Suffolk County Government

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta discusses his plans for the coming term. Photo by Raymond Janis

“I think I’m going to win,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) confidently told TBR News Media. That is because there is no other candidate on the ballot.

Without a challenger, Trotta, who has held the 13th District seat since 2013, will coast to a sixth and final term this November. The 13th District includes Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, San Remo, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor and St. James, as well as portions of Commack and East Northport.

During an office interview with Trotta spanning just under an hour, he painted a dreary portrait of the inner workings of county government, describing an “insane” world of hidden taxes, political diversion tactics and underhanded political games that predominate.

“It’s a broken system,” he said. “It’s all about money.”

The incumbent pledged to go out with a bang during his final term. “I’m giving one last shot to clean up this mess, this cesspool I call Suffolk County,” he said. “I want to finish cleaning up the corruption, and I want to buy some more open space. Those are my two top concerns.”

He based his open-space agenda upon a deep-seated fear of potential overdevelopment. He said protecting available parcels within his district and throughout the county would maintain the natural character, keeping it from “looking like Nassau County or Queens.”


Trotta’s reelection bid comes amid an intense countywide debate over wastewater infrastructure, notably the proposed 1/8-penny sales tax he and the Republican majority in the county Legislature had voted down earlier this year in connection with the Water Quality Restoration Act. 

“I would never vote for a tax increase for that,” he said in defense of his “no” vote.

Trotta pointed to the county’s roughly $1 billion budget surplus, saying that revenue pipeline is better suited for investments in wastewater infrastructure and treatment centers.

The county legislator suggested that the ongoing debate around wastewater infrastructure was little more than political subterfuge designed to stir confusion and blame the Republican caucus.

“They’re trying to make it look like the Republicans voted against giving people a choice,” he said. “No, the people of this county hired me to get inside and look at what’s going on. And when I look at what’s going on, it’s not what they’re being told.”

Outlining his vision for modernizing wastewater infrastructure, he said the county should actively work toward identifying and replacing cesspools in watershed areas or near surface waters.


Along with the wastewater fight, Trotta addressed several perceived “shams” within the county government that he seeks to remediate in the coming term. He cited the county’s School Bus Safety Program as “the ultimate sham” designed to raise county revenues from unwitting victims.

“There’s a bus stop in Commack where 3,000 tickets were written on Jericho Turnpike,” he said. “No one’s crossing Jericho Turnpike, yet it raised $800,000 of taxpayers money.”

He added, “No kids are crossing that road, so this is strictly about money — make no mistake about it.”

Trotta also objected to the existing Red Light Camera Program, stating that roughly 95% of violations are for right-on-red turns.


To assist young people struggling to afford Suffolk’s high cost of living, the 13th District incumbent said he preferred promoting private ownership over renting.

“I don’t like apartments because I don’t want to see the rich get richer,” he said. “If you put something down by the railroad station and charge some young professional $3,500 a month, he’s never going to be able to buy a house.”

Trotta said the affordability problem is due to governmental mismanagement and ill-conceived tax breaks for developers.

“When you’re giving a tax break to a billionaire and making everyone else pay, it’s corrupt,” he said.


In achieving policy victories for county residents, Trotta said legislators must conduct themselves with “integrity, honor and how about admitting that [county programs are often] nothing more than a money grab.”

Along with his reformer aspirations, Trotta touted a recent acquisition of 15 acres for open-space conservation in Head of the Harbor with plans for additional acreage in Fort Salonga, among other scattered parcels throughout his district.

Despite his efforts to reform the system, Trotta indicated that progress has been “very disappointing.” He nonetheless said he remains committed to carrying out his whistleblower role for this one last term of service.

“I shine the light in what’s going on,” he stated. “I have a view of it. You pay me to look at it, and I’m looking at it.”

But, he added, “I’m getting tired.”

The county 13th District voting will take place Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, left, and businessman Dave Calone debate the future of the Suffolk County government. Photo by Raymond Janis

This year marks the first open contest for Suffolk County’s top post since 2009 when three-term incumbent County Executive Steve Bellone (D) first won the job.

Bellone cannot seek reelection due to 12-year term limits for county offices. In his place, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is opposing businessman Dave Calone (D).

At the TBR News Media office, the two candidates debated for roughly an hour and a half. Their conversation covered an array of policy matters from wastewater, municipal solid waste, public safety, budgets, homelessness and transit.


Calone is a Setauket resident who said he is running because “we need people with new backgrounds and different skill sets as county executive.”

The Democratic candidate is a former state and federal prosecutor whose private-sector experience entails assisting startup companies and working with owners to help build their businesses.

Romaine is a Center Moriches resident who said he is running because he views the county government as headed down the wrong path. He served two terms in the county Legislature before serving five terms as Suffolk County clerk. He then reentered the Legislature before assuming the position of town supervisor via special election in 2012.

In his 38th year in public office, he contended that “experience is needed now more than ever, and I think you have to be able to start a job from day one.”


Identifying the issues motivating his campaign, Romaine cited budgets, administrative vacancies, public safety concerns and outdated infrastructure. He said he supported the federal $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and New York State’s $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, although infrastructure investments into Suffolk have lagged.

“We need someone that is going to be an advocate for Long Island to try to get that money because we need to rebuild our infrastructure,” he said. “Getting sewers, clean water — these are major issues that have to be dealt with.”

Calone said the voters he canvassed expressed great interest and concern over affordability, coupled with a lack of affordable housing options.

He proposed appointing a chief housing officer within the county government to coordinate with towns and villages, advocating for repurposing malls and strip plazas to address the county’s housing needs.

“Let’s identify housing priorities across the county, and then let’s say to developers, ‘This is the place to do it,’” Calone said, supporting streamlining of the permitting process and cutting red tape. He also emphasized public safety, affordability, well-paying jobs and the environment as other motivating factors.


This year’s election cycle is taking place concurrently with a countywide debate over the future of the region’s wastewater infrastructure. Over the summer, the Republican-led county Legislature blocked a 1/8-penny sales tax for wastewater investments from reaching the November ballot in the form of a referendum. If passed, the measure would have helped finance new wastewater investments.

Calone said he disagreed with the Legislature’s action. “What I would do as county executive is put that back before the Legislature,” he said. “If we need to tweak it in some way, I’m open to that.”

“The most important thing is that we have something we can put before the voters … that they can vote on because right now we are behind other places in going after” federal and state subsidies, he added.

Romaine condemned the process through which the current administration pursued instituting the sales tax, saying the correct approach would have been the county Legislature passing a Home Rule Message rather than including language through the state budget.

He also objected to the revenue split between IA, or Innovative/Alternative, septic systems and new sewer infrastructure. “To say that this bill is perfect, it’s not,” he said. “I want to see sewers because we have more densely populated areas in this county that do not have sewers and need sewers,” adding, expanding sewer access “would do more to clean our waters.”


The planned closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill — which services the entire region — places uncertainty over the long-term future of the county’s waste management system.

Romaine said averting an islandwide garbage crisis would require a regional approach to garbage disposal.

“We need to get the 31 villages and the 10 towns on the same page, working with the county and maybe even Nassau County to create a regional approach to solid waste,” he stated.

To facilitate a regional program, he supported transporting garbage by rail. “Since it can’t be buried here, can’t be maintained here, can’t be kept here, it has to leave the Island,” Romaine added. “The best way to do that is by rail.”

Calone pointed to the Brookhaven landfill as a failure by Brookhaven Town. He said the county government must roll out a more comprehensive recycling and composting program with the goal of achieving zero waste, though this ideal is likely unattainable.

Given that the county will inevitably produce some waste in the years ahead, Calone endorsed the proposal to ship the remaining garbage by rail. “There’s going to be some waste left,” he maintained, “and it will need to be railed off of Long Island.”

Public safety

To combat crime within Suffolk County, Calone called for a fully-funded, fully-staffed Suffolk County Police Department.

“We need to make sure law enforcement has the technology and tools they need,” the Democratic candidate said. “We need to make sure that every school has a school safety plan and has school safety officers that are well trained — there’s no minimum training requirement for school safety officers.”

He also advocated for targeting drugs and drug trafficking into the county with more aggressive prosecutions while “taking guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.”

Romaine centered his public safety priorities around vacancies within the police department, pointing to 51 unfilled detective slots.

“That’s also true for patrol officers, that’s true for superior officers, that’s definitely true corrections officers, it’s true for deputy sheriffs, and it’s true for a whole host and character of law enforcement,” the Republican candidate said.


With long-term economic uncertainty and growing concerns over the county’s finances, Romaine said he would seek to achieve a AAA bond rating for the county government, pledging to apply the fiscal strategies from Brookhaven’s budget process.

“What we did is we began to pay off debt and reduce debt with any budget surpluses that we had,” the current town supervisor said. “We have, despite inflation, been able to put together structurally balanced budgets. We have been able to reduce our fiscal stress to nothing, our environmental stress to nothing.” He added, “I would do the same” for the county.

Calone highlighted the pending closure of the municipal landfill as deeply problematic for Romaine’s constituents, suggesting budgetary mismanagement by his opponent.

The businessman referred to the county government’s current financial state as “the best financial situation it has ever been in.”

With substantial reserves, Calone offered to return some surplus money to county taxpayers through a 10% general fund property tax cut.

“I want to look at the Suffolk County budget, one with an eye toward giving some of that money back to taxpayers, and two looking at it with a businessperson’s eye.”

Rebutting Calone, Romaine said that as revenue from the landfill gradually goes away, the town will install solar panels around the landfill complex and advance related alternative energy projects to recover the lost funds. “We have sufficient revenue for the town,” he said.

Responding, Calone noted that regardless of the recovered funds, a significant budget shortfall would likely befall the Brookhaven budget, triggering a sizable tax increase for town residents in the coming years.


In recent years, the county has observed a rise in homelessness, with many homeless individuals turning away from the shelter system.

Calone said the county government lacks adequate personnel within its Department of Social Services, with current staff inadequately paid.

He said addiction and mental health issues tend to be the primary drivers of homelessness and that the county is not tapping into various granting opportunities to address these problems.

“I propose having a county grants office,” he said. “We don’t have one now, and there’s no coordinated way of going after grants,” noting, “This is a way to tap into federal and state funding that we’re not getting right now when it comes to mental health, veterans issues and things like that.”

Romaine agreed that grant writing remains a deficiency within the county government and that social service workers deserve better pay.

He said the best explanation he has seen on homelessness came from a recent CBS “60 Minutes” interview by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who is pursuing a new model for curtailing homelessness within the Golden State.

Newsom is “not of my party, but I’ve never heard somebody speak as well as he did on that issue,” Romaine said. “It impressed me. I’ve done some research on it, and I have some people working on it. If I have the good fortune to be elected, we’re going to take a look at it.”

Transit and trails

Officials have cited high costs associated with maintaining the county’s bus system as barriers to system expansion and modernization. To better serve the needs of riders, Romaine said modernizing the bus system begins with focusing on rails.

“We need to electrify our rail,” he said. But, he added, “None of our county buses meet the trains. You would think that you would want to create a synergy between trains and buses.”

Calone proposed reimagining the disparate modes of transit as “an integrated system.” He considered the current ridership within the county’s bus system as “ridiculously low,” arguing that empty buses give residents a sense that their government doesn’t work.

“We need to move away, I believe, from a fixed-route system everywhere except the far western part of the county,” he said. “As we move further east, we need to move toward more of an on-demand system” that uses smaller buses and modern technology to boost ridership and enhance the rider experience.

Along with traditional mass transit options, the county’s 2020 Hike-Bike Master Plan calls for expanding active-use recreation as an alternative form of transportation. To implement the ideas within the plan, Romaine supported connecting trails as part of an “overall transportation system.”

“I’d love to provide viable alternatives so that people don’t have to use a car-based system,” he said. He added that conserving open space would help expand nature trails.

Calone regarded the master plan as a “great plan” with many gaps to fill in.

He said the county must work with private landowners to acquire the lands to connect existing greenways and expand its linear park network.

“We need to have blueways [water trails] as well, where people can boat and kayak,” he said. “We’re going to put this sewer and septic program in place and, over these next bunch of years, are going to improve our water quality, and we’re going to make that available.”

He continued, “We pay a lot of money to live here, and we should enjoy what makes this place so special.”

Suffolk voters will pick one of these candidates to be their next county executive on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Earlier this year, Deputy Suffolk County Executive for Administration Peter Scully presents his wastewater plan to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. Photo by Raymond Janis

Just ahead of this year’s countywide elections, wastewater infrastructure was back in the spotlight during a Thursday, Oct. 26, webinar hosted by the Long Island Regional Planning Council.

Deputy Suffolk County Executive for Administration Peter Scully updated the council on the county’s long-term wastewater infrastructure objective, indicating that it has made “significant progress” in recent years toward realizing its wastewater goals outlined in its 2020 Subwatersheds Wastewater Plan.

The plan delineates over 19 individual watershed areas countywide, Scully noted, establishing nitrogen reduction goals for each watershed zone. “It’s really, in a simpler sense, a roadmap to guide priorities in terms of replacing or eliminating 299,000 cesspools over the complete life of the program, either by connecting parcels to sewers or installing new clean water septic technologies,” Scully said. “We’re now at the point since the plan was completed in 2019 and approved by the Legislature in 2020 to move toward the implementation process.” 


To bring the goals of the clean water plan into reality, Scully said the county government must accomplish two separate tasks. First, it must produce an organizational structure, forming a countywide sewer district. The other is the creation of a recurring funding source to create a local match program for both sewer infrastructure and Innovative/Alternative (IA) septic systems.

“Having a local match to use when you’re seeking grant funding is incredibly important because the key to the success of this plan is to make it easy and affordable for property owners,” he said. “Sewer infrastructure is so very expensive that if the burden of financing sewer construction falls solely on property owners, it’s just not economically viable.”

Under the program’s life span, Scully said the county would connect roughly 35,000 parcels to sewers. In comparison, 264,000 parcels would have their cesspool or septic system replaced with IA systems. Scully attributed the discrepancy in funding between new sewers and IA infrastructure to the cost feasibility of IA infrastructure when assessed against sewers.

“In many places in the county, sewers are just not a cost-effective solution,” the deputy county executive stated.

On the whole, the program would provide $4.2 billion in county local matching funds, with an “equal amount for sewers and clean water septics,” he added, because “even though the number of parcels being connected to sewers is significantly lower, the cost per parcel for sewers is significantly higher.”

In places within Suffolk County where sewers are not economically viable, Scully said the plan seeks to phase out the use of existing and often outdated cesspools for new IA systems, calling this technology “a cost-effective and efficient alternative to sewers in areas where sewers are not cost-effective, and there are millions of them in the ground around the world,” he claimed.

Another central aspect of the wastewater plan, Scully suggested, is consolidating the county’s 27 separate sewer districts into one, creating a uniform billing structure countywide. Scully referred to the existing billing structure as “problematic” as it produces varying billing methodologies from district to district.

“We think by streamlining our sewer system and consolidating all the existing districts into the countywide district … we can reduce costs, streamline investments, stabilize rates and prevent large fee increases moving forward,” he said.

Wastewater debate

Earlier this year, the New York State Legislature included language in the state budget, the Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act, authorizing the county to advance a referendum to enable the voters to establish a dedicated fund for wastewater infrastructure. The measure authorized the inclusion of a 1/8-penny sales tax on the November ballot which would have generated an estimated $3.1 billion through 2060 for wastewater infrastructure. The county Legislature shot down the ballot measure in July. [See story, “Suffolk County Legislature recesses, blocks referendum on wastewater fund,” July 28, TBR News Media website.]

Outlining the next steps for the county’s wastewater future, Scully said the two bills that the Legislature did not advance would have to be considered by the Legislature. The first bill, if passed, would amend the Suffolk County charter to extend the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program — which is set to expire in 2030 — and create a 1/8-penny sales tax. The second bill would create a countywide wastewater management district.

With much work ahead, Scully said the future advancement of the plan remains unsettled: “The question becomes, will the plan be implemented?”

Public officials from the Town of Huntington celebrate new downtown revitalization stimulus funds for local communities. Photo from Stephanie Bontempi’s office. Photo from Leg. Bontempi's office

On October 31, at Heckscher Park, Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) joined with her colleagues in government to announce the local recipients of the Suffolk County JumpStart and JumpSMART grant programs.  Combined, these two programs are focused on stimulating downtown revitalization, economic activity (especially tourism) and the arts.

The organizations and/or projects receiving the funds are: Huntington downtown parking and waterfront improvements ($1.25 million –JumpStart); Greenlawn downtown streetscape improvements ($650,000 JumpStart); 1653 Foundation – Artists Alley in Huntington downtown ($250,000); Heckscher Museum of Art – development of an outdoor café on the terrace of the museum ($100,000); Huntington African American Museum ($500,000); Huntington Arts Council – door and window replacement and ADA upgrades ($157,000); Huntington Cultural Affairs Institute – Chapin Stage ($170,000); Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society – electric hookup for overnight guests and humidity control ($100,000); YMCA of Long Island – Huntington ($500,000); and The Whaling Museum and Education Center – expansion of museum ($300,000).

“This is an exciting time to be in the Town of Huntington,” said Bontempi.  “All of these projects will add so much to not only our local economy, but our enjoyment of our community.  This will also attract visitors from near and far. Huntington is a special place.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, at podium, announces new downtown revitalization stimulus funds for Smithtown communities. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

By Sabrina Artusa

Suffolk County is giving Kings Park, St. James and Smithtown a sizable chunk of downtown revitalization stimulus.

These funds, made available by the pandemic economic recovery allotments, will help revitalize the downtown districts while investing in developing infrastructure in downtown areas.

Through the JumpSMART Small Business Downtown Investment Program, which awards money to nonprofits, organizations and businesses, and the Jumpstart program, which awards money to towns and municipalities, the county gave $5.5 million to improve the local downtown economies.

“We recognize that our long-term economic prosperity is dependent to an extent on the success of our downtowns,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “Our downtowns are the places where we have the vibrancy we need to keep and attract young people in our community.”

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center was awarded $500,000, and Celebrate St. James, a leading organization in preserving arts and culture in St. James, was awarded a $100,000 JumpSMART grant. The town was additionally given a $900,000 JumpStart grant for the acquisition and restoration of the century-old Calderone Theatre, which is currently in disrepair.

Kings Park, Bellone said, has one of the most prosperous downtowns in Suffolk County. The Agape Community Sports Services was awarded a $1.45 million JumpSMART Award. Bellone described the organization as a “major regional tourism asset” expected to attract 350,000 people to Kings Park.

The Town of Smithtown was also awarded $2.5 million for traffic and street improvements in Kings Park.

“Every single penny we receive will be well spent, and it will be to benefit the Smithtown community,” Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

“This is how we are able to raise local talent, invest in local communities and, more importantly, put your tax dollars back in your hands, which is why we are doing it.” Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) added.

Also in attendance were legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), Suffolk County’s commissioner of Economic Development and Planning Sarah Lansdale, and Jonathan Keyes, director of downtown revitalization and transit-oriented development.

“Without the Legislature voting to put these funds in place in this year’s operating budget and in the capital budget over the last couple of years, this wouldn’t be possible,” Bellone said.

Photo from Leg. Trotta's office

In coordination with Smithtown-based SMM Advertising and Retired Volunteer Services Programs (RSVP), Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta is conducting a winter coat drive to benefit the residents of Suffolk County who are in need of warm winter clothing. They are collecting gently used or new coats, jackets, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and blankets for infants, children, teens and adult men and women. 

“As people prepare for the winter and clean out their closets or plan to give a new coat as a gift, it is important for all of us to help our fellow neighbors who need warm coats by contributing to this drive,” said Legislator Rob Trotta.

Donations of coats and other outerwear may be dropped off at Legislator Trotta’s district office, located 59 Landing Avenue, Suite 1, (Blue Door) in Smithtown, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The coat drive ends January 7, 2024. For more information, call 631-854-3900.

METRO photo

While every election is important, we take special care in informing our readers ahead of local races. With Election Day — Nov. 7 — fast approaching, we remind our readers why voting in local town and county elections is critical.

Unfortunately, many Americans today are losing faith in our democratic norms. Everywhere we look, we see partisanship, tribalism and polarization undermining our political process. National media sources often feed into and inflame these divisions for monetary and partisan gain.

Lower levels of government can offer a powerful counterbalance to all of this noise. Both literally and figuratively, local officials are closer to the people — their seats of government are located within our communities, and their decisions more immediately influence our day-to-day lives.

The issues debated by local legislatures are often far removed from the political theater observed in Washington and Albany. Local elections are not about the national debt ceiling, universal free health care or American foreign policy — remote if important issues in our ordinary lives.

Local elections are about us and the complexion of our community. They determine land use and zoning policies within our neighborhoods and commercial districts, drainage and related wastewater infrastructure investments, waste management services, park access, street paving and much more. Local elections determine the granular matters which shape our relationships to our surrounding area.

We remind our readers to be especially wary of candidates and commentators who inject national issues into our local dialogue. Those who do so are often ideologically driven, engaged in illicit political posturing.

We advise prospective voters to begin researching their ballots thoroughly. A functional local democracy requires a well-informed, enlightened electorate. And the more informed we are collectively, the better our elected officeholders will be.

When considering a candidate for local office, we should never decide based on party affiliation alone. This one-dimensional voting strategy cheapens our votes, outsourcing our decisions to the party bosses who handpick the nominees on our ballots.

We must ask ourselves whether a candidate possesses the requisite professional experience and knowledge to advance our interests. We must ask whether their values align with our own. And we must determine whether a candidate is running to promote the public good or to serve their self-interest.

Next week, TBR News Media will release its annual election supplement. Through interviews with various local candidates across our coverage area, we hope our readers will enter the voting booth better equipped to make informed judgments. We will also offer endorsements for candidates who best reflect our staff’s values.

With less than two weeks to go, we must get serious about our votes — because local elections matter.

Scenes from the Suffolk County Sheriff Office's annual Open House and Family Day. Photo by Bill Landon

Fighting the weekend weather for months, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, after having to cancel the event in September, was able to reschedule its annual Open House and Family Day Sunday, Oct. 22, at the Yaphank Correctional Facility, which was met with bright sunny skies. 

Thousands attended the event with demonstrations by the Emergency Response Team, K9 unit and troop carrier rides. Sheriff’s Office vehicles were on display along with its marine division as well as personnel carriers. 

The event featured horses from Warrior Ranch in Calverton, Operation Safe Child, senior and pet ID cards, tug-of-war, bounce house fun, food trucks, music, as well as games for kids of all ages.

Photos by Bill Landon

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

The League of Women Voters is nonpartisan; we don’t support or oppose candidates or parties. We have a strong commitment to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. We run debates, seek community input on issues, and via the phone and email, serve voters who are looking for information. LWVUS and state and local Leagues run the national voting information website (which encourages candidates to answer questions on issues of importance to their constituents).

Throughout Suffolk County, voters are electing a new County Executive (the incumbent has served three 4-year terms, thus 12 years, which is the term permitted), as well as electing the 18 County Legislators (they serve 2-year terms, also limited to 12  years)

In Suffolk’s 10 Townships, there are a variety of offices on the ballot in 2023 such as Supervisor, Council Members, Receiver of Taxes, Town Clerk, Superintendent of Highways, Assessors and Town Justices and District Court Judges. Each Town has their own rules about term length and (if any) term limits. Village, library and school elections are managed separately —  they do not appear on the General Election ballot.

Candidates represent different points of view on many issues. On a county level, voters should consider water quality, which has significantly deteriorated in recent years. Voters have not been given the opportunity to vote on a ballot referendum involving a proposed .0825% sales tax increase and making state and federal funding available for sewers and septic systems. It was recessed (not moved forward) in August by the majority party of the Suffolk County Legislature. (Stay tuned — there may be a special election for the referendum in 2024. Because it would be a single issue ballot, it would incur significant cost, and voter turnout is generally very poor when only one issue or office is on a ballot). 

Other critical county issues include public safety, opioid and mental health crises, waste disposal, affordable senior and workforce housing, and campaign finance. The last refers to campaign contributions from public service unions or contractors, and elected officials voting on contracts for organizations from which they receive campaign contributions. Each Town also has its own hyperlocal issues as well — check your local media for debates and articles to become familiar with your local concerns, races and candidates.

All Suffolk voters should be sure to turn over the ballot to vote on two New York State proposals for NYS Constitution updates. The wording on the ballot, and an explanation for each is below.

PROPOSAL NUMBER 1: Removal of Small City School Districts From Special Constitutional Debt Limitation

Description of Proposal: The State Constitution limits how much debt a small city (a city with less than 125,000 people) school district, can incur. State law says their debt cannot be greater than five percent of the value of taxable real property; all other school districts’ debt cannot be greater than ten percent. If this Constitutional Amendment passes, small city school districts would be eligible to have the same debt limit as other school districts as determined by state law.

Question as it will appear on the Ballot: The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution removes the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

PROPOSAL NUMBER 2: Extending Sewage Project Debt Exclusion From Debt Limit

Description of Proposal: The State Constitution limits the debt counties, cities, towns, and villages can incur. This debt limit has an exception to not include debt for sewage treatment and disposal construction projects. The current sewer debt exception expires on January 1, 2024. This amendment extends the sewer debt exception for ten more years until January 1, 2034.

Question as it will appear on the Ballot: The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution extends for ten years the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to remove from their constitutional debt limits debt for the construction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Vote by Absentee ballot, Early Voting Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, or on Election Day Nov. 7. To register (by Oct. 28), check your registration, apply for an absentee ballot, or find your polling place, visit To find out who and what is on your ballot, visit 4 weeks before Election Day.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//

Moderator Chanteé Lans questions businessman Dave Calone, left photo, and Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, right photo, on senior issues during a candidate forum Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Stony Brook University. Photos by Raymond Janis

Candidates for Suffolk County executive went before the public Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, tackling various matters related to the county’s aging population and other topics.

Held at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center and hosted by AARP-NY, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and businessman Dave Calone (D) fielded questions mainly on how they would assist seniors if elected next month to the county’s highest post.

Chanteé Lans, Long Island correspondent for WABC-TV, moderated the candidate forum, asking questions posed by AARP members.

Calone is a former federal prosecutor with private-sector experience assisting start-ups on Long Island and nationwide. “I believe that we need new ideas, new vision and, quite frankly, new leaders to bring us into the next decade,” he said.

Before assuming the role of town supervisor, Romaine served as Suffolk County clerk and county legislator. He staked his platform for county executive upon his experience in public life.

“I’m coming to change county government for the better,” he said. “I’m coming to build a budget that’s honest, transparent and that deals with situations.”


Suffolk County residents are increasingly being priced out, from young adults to seniors entering retirement, with many opting to leave the region in favor of a cheaper cost of living elsewhere.

Romaine emphasized the need to construct new housing units to ameliorate these challenges. He pledged to use the county executive’s office to encourage federal subsidization for senior housing.

“Long Island has been shortchanged in so many ways,” he said. “I intend to be a very strong voice to advocate for Section 202/8 housing so we can have senior housing for those who can least afford it.”

Calone described housing scarcity in Suffolk as the number one issue among many residents, exacerbated further by a lack of affordability. He noted that the problem has compound effects on the small business sector, which often needs more workers who cannot afford to live in the county.

“I would appoint a county chief housing officer to work with our towns and villages to identify where we already have the infrastructure we need to be able to build housing immediately,” Calone said.


Calone said the county government must ensure it has the proper cybersecurity protections, such as cyber insurance. He supported having a cybersecurity officer oversee the county’s information technology systems.

“When it comes to individuals, we need to make sure that we take those learnings and use them to help individuals understand when they’re at risk,” he said.

Romaine said introducing cybersecurity insurance, placing the county’s data center in the cloud and conducting periodic penetration tests would be necessary to enhance cybersecurity within the county government.

“I’d have a better system than we have in the county now,” he noted.

Aging in place

To assist seniors with difficulties aging in place, Romaine proposed sweeping repeals to “regressive taxes” on home necessities.

“We tax your LIPA bill, we tax your heating fuel, we tax your natural gas, we tax your propane,” he said. “We are one of the few counties in the state that does that. I am making a commitment to repeal those taxes.”

Calone said that roadway safety would be a critical matter to support seniors. To allow for aging in place, he advocated for incentives for developers to promote senior accessibility at homes. “There are simple things we can do at the outset — when things are being built — to make sure that we have aging in place,” he said.

County voters will decide on these two candidates in under a month. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.