Tag Archive | "debate"

Southampton Town Supervisor Candidates Argument Focuses on Finances

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Southampton Town Supervisor candidates Anna Throne-Holst and Linda Kabot have faced off in numerous debate and forums throughout town in recent weeks. They sparred again on Thursday, with both parties making allegations that ranged from fiscal irresponsibility to political smear tactics and even deep-rooted corruption.

At the debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and moderated by Carol Mellor, the candidates were allowed 15 minutes of response time to use at their own discretion, either to answer questions or for rebuttals. Questions were posed by Joe Shaw, executive editor of the Press News Group, Sag Harbor Express editor and publisher Bryan Boyhan and Judy Samuelson of the league, as well as members of the audience, who filled the room at Rogers Memorial Library  in Southampton beyond capacity.

Incumbent Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member cross endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties, was elected to the town board as a council member in 2007 and beat Kabot, a Republican also running on the Conservative Party line, in the supervisor’s race in 2009. In her opening statement, Kabot, who served as councilwoman from 2002 to 2007 and as Southampton supervisor from 2008 through 2009, alleged that Throne-Holst falsely claimed that Kabot caused the prior budgetary problems and mismanaged the town. Both candidates agreed that this election is about “the truth” and alleged that their opponent was taking credit for their own successful financial management.

Referring to a debate hosted by the Speonk-Remsenburg Civic Association October 9, Shaw asked Kabot, “you were asked what your qualifications were for supervisor and your answer was that you were married with children and were a homeowner, what did you mean by those remarks?”

Kabot said the phrasing was incorrect and untruthful and noted that no reporters were present at that debate. She referred to similar statements on her website, which states: “As a property owner, I can better represent the majority of taxpayers and voters in Southampton Town. As a married mother of three children, I can provide values-based leadership with deep roots in the community.”

“What I meant by that,” she explained, “was as a homeowner and a taxpayer, my husband and I receive a tax bill and we know what the impact is of increased taxes to our budget and a renter doesn’t receive a tax bill.”

Kabot maintained the person who posed the initial question was a member of the town Democratic Committee.

“They’re the ones writing the letters to the paper to indicate that this is about single mothers or something about somebody’s marital status,” she said. “It has nothing to do with that. That is political spin and it is wrong.”

Throne-Holst responded that the original question was submitted by an unknown member of the audience and asked by a moderator.

“I find it curious that you feel better able to protect people’s taxes as a homeowner,” she said to Kabot. “I will remind everyone that Linda Kabot raised everyone’s taxes by a full 15 percent as supervisor and I have raised them zero.”

“I know that I am a single mother,” continued Throne-Holst, who has four grown children. “I know that as a result of a very painful divorce, I am no longer a homeowner. Maybe someday I will be but now I am not. Sixty percent of our residents live in single households and 40 percent of our residents do not own property and you all have my assurance single mother or married, property owner or not, I represent you equally.”

“Again, someone’s marital status has nothing to do with it,” countered Kabot. “It’s political nonsense being stirred just like the statements are out there that I single-handedly raised taxes 15 percent — this is an untruth.”

Kabot said that corrective tax levies were put forward in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that Throne-Holst voted for as a councilwoman.

“These were the correct things to do,” Kabot said. “And it’s easy to spin it and twist it and distort it but I’m proud of my record as your supervisor of doing the brave and necessary things to do.”

The candidates used a significant portion of their allotted 15 minutes to continue back and forth on Shaw’s question.

“I don’t think you talk about value-based representation because you are married,” said Throne-Holst. “The clear implication is if you are not you do not espouse those values. All I can say is I’ve been your supervisor for four years; you don’t achieve these numbers based on someone else’s work.”

“It’s not about taking credit. It’s not about passing blame. It’s about moving forward,” concluded Kabot.

Boyhan asked the candidates to what degree their administration should prepare for the “continued dramatic and inevitable erosion of our ocean shoreline,” as well as their position on shore-hardening structures.

Throne-Holst said the issue has been at the forefront of her administration and voiced her opposition to shore-hardening structures, which she said help one property while adversely affecting those around it.

“We have taken a hard stance on them in the Town of Southampton, we will not permit them going forward,” she said.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of erosion control districts in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, which allow for oceanfront homeowners to be taxed separately in order to fund a $26 million beach re-nourishment project that is expected to add 60 to 70 feet of beach, adding that she is working with other areas of the town interested in pursuing similar projects.

Kabot also opposes shore-hardening structures. She advocates improved relocation efforts in the event of major storms and said that although the nourishment project is beneficial, “there’s no guarantees that that sand is going to stay in place.”

Her criticisms of the project, she said, have to do with the use of park reserve funds, $1.7 million of which were used to fund the pavilion and public beach access areas of the erosion control districts.

“Those [erosion control district] homeowners are very grateful for the work that has been done in local government to see to it that the beach nourishment has been brought forward and they are contributing very heavily to the supervisor’s reelection campaign,” Kabot alleged.

Samuelson asked an audience member’s question about what obstacles the candidates would remove in order to allow more business and private sector jobs.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of an economic development task force in the Riverside/Flanders area, which she said secured a total of almost half a million dollars worth of grants.

“That will probably bring the most amount of jobs to this area when it comes to fruition,” she said.

The supervisor also spoke of the “major job creation possibilities” posed by the Clean Water Coalition, a regional task force she developed, and its “bringing the manufacturing and marketing of those technologies to this area.”

Kabot said she would enact the targeted redevelopment of blighted sites by “incentivizing certain sites so that there would be investment by private developers to allow for the creation of a tax base to create more jobs.”

She is committed to reestablishing a small business office in Town Hall in order to help local business officers get through the regulation process and aims to increase senior and affordable housing, rethink rental laws and review permit standards.

“We have to work at the government level to get out of the way so that businesses can create those jobs,” Kabot said. “We have to simulate business by allowing the government red tape to be lessened and in some cases we need to facilitate their ability to get through the board of health because that is one of the biggest things that holds up a number of businesses.”

“The business advisory group does exactly what Linda’s talking about,” replied Throne-Holst. “They help expedite, they help business owners through the process. So been there, done that already. As far as the Health Department goes, we cannot expedite that. It’s a nice thing to say but we can’t. It’s a county permitting authority, we have actually no control over that.”

“I’m proud of what I’ve done,” the supervisor said in her closing argument. “I love my job, I love serving all of you and I will bring the same level of commitment, enthusiasm and service to this job should I have your vote.”

Kabot concluded the debate, “Together we can take back our town from special interests, restore honesty and integrity and capability to that supervisor’s office and we can bring back the only true independent candidate who cannot be bought.”

The supervisor election will be held on November 5.

League of Women Voters Hosts Southampton Town Board Candidates Debate

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By Tessa Raebeck

In front of a packed room Thursday night, candidates for Southampton Town Board debated experience, integrity and economics. Democrats Brad Bender and Frank Zappone faced Republicans Stan Glinka and Jeff Mansfield in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons at Rogers Memorial Library.

Moderated by Carol Mellor, voter service co-chair for the league, the debate included questions asked by members of the audience, as well as by Bryan Boyhan, editor and publisher of The Sag Harbor Express, Joe Shaw, executive editor for the Press News Group, and Judy Samuelson of the league.

Noting that all the candidates would be first time town board members, Shaw asked what issue their first piece of legislation would address.

“Water quality is going to be my number one issue,” replied Bender, mentioning his endorsement from the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum. “The first thing I want to do is really take a look at how we’re going to start saving our town — how do we work regionally with state, local, federal governments to make a difference for our waterways.”

“We have dragged our feet for way too long,” he continued. “We are so far behind in the technology in this community that we should be ashamed.”

Mansfield answered that his top three issues are fiscal responsibility, code enforcement and water quality. He said he fully supports Councilwoman Christine Scalera’s septic rebate program, but that “we need to do more.”

He advocates working with the schools to plant more eelgrass and seed the bays with shellfish.

“That’s nature’s way to filter the bays,” he said. “There’s a lot of nitrogen-reducing technology available in states like Rhode Island and Maryland that have a lot of tributaries and waterways. We don’t have it approved by the county yet — we need to lobby hard.”

Glinka pointed to three things that he would “have to tackle all at once evenly,” economic redevelopment, public safety and the environment. He said it is “vitally important” to have a good relationship with town trustees.

“Many of the small businesses in this town are struggling, making it economically feasible to stay here but also to attract new businesses,” he said, adding that he would also look at further staffing the police force and code enforcement office to increase public safety.

“Although these problems are very important problems for the town, they’re not going to be impacted by a single piece of legislation,” responded Zappone, who serves as deputy supervisor for the town. He said that he and the current administration moved code enforcement into the town attorney’s office, effectively quadrupling the number of enforcement actions due to improved communication.

“My first piece of legislation,” he said, “would be to bring fire marshal and code enforcement into one public safety unit so they could work closely with the town attorney and our court system so that we can effectively prosecute and proceed to getting some compliance issues addressed throughout the town.”

Shaw posed a question from the audience asking the candidates to state their position on the proposed Tuckahoe Center supermarket and retail complex on County Road 39.

“I believe firmly in representative government,” answered Mansfield. “So my job is not to tell you what I think is best, my job is to do what you think is best and my job is to find out what that is by vetting the issue, going out to the community, finding out the pulse of the community then taking action in a cost-effective and timely manner and that’s exactly what I will do.”

Glinka referred to his experience as president of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce.

“I think communication and education are the two foremost important factors in here and making sure that we make the best decision as a group,” he said. “It’s very important to hear what you as a community wants and what the people in the town want, not what I want as town council.”

“We need updated traffic studies,” replied Zappone. “We need updated analysis of the changing demographics of the community and we also need to look at the potential merger of these two school districts [Tuckahoe and Southampton] and how that might impact the community. So there’s a lot of information to gather before we go out communicating and educating the community, which is important to do but we need the information and we need the facts collected as best we possibly can.”

Bender pointed to the numerous vacant lots that are on County Road 39 adjacent to the proposal property.

“We don’t need to build new things when we have things sitting empty,” he said. “We’ve got empty stores up and down County Road 39, we’ve got blight up and down County Road 39 and until we address these issues we have no business then building anything else in that spot.”

Acknowledging Bender’s comment, Boyhan asked the candidates what pressures the town can bring to bear on property owners who have had unsuccessful businesses or let their buildings deteriorate and what can be done to force the repurpose of those buildings.

Glinka advocated streamlining the process by which new businesses can come into Southampton.

“Sometimes we’re anti-business,” he said. “It makes it very difficult for people to come in here and set up businesses. If we could make it attractive for developers to come out here and revitalize those [old motels that have been turned into section eight housing] and make it certain that that’s what they’re going to do and bring the tourism back out here and make it affordable for people to come out here with families, I think that would start a domino effect in attracting businesses,” he maintained.

Zappone said it’s important to take advantage of the business advisory council that resides at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, as well as initiating tax relief elements.

“If businesses are going to be viable on that road,” he said of County Road 39, “something has to be done about the way traffic flows on that road.”

He advocates bringing in low volume businesses such as law offices and consulting firms and called for a regional approach to addressing blighted properties.

Bender referenced his involvement in the Riverside Economic Development Committee and spoke of working together with the International Development Association (IDA) and the Regional Economic Development Council to help small businesses and also ensure they can help themselves.

“The last thing that small business owners need is senseless regulation from the government,” replied Mansfield. “I’m a capitalist. I believe in free markets, I believe in competition. I think if government isn’t helping small business it needs to step aside.”

Mansfield called for the small business office to return to town hall and emphasized listening to small business owners.

Referencing the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Boyhan asked the candidates whether the town is prepared for another major storm and what can be done to improve the town’s response to such an event. All of the candidates applauded the work of the town employees and officials in response to Sandy.

Referring to the fatal traffic accident that stopped traffic on County Road 39 for nine hours July 25, Mansfield said, “There’s still work to be done and we’re vulnerable to a big evacuation. I think we can do a better job of warning our citizens and making sure they can get out if they need to get out.”

Glinka said he would definitely work on “ensuring if we did have to evacuate the area, how would we do this in a timely, safe manner.”

“Our demographic area — it’s very unique and I think we have to approach it in such a way,” he continued. “I think just enhancing and working with what the current administration has in place already, I think we can only improve upon it. And also working with community members and civic organizations and public safety areas and getting their input as well.”

Zappone thanked the other candidates for the recognition of a job well done.

“Yes, we are better prepared,” he said, adding that, with the help of consultants, the chief of police, fire marshals and the fire chief, the administration has completely revised and rewritten its emergency operational procedures and is in the final stages of preparing a hazard mitigation plan that “will give us a better opportunity to be resilient in the case of a storm.”

Bender called for the completion of the Flanders Nutrition Site, which he said is supposed to be a command center.

“If we do have one of these major storms that’s going to make us move off our shore, where are we going to go?” he asked. “What are we going to do? We have a command center that’s not complete, we could finish that.”

Residents of Southampton Town will be able to vote for two of the four town board candidates in the general election November 5.

Four Sag Harbor Contenders Share Views at Debate Night

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Groups of students, members of the Noyac Civic Council, scores of school parents and dozens other local constituents came to the Pierson Middle and High school library on Friday, May 8, to meet their school board candidates. Budget Advisory Committee members Ed Drohan and Elena Loreto, along with local parent Gregg Schiavoni and current school board president Walter Wilcoxen, sat in their seats facing the crowd, ready to share their viewpoints and visions for the district. From programming to their vote on the budget, the candidates weighed in on nearly every issue facing the school in the coming year.

Programming was a key concern for the candidates. They differ, however, on the future direction of Pierson’s curriculum. Schiavoni is a supporter of the Advanced Placement program and said more students should attend these classes. Drohan, however, believes the school must emphasize bilingual education and computer science by adding new courses. Loreto added that offering classes like computer repair, web design, artificial intelligence and renewable energy studies would better prepare Pierson graduates for future job markets. Wilcoxen focused on programming for the younger set and said “establishing a pre-kindergarten improves the quality of education.” He added that it was vital to operate an after-school service to correspond with the pre-k program.

The idea of starting a pre-kindergarten program is far from new and in light of this time line, the candidates were asked if it could become a reality by creating a combined pre-k program with the Bridgehampton school district. Although Drohan conceded the pre-k program was a good idea, he would like to see the issue studied to determine how many students would participate in the program and if Bridgehampton has the necessary space.

“Bridgehampton has the space,” reported Loreto, who added that around 65 Sag Harbor district children are currently eligible for pre-k. Loreto thinks the district should focus on using a SCOPE program. SCOPE is an educational not-for-profit agency that districts use to run pre-k classes. The district provides the space and certain materials but SCOPE supplies the personnel. Although the district could tap into federal Universal Pre-K funding, Loreto said using a lottery system — a requirement of the UPK program — wouldn’t be fair to students.

Wilcoxen added that the board discussed pre-k during their summer goals meeting. He said several options with Bridgehampton could be explored, but noted classroom space might also be freed up in the Sag Harbor schools.

“I think I heard that for every dollar spent on pre-k it will save $8 in the future. We need to look beyond the first year costs,” Schiavoni remarked. “We should look at housing the pre-k in the high school.”

The candidates were then asked if they believed the budget was sustainable or if modifications to programming and staffing were needed. Loreto came prepared for the question with a poster board displaying various graphs on the district’s finances. She reported to the audience that a majority of the district’s spending is reserved for salaries and benefits.

“We just don’t have the money to continue spending like this,” said Loreto, who noted that the budget could increase by over $1 million this year. Loreto added that the district’s spending might increase significantly in the future due to GASB 45, or the government accounting standards board which projects the district’s future annual spending for retiree benefits.

Wilcoxen took a different view and said he believed the budget was sustainable for this year, but conceded that the district might have to find ways to “economize beyond [their] ability in the future.” Wilcoxen underscored his comments by noting that nearly every public service is facing the same fiscal worries, especially the social security system.

Schiavoni worried the district might lose top teachers unless the board put something “on the table” to further contract negotiations.

Drohan, however, noted the average pay for teachers is $87,000 in addition to annual raises. He said spending on pensions and medical benefits was “getting out of control.”

“We need to arrive at a fair figure,” Wilcoxen said of the board’s future negotiations with teachers. He added that teachers who have made it to the highest step are no longer eligible for pay raises and as time progresses their salaries could become inconsistent with the cost of living.

“I don’t think fair is equal,” rebutted Drohan, who said that he believed teachers should be compensated based on performance. “I think there should be incentive compensation.”

Loreto asked why the district couldn’t stick with the current contract for the year, noting that neighboring school districts asked teachers to give back a portion of their salaries to avert staff reduction.

Wilcoxen said the district wasn’t contemplating cutting staff at this point. But Schiavoni reiterated his concerns over losing teachers if the district doesn’t offer competitive salaries.

In an effort to save costs and attract new revenue, the district has explored sharing services with Bridgehampton and tuitioning in out-of-district students. The candidates were asked if these were sound measures. Schiavoni said Sag Harbor school should look at what they and the neighboring school districts have to offer. He added that if the voters pass the proposition to purchase a bus and a van, the school could share transportation services with Bridgehampton.

Drohan said he was “leery” of shared services, believing it “diluted the efforts of the school district.” He added that out-of-district students should only be absorbed by the school so long as it doesn’t increase costs.

Wilcoxen noted that Sag Harbor had already looked into sharing business services and a technology coordinator with Bridgehampton and said that once both parties “got over the hump of sharing … there are really no limits to the possibilities.” He added that it will be easy to attract tuition based students because of the school’s excellent programming, saying the school is a model for districts on both the south and north forks.

Loreto, however, believed the districts could share administrative services, psychological services and pool custodial staff and said accepting out-of-district students is a “no-brainer.”

In one of the final questions broached, the candidates were asked to weigh in on the budget. Up first, Loreto said she would vote “no” on the budget, but supported propositions two and three. Likewise, Drohan said the budget wouldn’t get his vote, but that he agreed with the propositions.

“I have never seen a year where we so successfully culled out the budget,” said Wilcoxen, who favors this year’s budget. Schiavoni also threw his support to the budget.

The school elections and budget vote will be held on May 19 in the Pierson Gymnasium.