Tag Archive | "League of Women Voters"

Voter Registration Drive

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The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons will register voters at 12 sites across the East End on Tuesday, September 23, which is the third annual National Voter Registration Day.

Now in its third year, National Voter Registration Day was established in 2012 on the fourth Tuesday in September and boasts more than 1,000 partnering organizations across the United States. Its purpose is to bring attention to the importance of registering to vote on time.

The New York State deadline is October 10 for the general election on November 4.

“Anyone who was not registered previously, or who has moved, or changed his or her name needs to fill out a voter registration form,” said the Hamptons League’s voter services co-chair Anne Marshall. “We hope you will stop by one of our tables, where we will also be glad to answer any of your questions.”

League volunteers will be at Schiavoni’s Market in Sag Harbor from 10 a.m. to noon; at the Bridgehampton Post Office from 10 a.m. to noon; at Cromer’s Market on Noyac Road from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; at Waldbaums Supermarket on Jagger Lane in Southampton from 4 to 6 p.m.; at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton, also from 4 to 6 p.m.; at Chancellors Hall at the Stony Brook Southampton campus from 5 to 7 p.m.; at the East Hampton Post Office from 10 a.m. to noon; at One Stop Market in East Hampton on Springs-Fireplace Road from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Montauk Post Office from 10 a.m. to noon; at King Kullen in Hampton Bays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; at Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays, also from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and at Simon’s Beach Bakery in Westhampton Beach from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Those with questions can contact the league at (631) 324-4637 or visit lwvhamptons.org or call the Suffolk County Board of Elections at (631) 852-4500.

League of Women Voters Trip to the North Fork for a Fall Festival Fling

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Barbara Shinn of Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck. Photo by Arlene Hinkemeyer.

After visiting Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, the Main Street revival in Riverhead and sightseeing around Sag Harbor, the League of Women Voters is hitting the road again, this time traveling to the North Fork for a Fall Festival Fling on Tuesday, September 16.

Reservations are required by Monday, September 8, for the daylong event, which starts at 11 a.m. at the Hallockville Farm Museum with a tour of the colonial and Polish farmsteads on the site. The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places. At 12:30 p.m., those on the tour will be served a catered lunch in the Naugles barn on the farm, followed by a celebration of Apple Fest with a talk by Shannon Harbes at Harbes Farmstand in Mattituck at 1:45 p.m. The day winds down at 3 p.m. with a vineyard tour, wine tasting and talk by Barbara Shinn at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck.

To register, call Gladys Remler at (631) 288-9021 or send a check for $45 made out to LWVH to 180 Melody Court, Eastport, NY, 11941 by Monday, September 8. Include your address and email to receive a two-page itinerary of the day, which includes directions.

League of Women Voters to Host Discussion on Voting Issues

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By Tessa Raebeck

The League of Women Voters will sponsor  program on voting regulations in New York State and debate their merits on Monday, July 14.

The discussion, which will be held at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Library, located at 2478 Main Street in Bridgehampton, will focus on two issues: term limits and ballot access.

Anne Marshall and Carol Meller, co-chairs of the Suffolk County League of Women Voters’ voter services committee, will lead the discussion. League of Women Voters chapters across the state are studying these issues and the league plans to come to a statewide consensus on whether they are beneficial or harmful to New York voters by the end of the fall.

The discussion on ballot access will explore the practice of “fusion voting” and the New York State statute “Wilson-Pakula.”

“Fusion voting,” or electoral fusion, is an arrangement where two or more political parties list the same candidate on a ballot, resulting in a cross-party endorsement and pooled votes for that candidate. The practice enables minor parties to influence election results and policy by offering to endorse the candidate of a major party.

The “Wilson-Pakula” statute allows candidates to appear on the ballot of a different party than their own with the permission of party officials.

The discussion on ballot access will also consider the rules by which New Yorkers are permitted to vote in state primaries and compare that eligibility to different procedures used in other states.

The second discussion on term limits will focus on the question of whether there should be a cap on the number of years elected officials and state legislators in New York State can serve.

For more information on the voting issues presentation, visit lwvhamptons.org or call (631) 324-4637.

Military Women Discuss Their Changing Role

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Chief Sherrie Huppert-Grassie, Lisa D'Agostino, Master Sergeant Cheran Cambridge and Susan Soto, the new commander of Southampton's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post

Chief Sherrie Huppert-Grassie, Lisa D’Agostino, Master Sergeant Cheran Cambridge and Susan Soto, the new commander of Southampton’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post

By Tessa Raebeck

In January 2013, then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the military’s official ban on women in combat, following receipt of a letter from General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating that the chiefs were in agreement that “the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.”

“That’s suggesting that somehow there are some [barriers] that were still necessary. I don’t know about that,” Vietnam War veteran Susan Wilson said Tuesday. Wilson was joined by other female military personnel at a panel discussion, “The Changing Role of Women in the Military: Vietnam to Gulf War and Beyond,” hosted by the League of Women Voters at the Hampton Bays Public Library.

Susan Wilson

Susan Wilson

Wilson, a member of the league, opened the evening with stories of her experience serving in WAVES, the U.S. Naval Women’s Reserve, as a non-deployed member of the Navy during the Vietnam War.

“It was not a popular war,” she said. “Women were not welcome.” Wilson served as an administrative assistant, one of seven women in a squadron of 500 men. The waves were not permitted to wear nail polish or let their hair grow past their collars, yet they were required to wear lipstick at all times.

“I hated lipstick so for me that was not fun to do, but it was important and if you were going to get through boot camp, you were going to do that,” Wilson recalled. When she wanted to get married, she had to ask her commanding officer for permission. When she got pregnant, she was dismissed from the military. Military females at the time were not permitted to have dependents under the age of 18.

“The equality that comes from that uniform was not as complete as it is for a man. Women enjoyed equal pay, equal right to be subject to the military code of justice,” she told the crowd. “But equal job and advance opportunities, not so much.”

“As war changed and weapons changed over the years with more modern weaponry – scud missiles and roadside bombs – battle lines blurred and suddenly every soldier – male and female – was at risk,” Wilson said, adding that over 40,000 women served in the 1991 Gulf War, the first time men and women served in integrated units within a war zone. In 1994, the Pentagon reversed the progress of military women, instituting a rule restricting them from serving in combat roles, although they continued to do so unofficially.

“Just because they were not permitted to serve in combat zones, didn’t mean they weren’t there and they weren’t doing their jobs,” said Wilson. “We were there, we as a sisterhood were there.”

Wilson said Panetta’s lift of the ban was a welcome recognition of that work, although “it took so long for that to happen.”

While admitting there’s still a long ways to go, the panel was optimistic that women in the military have made significant strides toward equal standing, especially in the last decade.

Lisa D'Agostino

Lisa D’Agostino

Lisa D’Agostino, Family Readiness Program Manager for the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard, is a 106th Rescue Airman, as well as a military spouse and mother.

“When I first started in 2005,” D’Agostino said Tuesday, “to where we are now with family programs and the importance of families – having to take care of the family so our military men and women can do the job they have to do – has changed tremendously in a positive way.”

Also stationed with the 106 at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, Chief Sherri Huppert-Grassie has been deployed overseas four times since joining the military in 1992.

“I love when we get to go away and do our job because that’s what we do,” she said. “We’re focused on just the job.”

In 2000, Huppert-Grassie went on her first deployment to Turkey. In 2001, she was deployed to Kuwait and in 2003 she served in Iraq.

While in Iraq, “the guys” she served with were worried about Huppert-Grassie coming along, voicing concern for her wellbeing. “It’s touching, but you still want to do what your job is. It doesn’t matter because I’m going with them,” she said. “We’re just doing our job out there.”

“Finally, in 2009 I deployed again and that was to Afghanistan,” said Huppert-Grassie. Her husband, who is also in the military, supported her on the home front during her deployments. If they were both deployed, her mother watched over their daughter. Huppert-Grassie’s experience is a far cry from being dismissed for being pregnant, as Wilson was.

“As females, I believe that I have a lot of passionate emotion and I try to not let it get the best of me because I want to be that leader,” she said. “I love being in the military.”

Master Sergeant Cheran Cambridge has served as a medical service administrator in the military for 12 years. In 2010, Cambridge was deployed to Saudi Arabia, where she worked as part of a five-person team in a blood transshipment center, supplying blood and plasma to medical units. She attributes her militancy to her Caribbean grandmother.

“Me being in boot camp didn’t really teach me anything, cause I learned from my grandmother,” she said. “That’s where I learned my public service from.”

Susan Soto

Susan Soto

As the newly appointed commander of Southampton’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7009, Susan Soto is the first female and the first Native American to hold the position. Soto’s father was a World War II veteran, her uncle was a veteran of the Korean War and her brother was in the Navy. Growing up on the stories of their deployments, Soto “needed to find a way to feed my thirst for travel,” so she joined the military in 1982.

Soto was deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Storm in August of 1990, one of five women in the intelligence unit there.

“The guys were great, the Navy Seals,” she recalled. “This was a time when women were deploying, but the media was putting out a lot of negative words on women deploying to Desert Storm…To me, it was no question for me to go and be deployed. I had no problem with it, it was my job, that was what I went into the military to do, to support my country.”

League of Women Voter Debates Scheduled for this Week in Southampton & East Hampton

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With the November 8 election nearing, candidates vying for positions throughout the South Fork will appear at two separate debates scheduled in the next week.

Tonight, October 13, at 7 p.m. the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons will sponsor a debate at Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton featuring candidates for Suffolk County Legislature and the Southampton town board.

Incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, an Independence Party member also endorsed by the Democratic Party, will face off against Republican challenger Cornelius Kelly.

Despite the recent write-in candidacy of former Republican Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot against incumbent Democratic Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the debate will be limited to candidates for Southampton Town Board.

Incumbent board member Democrat Bridget Fleming will be joined by fellow Democratic candidate Brad Bender, who is also endorsed by the Independence and Working Families parties at the debate. They are vying for two open seats on the town board and will face Republican challengers William Hughes, Jr. and Christine Scalera, who is also endorsed by the Independence Party.

On Monday, October 17 at 7 p.m. the League will host a second debate for East Hampton Town candidates at LTV Studios in Wainscott. In addition to featuring a debate between Schneiderman and Kelly, the forum will also focus on the East Hampton supervisor and town board races.

Incumbent Republican Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, also endorsed by the Independence Party, will face Democratic challenger Zach Cohen, who is also endorsed by the Working Families Party.

There are six candidates for two seats on the town board. Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc will represent the Democratic and Working Families party slates on Tuesday night. Richard Haeg and Steven Gaines, Republican candidates for town board, are also expected to attend the debate along with Independence Party candidates Marilyn Behan and Bill Mott.

The League has also invited other candidates seeking office within the towns — including for town justice, town highway superintendent in East Hampton, and town trustee — to introduce themselves at the events, although they will not engage in a formal debate.

Opportunity Missed

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For some time, we thought the rest of the world had gotten past the idea that the East End was the poor stepchild to the rest of Long Island. Apparently congressional candidate Randy Altschuler didn’t get the memo.

As it has done for years, the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons has invited the candidates for public office to meet and debate on the South Fork for the benefit of local voters. These are consistently well attended events, regularly televised and in many cases the only time some candidates get to meet face to face in front of East End residents to discuss local issues.

Such is the case with the race for U.S. Congress here this year, between Mr. Altschuler and incumbent Tim Bishop. It is arguably one of the most competitive, controversial and closely watched races on Long Island, if not the country.

Late last week Mr. Altschuler declined to appear, citing scheduling conflicts, long after League volunteers had requested him to save the date. His decision means that, for the first time in many years, Hamptons residents will not be able to see their congressional candidates face off.  It is, we think, a wasted opportunity on Mr. Altschuler’s part, and a disservice to the voters of East Hampton and Southampton towns.

As we have done for about ten years, the editors of the East Hampton Star, the Southampton Press and the Sag Harbor Express were invited by the League to prepare and ask questions during the debate (we will do so for the candidates for state assembly and senate on October 25). Instead we will draft a letter to Mr. Altschuler expressing our disapointment. For some, apparently, we will always just be the poor stepchild.

New Town Supervisors Promise Openness

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web_Wilkinson-Throne-Holst_LWV '10_0734

By Georgia Suter

Promising more open governments and  more aggressive planning for the future, the newly elected supervisors for Southampton and East Hampton towns addressed a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons on Monday evening. Centrally located for both towns at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike, the forum was intended to give the public a chance to hear how the two leaders will work to revamp their respective governments which have been battered by economic challenges.

Bill Wilkinson, who was elected East Hampton town supervisor in early November, was the first to speak, focusing on his administration’s agenda during his first sixty days in office. Among top priorities, Wilkinson noted that he plans to bring more transparency to the administration.

“The first thing I’m going to try to do is live up to a campaign commitment of open government,” he stated, adding that very little will actually be rehearsed at the administration’s board meetings. Wilkinson also emphasized the importance of bringing more participation from the community into the town’s meetings, noting in the future at least one work session a month will be held on a Saturday in order to allow the participation of a majority of East Hampton community members that are weekend homeowners.

“The most important thing that I’m addressing on a day to day basis is the $28 million dollar deficit, it’s a daily problem,” he noted. Wilkinson did touch upon problems with the former administration’s financial choices, noting they failed to categorize the allocation of funds appropriately, which resulted in an “intermingling of funds.” Wilkinson’s administration is now in the process of looking more closely at past expenditures to determine how much money was allocated to various projects, such as the Community Preservation Fund and the renovation project of East Hampton’s town hall.

Moving into notable accomplishments for the new administration, Wilkinson noted that East Hampton Town and the East Hampton Police Benevolent Association reached an agreement on a six-year contract spanning from 2007 to 2012, in the first days of being in office. The agreement was reached after a five-hour bargaining session with Wilkinson, P.B.A. representatives and the arbitrator in late February. In terms of community outreach efforts, the town has also been making steps to build more conversation and interaction with East Hampton residents. Wilkinson explained the town is reaching out to the artist community to build stronger relationships with artists because “they’ve been ignored.” Additionally, the town recently held a forum to discuss the best ways to manage the local deer population. The forum brought community members together from deer refuge and animal rights groups, hunting groups and from the wildlife preservation.  Wilkinson concluded his remarks by reiterating perhaps his most pressing agenda for the coming term; “it’s finance, finance, finance for the next sixty days.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst started by noting that “Bill and I share an enthusiasm for the job, and an enthusiasm for doing it differently.” Throne-Holst began by dividing her administration’s agenda into two categories: partnerships and planning. She explained she hopes to “open up and partner with the community in bringing an agenda forward,” adding that immediate responsiveness of the board is also going to be a top priority.

“Whatever your issue is, we will get back to you in 24 hours,” she promised.

In attempt to bring the community into the day to day processes of the town, Throne-Holst noted that “We’ve invited different community groups that represent various parts of the town into our meetings, to meet with us.”

She also expressed the importance of planning and of communication and collaboration between different areas of the East End: “What’s happening in Hampton Bays may be helpful to something that is going on in Sag Harbor.”

At a recent luncheon with the mayor of East Hampton, Throne-Holst said they began talking about sharing services between East End municipalities, such as purchasing for highway needs. “We’re working on changing the paradigm under which municipalities plan,” she stated.

Among specific agenda items for future months, Throne-Holst stated the town will be putting together a planning reform group, organizing different advisory committees such as the Green Committee for Sustainability, and revamping the budget and finance committee so that it has improved goals–among them, devising a more organic budget proposal and a more detailed revenue projection. She also described the proposed organization of a police management committee, which will work to alleviate the years of disagreement between the top level of police management and the working level.

Among notable achievements for the Town for Southampton is a revamped website that has a more inclusionary feel. Community members can view current issues the town board is working on. The site also has information for the community such as the location of recycling centers, and there’s an online forum which provides a place for open and ongoing discussion.

“Our goal is really to revamp how the town does business with the public,” said Throne-Holst.

League of Women Voters Sways, Recruits Pierson Student Voters

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Nick DePetris, Casey Crowley


In an attempt to get seniors at Pierson High School registered to vote, the League of Women Voters (LWV) visited the school on Tuesday with an exercise to demonstrate the importance of the voting process.
The demonstration mirrored many recent elections, with differing opinions as far right — and left — as it gets.
The presentation started in the Pierson auditorium with a brief introduction on the history of voting in this country. Judy Roth, the executive vice president of the LWV of the Hamptons, first began by telling the students voting is one of the league’s most important functions.
Judie Gorenstein, LWV Huntington president, then asked the kids to imagine there were no Ipods and no Facebook. She told the students that she was King George and she had all the power and the rest of the room had none. She asked the kids if that was fair — all the students yelled out that it wasn’t.
She then asked the students to imagine being fast forwarded through time to 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was adopted. She said then, white men were able to vote. She asked all the white male students in the graduating class to step on stage. Those left in the audience were asked if they thought that was fair — they all agreed it wasn’t.
Gorenstein then asked all the men to step on the stage — and told them they all had the right to vote. Finally, she explained that it wasn’t until 1920 that women had the right to vote. At that point all the students joined her on stage.
“Now, everyone has the right to vote,” she said.
Roth then asked Dr. Jon Baer, Pierson Government and Economics teacher who helped organize the event, to choose two people to act as if they were running for president.
He chose seniors Nick DePetris and Casey Crowley to act as the candidates.
Roth told them to pay close attention to the beliefs of their audience and to take notes as she handed them notebooks and pens.
Roth asked the remaining kids to voice their opinions about current controversial topics including gay marriage, nuclear energy, abortion and music censorship. They were even asked about bailout bonuses for AIG employees.
Just like the real world, there was a division of opinions among the students on many of those issues. During the discussion on abortion, one senior yelled out, “Don’t kill babies,” while another senior said it’s a choice that women should be allowed to maintain. Others said they were pro-life, but felt women should still have the freedom to choose.
Gorenstein intervened, offering to divide the differing opinions on abortion three ways — pro-life, pro-choice, or certain limitations on abortions. She said this would give the pretend candidates a better understanding of what the majority of the audience thinks.
“This is important because often candidates will change their speeches, depending on their audience,” she said.
Roth also asked the kids about music censorship. The students seemed to be torn on whether the industry should police explicit content or let parents do it.
One student argued, “music shouldn’t be regulated because it is a way of expressing yourself.” Another said the music industry should not be blamed for a lack of parenting.
But a fellow senior suggested parents should have the right to limit what a child under 18 can listen to.
The AIG issue was also a big topic with divided opinions, after the students collectively responded to the questions, the candidates were asked to give a short speech for their faux presidency.
First up was DePetris, who spoke to the issues of abortion and AIG. He said he supported a woman’s right to choose, but did not agree with the $180 million in bonuses for AIG employees.
Crowley, on the other hand, said he was against abortion, and believed that AIG should not have been given the money in the first place. But he argued the $180 million was contracted, so if AIG doesn’t provide those bonuses, the company would end up in court.
Before the students were told to vote for their fake president, nearly every third student was told they weren’t allowed to vote.
Roth explained this represented the real numbers of eligible citizens who choose not to vote.
After the kids considered both candidates and their beliefs, they voted and DePetris won.
In hopes this would encourage students to vote, Roth and other LWV representatives devoted the rest of the assembly to registering kids to vote who were eligible. Of the 50 or so students, approximately 40 of them filled out paperwork to register, according Baer.

Women Leaders to be Eyed as Role Models

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The League of Woman Voters of the Hamptons is organizing an event for high school junior and senior girls to explore public service as a career and to develop leadership and networking skills.

The event, which will take place in May, is labeled “running and winning,” and is designed to give approximately 60 young women from seven East End high schools an opportunity to interview women who hold public office.

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and fellow female board members Sally Pope and Anna Throne-Holst have already confirmed their attendance, according to the League of Women Voter’s executive vice president and chair of the education committee, Judi Roth.

“I think it’s very exciting,” said Laura Nolan, mayor of North Haven on Tuesday. Nolan announced at this week’s village board meeting that she will be attending the event and added that she feels it will be a great experience for the high school girls.

The six to eight female students from each high school from Westhampton to East Hampton will be selected by their school principals to participate in the workshop.

The girls will meet on May 21 at the Southampton Cultural Center on Pond Lane in Southampton to interview some 30 female elected officials and will then be asked to design a slogan and write and deliver a meaningful campaign speech on an issue which the League of Woman Voters will suggest.

The room will be divided up into groups of four or five students who will interview each public figure. As the legislators move from table to table, the students will ask questions, which the league will provide. According to Roth, the students will find out what challenges and rewards come from running for office and how the women raised money for their campaigns. Roth said the students could also find out how running for office and working as an elected official has impacted their family life.

In a letter sent to Nolan, Carol Mellor, the league’s president, said “We are confident that meeting you and hearing your story will provide these young women with the motivation they need to consider a life of public service.”

The letter also noted that in this past election, 57 percent of women made up the voting population, yet they held “still less than 23 percent of all state legislative seats.”

Roth said she hopes that workshops like this one will help change that balance.

“We hope they [the students] will get an interest in civil participation, and gain enthusiasm of being part of the program,” Roth said. 

“We have been very pleased by the participation by the schools, everyone is excited about participating,” she added. 

Thiele Stands Alone; Russo, Pope Debate Finances At Debate

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. stood alone at the podium at a League of Women Voter’s sponsored debate in Bridgehampton on Thursday, October 23.

“If I put up a wild card and start debating myself, stop me,” he joked to the crowd of roughly 40 people.

Thiele’s dilemma was that his opponent W. Michael Pitcher did not attend the debate, to the surprise of league members and Southampton Press executive editor and debate moderator Joseph Shaw. According to published reports, Pitcher was detained at a family emergency and planned on attending a second debate at the Hampton Bays Senior Center on Thursday, October 30 at 7 p.m.

Despite Pitcher’s absence, Thiele was given an opportunity to address the audience and field a handful of questions by league members.

Thiele, a Sag Harbor native, has served on the New York State Assembly for 15 years. He is running on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Working Families line in his bid to keep that seat following Election Day next Tuesday.

Pitcher is the Democratic challenger, a former reporter and newspaper editor on the East End and now legislative aide to Suffolk County Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay.

On Thursday night, Thiele said the State of New York was looking down the barrel of “one of the most serious financial crisises since the Great Depression” – a national crisis he said will hit New York particularly hard due to our reliance on Wall Street revenues. Governor David Paterson, a Democrat who was praised by Thiele, has already said the state is looking at a budget deficit as much as $2 billion as a result.

“And what that means is we are going to have to spend less, tax less and we are going to have to borrow less,” said Thiele.

One issue that is front and center for Thiele, especially in light of the hard financial times to come, is his quest to reduce real property taxes for New Yorkers.

“We need to reduce our reliance on the property tax to fund education,” said Thiele. “People should not have to decide between a college education for their children and whether or not they can keep their homes because of property taxes. New York needs to be fair and more equitable in how we fund education.”

“I can’t control OPEC, I can’t control international politics, but when I notice that gasoline out here is 20 cents higher I do want to do something about that,” said Thiele, referring to the recent legislation he spearheaded that outlawed zone pricing of gasoline in the state.

Thiele also touched on recent revisions to the Community Preservation Fund, a two percent real estate transfer tax that allows for the purchase and preservation of open space, farmland, recreational space and historic buildings, as well as his work to ensure the Southampton College campus remains a viable center for higher learning. This year, Thiele said he helped to secure funding for a new marine science center at the university, which is now a part of the State University of New York system.

Thiele said he would also continue to strive for mass transit on the East End.

Southampton Town Council Debate

While the Thiele-Pitcher debate may have proved anticlimactic, the debate between current Southampton Town Councilman Dan Russo, and Democratic challenger Sally Pope proved more eventful, with the two sparring primarily over fiscal issues.

Russo, the Republican incumbent, was appointed last winter to finish the council term of newly elected Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot. He and Pope, the Democratic challenger, are vying for the last year of that term.

A Remsenburg attorney, Pope opened the debate stating Republican rule in Southampton has left a municipality in both a financial and environmental crisis. In her opening statement, Pope called for control over development in the town, and said workforce housing, a Noyac community center, implementing the Sag Harbor Gateway Study and ensuring the protection of historic buildings in Bridgehampton should be priorities in the town.

Russo, also an attorney who hails from East Quogue, countered that had Pope attended town board meetings regularly, she would not see a Republican-dominated town board. Curbing development, he said, is being addressed in a multitude of ways, including through moratoriums the board has enacted in Hampton Bays, East Quogue and on County Road 39 in Southampton.

The Southampton Town Board passed a green energy building code this year – a code that mandates environmental initiatives in new building projects or large renovations. While Pope said she supported the green energy codes, she criticized the board for going back and making revisions to the code that pushed back the dates of compliance and reduced requirements for the biggest homes in the town.

 “We scaled it back for certain sized homes, but in the spring we hope to bring them back,” said Russo, noting the town’s adoption of the green building codes and creation of a green advisory committee are both initiatives the board is proud to have accomplished in the last year.   

The Sag Harbor Gateway Study is a town planning department study that recommends re-zoning over half a dozen parcels on the Sag Harbor Turnpike from highway business to hamlet office, which would mandate less intensive businesses for new developments in the area.

Russo said he was “looking forward to enacting the zoning changes” and was “ready, willing and able to enact those codes.”

“The residents of Sag Harbor do not want it to become another County Road 39,” explained Pope to the crowd. “I know the residents of Sag Harbor do want this enacted … to really make sure Sag Harbor has the kind of entrance it deserves rather than a commercial strip leading into town.”

The $82.5 million dollar proposed budget presented by Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot will result in a five percent tax increase. The town is prevented, by law, to raise taxes more than five percent.

Russo said he supports a hiring freeze and said there are cuts that still need to be made to the spending plan. He added he has asked department heads to cut their budgets by 15 percent.

“This is the single most important issue the town board is going to face,” he said.

Pope said she believed it was the town’s one-party Republican rule that has resulted in financial mismanagement, specifically in the police and waste management departments.

Town Justice Race

Prior to the town board candidates squaring off incumbent Southampton Town Justice Tom DeMayo and challenger Andrea Schiavoni were invited to give five-minute presentations on why voters should select them for office next Tuesday.

DeMayo, who lives in Westhampton, opened by detailing his decades of experience in law and on the bench, which included time as a Suffolk County District Attorney assigned specifically to the East End courts.

“I am the only judicial candidate in this race who has been certified by the Suffolk County Bar Association as qualified to serve as justice for the Town of Southampton,” said DeMayo, adding he has been told that the justice court in Southampton is currently one of the busiest in the state, earning $2.3 million. 

DeMayo said he also wanted to clear up some “misstatements that have been made throughout the campaign.”

He said the addition of the fourth justice was made possible by the town board after Assemblyman Thiele passed legislation making it possible, and was not a decision made by the justices themselves.

DeMayo said while Schiavoni would like to see the hours of justice court extended, he was able to bring night court to the town on Wednesdays, although night court only looks at town code violations currently.

DeMayo also criticized Schiavoni’s experience.

“We deal with every day problems,” he said. “I am the candidate uniquely qualified to serve and I will stand by my reputation.”

Schiavoni, a Sag Harbor resident, has a career that spans 19 years in law, where she practiced civil litigation against large corporations carrying what she admitted was a hefty caseload.

“That brings someone up to speed in terms of court procedure,” she said, adding she learned to be a great litigator “from judges who demanded I be a great litigator.”

Currently working as a private mediator, she said she is honored to have varied legal experience.

“I believe justice can be served if all involved are committed to protecting it,” said Schiavoni.

Schiavoni said she would like to see hours expanded at justice court and night court made into a revenue producing entity. She would also like to make use of satellite courts, see justices work longer hours, implement an e-filing system and make use of video arraignments.

“Most importantly we need to being transparency to the administration of town court,” said Schiavoni. 

Top photo: Southampton Town Council candidates, Democrat Sally Pope and Republican incumbent Dan Russo, prepare for battle before last Thursday night’s League of Women Voters sponsored debate in Bridgehampton.

Middle photo: Incumbent New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. addresses the crowd of roughly 40 people on issues like the financial crisis, the use of Community Preservation Funds and mass transit on the East End.               photos by k. menu