Politics

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Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Desirée Keegan

With her second full term under her belt, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she hopes a third term would allow her to expand on the toughest issues facing the 6th District. But her Republican challenger, Steve Tricarico, says it’s time for a fresh perspective.

Steve Tricarico talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Steve Tricarico talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tricarico, who works as Brookhaven Town’s deputy highway superintendent, said the county’s finances were a main focus of his campaign to unseat the incumbent. Anker, however, said she is also focused on being fiscally responsible, but keeps tending to the needs of her constituents at the core of her decision-making.

“I’m looking forward to taking on more issues, more problems, and then addressing them, but also taking on projects that are benefiting the community,” said Anker, a 30-year Long Island resident. “I’m ready to jump in the fire and be the action to get things done. I’ve put in so much time and energy and effort — I’ve networked, I’ve created these very strong relationships and I have the knowledge to move those projects forward.”

But community projects, her opponent argued, still cost money, one way or another. Tricarico, born and raised in Shoreham, said he planned to address the county’s financial stress by proposing that legislators avoid budgeting for sales tax increases year to year.

“It would force us to make the difficult decisions in our departments to stay within our means, and any extra revenue could go toward paying off what we’ve already borrowed,” he said. “I think that we’re drowning, and we need someone that understands public finance, and I do it every day of my life, professionally, to make those cuts and find those efficiencies. I think all the services in the world are great, but if people cannot afford to live here, they mean nothing. And I’m fighting to make it more affordable here, in Suffolk County.”

Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tricarico said he managed a $115 million budget, as an example of his understanding of finance.

Anker argued that while she and her challenger both understand that addressing issues requires dollars, she’s done work to keep the county financially sound. She helped reduce county government costs 10 percent by streamlining services, saving taxpayers more than $100 million annually.

There are other issues Anker said she’s addressing and projects she’s working on to help the people of the 6th District, which she argues Tricarico does not have the experience to address.

“Besides keeping the county fiscally stable, we need to speak for the residents here, and that’s something I’ve been doing for the last 25 years,” she said. “We can’t address the issues in the community unless we talk to the constituents, work with them and meet with them. My doors are always open, my phone is always available, and I don’t know if [Tricarico] has the experience to do that.”

Anker noted particular projects she’s spearheaded that she feels enhance the quality of life of her constituents.

After her grandmother died of breast cancer, Anker founded the Community Health and Environment Coalition, which was vital in advancing the New York State Department of Health’s research on cancer cluster causes, the legislator said. She also implemented the Green Homes Go Solar program, to bring renewable energy opportunities to residents.

Anker also advocated to create Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, initiated the North Shore Coastal Erosion Task Force, created the Jobs Opportunity Board to connect graduating seniors with local jobs, started a sports safety forum as a result of a recent death and some serious student-athlete injuries, and provided more health services to people struggling with addiction.

While Tricarico, who is also concerned about keeping young adults on Long Island, said he wouldn’t throw away any projects Anker has already put into motion that he in turn supports, he said he disagreed with how Anker handles addressing problems, pointing out Anker’s tendency to create task forces when addressing issues.

“I’m a man of action,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot that we can do to make the government more efficient. What the residents want to see is less task forces, less commissions, less talk and more action, and that’s what I’m offering the 6th District.”

An issue Tricarico brought up was the progression of the 10-mile Rails to Trails recreational path that would run from Mount Sinai to Wading River.

“What have we been doing for 15 years?” Tricarico said of the project, which was originally introduced in 2001. “I grew up in this community and I’ve been hearing about Rails to Trails since I was in high school. I think that the project has taken way too long, if it’s ever going to happen.”

Anker, who took office in 2011, said the federal government takes time on any project, and said that after a year of required public input, a plan will be in place, and the money is there to complete the project.

Tricarico said if elected into the Republican minority caucus, he will work with the Democratic majority to get things done, but said he would not be a “rubber stamp” for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“We’re basically seeing one government here,” he said. “To get thing done, of course you have to work across aisles, but we need a check and balance. We need a Republican legislature, which is a check on absolute power.”

Tricarico admitted he does see good work in what Anker has done, but said he wants to work in a different direction.

“I think Legislator Anker is a good advocate to the community,” he said. “I see her at a lot of different events, she’s a good people person, she’s able to relate with folks. I just think the county needs a different leadership at this time, especially when it’s related to fiscal issues.”

This version corrects information about how long Legislator Sarah Anker has been in office.

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Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Victoria Espinoza

Parking in Huntington village, accessory apartments and town finances were just a few of the hot topics Huntington Town Board candidates tackled at a debate hosted by this newspaper on Oct. 23.

Councilwoman Susan Berland. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilwoman Susan Berland. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I) are seeking re-election, and challengers Keith Barrett, a Democrat and Jennifer Thompson, a Republican, are in the running for two open seats.

Berland has been in office since 2001 and is seeking a fifth term, and Cook has been in office since 2011 and is seeking his second term.

Barrett is currently deputy director of general services for Huntington Town and president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District. Thompson is a trustee on the Northport-East Northport school board.

The candidates first discussed issues Huntington businesses face.

“Upgrades take too long,” Barrett said, referring to planning applications. “It can be done faster if the building department was streamlined.”

Councilman Gene Cook. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilman Gene Cook. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Berland and Thompson echoed Barrett’s sentiments. Thompson said this slow process deters people from making changes to their businesses.

“I am consistently hearing it’s a tedious process,” Thompson said. “When people take that risk to open a business they should be rewarded. Town hall shouldn’t be a roadblock.”

Berland said she welcomes business owners to come into her office and meet with department heads to go through their plans. “I have various department heads come in,” Berland said. “We sit down and look at their plans and we have every department say what’s good and bad about the plan and what you need to change.”

Cook said the biggest challenge facing business owners is high taxes. He said he has never voted for Supervisor Frank Petrone’s budget because “there is mismanagement of money and misappropriations of funds.”

Candidates agreed accessory apartments are important but need much supervision and regulation.

Cook said that he likes the idea of accessory apartments, but they are “going a little bit crazy,” because people aren’t adhering to town guidelines. Cook said every accessory apartment resident should have a spot for a car in his or her driveway and not park on the street.

Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Thompson agreed that with the right exceptions and variances, the units are beneficial.

“I’m interested in looking case-to-case to see what makes sense for that particular area,” Thompson said. She also said the town should be looking at other models to see how they are handling issues like this.

Young people and seniors can both benefit from such housing, Barrett said.

“I think we need to be regulating these apartments,” Barrett said. ‘I drive around and see 10 cars on a driveway.”

Berland said she is an advocate of accessory apartments, and that she spearheaded legislation to ensure they are owner-occupied. “The big problem was when investors were coming in and buying these single-family houses and turning [them] into a multiple-resident, hotel kind of thing,” Berland said. “Which I think is inappropriate and ruins communities.”

Parking in Huntington village has been an issue many residents have sounded off on.

Jennifer Thompson. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Jennifer Thompson. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Thompson and Cook both backed an idea for a parking garage that they say wouldn’t cost taxpayers, Cook, the owner of a construction company, said developers come to him all the time looking for jobs, and that there are companies out there that would take on this project as a public-private partnership.

“At least let’s open the door to the conversation,” Cook said.

Barrett was not in favor of the idea.

“I’m not a big fan of the three-story parking garage,” Barrett said. “I would like to explore some other alternatives first.”

Barrett said he sees these parking garages as being very costly. He thinks the biggest reason parking is an issue is because the village’s employees take up all the spots. Barrett said he’s interested in following Atlantic City’s structure, where employees park remotely and are bussed into the downtown.

Berland said the idea with a parking garage is to have some sort of structure with businesses on the bottom that would help subsidize the costs of the spots. She also said that there is no such thing as a parking garage that doesn’t cost taxpayers.

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Legislator Tom Muratore, above, runs for re-election for the 4th Legislative District. Photo by Ron Pacchiana

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore said he doesn’t consider himself a politician, but more of an advocate for the people he represents. He said he hopes that mentality will help him earn another term on the job.

“People don’t realize how much government has to offer,” he said. “Yes, you pay the taxes, but you also enjoy the services. My priority is to provide those services.”

This is the fourth time Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) is running in the 4th Legislative District, which includes Selden, Centereach, parts of Ronkonkoma and Farmingville, Coram, Holbrook, Lake Ronkonkoma, Lake Grove, Medford and Port Jefferson Station. His Democratic opponent, Jonathan Rockfeld, has not actively campaigned for the position.

With an absentee opponent, Times Beacon Record Newspapers had the chance to sit down with Muratore alone and discuss his past term and future plans, if re-elected to a fourth term.

For Muratore, ensuring public safety was one of the top issues he wanted to work to address. Over his last term, Muratore proposed a resolution to monitor the use of drones in the county, citing past incidents in California and Connecticut where drones were problematic — planes carrying water remained on the ground during a wildfire in California, impeded by drones taking photos. In Connecticut, a man put a 9mm automatic pistol on a drone before it took to the sky.

His initial resolution proposed banning drones on beaches from May 15 to Sept. 15, as well as around public buildings in the county. The resolution was watered down before it was approved, 17-1, after legislators and County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who is also running for re-election, took issue with the bill. If re-elected, Muratore hopes to revisit the issue and possibly tighten restrictions.

“Something’s going to happen, I just know it,” Muratore said. “[But] I hope [nothing happens] before we can revamp this drone bill.”

One idea he has is to make it mandatory for those flying drones to become members of the American Model Association, which would help track the owner of a drone and provide insurance if the drone harms an individual.

Increasing staffing within the police department is another issue on Muratore’s list. He mentioned that the county has fewer officers now than it did 10 years ago and said the limited staff makes it difficult to address problems like drug abuse.

“Drugs are like a tree: If you really want to kill a tree … you start at the roots,” Muratore said. “By going out and making arrests for small amount of heroin [and] small amounts of marijuana, you’re just trimming the leaves.”

Drug dealers are the stem of the issue, according to Muratore, but insufficient police staffing prevents officers from conducting longer, in-depth investigations.

In a fourth term, Muratore also plans to continue his involvement with the Red Light Safety Program, through which cameras at traffic signals help catch and ticket cars that run red lights. While county Democrats and Republicans have not always seen eye-to-eye on the issue, with Republicans calling the ticketing program a money grab, Muratore wants to continue talks to reform it. While he voted in favor of initiating the program a few years ago, he disagreed with the county’s supposed manipulation of fees associated with the program.

“If you’re getting tens of thousands of tickets and you increase the fee by $5, you’re getting half a million to a million dollars, maybe more,” Muratore said. “That’s just money-grabbing right there.”

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Jane Bonner discuses previous terms and goals for another two years, if re-elected. Photo by Elana Glowatz

After four terms in Brookhaven Town, Councilwoman Jane Bonner isn’t ready to stop.

“The longer I’m at it, the more I realize that more needs to be done,” Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said.

The veteran politician is looking to be re-elected to a fifth term with the hopes of working on that “more.”

“Every year you’re in office, it’s like peeling back an onion layer,” she said. “I’m finishing up my eighth year in January, and the longer I’m at it the more in-depth issues can be resolved.”

Bonner faces a challenge from Democrat Andrew Berger, but Berger did not return requests for an interview.

Bonner explained that when she was first elected, she did the “quick, sexy things. You make a little splash so people know you’re serious.” But now she’s rolling up her sleeves and delving into the grittier projects.

In her time at Town Hall, Bonner has helped establish a neighborhood watch group in Mount Sinai, pushed to revitalize downtown Rocky Point, spearheaded sidewalk projects on major streets like North Country Road and Shore Road, and helped complete the Route 25A corridor study, a project Bonner said she is most proud of.

“We’ve delineated a true downtown for Rocky Point,” Bonner said of the study, which now serves as a guideline for development along the busy artery from Mount Sinai to Wading River. The study allows for some development in downtown areas, “but it will never look like Middle Country Road, and I think that’s a good thing. Development will happen in the areas where there’s already development; it won’t sprawl out.”

Bonner also lent a hand in Shoreham, to help locate a new solar energy farm. With that property, which will be used to set up solar panels, according to the councilwoman, about $1 million — in payments in lieu of taxes — will go to the local school district over the next 20 years.

The incumbent has also worked to protect open space — the town is in the midst of acquiring the wooded Cordwood Landing property in Miller Place — and to beautify the area, going after derelict houses and storefronts.

“I felt like Rocky Point and Sound Beach and everything up north were like the stepchildren — that’s why I ran for office,” Bonner said. “I stamp my feet and get my stuff done. We’re making Brookhaven better every day by improving the appearance of it and … it improves the quality of life for the residents in the community.”

If re-elected, Bonner said she will continue to work on the projects she’s put into motion, like using $1.3 million in federal funding to clean up Friendship Beach in Rocky Point and pushing for more funds to repair the town’s jetty in Mount Sinai Harbor. That dilapidated jetty represents a hazard to boaters and allows the harbor to fill with sand, but a $10 million repair project — of which $6 million is already set aside, Bonner said —will help keep recreation and business in the inlet.

“We work very, very hard to show people that we are a very, very constituent-driven office,” Bonner said. “I send out newsletters to let the community that I represent know the projects that are going on. There’s something to do every day and the longer you’re at it, the more you see needs to be fixed, and the longer you’re at it, the more things that you can get done.”

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Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy is looking for her first re-election on Nov. 3. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Just months removed from a special election that brought her into office, Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) faces her first re-election bid.

Kennedy was elected to represent the 12th District — which includes Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, the Village of the Branch, Lake Grove, and parts of Commack, Islandia and Ronkonkoma — in April to succeed her husband, former county legislator and now county Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R), and has since placed constituent concerns at the core of her campaign. Her Democratic opponent, Adam Halpern, has not actively campaigned and did not attend a debate at the Times of Smithtown’s headquarters.

In the interview, Kennedy prided herself as being a researcher and a behind-the-scenes government official who wears her heart on her sleeve. While serving on the county’s operating budget committee, she said she takes the county’s finances very seriously and often refers to tax dollars as “OPM” — other peoples’ money.

“I debated hard whether or not to run, but I love government,” she said. “I love the ability to help and serve. There has to be a voice of reason that realizes the enormity of the financial problem we are in.”

With her husband also serving the county as comptroller, Kennedy said she gained perspective on what kinds of things Suffolk could and should do to make money.

“We don’t collect what we should collect,” she said, referring to certain taxes not being actively pursued in areas like hotels, motels or bed and breakfasts. “We need to recoup that money. If we did, we wouldn’t be seeing historical buildings fall, or arts and entertainment budgets being cut.”

The legislator has spent her time pushing for top-tier constituent services while also keeping her ear to the ground when it comes to the county’s business community. She has been attending several Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency meetings since being elected and said she wanted to work to employ tax incentives to draw businesses to the region.

As for quality of life concerns, Kennedy said public safety projects like new sidewalks and infrastructure upgrades were top priorities of hers. She has also identified herself as an environmentalist and backed that up by pushing for projects that aim to clean up the county’s water.

One of her biggest qualms with how county government works, Kennedy said, was an overabundance of management. If re-elected, she said she would advocate for less management and more action.

“We’re top heavy,” she said. “There is more management than necessary. I have never seen so many titles.”

In order to make the county a more vibrant place for young people to grow and raise families, Kennedy said the Legislature needed to act on keeping taxes low and the streets safe. If re-elected, she said she would keep her constituents at the heart of her decision making.

“We have to get our act together,” she said. “It’s sad to watch people have no opportunities. They are struggling to stay in their houses and I don’t think life should be that hard.”

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Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

By Elana Glowatz

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn said she wants a third term in office to continue working on protecting public health, while Republican challenger Donna Cumella said she wants to focus on Suffolk County’s finances.

Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan
Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan

Hahn (D-Setauket) has spent much of her two terms in the 5th Legislative District on environmental and public safety issues, crafting a bill that put Narcan, an antidote for opioid overdoses, into the hands of first responders and another that set the gears into motion to ban tiny plastic pellets called microbeads that pollute our water supply, among others. But in a recent debate at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office, Cumella said while that work is important, the county’s fiscal state is a more pressing issue.

The challenger, a Port Jefferson Station resident, said county officials, in crafting budgets, habitually overstate county revenues and understate expenses, creating a serious deficit.

“Projections far exceeded what the reality was,” she said, referring specifically to county estimates on sales tax revenue.

She said borrowing is “out of control” and called for a smaller government.

But Hahn fought the idea that the county is spiraling.

“Our debt burden is manageable,” she said, adding that Suffolk tends to pay off its debt quickly and legislators always look for ways to decrease borrowing. About the size of government, she noted that the county has been reduced by about 1,200 positions in the last few years.

Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan
Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

The incumbent also said that a certain amount of debt is unavoidable, because “you can’t pay cash for everything.”

Cumella and Hahn agreed that neighborhood revitalization is important. The Republican emphasized that the county could get help from state and federal grants to push along the projects. The Democrat stressed that the county needs to grow its number of high-paying jobs and said she has an idea to boost the economy by training workers for technology-based positions at Suffolk County Community College.

There were not many other similarities between the two women. One of the ways the candidates stood apart was on their methods for improving the county’s cash flow. Cumella said the county should be sharing more services with other municipalities, specifically local towns, and Hahn said she has been holding meetings on finding new revenue streams, such as penalizing polluters like those who use certain fertilizers on their lawns.

The legislator is looking for another term because she is “deeply committed to making a difference” and there is still work to be done. She has been working on initiatives to raise awareness of chemicals used in dry cleaning, affecting water quality and public health; to make it easier for people to safely get rid of leftover prescription medication; and to change the way the county addresses domestic violence and its victims.

Cumella, on the other hand, spoke against partisanship in the Legislature and said getting the county’s finances in order will help keep young people on Long Island.

“We need to keep our families together,” she said.

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Supervisor Pat Vecchio tears up as he learns Town Hall will be named in his honor. File photo by Phil Corso

Town Hall is getting a new name.

Smithtown officials will gather alongside the Smithtown 350 Foundation on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 1 p.m., to officially dedicate the town hall building to Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) — the longest serving supervisor in the history of the state. The dedication has been months in the making since the Town Board voted unanimously in March to dedicate the building in Vecchio’s honor after his nearly four decades of public service to the township.

As part of the town’s 350th birthday this year, Smithtown has been buzzing with activity since the beginning of 2015 with various events celebrating the town’s storied past. The town’s official 350th birthday was March 3, the same day the Town Board caught Vecchio off guard by voting to dedicate the building to him. The resolution that council members voted upon was signed and placed in a time capsule that will be buried near Town Hall this year.

Vecchio has served as supervisor since 1978 and also served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, before an honor-able discharge in 1954, when he joined the New York Police Department, where he remained for 20 years, the resolution said. His NYPD roles included detective sergeant, chief of security for former Mayor John Lindsay and a member of a special unit responsible for the protection of visiting dignitaries, including former presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

A reception will also immediately follow the event inside Town Hall.

Huntington Town Board candidates Gene Cook, Jennifer Thompson, Keith Barrett and Susan Berland talk issues at a debate in Elwood on Oct. 14. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Town Board candidates discussed development, term limits and more at a debate at the Elwood Public Library hosted by the Elwood Taxpayers Association on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Two seats are up for grabs on the five-member board next month, and four contenders are in the running for the slots. Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) are both seeking re-election. Newcomers Jennifer Thompson, a Republican, and Keith Barrett, a Democrat, are looking for a first term.

In his opening statement, Cook said that he is such a strong believer in term limits that if he gets elected in November, he would “term-limit” himself voluntarily, pledging it would be his last run for the seat.

“It’s tough for those people to run that have never run before,” Cook said. “It’s an unfair advantage.”

Cook asked if every other candidate also believed in term limits and both Thompson and Barrett said they did.

“I think that most people come into office with the best of intentions, but the longer you’re there, the more susceptible you are to corruption,” Thompson said. “I do think that there also is benefit to having fresh perspectives and new ideas.” She also said that campaign funding is an uphill battle and incumbents make it a “David and Goliath situation” where it is very difficult for newcomers to raise matching amounts of funds.

Berland, however, said she does not believe in term limits.

“I believe elections are the best term limits,” she said. “If people want you to continue doing the job you’re doing, they’ll vote for you. If they’d rather have someone else do the job, they’ll vote for someone else.”

The most popular question of the night regarded the The Seasons at Elwood, and what each candidate’s opinion was of the project. The Seasons is a planned 256-unit condominium housing community geared towards residents 55 and older.

Cook said his opinion is on the town’s records, because he was the only town council member to vote against the project, which required a change of zone.

“When 5,500 residents who signed a petition against it and said ‘We don’t want it,’ I was right there behind you,” Cook said.

Barrett asked if it really matters what he thinks of the Seasons at Elwood. “How many of you don’t want it?” Barrett asked and the audience responded overwhelmingly that they did not. “Well then you got my answer.” Barrett also said he would have liked to see more community involvement before the project gained approval.

“I’d like to see somebody from the community and the development being involved,” Barrett said. “There is compromise for everything. We have to work on this more as a community and not ramming it down peoples’ throats.”

Thompson countered that she does think it matters what she thinks of this issue. “I will stand with this community and vote against it,” Thompson said.

Berland voted in favor of the project.

“It was a project that I supported because it’s senior housing and there are a lot of seniors who want to continue to live here,” Berland said. “They ended up with a high density number significantly lower than when they started. I think that [the Greens at Half Hollows] has been an amazing economic boom and I’m hoping that the Seasons will end up being the same.”

Some audience members continued to grill her on why she’d vote the project when many residents were against it.

“There were petitions in favor and in opposition,” Berland said. “They were a large number of people in and outside the Elwood community who welcome senior housing. I vote what I think is best for the people of the town and I don’t think this will hurt the people of the town.”

When asked for three items each candidate would prioritize if elected, Thompson started with safety in Huntington Station.

“We deserve the opportunity to walk our streets and feel safe.” Her other two priorities are making sure water quality remains clean and keeping taxes low. Barrett said he’d prioritize cleaning up criminal activities in Huntington Station. He also said parking in Huntington village is a big problem.

“Parking is a big issue because you can’t go down there and buy a slice of pizza without spending a couple bucks on parking,” Barrett said. His third issue is spending. He said he would like to broaden the scope of certain town department to get Huntington taxpayers the best bang for their bucks.

Cook brought up the shock he felt when he learned the news of Maggie Rosales, an 18-year old who died after she was stabbed in Huntington Station last year. Cook said he went to Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) with a plan to put public safety cars on the road, and link them up with 2nd Precinct to help cut crime. He also said he would like to challenge the some of the numbers in the supervisor’s budget. “I never once voted for Frank Petrone’s budget.”

All the candidates were unanimous on the issue of the ongoing litigation between Huntington Town and the Long Island Power Authority. The utility is suing the town to recover some $270 million in property taxes it paid since 2010, arguing the aging Northport power plant is grossly over-assessed.

Berland said she has been totally in favor of the litigation since day one.

“I think LIPA has to keep with the agreement that they made from the beginning that they would not ask for reassessment,” Berland said. She also said that Cook was the only vote against the litigation and that he wanted to settle instead, and that is something she strongly disagrees with.

Cook said he voted against initiating litigation because he was told if the town loses, Huntington could be on the hook for a large sum of money. He has since changed his stance — he said he believes at this point it is past negotiations and that they have to fight.

Barrett is in favor of fighting LIPA, and Thompson, who voted on the school board to put the district into the court battle, said she still strongly is for the litigation.

The next debate between the candidates will be sponsored by the League of Women Voters. It will take place at Harborfields Public Library on Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at 31 Broadway in Greenlawn.

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Smithtown Republicans endorse Lisa Inzerillo, right, in her bid for the board. From left to right, Councilman Tom McCarthy, Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, Supervisor Pat Vecchio and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. Photo by Phil Corso

Three of the five members of the Republican-dominated Smithtown Town Board endorsed a political newcomer this week, as she heads into the November election with hopes of unseating an incumbent.

Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) stood beside councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) on the steps of Town Hall on Monday to publicly endorse Lisa Inzerillo in her bid for the board, flanked also by other Smithtown-based elected officials. Inzerillo was one of two to land the GOP line in next month’s town board election, with 1,388 votes in a primary, alongside incumbent Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who received 1,830 votes. But fellow incumbent Councilman Bob Creighton (R) was left on the outskirts with 1,306 votes, forcing him to run on the Conservative, Independent and Reform party lines.

Vecchio emceed the press conference as a means of bringing Republicans together to support members of their own party, but two fellow party members were noticeably absent from the dais.

“On Sept. 10, there was a Republican primary, and Lisa Inzerillo was the winner. She is a Republican and she deserves the support of all Republican elected officials,” Vecchio said. “We as Republicans believe that the party has to support the winner of the Republican primary. To do otherwise is contrary to every tenet of any party, and the bylaws of any party.”

Both McCarthy and Nowick recalled times when they came out of Republican primaries victorious before earning their spots on the board and threw support behind Inzerillo with hopes of seeing her follow a similar path.

“In 1997, I was in a primary also,” McCarthy said. “I was on the outside, basically as a businessman, and it’d be nice to have another person from the outside — a civic-minded person on the board.”

Also throwing their support behind Inzerillo were state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).

Wehrheim, who also won the three-way primary with the most votes of the three, was not included in the endorsement and said in a phone interview he was standing behind his fellow councilman in Creighton, despite the candidate not garnering enough votes to get his name on the Republican line next month.

“[Councilman Creighton] is a colleague and consummate professional. We have an excellent working relationship and I believe he deserves to be elected a third time, based on his record alone,” Wehrheim said. “If they were good Republicans, they would have supported Councilman Creighton [in the primary] as the incumbent Republican official running for re-election. He was chosen by the Republican party.”

Wehrheim and Creighton voted together on some of the town board’s more divisive decisions over the past several years, often being outnumbered 3-2. For that reason, Creighton said he did not expect the supervisor’s support as he sought another term.

“I’m not in any way surprised,” Creighton said. “The supervisor wants and desperately needs one more vote on the town board to make it absolutely Mr. Vecchio’s board.”

Both Creighton’s and Wehrheim’s seats on the board will be up for a vote come November, with the incumbents facing off against Inzerillo and Democrat Larry Vetter, who announced his candidacy earlier this year.

A public hearing will be held May 21 to discuss the possibility of apartments in Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge. File photo

By Larry Vetter

What does a vibrant industrial park bring to a town? The answer is simple: jobs and an increased tax base, to ease the burdens on everyone.

There are essentially two types of economic centers within the town of Smithtown. One type is visible. This is the downtown areas. The second is the industrial parks, equally important, but more hidden. When we think of industrial parks, Hauppauge immediately comes to mind; however, Nesconset, St. James and Kings Park also contain industrial zones.

Larry Vetter
Larry Vetter

Recently, I had the opportunity to drive through the various zones. The Hauppauge, Nesconset and St. James zones consist primarily of warehouse-type structures, while Kings Park consists mostly of yard-type commercial businesses. Many of the buildings in the Nesconset and St. James zones are empty or significantly underutilized. The Hauppauge Industrial Park was once vibrant with a mix of light industry, manufacturing and warehousing. Today, there is also a malaise in this industrial park.

Suffolk County and several of the townships within the county have developed industrial development associations. They recognize the “Long Island Brain Drain,” where many of our well-educated young people cannot find the type of employment commensurate with their education. The primary purpose of these associations is to entice business into the county and more specifically to our towns. Today, Smithtown contains no such association. It seems to be a rather significant oversight to have, within our borders, one of the largest industrial parks, and yet not have any plans for developing it.

So what do we do? What seems to happen is that we sit back and hope. Our only initiative was to allow building owners to extend the roof heights in hopes of attracting business. So far, neither idea appears effective.

We need to once again think outside of the box. My solutions to this crucial problem are as follows:

1. Develop an industrial development association. This can be done with resources we already have within the town. It is not necessary to spend additional tax revenue on this process. We can piggyback with the existing Suffolk County program.

2. Actively entice businesses to Long Island. Who is to say that Hauppauge cannot become the next “silicone valley”? Technology companies often need minimal raw materials and shipping is often parcel post; something we are situated very well for.

3. Open discussions with Suffolk in an attempt to develop sewer system plans in Smithtown. As important as this topic is to homeowners, it is equally as important to businesses.

4. Suffolk County has a number of transportation initiatives. Why not work with the county to develop alternative transportation from our nearby rail hubs to enable easier movement into and out of the industrial park?

Smithtown is a great place. We have many hardworking families that take the education of their children seriously. As a result, there are well qualified individuals to staff modern technology enterprises. We have great public schools and nearby higher education facilities, as well as world-renowned research facilities. We have wonderful beaches and golf courses, and several nearby townships are undergoing a revival in eateries and entertainment. Finally, we are located very near one of the most vibrant cities in the world. It seems to me that it would not at all be a difficult sell, but like everything else, it must be worked for.

This November, take the opportunity to vote for individuals that will work toward solutions and not accept excuses for why things cannot happen. Let’s reverse the “Brain Drain” and give us all a chance to keep families together on Long Island.

The author is a Smithtown resident running for the Town Board on the Democratic line in November’s election.