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alliance for all

Stan Loucks, Margot Garant, Kathianne Snaden, Barbara Ransome and Suzanne Velazquez at Tuesday’s debate. Photo by Julianne Mosher

For two hours on Tuesday night, dozens of people sat inside the Port Jefferson Village Center to watch the highly anticipated election debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters. 

Incumbents trustee Kathianne Snaden, trustee Stan Loucks and Mayor Margot Garant sat alongside Barbara Ransome and Suzanne Velazquez to answer questions from the audience surrounding village issues and how they will work toward them if elected.

Two trustee seats are up, with the two incumbents and Velazquez vying for the spots. Ransome, the director of operations with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and a past village trustee, is looking to take over Garant’s seat as mayor.

After opening remarks, the first question up was regarding uptown revitalization. Garant said, “Everyone knows uptown is a very challenged business improvement district.” With a master plan in place, she and her team have helped initiate the start of building mixed-use spaces as of three months ago — bulldozing the vacant Bada Bing location to start construction with the Conifer Realty apartments. More plans are being implemented to continue the growth and revitalization of Upper Port, which will continue to take time and planning.

Ransome added that during her tenure with the chamber, membership has increased by 50%. By working with landowners, landlords and closely with Stony Brook University, she said the village is a vital place to conduct business.

“There has always been a line of communication to try to encourage businesses to come down into the village as well in Upper Port,” she said. 

The topic of cannabis became heated when all five participants had different views on smoking or ingesting the plant within the village. Garant noted that under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) legislation, cannabis can be ingested or smoked and for dispensaries to operate, but the village has until the end of the year to opt out. As of right now, Garant has not made a decision because she said it is a “tough decision.”

“Cannabis dispensaries are clean and safe,” she said. “People will want to go to other places and purchase it and come back, but I think it might be an incentive for uptown redevelopment. So, I’ve not closed the door on this. I’d like to hear from my community before I make that kind of decision.”

The village currently has a code which prohibits the use or smoking of tobacco or cannabis products on any village-owned property, which includes village parks but excludes the golf course at the country club. 

“We know when we’re on a golf course in the open space, some of the ladies and gentlemen like to enjoy a smoke,” she said. “If we cannot enforce one type of tobacco, it’s difficult to enforce another type of tobacco. So, we’re looking to make it the policy of membership — when you join the country club to prohibit the use of cannabis as a policy when you become a member.”

Ransome said that is called “privilege.” 

“It should be an even-lane regulation,” she added. 

Loucks believes there should be absolutely no use of cannabis anywhere within the village, while Snaden looked at the issue from both a financial and public safety point of view. 

“It could be an opportunity for our town,” she said. “There are tax implications there where we would receive tax revenue but, as the commissioner of public safety, I have a lot of concerns.”

Velazquez, too, was concerned about the close vicinity of the middle and high schools, but also as a health care professional who acknowledges the positives medicinal marijuana could have on a person. 

Things got heated again when the discussion of bus shelters and the future of transportation came up. Garant said previously there were issues with graffiti and homeless people using the shelters as a home, along with the loss of the Stony Brook shuttle during COVID. However, she said the shuttle is coming back with the university sporting 50 percent of the bill. 

Snaden, who is also the liaison to the village parking and transportation departments, said that the bus will help continue to bring business back.

“I think it’s very important for businesses to have students and staff and anybody else on that shuttle route come into the village to patronize the businesses and the restaurants without their vehicles,” she said. 

Velazquez agreed, but was upset by the lack of places for people to sit while they waited for their buses, and that Port Jefferson is the only train station on Long Island that has removed its benches.

“I think that we should make sure that we have places for people to sit,” she said. “Seniors, the disabled or just people wanting to enjoy. I think we should have bus shelters and benches at the train station for everybody to use — not just select who should be allowed to rest.”

Snaden rebutted, noting the reason benches were removed at the train station was because of the multitude of complaints that they received of criminal activity going on around the benches. 

“It’s not about selectivity,” she argued. “We do not discriminate as to who can sit and who can rest. We welcome everyone to this village, and we help them in any way that we can. We cannot have crime, we cannot have drug deals, we cannot have what was going on at the train station.”

For public safety concerns, Loucks started off with how proud he was that the Suffolk County Police Department Whiskey Tour would be patrolling the village at night, afterhours. 

“They have a little bit more clout than our code officers,” he said. “Our code officers are somewhat restricted with what they can do but are always the first ones there.”

Snaden, who throughout her two years as trustee has implemented several different policies for public safety including the “See Something — Say Something” campaign, as well as a new kiosk for code enforcement to be readily available during their tour. 

Ransome argued that when the officers are off duty is when trouble arrives, especially when the bars are let out. She said she would prefer officers to be touring during later hours. 

“I think that we need to change our shifts on our codes so that they are working in conjunction with Suffolk County,” she said. 

Snaden responded that she is working on making the now part-time officers full time. 

“So that would help with those hours, and for them to work closer with Suffolk County later hours into the evening,” she said.

The LIPA power plant and water quality in the harbor were also discussed, with everyone equally acknowledging the importance fiscally of the plant and of renewable green energy. Loud music was asked about, and what the village can do to better control noise after dark, as well as political signs outside of businesses in the village.

When the conversation about the Port Jefferson Country Club came up again, Loucks noted that as of that day, the club had 700 new members. 

“I believe the country club is the crown jewel,” he said. “If you’ve not gone up to the country club and walked around the facilities, you really don’t know what you’re missing.”

Ransome agreed, but argued about the senior citizen discount that was taken away, as well as allowing more walkers on the property.

“I think we need to do a better job with our contract we have with our current vendor there, which is The Crest Group, because right now we’re only getting $20,000 a month from the rental of that facility, which is extraordinarily less than what happened when Lombardi’s was there,” she said. 

Loucks argued back that when the Lombardi Group left, the space was empty. 

“No one wanted to go up there,” he said. “$20,000 per month goes directly to the village — the village residents pay absolutely no tax money to support the club. Zero. It is a self-sustaining country club.”

Other topics included the marrying of Upper Port and downtown, planning committee critiques, the Gap store vacancy and its parking, also the continuous Lawrence Aviation impact and its future. 

To watch the whole debate online, visit the Village of Port Jefferson’s YouTube page. 

Residents can vote on Tuesday, June 15, at the Village Center at 101A E. Broadway between the hours of 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. 

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson Village residents have the opportunity to vote on Tuesday, June 15, from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the Village Center, located at 101 E. Broadway. Two village trustee positions will be accounted for, as well as the mayor’s position.

On the ballot are five residents: incumbents Mayor Margot Garant, trustees Kathianne Snaden and Stan Loucks; newcomer Barbara Ransome will be up against Garant, with running-mate Suzanne Velazquez vying for trustee. 

Alliance for All

Suzanne Velazquez, who’s running for trustee, and Barbara Ransome, vying for the mayor spot.
Photos by Julianne Mosher

While new on the ballot, Ransome and Velazquez aren’t new to the area. Running under the Alliance for All party, the duo believes new leadership is needed.

As a member of the Port Jefferson community for 37 years, Ransome previously held trustee and deputy mayor positions under former Mayor Jeanne Garant. She said she decided to run because she believes there needs to be change.

“We have had an administration now that’s been in for six terms, and it’s long enough,” Ransome said. “We feel that there is sometimes a level of complacency that can happen when you have someone in for too long of a time. So, we feel that we could bring fresh eyes, and new perspectives.”

Ransome was in village government from 1995 to 2008. She was owner of a flower shop in East Main Street for 13 years, and now owns and operates a bed and breakfast, The Ransome Inn.

For the last decade, she has held the title of director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. 

“What I bring to the table is not only my commitment of service over self, but my experience,” she said. “I’ve never wavered in my experience and working with the village.”

She added that there is an “atmosphere in the village, that there is privilege with certain situations, and we just want to be able to evaluate and reassess the operational departments in the village to make some positive changes.”

Ransome said that since beginning her professional career in the village in the early ’90s, there are still problems people are complaining about. 

“So, I believe when we’re elected, we can kind of go through some of this and explore why these things haven’t been done differently, or better,” she said.

One of Ransome’s biggest criticisms is of village code enforcement. 

“I think we can be a lot better with our ambassadors, that the code enforcement officers should be stronger ambassadors,” she said. “There should be a stronger presence. In the morning, when the bars are let out, where we have a lot of mischievous activities, we shouldn’t have to tell our code people to be more visible, they should be more visible. They shouldn’t have to be directed to see things if they’re so well trained.”

If elected, Ransome would leave the chamber to be a “full-time” mayor.

“I certainly feel I have the energy to take on this position,” she said. “I am in a very unique and good position where I can do this.”

As part of the Alliance for All campaign, Ransome and Velazquez created flyers in three languages prominent in the village — English, Spanish and Chinese. 

“We got a very positive response, people are looking for change,” Ransome said. “I think it’s past due. I just felt now that this is my time, and I didn’t want to wait another two more years.”

A horticulturist by trade, she said her running is like a winning plant which grew in great conditions.

“In the realm of that industry, there are things that are there are plants that are called proven winners,” she said. “That’s why I’m a proven winner. You can plant me, and I grow really well. This plant does very well in this in this area.”

Velazquez is a clinical associate professor at Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare, an administrator and village business owner. A mom of a senior in the Port Jefferson School District, she said she was raised by the mantra: “Service to humanity is the greatest work of life.”

“I’ve always been invested in community service and public service,” she said. 

 She said her skills in social work make her a great candidate for the ballot. 

“That’s where I’m bringing the experience of skills to help improve the health of our community,” she said. “Looking at how can we improve, how can we move forward, and continue to move forward and make positive changes for everybody.”

Velazquez is a former president of the chamber, a member of the Port Jefferson Historical Society, a member of the PTA and is involved with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. 

A child from a military family, she said she moved around a lot growing up. But when she married her husband, they knew Port Jefferson was where they wanted to stay. 

“Port Jefferson is really where I’ve laid my roots,” she said. “Because I’ve been here for the longest I have ever been in one place in my whole life.”

Velazquez said listening to people, building relationships and engaging in the community are skills that she uses in her daily life that can be used in problem-solving crisis situations in local government. 

“I’m lending my ear and my voice right to the residents,” she said. “If they’re going to entrust me with the village, you have a professional ear and voice.”

Velazquez, if elected, wants to dedicate her platform to the “three e’s”: economic health, emotional and physical health, and environmental health. 

The village should be fiscally responsible in strengthening Port Jeff as a place of opportunity and prosperity for all members, residents and businesses; improve public safety; foster a sense of belonging and inclusion of all voices; create recreation opportunities and quality of life programs; and protect and enhance natural resources — redevelop resources to better serve the needs of its community members. 

The Unity Party

Above: Trustee Kathianne Snaden, Mayor Margot Garant and Trustee Stan Loucks, incumbents.
Photo by Julianne Mosher

Incumbent Mayor Margot Garant would be heading into her seventh term if reelected. She said that having someone take over right now wouldn’t make sense because there would be a lot they need to catch up on.

“It would take somebody new literally two years just to catch up,” she said. 

Mayor for 12 years, she said that the projects she has helped with do not happen overnight.  And while the Alliance for All party demands change, Garant said the Unity Party is the change. 

“There’s a lot on the horizon. In my opinion, the consistency or the continuity is really important because these are not small issues,” she said. 

Projects like the Ørsted wind power, National Grid and LIPA, and the electrification of the LIRR and Upper Port’s revitalization have been decades in the making. 

“That doesn’t happen overnight — that’s 12 years of being in front of them,” she said. “It’s our job to listen. I think we do a great job. We don’t always agree with you, but we will never ostracize you. We will always try and bring your viewpoint to the table and incorporate it as best we can.”

Garant said she chose to run again because she felt it was important to continue getting the village through the pandemic. 

“The executive team that we have in place is exceptional,” she said. “People should be really proud of what we have here, we have something very special. I’m committed to keeping everything moving forward to large projects.” 

Garant said the last time a Garant — her mother and former mayor Jeanne — left office, the village’s taxes went up 70%. And with over a decade under her belt, the daughter doesn’t want to leave anytime soon.

“We have a lot going on here, and I love what I do,” she said. “And I want to just keep on doing it.”

Trustee Kathianne Snaden moved to the village 16 years ago and became involved with the local government because she wanted answers to a problem she saw in the school district. She began attending every board meeting she could get to, work sessions and joined the parking committee. She studied the village inside and out. 

She ran and won her current trustee position in 2019, but COVID-19 happened right in the middle of her term. Snaden decided to run again to continue the work she is proud to have accomplished and continue moving forward. 

“I’ve made great strides with public safety and the relationship with the Suffolk County Police Department, and went through a year of a pandemic,” she said. “So, I’ve really only had one year in to actually be able to do things in a normal way. I’m not done. I want to continue to improve and learn.”

As liaison to public safety, parking committee and zombie house task force, she thinks that the last two years have been successful. 

“I am proud of the work that I’ve done addressing the public safety issues. We see fast results because of the team that we have in place,” she said. 

Snaden said that when calls were coming in about troublesome zombie homes in the village, she immersed herself into the situation, visited the spaces, took notes and took action. She worked with Pax Christi Hospitality Center when homelessness was a problem near the train station.  

“I want to continue doing that to be the voice, to be an open line of communication with the residents and the school district for public safety purposes and for the families,” she said. 

With Snaden’s public safety initiatives, including the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, the crime rate in the village has remained low.

“We have a vibrant business community, which brings people from all over from all walks of life, and all behavior statuses,” she said. 

Snaden also helped implement code officers on bike patrol, a walking code ambassador dedicated solely to Main Street and a “whiskey tour” of officers at night.

“I think that’s a huge accomplishment on the part of code and public safety,” she said. “And I’m proud of that.”

Trustee Stanley Loucks has been a resident of Port Jefferson for 41 years. For 23 of those years, he worked in the village one way or another. 

With the country club, for four years he served on the tennis board, five on the board of governors and eight on the management advisory committee. The last six years, he has served as village trustee and is currently deputy mayor. 

Retired after decades in education, he has devoted his life now to serving his community in the village and as liaison to the country club and parks department.  

“I’m proud of my accomplishments up at the country club,” he said. “ I introduced the bond to build a new maintenance facility up at the country club, we put in a new irrigation system, we created a new fitness center, renovated the locker rooms, increased our membership twofold. Over the years, I just want to continue to improve. I’ve got ideas about going forward with pickleball up at the country club and many more ideas to come down the road.”

He said that changing the current administration now could halt these plans, especially after having successful programs down at the Village Center. 

“We don’t run a single recreation program that’s not filled with a waiting list,” he said. “We use every facility we could possibly use — our beach camp programs are stuffed, our tennis programs, golf programs are up.”

An earlier mayoral candidate, Melissa Paulson, a small-business owner, has recently dropped out of the race and said she supports the mayor’s Unity Party now.

There will be a meet-the-candidates night on Tuesday, June 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Village Center. 

The print version of this story said Suzanne Velazquez is a clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook, but she is a clinical associate professor. This article has been updated.