Tag Archive | "Christine Scalera"

Gregor Offers Noyac Road Update to Civic Council

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor on Tuesday said he was optimistic a long awaited construction project on Noyac Road at Cromer’s Market should be completed by the end of June.

Speaking to the Noyac Civic Council, Mr. Gregor said PSEG Long Island had finished moving electric lines serving the area to new poles and that he was waiting for Cablevision and Verizon to move their lines. Verizon crews will then be in charge of removing the old utility poles before DeLalio Construction begins to work on the road itself.

“Since we had such a hard winter, we had a hard time getting the utilities motivated,” said Mr. Gregor, who added that he hoped that the poles would be moved by the end of this month. “The contractor will need two months to complete the project.”

The project is expected to improve traffic at a busy and dangerous curve, improve traffic circulation to Cromer’s and other businesses and side streets, and reduce stormwater runoff.

Mr. Gregor was joined at Tuesday’s meeting by Supervisor Anna Throne Holst, Councilwomen Christine Scalera and Brigid Fleming and Tom Neely, the town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety.

The town officials also answered committee members’ questions on other topics, including deer and the East Hampton Airport, although Noyac Road took center stage.

Improving the short stretch of road has proven to be a controversial project. First proposed seven years ago, the project went through numerous changes before ground was finally broken this year.

Mr. Gregor said that it had already been decided that Noyac Road is too busy even during the offseason for any work to be done on the weekends. Crews will work five days a week, he said, and try to keep two lanes open at all times. He said he expected the project to be wrapped up by the end of June, but if weather, or some other situation slows work and traffic becomes “too horrendous,” crews will not work on Mondays and Fridays during the latter stages of the project, to reduce traffic tieups around busy weekends.

Despite the fact that the project has been discussed for years, some council members said they were concerned it would not do much to improve traffic on the curve.

Glenn Paul said the new layout, which would require vehicles entering and leaving Cromer’s to do so at either end of the store’s parking lot, would result in tie-ups and more congestion.

“Do you think that will alleviate accidents at that spot?” he asked.

“That’s what we’re working on,” replied Mr. Gregor. “There has been some skepticism, but we think this is an improvement.

The highway superintendent said he expected a newly designed drainage system would dramatically reduce the amount of stormwater that runs down Bay Avenue and Dogwood and Elm Streets to the bay.

Mr. Gregor said he was pleased to report that he road work would cost about $521,000, well below initial estimates of $780,000 or more.

Other council members asked if a major repaving project on Montauk Highway from Southampton to East Hampton might result in traffic being diverted to Noyac Road, but Mr. Neely said there were no such plans, and he added that he expected contraction crews to have made their way through Bridgehampton, moving eastward, within three weeks.

Dorothy Frankel said she was happy to see the Cromer’s corner being dealt with, but said the time had come to do something to reduce speeding along the rest of Noyac Road. She suggested reducing the speed limit, adding lane dividers at key places or even designating part of the shoulders as bicycle lanes.

The only solution, Mr. Gregor said, was for the town to either increase the number of police enforcing the speed limit, which he said would provide spotty coverage, or installing a speed limit camera that would record a vehicle’s speed, take a photo of its license plate automatically generate a ticket.

Ms. Throne Holst said the town has requested that such cameras be placed along Noyac Road, but said that they are only legal in New York State in school zones.

“Speed cameras, we think, would be the perfect solution for Noyac Road,” she said, “Once you get that picture of your license in the mail and a whopping ticket, you start to notice it.”

 

Southampton Town Board Says Yes to Political Limits but No to Fleming’s Committee Member Ban

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday unanimously adopted an amendment to its ethics code that seeks to balance the number of political party members who can serve at any one time on the planning, zoning or conservation boards.

The proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, just two weeks ago, with the backing of Councilmen Brad Bender and Stan Glinka, replaced a measure long championed by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming that sought to ban members of political party committees from serving on the town’s land-use boards.

Ms. Fleming’s resolution died on the vine, as she was unable to muster any support from the rest of the board to even bring it to a vote. She later tried to amend the Scalera-Throne-Holst measure to include language banning committee members, but that too died for lack of a second to her motion.

On Tuesday, Ms. Fleming, who sought the committee member ban twice last year, said she was disappointed her effort to end what she said was a widespread perception that political insiders dominate the process in Southampton had failed, but she joined the other board members in approving their alternative measure.

Under the ethics change, no more than three members of any one political party will be allowed to serve on any of the seven member land-use boards at any one time. On boards that have more than that number of members from a single party, the town board will be required to seek balance as it appoints new members every year.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence it will be effective,” said Ms. Fleming, who argued that it would limit the political involvement of regular citizens more than prevent any conflicts of interest. “While it put me in a tough spot to vote for it, it is ethics reform and it will move the ball forward.”

She added that she was not happy that Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Bender who had previously offered support for the committee ban abandoned her.

“I’m still disappointed Anna switched her vote,” Ms. Fleming added, “and certainly, Brad had pledged his support in the past.”

After a public hearing, at which little support for the Scalera-Throne-Holst measure was offered, with some speakers saying Ms. Fleming’s resolution was better and still others saying both were bad ideas, board members engaged in a little sparring.

“This prohibition on committee membership is a conflict-of-interest control,” Ms. Fleming said of her own measure, “it’s not about political balancing.”

The Scalera-Throne-Holst amendment would place “a much greater restriction on folks’ political participation,” she said, because once a quota of members from a given party was named to a land-use board, “others from that party would be barred from serving.”

Her measure, she argued, has a “rational basis that is based on the circle of influence that comes when committee members nominate candidates for the town board who are then charged with turning around and appointing members of the boards.”

“I feel I have made my position clear on a number of occasions,” countered Ms. Throne-Holst. “I am not comfortable under any circumstances, curtailing anyone’s rights of association or activity or involvement in anything civic, and being active in a political party is just that.”

The supervisor added that it was the responsibility of the town board to monitor the performance of the people it appoints to the boards and step in if there is any sign of wrongdoing. She also argued that someone who was prone to unethical behavior would not be able to so easily change their stripes.

“I do not believe that asking someone to resign their membership on a political committee will in fact translate into a change of behavior,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Ms. Scalera reiterated her opposition to Ms. Fleming’s measure, saying it was politically motivated and a violation of one’s Constitutional rights.

“The sponsor is unable to articulate any instance of what is targeted here — and let’s be clear, it’s corruption,” she said “That’s what we’re saying.”

During the hearing, John Bennett, a Southampton lawyer and former Republican committee member, attacked both measures. “I see this law as a subversion of the political process, usurping the voice of the people,” he said. “I didn’t like Ms. Fleming’s law, and I like this even less.”

John Ziccarelli of Southampton also said he opposed both measures. “Both laws politicize the independent boards themselves,” he said.

“One thing I hate is when anyone tells me I can’t serve on any board,” said Dieter Van Lehstem of North Sea. “I like the freedom and the freedom of association. As far as I know the American Constitution guarantees it.”

Julie Penny of Noyac supporting Ms. Fleming’s measure, said Southampton Town’s history was full of examples of a land-use board making decisions “that weren’t based on the facts, weren’t based on the town code, weren’t based on planning documents but were instead based on political reasons.”

But Liz McMillan of East Hampton, who said she had worked on a video with Ms. Fleming to gain support for the committee ban, said she had a change of heart after seeing the evidence. “It did not change a thing in East Hampton” or other towns that had similar legislation.

Steve Halsey, a Republican committeeman and former town board member from Bridgehampton, also spoke against both measures. When he was on the board, he said, it was difficult to find people to serve on land-use boards. “The board had to reach out to attempt to fill spaces,” he said. “Not everyone wants to immerse themselves in government.”

He urged the board to “pick the best person if they are a Republican, Democrat or a Communist. If they don’t do their job….  Remove that person.”

Mr. Halsey said being a committee member is not all it’s cracked up to be. “What it does is cost a lot of money,” he said. “I get to go to the same parties, see the same people and eat the same horrible hors d’oeuvres.”

Southampton Board Members Offer Dueling Proposals to Rein in Political Influence

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Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, left, discusses a proposed ban on political committee members serving on land-use boards as Superivisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Christine Scalera listen.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming’s effort to ban members of political committees from serving on the town’s advisory boards—an effort that had fallen short twice before but seemed close to finding majority support just last month—was derailed again this week.

The latest setback came when the other members of the town board joined on Tuesday in co-sponsoring an alternate resolution that was put forth by Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Instead of calling for an outright ban on committee members, their resolution would limit to three the members of any one political party who would be allowed to serve on the planning board, the zoning board of appeals and the conservation board, all of which have seven members.

The board agreed to hold a February 25 hearing on the Scalera-Throne-Holst alternative, while also agreeing to continue its consideration of Ms. Fleming’s proposal.

After several members of the public came forward to offer their support for her original resolution, Ms. Fleming, a Democrat, said, “I see these two resolutions as apples and oranges,” adding that the second resolution, rather than seeking to remove politics from the process, actually caters “specifically to political parties” and not the needs of the people.

On Wednesday, Ms. Fleming said she had been assured by Councilman Brad Bender, an Independence Party member, that he would continue to support her resolution. Although Supervisor Throne-Holst, also an Independence Party member, is now co-sponsoring a competing resolution, Ms. Fleming said the supervisor had voted for her measure in the past and had recently pledged her support for the resolution and that she hoped she could continue to count on her support.

“I have no interest in seeing this turn into a fight,” she said on Wednesday. “I’m interested in working as a team.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said that she had, indeed, supported Ms. Fleming’s proposal earlier but that her position had evolved after listening to testimony at public hearings.

“I supported it in spirit, but like everyone else I have the right to change my mind if I think there is a better way to achieve what we are looking for,” she said on Wednesday, adding that she too was interested in working across the aisle to achieve consensus.

Both Ms. Throne-Holst and Ms. Scalera said they had floated their ideas for ways to achieve a political balance on land-use boards to different town attorneys without knowing what the other was doing.

On Wednesday, Ms. Scalera, a Republican, reiterated her opposition to Ms. Fleming’s resolution, saying that it raised the Constitutional issue of whether the town board had the authority to limit one’s right to associate with a group of their choosing. She also said that nobody had accused committee members of using their positions on advisory boards for political advantage other than Ms. Fleming.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” Ms. Scalera said. “I’ve always said it was politically motivated.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said the resolution she and Ms. Scalera are pushing would follow similar limits imposed on members of the town’s ethics board. At the end of the day, she said, the board “is trying to reassure the public that there is a level playing field.”

Ms. Scalera said it would not prohibit people from joining a political party or group, but would “leave it to us to make sure there is balance.”

But Ms. Fleming said Ms. Scalera and Ms. Throne-Holst’s legislation would punish rank-and-file party members. “You’d be disqualified from serving if the quota was already met,” she said.

“In the bill I propose,” she added, “if you are a party official, if you have special responsibilities and authority connected to that specific position in the party, then you’d be required to set aside that authority while serving. You can’t answer to two masters.”

Both East Hampton and Southold Towns currently ban members of political committees from serving on advisory boards.

Ms. Fleming said she was moved to propose a ban on committee members last year after learning that 10 of the 21 members of the planning, zoning, and conservation boards were members of either the Republican or Conservative committees.

When she brought her amendment to the town’s ethics code to the board last spring, the Republican-Conservative majority blocked it, refusing to allow a public hearing.  She introduced it again this fall, and although the board agreed to hold a hearing on the resolution, it was voted down.

This year, the board did not reappoint two Republican Committee members, Ann Nowak and David Reilly, to the ZBA. Larry Toler, a Republican committee member on the planning board, retired. John Bouvier, a Democratic committee member, was appointed to the conservation board.

Meeting with members of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee last Friday, Ms. Fleming held out hope that her resolution would pass, despite Ms. Throne-Holst’s decision to work with Ms. Scalera. The handful of committee members who met at Pierson High School, agreed to write a letter to the town supporting Ms. Fleming’s legislation.

“It makes sense to us as community minded folk that politics should not cloud in any way our very important land use boards,” the CAC wrote. “We long to join the communities of Southold and East Hampton who have already enacted this common sense legislation and we are grateful for your efforts this same end.”

“A lot of people, not just us, feel that politics has interfered too much in the way of progress for the citizens here,” said Mike Piliero of Southampton at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It seems to me it’s talking about divvying up positions between political parties,” said Anne Hastings of Hampton Bays, referring to Ms. Scalera and Ms. Throne-Holst’s measure. “I think that it is a tacit admission that there is a conflict of interest.”

Joyce Roper of East Quogue said, “I don’t think Ms. Fleming’s resolution needs to be sacrificed in order for the other resolution to pass.”

But Elaine Kahl of Southampton objected to Ms. Fleming’s proposed committee ban.

“This is America,” she said. “You have a right to choose what group you are going to belong to and what group you aren’t going to belong to. It’s very political in nature. The whole thing is political.”

Southampton Town Proposes Political Party Ban for Committee Members

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By Tessa Raebeck

Hoping to stem what she sees as unbalanced Republican influence, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming has again sponsored legislation to bar members of a political committee from also serving on the town’s land use boards.

After discovering last year that 10 out of the 21 members on the three influential boards, the planning board, the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) and the conservation board, were members of either the Republican or the Conservative Party committees, Fleming sponsored a resolution to ban members of such a committee from also serving on a board.

“I think,” Fleming said Monday, “it’s a really important measure to advance fairness in land use decisions and to make sure that people in the community feel that all voices are being heard and that land use decisions are being made in a fair and even handed way.”

Both East Hampton and Southold have similar legislation in effect. The resolution would require a political committee member who also wished to serve on a town board to resign from their political post for the time they serve as a board member.

Fleming believes the law would limit the “lopsided representation” of the current boards, noting out of seven members on the ZBA in 2013, five were Republican committee members and one was a Conservative committee member.

There are no members of the Democratic Committee on the town boards, Fleming said Monday

The law, she said, is “in order to open up public participation, so people feel that it’s not an insider’s game, that they can serve, that they can have their voices heard.”

“And,” she added, “in order to remove any conflict of interest that’s created when people are responsible both to the community and to their political parties.”

Fleming first introduced the bill last spring, but it was blocked from having a public hearing. She introduced it again this fall and although it was granted a public hearing, the bill was defeated September 24 by the then Republican-Conservative majority on the board.

At the public portion of the board’s meeting October 8, Mike Anthony of Westhampton, a member of the Democratic activist organization Organizing for America, spoke in support of the resolution, stating that many see government as an insider game and that people in Southampton cannot be part of local government without feeling they have to also be part of a political party.

Also at that meeting, George Lynch of Quogue said the Republican majority on public boards is trampling on proper procedures and stifling public discussion. Residents Dianne Rulnick, Mike Axelrad, Sally Pope and several others called on the board to have a public hearing on the ethics of removing political committee members from land use boards.

On Tuesday, the board hosted a public hearing on the proposal. While supporters voiced their concerns over lopsided legislation and perceived unfairness, opponents said the bill would discourage residents from participating in government and inhibit free speech.

Republican Party committee member Bill Hughes voiced his opposition to the bill at Tuesday’s hearing, saying it limited “freedom of association” and that being elected to a political party committee is a form of free speech.

Republican Councilwoman Christine Scalera has been vocal in her opposition to the bill since it was first introduced. Scalera has called the legislative intent offensive and questioned Fleming’s political motives behind introducing such a bill on Tuesday.

Despite Scalera’s opposition, Fleming is hopeful the bill will move forward and that it will be passed at the next town board meeting February 11.

With “Painful Awareness” of Federal Inefficiency, Southampton Town Leaders are Sworn in Monday

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Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, new Councilman Stan Glinka, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, new Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Christine Scalera at the first organizational meeting of the town board's new term Monday.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, new Councilman Stan Glinka, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, new Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Christine Scalera at the first organizational meeting of the town board’s new term Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

The leaders of the Town of Southampton trumpeted collaboration across party lines Monday as town officials, including new councilmen Brad Bender and Stanley Glinka, were officially sworn in to office.

The meeting room at Southampton Town Hall was filled to capacity with over 70 friends, family and staff members in attendance, with still others watching through a live video stream in an adjacent room.

Representatives from the Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council were in attendance, as were county and state officials. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman sat in the third row while Congressman Tim Bishop presided over the event.

Following a procession with bagpipes, Father Michael Vetrano of the Basilica of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary opened the annual ceremony with a simple prayer, “God help us,” asking that the elected officials have the “courage and integrity to always stand up for the truth.”

After being sworn in, Bender waited for Glinka and the pair — a Democrat and Republican, respectively — made consecutive and similar speeches.

“I think,” said Bender, “we’re turning a new page here in the Town of Southampton. I think we’re going to do a lot of good things for the town.”

Glinka thanked his friends, family and co-workers at Bridgehampton National Bank, where he serves as vice president, and said he looked forward to working for Southampton, his hometown.

New Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is sworn in by Justice Deborah Kooperstein Monday.

New Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is sworn in by Justice Deborah Kooperstein Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

In a longer speech than those given by her colleagues, re-elected Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst — an Independence Party member — emphasized the commitment to collaboration in coming years and outlined several areas where the new board is hopeful it will instill progress through a bi-partisan effort.

“I know we all recognize how privileged we are,” said Throne-Holst, “to not only live and work in this wonderful town, but to have been bestowed the even larger privilege — rather, the trust — to serve and safeguard what makes our town so special and that is, most of all, the wonderful people and constituents who make our community and our precious environment.”

“I think,” continued Throne-Holst, “we all share a painful awareness of the conspicuous and poor example of gridlock, partisan and narrow-minded government that has plagued our country over the last several years and where true public service has been too often stymied.”

The supervisor said the history and tradition of American government was “built by healthy discourse” and “joint commitment to serving the people.”

She said with this legacy in mind, members of the new town board have met and discussed a joint vision on how to best serve Southampton residents moving forward.

Throne-Holst outlined five areas of priority the town board has already decided on for 2014: water quality; affordable housing; police, public safety and code enforcement; addressing the needs of “aging and increasingly inefficient” infrastructure (a list she said is “dizzyingly long”); and having conversations with neighboring governments to “explore efficiency and cost savings to possible shared services, joint projects, emergency management,” among other initiatives.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst addresses the crowd at Southampton Town Hall Monday.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst addresses the crowd at Southampton Town Hall Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Throne-Holst said Larry Cantwell, the newly elected East Hampton Town supervisor, has already expressed his interest in such a “two town initiative.”

Throne-Holst underscored the new town government has “a commitment to representing in a cohesive and productive way where we will strive to exemplify government the way we believe it should be.”

“We have together,” she added, “stated a commitment to working together to see our goals move forward, with each of us focusing on several specific projects or areas as part of seeing them all done.”

Throne-Holst asked for the public’s involvement in outlining goals and moving forward, as well as holding the elected officials accountable in their commitment to put party and individual interests aside.

“Hold our feet to the fire,” she said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with her children, Nick, Sebastian, Karess and Max (from left to right). (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with her children, Nick, Sebastian, Karess and Max (left to right). (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Also taking the oath of office Monday were four Southampton Town Trustees, incumbents William Pell IV and Eric Schultz, who were sworn in together by Justice Steven Lynch, as were newcomers Scott Horowitz and Raymond Overton. Trustee Edward Warner, Jr. could not attend the ceremony but took his oath beforehand.

Entering her third term as town clerk, Sundy Schermeyer, accompanied by her grandfather, who turned 95 on Saturday, was sworn in by Councilwoman Christine Scalera.

Southampton Town Justices Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson also took the oath of office Monday and re-elected Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor was sworn in to his second term.

“We’re no supermen or superwomen,” Gregor said to the room of elected officials, “we’re just men and women — part of our community that want to help it.”

“I love the people of Southampton,” he continued, “because they have no problem telling me what they think at any time…To our fellow elected officials, we’re all stuck with each other, so maybe we oughta [sic] try to make it work.”