“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.