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.