%

 

     Bill Holst (D)
          35.07%

“I feel terrific,” Ed Wehrheim said of winning. “It’s been a long, long campaign because of the primary, which was a very tough one, but this is the culmination of all of it. It feels great to be here with all my supporters and family and friends — they’ve been with me the whole way. It’s a great victory for Smithtown in my opinion, a great victory for my supporters and the residents. I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting to work in January.”

Town Council

 Tom McCarthy (R)      Lynne Nowick (R)
        22.45%                       24.45%

    Bob Doyle (C)           Tom Lohmann (C)
           9.63%                        9.18%

Amy Fortunato (D)    Patricia Stoddard (D)
         17.62%                      16.44%

All percentages are unofficial results as per the Suffolk County Board of Elections

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards walking in the Cow Harbor Day Parade on Sunday, Sept. 20. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Supervisor

Edwards’ leadership is needed

As Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) steps down from his 24-year reign, Huntington faces a number of challenging issues ranging from gang violence to balancing smart economic growth with traffic and parking. It will take a tough individual to get the job done.

Two great candidates have stepped forward to fill Petrone’s shoes. While there is no doubt that Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) is overall well-liked by Huntington’s residents, Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) has shown she has breadth of community support and the gritty determination needed to bring about change.

In her first term in town office, Edwards has spearheaded the creation of the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center and pushed hard for the revitalization of Huntington Station. There’s a master plan in place for the station. The mixed-use Northridge Project is no longer a vision of what could be, but a constructed reality prepared to open by the end of this year.

Edwards said she’s had an inside seat to the town’s affairs “long enough to know what to keep, what things need to change and what things need to be tweaked.” From our perspective, taking time to directly observe first before demanding change is a sign of wisdom.

If we have to choose one, we encourage you to vote for Edwards. We wish Lupinacci continued success.

Town Board

We choose Cuthbertson, Rogan

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) offers the sole voice of political experience in the four-way race for two seats on Huntington Town Board. It’s clear by his knowledge of the area’s issues, the challenges in overcoming them, and familiarity with the town code.

Cuthbertson is running on the Democratic ticket with Emily Rogan, who is a political newcomer, but claims to have refined her communication and negotiation skills as a member of Huntington school district’s board of education when Jack Abrams Intermediate School was temporarily shut down and transformed into a STEM magnet school.

When listening to these somewhat “reluctant” running mates, it became clear to us that together the Democrats offer a blend of institutional knowledge and a refreshing new point of view. It’s a team with the right combination of governmental skill and fresh energy that is needed to push Huntington forward.

We appreciate the efforts of Jim Leonick and Ed Smyth in running for public office, but had difficulty fully understanding their future vision for Huntington. They took issue with town codes but didn’t fully know how the impact of the changes they proposed, which left us feeling uncertain. The future leadership of Huntington needs to be not only strong, but have a firm grasp on the details.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

After two terms at the helm of Suffolk County’s 13th District, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) remains extremely critical of how the county functions — specifically its handling of finances.

The Republican incumbent has called the current system “broken,” “totally corrupt” and “horrible.” If re-elected Nov. 7, he said he plans to keep fighting to control spending and shed light on government mismanagement.

“I don’t want to see people struggling — I want this to be a prosperous place but it’s not a good situation we’re in,” Trotta said in a discussion at the TBR News Media office in Setauket, with the editorial staff Sept. 22.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta is running for his third 13th District term. Photo by Kevin Redding

He talked about his plans moving forward as the representative of his district, which encompasses Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, Nissequogue, St. James, Head of the Harbor and portions of Commack and East Northport.

First elected in 2013, he is running for another two years as legislator against Democratic challenger Colleen Maher, who did not respond to a request for an interview.

Trotta said the legislative bills that he’s passionate about pushing through will ultimately “die in committee.” They include a law to limit Suffolk County “backdoor taxes,” or fee permits and registrations imposed on residents, to 2 percent per year — a reflection of the state’s cap for property tax increases — in order to make living on Long Island cheaper for residents; one that imposes justification for a fee increase; and a campaign finance bill to limit the amount of money in donations elected officials running for office can accept from contractors and public employee unions within the county.

Trotta said the campaign finance bill is the most crucial one because it will serve to clean up the “cesspool” of county government and curb money being tossed around in campaign contributions.

“Campaign finance is the root of all evil,” the legislator said.

A member of the Suffolk County Police Department for 25 years, Trotta pointed to County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) 28.8 percent pay increase to the police department as a prime example of the county’s “out-of-control” spending.

“We’re in debt, we have to cut spending,” he said. “I see the county budget as a pie. Cops came in and ate everything and left the crumbs for everybody else. Why would you give them a $400 million increase? It’s because they gave him $3 million to get elected.”

“I don’t want to see people struggling — I want this to be a prosperous place but it’s not a good situation we’re in.”

  Rob Trotta

Trotta overall outlined a grim portrait of the future of the county, especially for young people looking to stay and start families here.

“If it wasn’t for Manhattan, we’d be dead — we’d be finished,” the legislator said. “I want young people to be able to buy houses here but … a third of the people in their 20s are moving. People always say, ‘Oh the beaches.’ How many times in the last year were you at the beach? Apartment buildings popping up are a last resort.”

He also spoke out against the county’s Red Light Safety Program, which he has long advocated against, chalking the system of cameras at traffic signals to ticket cars that run red lights up to a “money grab” by the county against residents that’s only causing more damage along busy intersections.

The day before the debate Oct. 17, Trotta publicly called for an investigation into the county’s annual report of the program, accusing it of purposefully, and illegally, eliminating data on car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

“Cameras are at 100 locations and accidents are up at about 46 of them, some as much as 100 percent,” he said. “Now, if it’s about safety, wouldn’t you shut those cameras down immediately? It’s not about safety. It’s about money … it’s not a happy place to live.”

The legislature approved hiring an outside contractor to perform a six-month study of the county’s red-light camera program at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

A Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency volunteer and small business owner is challenging incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) as she vies for a fourth term to represent the 6th District.

Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point resident since 2012 who graduated from Baldwin High School and Cornell University, said he wants to bring more fiscal responsibility to the county while working to keep young people living on Long Island. He moved to Rocky Point from Long Beach following losing his home to Hurricane Sandy.

“You have to force the government to work within its means,” he said during a recent debate at TBR News Media’s office. “We need to treat the public’s purse like we treat our own. You don’t borrow from Peter to pay Paul.”

“I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment.”

— Sarah Anker

While Anker, a resident of Mount Sinai for more than 20 years, who previously lived in Middle Island and Coram, said she is fiscally conservative, Pollakusky pointed to Suffolk’s recent practice of borrowing to make payroll. He criticized Anker for calling for a traffic study following the release of a red-light camera program report and for voting for the $700 million contract between the county and the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association. Though he was critical, he ultimately admitted he would have voted in favor of the contract as well, citing public safety as the primary reason.

“Each year our budget is going up $50 million and $48 million is going toward the police contract,” Pollakusky said. “We have to create sustainable contracts, we need people who understand business and have business acumen and financial acumen in government.”

Anker defended her track record on the Legislature. She voted against the controversial fees, which many have referred to as “backdoor taxes.” The legislator voted to reduce Suffolk County’s pipeline debt by closing out unused funds for unrealized capital projects; against the increase in mortgage recording fee, which would have gone up $300; against the alarm bill fee; against increased fees for Suffolk County parks; and against the proposed plastic bag fee that would charge 5 cents per bag at the grocery store.

“I also feel if you don’t have the money don’t spend it, but unfortunately, you have to provide services, it’s mandated by the government,” Anker said, adding that she took a pay freeze and also voted to freeze other legislators’ salaries. “We combined comptroller with treasurer’s office, saved $23 million by privatizing the health care centers, sold the Foley Center, reduced staff by 1,000 people, cut county services costs by 10 percent and I think we still have a lot to do.”

Democrat incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker is running for her fourth term as the 6th District representative in the Suffolk County Legislature. Photo by Alex Petroski

She fell in agreement with her challenger regarding the SCPD contract, as she said it’s important to have boots on the ground amid the opioid crisis and rise in gang violence, but said she’s still hoping the county can make cuts at the negotiation table next year when the existing deal expires.

“We have a new police class which contributes to 15 percent of their health care,” she said. “It takes them longer to reach the highest pension payout; we’re revamping the whole system once these senior officers retire. Overtime should not be included in pensions, and the best thing I can do, and I’ve done this for 20 years, is to advocate strongly — shine a light and let the county executive and police unions know that this needs to be done. I can be one of many voices to direct them to do the right thing; to have a bully pulpit and use it effectively.”

The legislator highlighted her sponsored legislation passed to create a permanent heroin and opiate advisory panel, re-established from a temporary 2010 panel, created to ensure a continuous and interdisciplinary approach to help mitigate the issue. Her challenger cited the panel’s few recommendations the last time around and said he has a more active approach he would take.

“I want to identify programs, like the Given a Second Chance program developed locally four years ago, and keep the heroin crisis more consistent in curriculum and assemblies,” Pollakusky said, also highlighting his panel work with his organization, North Shore Community Association. “We need community coalitions to push law enforcement to close down drug-dealing homes and more drug reform on the supply side.”

While Pollakusky said his organization, which is not a registered nonprofit, was created in 2013, there is no mention on the website or Facebook page prior to June, when he announced his run against Anker.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led.”

— Gary Pollakusky

“The association began with a small group of community advocates who felt there was a void in their local civics organizations,” he said in response. “No money flows in or our of our group. When we raise money it is through and for 501(c)(3) organizations in need, and much of our work has no events
associated with them.”

The challenger said he is more business friendly than Anker, and his time working with the town IDA has helped him. He said by retaining talent and creating jobs, keeping residents on Long Island is more attainable.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led,” he said. “I act. I create jobs.”

Anker questioned his businesses, saying he outsources jobs to countries other than the United States for Media Barrel LLC and Travel Barrel LLC. Pollakusky responded that they are support teams not employees, to which Anker responded: “Do they do your work for you? Do you have [products] that are made in the United States? That’s all I’m asking.”

“For you to perpetrate these lies I not only find disappointing, I find that shameful,” Pollakusky said, asking Anker if she owns a car, television or phone made in the United States. “I am a local businessman. I work within our local economy, I have local clients.”

Republican Gary Pollakusky is running to represent Suffolk County’s 6th legislative district. Photo by Alex Petroski

Travel Barrell only lists some of the events that Pollakusky discussed, many of which are unclickable. The website’s About Us, Our Brands, Testimonials and Contact Us tabs also do not work. Anker questioned her challenger about an event called Boobs & Tubes, also listed on the website, which he referred to as a charity event that donates to breast cancer research. Based on online photos and videos of the event, referred to as “the most fun you can have with (some of) your clothes on,” it is marketed as an exclusive weekend summer event of camping, tubing, barbecuing, music and relaxation. The 2017 New York trip was canceled. Pollakusky’s last name is the only last name not in the About Us and the only mention of charity is deep in the About Us: “After Scott lost his friend Marcelo Vandrie to cancer in 2009, Boobs & Tubes began donating a portion of its proceeds to a different charitable event each year.” There is no mention of how much or to which charities the organization contributes anywhere on the website.

Anker cited several initiatives she’s proud of contributing to locally, including land acquisition with the Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai and Cordwood Landing property in Miller Place to preserve more open space, a single-stream recycling program and work with veterans and seniors.

“I will fight for lower utility costs and continue to educate residents about common scams,” said Anker, who used to serve on the Mount Sinai Civic Association and worked on major projects like the construction of Heritage Park and ongoing Rails to Trails recreational path. “I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment. I will stand strong to support our veterans who have defended our nation. I will do everything in my power to protect our children. I will use my extensive experience in public policy to create safer communities for families and to improve the overall quality of life for Suffolk County residents.”

This version was updated to correctly identify what year Gary Pollakusky moved to Rocky Point and the names of his companies. The version also adds what university he graduated from.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle is being challenged by Democrat Alfred Ianucci to represent the 3rd District. Photos by Desirée Keegan and from Facebook

By Desirée Keegan

An architectural woodworker is challenging incumbent Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), focusing on the issues of road repair, zombie homes and government transparency as they relate to the 3rd Council District.

Alfred Ianacci, 61, of Lake Ronkonkoma, is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines. He grew up in Long Island City, Queens and has lived in Lake Ronkonkoma for 31 years.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle was on site for the tearing down of several zombie houses this year. File photo from Town of Brookhaven

“The feedback I get is people are not happy with Brookhaven,” he said. He attributed that to a lack of trust in town officials, and called for more government transparency.

LaValle, who was grew up in Centereach, said he jumped into office four years ago wanting to bring government back to the people.

Representing what he calls the “blue collar, middle class area” of Brookhaven, the councilman said his residents have a different mindset than most.

“If we had a pothole in front of our house, we’d throw some dirt in it, throw a cone over it and we wouldn’t call anybody, because we take care of the problem ourselves,” he said during a debate at TBR News Media’s Setauket office in October. “That’s one thing I’ve been trying to broach being in office for four years — trying to bring government to the people and show them that we’re here. I’m here hosting events just to get out there so people know me and know I’m not running away from issues.”

Ianacci, said road repair is “a disaster” in the town. He also said the town needs to improve its drainage systems.

“There are places that flood with three or four inches of rain,” he said. “We have to really do a complete re-evaluation of our storm drain system throughout Brookhaven.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle is running for his third term. Photo by Desirée Keegan

LaValle said he knows the real issues, and said growing up in Centereach helped him to understand them.

“The big thing I know growing up in the area is that we were always traveling because we didn’t have fields, and the fields we did have weren’t very good,” said LaValle, who played on the Centereach basketball team in high school. “But now to have Selden Park in our own backyard, people can grow up and be proud of what we have.”

The councilman helped secure 24 acres behind Hawkins Path Elementary School, where four baseball fields, two multi-purpose fields, walking trails and a playground are currently being constructed. Modeling it off of Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park, he said he’d also like to incorporate a piece from Port Jefferson’s Harborfront Park — an ice rink. With Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) helping to purchase the property and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) securing a $1 million grant, the construction is well on its way. He said he’s hoping to see it become a generational park.

“You start off as a baby, your mom is walking you in the stroller, and the kids gets a little older and they go to the playground, then they get a little bit older and they’re playing on the fields, then they get a little older they go off to college and they come back and they’re running, and then they have a family, come back and start the whole thing over again,” he said. “Any day you drive by Heritage Park there’s tons of people — something’s always going on — so where as the Centereach Pool is a condensed area, this was our last opportunity for some open space.”

Lavalle was also involved in work done at Centereach Pool, adding a $100,000 spray park, reconstructing the basketball courts, adding a sun shelter, pickleball courts and beach volleyball. The restrooms are slated for improvements next.

Owners watch their dogs play at Selden Dog Park. which Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle helped secure a grant to upgrade. File photo by Kyle Barr

“We hooked up with the Middle Country school district and the athletic director to host basketball tournaments in the middle of the summer to keep kids off the streets,” he said. “We didn’t realize the turnout. The families are happy the kids have something to do and they get to come and see how nice it is now.”

More than fixing up parkland, Ianacci said he is concerned with zombie houses. The challenger said the town is “plagued” by abandoned, dilapidated homes. He said vacant houses could be salvaged instead of torn down, saying it would help the town develop affordable housing to keep residents from leaving. Brookhaven Town announced last month a similar plan is already being put into motion, fixing the blighted properties and selling them to veterans and first-time homebuyers at lower rates.

Other efforts touted by LaValle relating specifically to his council district include securing $2 million in grants over the last four years, part of which was a $25,000 grant for upgrading the Selden Dog Park; starting the Run the Farm race to raise money for the nonprofit Hobbes Farm once it began losing government funding; and revitalizing Middle Country Road by connecting parking lots, adding more green space as businesses like McDonald’s and White Castle receive upgrades and others like Five Guys and Guitar Center move in.

Democratic challenger Alfred Ianacci is running to represent Brookhaven Town’s 3rd Council District. Photo from Facebook

“It goes from the street, to the sidewalk to a parking lot — you feel like you’re in the city,” he said. “New businesses are coming in and rezoning and we’re trying to bring that green space back while also keeping people off Middle Country Road.”

Ianacci’s focus continues to be on more townwide issues, like the expected closure of the town landfill in the next decade, and fighting against the “brain drain.”

“We have so many skilled people who work in Brookhaven,” he said. “But they can’t live in Brookhaven. Our taxes are going to go up.”

He said on many issues he had no specific recommendations for improvements, but would study each problem and seek solutions.

LaValle said he hopes to continue to keep doing what he’s doing. The councilman said he or a staff member attends every civic meeting. He said he speaks regularly to the Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, churches and townspeople to find out what the real problems are.

“I try to make myself available to help me do this job,” LaValle said. “And I’m proud to have the opportunity to do this in the area I grew up. Right away you notice issues while you’re out there talking to people about their problems, what it is that’s bothering them. Whether it’s a pothole in front of their house or business development on Middle Country Road, that’s what I need to know. And there’s nothing more rewarding than to go out into your community that you’re so entrenched in and create the change that the residents have been talking about, and it’s for my friends, my family and my neighbors.”

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