Tags Posts tagged with "Government"

Government

by -
0 1107

Donald Trump and now Aaron Boone? What’s going on?

A well-known businessman, who spent considerable time on TV after he had made his money, was elected president — in case you’ve been living in a hole somewhere for the last year or so — despite not having any experience whatsoever as a politician.

Then, recently, the New York Yankees, who expect a championship every year and aren’t fond of learning curves, went out and hired someone whose playing claim to fame as a Yankee came with one swing 14 years ago. After his playing career ended, Boone entered the broadcast booth where he talked about the game.

Like Trump, Boone was beamed into the leaving rooms of those who paused to watch the program that featured him.

And now, like Trump, Boone must do some quick on-the-job training, becoming a modern-day manager.

Now, I don’t expect Boone to attack other players, managers or umpires on Twitter, the way the president has done when he unloads written salvos against anyone who dares to defy or annoy him.

What I’m wondering, though, is how did these men get their jobs? Since when is experience doing a high profile job no longer necessary? What made Trump and Boone the choice of the Electoral College and the best candidate to make the Yankees greater again, respectively? These Yankees, after all, were surprisingly great this year, falling one game short of the fall classic.

One word may answer that question: television. Somehow we have gone from the comical notion, years ago that “I’m not a doctor, I play one on TV,” to the reality of “I know better because I seem that way on TV.”

Long ago, in 1960, when Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were running for president, TV helped sway voters, particularly those who watched an important debate. So, I suppose, it seems like a logical extension to imagine that TV helped fast track the careers of people who spent time sharing their thoughts, tag lines and observations with us through that same medium.

Sports and reality TV have commonalities. A sport is the ultimate live, unscripted event, where people offer off-the-cuff thoughts and analyses on fluid action. Each game and each moment can bring the unexpected — a triple play, an inside-the-park home run or a hidden-ball trick — that requires an instant reaction.

Similarly, albeit in a different way, the reality TV that brought Trump to the top of the political heap gave him a chance to respond to changing situations, offering a cutting analysis of the potential, or lack thereof, for people on his show.

While viewers watch these familiar faces and hear their voices, people can become convinced of the wisdom and abilities of these TV stars who become spokespersons and champions for their own brands.

So, does Trump offer any insight into Boone? The new Yankees manager may find that second-guessing other people is much easier than making decisions himself and working as a part, or a leader, of a team.

Trump has bristled at all the second-guessers. While he’s familiar with the media scrutiny, Boone, too, may find it irritating that so many other New Yorkers are absolutely sure they know better when it comes to in-game decisions that affect the outcome of a Yankees contest.

Perhaps what Boone and Trump teach us is that selling your ideas or yourself on TV has become a replacement for experience. TV experience has become a training ground for those selling their ideas to the huddled masses yearning for a chance to cheer.

Mary (Pam) Pierce and Ian Jablonski are both hoping to continue serving the Asharoken community. Photo from Pam Pierce

By Victoria Espinoza

The Village of Asharoken government is looking to stay the course, as two incumbents on the village board are running for another term to serve their community.

Deputy Mayor Mary (Pam) Pierce and Trustee Ian Jablonski announced this week they will be running for re-election in the Asharoken village election June 20, seeking a fourth and third term, respectively.  Both are members of the Asharoken Integrity Party.

Pierce, a 32-year Asharoken resident, is a retired business executive and owner and has served as deputy mayor for five years. She was the coordinator on the Village Response for the ASDRP beach project and  oversaw the repair of the Sound-side groins at both the eastern and western ends and the National Grid sand placement in the fall of last year.

“We’ve been doing a lot and it’s been very rewarding serving the community,” Pierce said in a phone interview. “This is a great little community, and it’s great to get as many projects done as we can for the future of our village.”

Jablonski, a 16-year Asharoken resident, is a director in the information technology department of Northwell Health. He managed the widening of the shoulder on Asharoken Avenue across from the seawall, the repair of a retaining wall northwest of that area and has kept the board apprised of deer, tick and hunting information during his tenure. In the past two years residents have been divided on how to handle the overpopulation of deer in the area, and the resolution of allowing bow hunting for deer.

During the last five years, the pair said the Asharoken administration has concentrated on four main areas: taxes, infrastructure, grant funding and intermunicipal cooperation/planning.

In each of the last five years the village has remained below the New York State-mandated 2 percent tax levy increase cap. The recently adopted 2017-2018 budget has a 0 percent increase for the second year in a row. The five-year average tax change is the lowest it has been since 2002, at 1.4 percent. In addition, the New York State comptroller has conducted financial stress tests for local governments in the last four years, and Asharoken received the best evaluation possible for all three tests.

Another project that the pair was proud to have played a role in accomplishing was the construction of the new village hall, which was achieved entirely through resident donations. The current administration has also worked on repaving and repairing streets, repairing parts of the seawall and other parts of the beach. The village has also added four part-time police officers and replaced aging police cars to improve security in the area.

According to Jablonski and Pierce, approximately $1,100,00 in federal, state and local support has been secured by the administration in the last five years, which helped substantially defray the costs of many infrastructure projects.

The incumbents also said the village negotiated a five-year police contract that freezes the pay scale for new officers for five years and requires new officers to contribute 15 percent of their health insurance costs, instituted single stream recycling which has reduced sanitation costs for the village by approximately $2,500 annually, and created a multi-agency plan to effectively deal with storms like Hurricane Sandy, which caused major damage to the village five years ago.

Pierce and Jablonksi said in a joint statement they’ve enjoyed the collaborative efforts that make Asharoken so successful.

“It has been very rewarding working with the wonderful team we have-our fellow trustees and the mayor, the village employees and the many volunteers and residents who give so much to our beautiful village,” they said. “While much has been accomplished in the past five years, there are still important challenges and issues ahead.  We’ll continue to work with the help of the community for the best solutions for all of Asharoken.”

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

By Rich Acritelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reclaim NY is requesting various public documents from governments and school districts across Nassau and Suffolk counties, including Port Jefferson Village and Commack school district. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Brandon Muir

Long Islanders deserve better than excuses from politicians, and bureaucrats. It’s time they took the lead on making government more open. That’s why Reclaim New York launched our transparency project.

Using the Freedom of Information Law to open spending records from governments across Long Island is the first step toward ensuring all citizens can hold their local government accountable.

This effort may ruffle some feathers. It seems this happened with Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant. Rather than just fixing Port Jefferson’s FOIL failures, we saw a smoke screen.

On March 7, we filed a FOIL request for the 2014 village expenditures, since this public record is not posted on the village website. We intend to share this information publicly to empower citizen-driven oversight of government.

The documents did not arrive.

Excuses don’t make up for not following the law’s timelines, or completing a FOIL request late. The law provides for extensions; a government simply has to ask for it. When this doesn’t happen, the FOIL is considered denied.

The mayor recently claimed we never filed an appeal and didn’t reach out to the village. Both statements are incorrect. The appeal is documented, and was sent on April 11, to the mayor’s own address, exactly as Port Jefferson asked.

We simply followed the law, as anyone can see at our transparency project portal: NYtransparency.org. If the mayor does not like FOIL’s requirements, she should attack the law, not Reclaim New York.

To be clear, the village has now sent the records. But more than 75 percent of Long Island localities fulfilled their legal obligations on time. We’d like to work with the village to improve their transparency process.

Here’s how we can make that happen: The village can post the names and contact information for the Records Access Officer, and Records Appeals Officer online. These designations are required by law, and this would clear up confusion.

When a FOIL request is denied, or ignored — as in this case — the law allows for an appeal, sent to the Appeals Officer.

If the village says the mayor fills this role, and tells a FOIL filer to use a particular email address to submit an appeal to her, the mayor should not publicly claim she hasn’t received an appeal and blame it on the sender.

Additionally, ensure village employees understand the time limits for FOIL requests.

The first response, within five days, should acknowledge receipt and indicate when the request will be completed. If you need more time, request an extension.

In the initial response to Reclaim New York, the village said they would outline production costs for fulfilling the FOIL request. Then they stopped responding to our requests without providing a clear timeline.

It’s important to note that it’s not the filer’s responsibility to follow up with calls, though in this case Reclaim New York did. But the law does require that a village respond within 10 business days to an appeal.

The ultimate transparency goal for any government: proactively posting information in a searchable format online.

Every citizen should be able to see how government is spending public money. There’s no need to wait for someone to ask. Provide this information openly, and Port Jefferson will truly be leading the way toward open government.

Brandon Muir is the executive director for Reclaim New York.

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.”

by -
0 537

In an attempt to promote transparency, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics recently proposed requiring public relations consultants to register as lobbyists if they are trying to influence editorial writers.

That would mean any public relations professionals who contacts a reporter or editorial board in an attempt to get the media to advance their client’s message would be considered to be delivering a lobbying message.

Several New York public relations firms and New York Press Association members immediately spoke out against this proposal, and we side with them and share their concerns.

To force anyone to report to the government before they speak to a reporter seems dangerous, and almost medieval. It treads on freedom of speech if the government is effectively regulating newspaper content, and interfering with a newsroom staff’s ability to independently and objectively judge its sources on its own. On top of that, it is an example of government butting its nose into what are largely privately owned companies — a place it has no business giving orders.

On the surface, it seems as though JCOPE is paying the press a compliment, saying the news media are so valuable that it wants to help preserve the public watchdog’s objectivity. But, in an ironic twist, within the same stroke it would be compromising the independence of the Fourth Estate by controlling its sources.

Freedom of the press is one of the rights America was built upon and relies upon to this day, and this move would tramp on the media’s liberty to print the issues and concerns of the public without needing permission from the government. One of the main jobs of a reporter is to evaluate whether a source is credible and whether a story is newsworthy. Let’s keep this task out of the hands of the government and in the hands of the people who make these decisions every day.

As a newspaper that takes pride in serving the community before anyone else, we stand against this proposal to restrict our communication and we hope you will too.

Plan freezes salaries for pols, bumps highway budget

Town board members receive a copy of the 2016 preliminary budget. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) unveiled a $188.7 million preliminary 2016 budget on Wednesday. Sept. 16, that reduces spending slightly from this year and stays within a state-mandated cap on property tax levy increases.

If approved, the budget would amount to a $29 increase for the average homeowner, if looking only at the town’s three major funds. The budget is balanced by a 1.3 percent increase in the town’s tax levy, because Huntington is using fewer funds from reserves to balance the budget, according to a town statement.

The town board voted at a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 16, to schedule an Oct. 6 public hearing on the budget. The public hearing will take place at 6 p.m.

The spending plan is a “no-frills” budget, which is down from this year’s spending by .2 percent, officials said. The budget would maintain current services and reflects a reduction in staffing through attrition —fewer than five employees due to some retirements in the town’s General Services department, Petrone told reporters after the meeting.

There’s $1.9 million more budgeted for the town’s Highway Department, due to last year’s severe winter. That increase was offset by little to no increase in other major town funds and decreased spending in some of the special districts, a town statement said.

One of the issues the supervisor said he’s wrestling with is funding expenses taxpayers may want but that count against the municipality in its state tax cap levy increase calculations.

To that end, Petrone said officials have not included renewing a multi-million dollar Open Space Bond Act town taxpayers voted in favor of to have the town fund green initiatives, park improvements and land purchases, because revenue raised through the act counts into the town’s tax levy. Petrone also said that the town has been considering putting up a referendum to create a parking district, which could have the authority sell bonds to fund a long-desired parking garage in Huntington village, but that would count against the town’s tax levy calculation.

Petrone said he’s been calling on state lawmakers to look at possible revisions to the tax cap law in cases where voters directly choose to tax themselves.

“This 2016 budget preparation presented challenges and realities that will alter how the town does business going forward, without important changes to the tax cap act,” Petrone wrote in his budget message. “While the tax cap act seeks to stabilize the tax base, it also limits our ability to enhance or expand services to our residents.”

Other highlights of the budget include freezing all salaries for elected officials and appointment management, continued focus on building a $1.5 million new animal shelter and implementing design and initial construction of the James D. Conte Community Center at the former Huntington Armory.

The supervisor also proposed a $15 million capital budget that focuses on improvements to the town’s infrastructure, such as the rehabilitation of various plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District to headworks improvements in the Huntington Sewer District. Funding is also included for road rehabilitation, drainage infrastructure and paving, according to the statement.

Victoria Espinoza contributed reporting

Brookhaven officials flood county public works offices with hopes of addressing water quality on North Shore

The creek flowing from Stony Brook Mill Pond, above, and into the Stony Brook Harbor is collecting sediment, making it difficult to use the body of water. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Just as the Town of Brookhaven officials are fighting to improve the Long Island Sound’s water quality, officials have also recently taken steps to combat the buildup of sediment deposits in Stony Brook Harbor.

According to a press release, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) wrote a letter to the Suffolk County Commissioner of Public Works Gil Anderson on Sept. 14 urging the county to include a navigational channel to the “Stony Brook Boat Works” property. The channel will end south of Brookhaven’s “kayak/canoe launch.”

Officials noted that the creek, which flows from Stony Brook Mill Pond into the Stony Brook Harbor, has accumulated sediment deposits over the years, which is restricting tidal flow in that area. The growth of Phragmites, a common grass found in wetlands, has largely contributed to the sediment deposits. Romaine said the water is shallow in that area and it is difficult for the anchored boats at the Stony Brook Yacht Club to navigate the body of water during low tide.

“[The town] raised this issue because we think it should be examined,” Romaine said. “We think that the boaters particularly in the yacht club should have the ability to use the recreational waterways. We also think it would help [tidal flushing] for that creek.”

Romaine also said even if the project is approved, dredging the body of water depends on the amount of money available to execute the project. Once approved, the town will have to handle how and where the sediment is disposed. Romaine said hydraulic dredges, which dredge spoils and pump them half a mile away, and dewatering sites among others are ways the town can dispose of the dredge spoils.

In a press release, Romaine asked for the Stony Brook Task Force and Legislature Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) to support his position on the issue. Although Romaine submitted the letter to the county, it’s unclear when or if the Dredge Committee will accept the modified project, as the committee doesn’t meet regularly and is working on other dredging projects.

“It will take some time before the county addresses this. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” Romaine said in a phone interview. “This may not be their first priority but [the town] put the request in and we’re hopeful that it will get some attention.”

by -
0 750
Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, right, hears Alan Schneider of Suffolk County Personnel discuss a proposal that would reorganize the town's government. Photo by Phil Corso

When it comes to government efficiency, Smithtown’s supervisor says it is not broken, and doesn’t need to be fixed.

Making good on his promise, Smithtown Town Councilman Bob Creighton (R) invited Suffolk County Personnel Director Alan Schneider to Tuesday morning’s work session to rap over a Creighton-backed proposal that would give the Town Board authority to appoint commissioners, which he argued would streamline workflow within the town. Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), however, was not swayed in his previous position against changing the way the government operates, welcoming Schneider to the meeting by referring to it as “the lion’s den.”

Earlier this year, Creighton floated the proposal to restructure Smithtown’s government, similar to actions taken in other nearby municipalities like Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington and Islip, taking 24 departments within the town and condensing them underneath four Town Board-appointed commissioners, including planning and development, human services, public works and public safety. The Town Board and Supervisor would remain the same, as would the offices of the town attorney, clerk, comptroller, assessor and tax receiver.

The plan would replace the current structure, which appoints Town Board members as liaisons to various different departments.

“We refined the plan, to some degree, and Alan indicated it was a workable plan,” Creighton said. “It has been utilized in other towns as well.”

Schneider told the board that local laws needed to be written and be brought before the state’s Civil Service Department for approval in order for such a plan to move forward, although he added it would likely make it through if it followed suit of neighboring municipalities that have already taken that route. He gave Creighton’s proposal his personal stamp of approval, nevertheless.

“What you have put before me is doable,” Schneider said. “It would give you four additional commissioners, or directors, depending on what you want to call them, and you can fill these positions with whomever you choose to fill them with.”

Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) suggested that if the town were to go in this direction, the board implement some sort of criteria or standards for commissioner positions in the future to prevent political pandering, or appointments borne out of government deals made behind closed doors.

When he initially brought the discussion to the table, Creighton asked his fellow councilmembers about inviting Schneider from the county level to come in and move the discussion forward. The proposal also received support from Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), but the others remained reserved.

Vecchio, who had been against the proposal from the beginning, said he did not gain any additional insight into the debate after sitting down with the personnel director.

“It wasn’t helpful to me, I already knew about it” Vecchio said to Schneider. “What we have has worked well, having councilmembers supervise various departments.” Vecchio argued that neighboring towns that underwent government restructuring opened themselves up to political corruption and mishandlings that could have been avoided otherwise. Creighton, however, argued the town should keep the focus on its own municipality.

“We are doing this to correct the span of control,” he said. “In any business, having 23 different people in charge is out of control.”

Suffolk Republicans select candidate with experience serving as town councilman, building commissioner

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone file photo

The Suffolk County executive race is on.

Jim O'Connor is stepping up to challenge Steve Bellone for Suffolk County Executive. Photo from Jim O'Connor
Jim O’Connor is stepping up to challenge Steve Bellone for Suffolk County Executive. Photo from Jim O’Connor

County Republicans have selected Jim O’Connor to challenge Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in November. And in his words, O’Connor said he could not be more honored to represent his party in the pivotal race.

“John Jay LaValle [chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee] called me up and asked me if I would be interested in the position, and I said of course,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you be interested in that position?”

O’Connor, now a resident of Great River, is a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Maroney O’Connor LLP. He has a long resume of working in local government, starting in the Town of North Hempstead in 1998 as an elected councilman, where he served until 2001. From 2006-08, O’Connor was appointed building commissioner for North Hempstead.

He had a very brief run at the Nassau county executive spot in 2001 — for approximately 48 hours, to be exact — before the Nassau Republicans chose to back candidate Bruce Bent instead.

O’Connor’s opponent, Bellone, also garnered similar public service accolades before assuming office at the county level in 2011. Bellone served on the Babylon Town Board for four years, starting in 1997, and was then elected supervisor of Babylon Township in 2001.

Since being voted into office, Bellone said he was proud of passing three consecutive balanced budgets under the tax cap, securing a $383 million investment in clean water infrastructure — the largest of the county in 40 years — and negotiating labor contracts that make new employees more affordable and requires new employees to contribute to health care costs.

“We must continue to move Suffolk County forward,” Bellone said in an email through a spokesperson. “While we have made a lot of progress there is so much work left to do.”

Specifics of moving Suffolk County forward, Bellone said, include continuing to hold the line on taxes, creating new jobs, growing the economy and keeping young people on Long Island.

Bellone also said he is interested in utilizing better the many assets that Suffolk County has, including Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. If re-elected, he said he wants to make sure the county is leveraging those assets to create innovation jobs.

But O’Connor said he found flaws in the way that Bellone has handled the financial aspects of the county.

“The attitude is, ‘Let’s put off tomorrow what we could do today,’ and that is hurting my children and my children’s children, in terms of the amount of debt that will fall on their shoulders,” O’Connor said in a phone interview.

Under an O’Connor administration, there would be an implementation of a Suffolk County debt management plan, which would start the process of a debt ceiling, much like what has been done in Washington D.C., O’Connor told Times Beacon Record Newspapers in an exclusive interview.

“It’s a simple concept,” he said. “Let’s look at the county’s existing revenue streams and compare it to the county’s maturing debt in an effort to retire, or reduce, the interest payments that will burden future generations of Suffolk residents.”

Suffolk County has $180 million of structural deficit and more than $1.5 billion in cumulative debt, according to O’Connor, who said these factors have led the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a Democrat, to say that the county is in fiscal distress. O’Connor said he wants to stand up for the taxpayers of the county.

According to Bellone, when he first entered office, Suffolk County’s finances were in free fall, with a deficit of more than $400 million. He has since cut the deficit significantly by shrinking the government by more than 10 percent.

“I know that Suffolk County taxpayers are overburdened,” Bellone said. “That’s why I am committed to staying under the property tax cap at the same time as I cut my own salary and volunteered to be the first employee in the history of Suffolk County to directly contribute to their health care.”

Keith Davies, campaign manager for Bellone, said his candidate was the right choice for residents to continue moving Suffolk County forward: “Steve Bellone has a proven record of protecting our tax dollars and our quality of life. He’s balanced three consecutive budgets, kept taxes under the tax cap and protected our drinking water by investing in our clean water infrastructure.”

The Suffolk County Republicans, however, said they believed O’Connor would lead the county in a better direction.

In a statement, LaValle said O’Connor’s reputation from both Democrats and Republicans from North Hempstead is what drew him to asking him to fight for the position.

“He’s a guy that is very well respected of course by Republicans in the area, but also by many Democrats,” LaValle said. “In this day and age of almost political hate, here is a guy where not only Republicans but prominent Democrats were speaking very highly of him. That stuck with me.”

Social

9,417FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,151FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe