Tag Archive | "Sally Pope"

East End Digest: May 29 through June 4

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Gospel Benefit

On Saturday, June 6 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. the Maidstone Club in East Hampton will host a gospel benefit for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. Making its first appearance on the East End, “Songs of Solomon,” the award-winning inspirational choral youth ensemble based in Harlem, will perform at the benefit. The world-renowned group, created and led by Chantel Renee Wright, herself an award-winning choral conductor from Chicago, has performed all over the United States and in South Africa. It was at the Gospel Music Workshop of America three years ago that Bonnie Cannon, Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, first heard them.

“They blew me away,” she says. “I knew right then that someday I’d get them out here.”

The high energy group, whose repertoire ranges from gospel and spirituals to jazz and classical music (they sang the Bach Magnificat in D at Carnegie Hall) has performed with such artists as Elton John, Gladys Knight, Earth Wind and Fire and Aretha Franklin.

Chairing the benefit is U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, who served on the board of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center for five years and remains a member of the advisory board.

“The programs at the Center play a vital role in the lives of so many of our lower income and immigrant families,” he says. “The Center serves what is often an invisible population and I’m grateful to the Maidstone Club for supporting our mission.”

The Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center was born out of tragedy in 1949 when a house fire killed the untended children of migrant farm workers. The shocked community rallied to found the first, community-based migrant child care center in the country. The Center continues to serve the less fortunate on the East End and offers after-school programs, a low cost summer camp, youth programs and adult development services such as ESL and GED. It also hosts Head Start for preschoolers from as far away as Montauk and Westhampton.

For reservations to hear “Songs of Solomon,” call 537-0616. There will also be cocktails, hors-d’oeuvres and a silent auction. Tickets are $150 per person. Seating is limited.

Dems Pick Candidates

On Friday evening, May 29, the Southampton Town Democratic Committee nominated its candidates for 2009 during their nomination convention at the Southampton Inn. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, a Sag Harbor resident, was unanimously nominated for the position of Southampton Town Supervisor. The unity theme was echoed as incumbent councilwoman Sally Pope was nominated to run for a full term. Pope won a special election for her post last November. Bridget Fleming, a Noyac resident and attorney, was also selected to run for the open council seat. The Dems candidate for town highway superintendent is Alex Gregor of Hampton Bays who is the Southampton Town Independence leader.

Sitting Southampton Town Justices Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson were nominated to continue in their judicial roles. Selected as town trustee candidates by the Democrats were Southampton Town bayman and oyster farmer Bill Pell and Chris Garvey, a Hampton Bays resident and member of the Hampton Bays School Board.

Southampton Town

Board Honors EMS Staff

During last week’s Southampton Town Board meeting, held on Tuesday, May 26, supervisor Linda Kabot honored the town’s emergency medical service workers.

“These individuals truly embody the citizen service has been a cornerstone of our nation’s prosperity since the days of its founding,” said Kabot of the assembled group. “They are among the countless Americans who have stepped forward throughout history to assist others, and they have strengthened their communities in the process. EMS volunteers are a critical asset in every community. They provide care at the scene and on the way to the hospital, which dramatically improves survival and recovery rates.”

Kabot added that the town’s eight different EMS agencies responded to over 5,000 medical calls in 2008. The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance responded to 620 calls last year, and Bridgehampton Volunteer Ambulance responded to 116.

From May 17 through May 23, the town celebrated EMS week, with the theme being “EMS: A Proud Partner of Your Community.” Initiated by President Richard Nixon in 1973, National Emergency Medical Services Week has been celebrated each year to recognize the accomplishments of those who dedicate themselves to saving others.

Hampton Bays

Video Game Tournament

Two Hampton Bays High School students have organized a Video Game Tournament to be held on Sunday, June 7. The event is open to anyone over the age of 13. In order to compete, participants under 18 must bring a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian. The evening is a fundraiser for the Hampton Bays High School Class of 2010, though a portion of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to a local hospital or charity, yet to be determined. The evening consists of three games: Halo 3 as a team and doubles, Super Smash Brothers Melee and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Each game costs $4. The event will be held at the Hampton Bays Middle School and begins at 10 a.m. For more information call (631) 525-1825.

Peconic Bay

MTA Tax Exemption

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr., has introduced legislation that would exempt all employers within the towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold from the provisions of the 0.34 percent payroll tax recently enacted in the 12 county MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) region, as part of the financial bailout of the MTA. Despite the increased taxes and fees in the MTA region, fares on the Long Island Railroad were still increased an average of 10 percent.

The payroll tax will raise an additional $1.5 billion in annual revenue for the MTA. The MTA region has a population of more than 13.1 million people. The Peconic Bay Region has a population of approximately 140,000 or about 1.1 percent of the region.

“The MTA is a bloated bureaucracy that has a demonstrated record of fiscal shortcomings,” Thiele stated. “To throw more money at the MTA without true reform is irresponsible. To increase taxes and fees during a period of deep recession is even more foolhardy. As for the Peconic Bay Region, our year-round residents get minimal service, at best, with just a few trains a day. Further, we already pay an additional [a portion of our] sales tax and a mortgage tax to subsidize the MTA. We will also pay the new fare hikes for their declining service.”

“It has been estimated that as part of the Volpe Study on improved rail/bus service for the East End that we already pay $40 million to $60 million more than we receive in service from the MTA on an annual basis,” continued Thiele. “In short, we pay way too much for way too little. The East End simply does not have the same level of NYC commuters, yet we pay the same as everyone else. The only fair solution is to exempt the East End from the new tax.”

Thiele stated that in addition, he will continue to pursue the option of the establishment of a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority separate from the MTA to provide for the East End’s transportation needs.

NY State Assembly

Clean Act

A broad coalition spanning business, economic development, labor, and environmental groups called on the state last week to place a $5 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act on the November 2009 ballot. New York State Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney convened a hearing in Albany to discuss the merits of the draft legislation that would place the measure on the ballot.

State officials say the measure will invest in long-term improvements to waste water infrastructure, energy efficiency, transit, public health protection and economic development projects; and is expected to provide opportunities for “green-collar” jobs.

Bond act supporters noted the long term benefits of investing in bonding funds. A recent study shows that a $1 billion investment in water and waste water infrastructure creates $3 billion in economic activity and supports up to 26,000 new jobs with an average salary of $50,000. Each $1 billion invested generates $82.4 million in state and local tax revenue.

“Even a conservative view of this bond act suggests that it would create over 100,000 new jobs for New Yorkers. These would be good-paying jobs in management, construction, and innovative industries,” said Jim Melius, administrator NYS Laborers Tri-Funds.

“The last Clean Water and Clean Air Bond Act, which passed in 1996, has been spent down yet the challenges of climate change continue to grow,” added Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “The Clean Water, Clean Air & Green Jobs Bond Act of 2009 will help meet those challenges, while putting New Yorkers back to work and creating permanent taxpayer savings.” ?

Finding Common Ground on Immigration Debate

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Dozens of East End citizens gathered in the lobby of Guild Hall on Friday evening, shaking out umbrellas while the rain drizzled outside. The crowd wasn’t there to see a play or meander through an art exhibition, but to attend a panel on how the immigrant population affects the local economy. Although the first immigration forum, hosted by U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, and Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst in March, was somewhat hostile, Friday’s event proved to be calmer, as participants were asked to write their questions on note cards. Many of those questions steered the discussion topics for the evening and people on both sides of the issue seemed to agree on certain points made by the panel.

“I think we can all agree that the immigration system is broken, though we might disagree on the solution,” noted David Dyssegaard Kallick, one of the panelists and a senior fellow at the state’s Fiscal Policy Institute. Other panelists added that economics is at the heart of the immigration argument.
“I think people are angry about how hard they have to work just to get by,” said Joe Gergela, of the Long Island Farm Bureau, responding to a question on why immigration is an emotional topic. His response elicited applause from both sides and dovetailed comments Bishop made earlier in the evening.
“This is an issue which inspires emotion and anger, but anger won’t solve the problem,” said Bishop. ”I want us to come together with the same set of facts.”
Kallick reported that 22 percent of the $1.02 trillion GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for New York State is generated by immigrant workers. In Suffolk County, immigrants account for 13 percent of the population. He noted that these immigrants work in a variety of fields and added that day laborers are a “tiny” portion of the immigrant workforce.
According to Gergela, these foreign-born workers are a vital part of agricultural production on Long Island. Suffolk County is the top agricultural producer for the state, he added. Gergela said enforcing immigration law wasn’t the job of farmers, but the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Noting the role of the federal government, Gergela added that ICE “raids” on local businesses would weaken the economy.
“During the harvest season, if you take away the workforce on these farms it could lead to bankruptcies,” said Gergela.
Maintaining a stable workforce is already a concern for local farmers, noted panelist and Dowling College fellow Judy Brink. Citing a 2008 survey on Long Island farms, Brink said around 68 percent of respondents reported that it was already difficult to maintain their workforce and losing even one worker would force them to sell their land.
For local farmers, attracting and sustaining a legal workforce is extremely difficult, due in part to complicated requirements and a dysfunctional visa system said immigration lawyer Melinda Rubin. Farmers must provide housing, which can be prohibitively expensive on the East End. For H2B visas, which are reserved for landscape, construction and hotel workers, a cap has been set at 66,000 visas nationwide, which Rubin said doesn’t satisfy the country’s labor needs. The visa process, she added, is laborious and long with some immigrants waiting years before receiving a visa.
“The government has made it easier to do the wrong thing instead of the right thing,” said Rubin of illegal immigration.
Although some complain illegal immigrants strain local resources, Rubin argued that illegal immigrants pay sales tax and contribute substantially to the Social Security system. Deporting the estimated 10 million illegal immigrants all at once, Rubin added, would cost around $206 billion, over a five year period, and would result in a $1.8 trillion loss in annual spending.
Kallick, however, disputed these figures and said it was futile to estimate these costs because mass deportation is a near impossible task.
“You don’t want a situation where people have to carry their identification papers on them at all times,” added Kallick. “We need to focus on how we can increase the legal workforce.”
Attendees of the forum, however, disagreed on whether the solution lies in a comprehensive reform of the immigration system or beefed up enforcement of the current immigration regulations.
Elaine Kahl of the Suffolk County Coalition for Legal Immigration believes stopping illegal immigration begins with enforcing the current laws, adding that local government should be diligent in upholding these laws.
Southampton Town Councilwoman Sally Pope said immigration law is a federal matter and the town won’t deputize its police force to carry out these laws.
Thiele promised there will be more forums before the summer season ends. He added that housing will likely be the subject of a follow-up forum.
Of Friday’s event, Throne-Holst said, “This is a process that is unfolding. There are a lot of facts out there and we want to bring them together to create a useful and healthy dialogue.”

Above: Fiscal Policy Institute Fellow David Dyssgaard Kallick says the immigration system is broken.

Southampton Town Picks New Comptroller

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Southampton Town Hall will undergo an administrative reshuffling in the Comptroller’s office. During a work session on Friday, May 22, town supervisor Linda Kabot announced by way of a resolution that as of June 1, Tamara Wright will be appointed as the town comptroller. Wright will serve out the remainder of current comptroller Steve Brautigam’s term, which expires in December 2009.

Since July 2008, Wright has worked as a financial consultant to the town. Brautigam will take over the position of Assistant Town Management Services Administrator, working under the authority of Richard Blowes, the town services administrator.

In addition to the new appointments, the duties of comptroller and assistant town administrator will be segregated. As always, the comptroller will oversee the financial reporting and accounting for the town, but the assistant town administrator will be responsible for many of the functions of the town’s capital program. Steve Brautigam will also coordinate between the town and the state comptroller, when the state conducts a risk analysis and audit. The state will likely commence the audit at the end of the summer or early fall, according to deputy supervisor Bill Jones.

“The intent of the re-organization is to provide greater leadership and strategic management for the comptroller’s office in terms of financial reporting and use of technology and staff resources to accomplish critical accounting duties for the town,” said Kabot in a press release distributed by the town last week.

“This reflects what I proposed several weeks ago,” councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst chimed in. “This comes at a time when we need to re-organize our financial oversight in the town.”

The decision appeared unanimous on the board, until councilman Chris Nuzzi raised complaints over Wright and Brautigam’s appointments.

“For months, I have raised numerous questions regarding how our current comptroller is performing in his job … Now it is my understanding that this inability is being rewarded with a $100,000 a year taxpayer-funded job offering … full benefits. This is completely and utterly unacceptable,” said Nuzzi in a statement released on Friday.

“In light of the continuing deliberation on budgetary numbers, capital dollars authorized and spent, authorized and unspent, fund balance amounts and budget reconciliations that have yet to be completed, I am calling for the withdrawal of this resolution,” continued Nuzzi.

According to Nuzzi, the resolution was previously discussed at a meeting attended by only four other board members, excluding himself, the supervisor’s office and the office of general services. He added that the decision of the new appointments was made “under the cloak of darkness” and that it was imprudent to vote on the resolution before a holiday weekend.

In his statement, Nuzzi recommended the town advertise for the comptroller’s position, conduct interviews in June and hold off on creating a new position in the office of general services.

Other members of the board, including Throne-Holst and councilwoman Sally Pope, strongly disagreed with Nuzzi’s statements saying the board had discussed the reorganization of the comptroller’s office for several months.

“We have discussed this issue for far too long without taking action. Yes we could have voted [on this resolution] at a regular board meeting, but we are not adding budget line. We are doing what we should have done a long time ago,” countered Throne-Holst.

“We have multiple audits underway. There is no question that our staff is being pulled away from the day to day operations of the town,” added councilwoman Nancy Graboski. “we need to have financial personnel who are on the inside.”

Kabot informed the audience that the resolution was budget neutral, meaning the town had already budgeted for the salaries of the comptroller and assistant town administrator. Wright will earn $115,000 a year, while Brautigam will earn $100,000. The town will also eliminate the director of audit and control position with a salary of $85,000.

Nuzzi’s comments did little to sway the other board member’s opinions and the resolution was passed.

CAC Wants Voice at Planning Board

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Despite a stagnant economy, commercial and residential development in Southampton appears to continue. Oftentimes, the Southampton Town Planning Board’s agenda is filled with a sizable number of projects varying in size and scope. But recent projects like Trumpets Catering Hall in Eastport, Woodfield Gables in Speonk and Water Mill Station — a 20,000 plus square foot office and retail complex approved by the planning board just this week — has brought to light a problem that Jeremy Samuelson of Group for the East End says has been simmering for years. According to Samuelson, the public can comment on the possible environmental impacts of an application only after the board has already decided whether or not to make the applicant undergo a New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR).

“The piece that is missing is public input. It is set-up to exclude the public because a critical decision is being made before the public ever has the chance to testify against the application,” exclaimed Samuelson at a Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Friday, May 15. “That is part of our outrage.”

Southampton councilwoman Sally Pope was in attendance at the meeting. She believes the planning board can be reluctant to go back and alter their decision once they have given a project a negative declaration, meaning the project doesn’t require a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

“I think their concerns are valid,” said planning board chair Dennis Finnerty referring to comments made by Samuelson and members of the Sag Harbor CAC. Finnerty noted, though, there are two types of projects the planning board analyzes: residential subdivisions and commercial site plans. The board holds a pre-application hearing on residential subdivisions, where the public can air any concerns they have with the project. For commercial site plans, however, there isn’t a pre-application hearing and the public comments on the project after the board has made a SEQR determination.

“We are trying to get the town board to amend the code to provide for some sort of public input prior to a SEQR determination,” Finnerty stated. “We are powerless to address this [unless the code is changed.]”

“For the last 10 years [The Group] has tried to change this … but we feel like we have been hitting our head against the wall,” Samuelson stated at the meeting. In reaction to public outcry, Group for the East End has formulated a solution in which the town would create an Environmental Review Committee (ERC).

According to the Group, the seven-member committee would “evaluate the potential environmental impacts of each application and issue a report, recommending a Determination of Significance to the appropriate lead agency” be that the planning board or the zoning board of appeals.

During the assessment process, the ERC would give members of the public three-minutes to speak on any particular project.

But some members of the CAC feel establishing the ERC would add another layer of bureaucracy.

“I could hear the pluses and minuses [of the proposal] at the CAC meeting,” said Pope later. “Why do we need yet another committee to take care of a process of another committee? I am definitely favorable towards the purpose of the proposal, but I think the planning board needs to hear the concerns of the public — not just get another set of recommendations.”

Opening the channels for public comment in the planning board proceedings is just one way CACs hope to establish a stronger foothold in town government. At a recent Bridgehampton CAC meeting, town supervisor Linda Kabot reportedly said she was taking steps to give CACs more access to the planning board.

The Sag Harbor CAC plans to hold Kabot to her word at an upcoming Shinnecock Hills CAC meeting on June 2, which will be attended by CACs and Civic Councils both east and west of the Shinnecock Canal. If their concerns are not met with tangible action in the town, Sag Harbor CAC chairman John Linder said the group hasn’t ruled out staging a protest in front of town hall in the coming months.

Town Ends Cablevision Talks

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For months the Southampton Town Board has discussed pursuing legal action against Cablevision, each time tabling the resolution. On Tuesday afternoon, however, the board unanimously agreed to hold off on litigation and instead file a formal complaint with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) regarding their franchise agreement with the local cable provider.

“I think this accomplishes what we wanted . . . I am disappointed that Cablevision wasn’t more amenable [in offering] a second box without any restrictions. It may not be a lot of people but we want to take care of them,” said councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst during the town board meeting. In the fall of 2008, Cablevision offered free “converter boxes” to analog-only households, but the promotion ended in December. Southampton Town Attorney Dan Adams wondered why the company wouldn’t leave the offer open indefinitely, since only a fraction of their customer base is eligible for the free boxes. The boxes will be critical for allowing individuals who now rely on over the air service to receive public access channels once the system goes all digital.

“I realize that we have a generous offer, exclusive to the East End, for free boxes to analog subscribers. But that doesn’t go far enough in my view,” stated town supervisor Linda Kabot. She added that Plum TV and News Channel 12 are still available on analog format, but not the public, educational and government (PEG) channels.

“We don’t comment on how we determine which channels are migrated,” said Patrick MacElroy, the Director of Media Relations for Cablevision, on why some 45 channels are still provided on an analog service. He noted though that his company was looking to become an all-digital provider in the future, following in the footsteps of their competitors.

Previously, Joan Gilroy, the director of governmental affairs for the company, said her employer was willing to re-instate the free “converter box” offer for another 90-day period. As the board proceeds in filing a formal complaint, it appears unlikely that this offer will remain on the table.

MacElroy wouldn’t comment on this promotional offer directly but said: “For several months late last year, analog customers who wanted to continue to receive these channels were offered a free digital set top box for life. We had proposed an extension of this free box offer but were unable to come to an agreement with the Town.”

Southampton Town’s lengthy negotiations with Cablevision fit into a larger issue up for national debate.

“Does the cable company have the right to digitize access channels?” Gilroy declared at a previous meeting.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is weighing in on this question, said Adams. He added that the FCC closed a comment period in early April and received around 800 formal comments from municipalities across the country on the issue. Adams said he had yet to see the PSC make a verdict. As the PSC is a state organization, Adams said they would most likely defer to the FCC’s ruling. Although, he noted it is still unclear if the FCC in turn will defer this issue to the state.

Councilwoman Holst added that it would be unwise for the board to move forward with a lawsuit if the FCC ultimately votes in favor of allowing cable providers to switch public access channels from an analog format to a digital format.

“This has been dragged out for many months,” noted Councilwoman Sally Pope.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to file a formal complaint,” added Kabot. She went on to say that filing the report would “cost nothing except the postage,” which the board commented had gone up to 44 cents on Monday.

Office Space Quandary at Town Hall

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Most residents, or at least those who have been issued a parking or speeding ticket, know the Southampton Town Justice Court is located in the lower level of Town Hall, but in two weeks this department will relocate to a new space in Hampton Bays. As the justice court prepares for the move, the town renovations committee, in conjunction with the town board, is in the midst of deciding what to do with the vacant space.
Town board members floated ideas of housing the town’s army of auditors in the court’s former offices. However, deputy supervisor Bill Jones pointed out that moving a whole department isn’t as simple as packing up boxes.
“There are substantial costs involved to refit the justice court to fit the needs of any individual department,” said Jones.
Town supervisor Linda Kabot remarked that town hall is already “packed to the gills.”
“I believe we should hire an outside firm to do an assessment of our spatial needs,” Jones added, saying outside specialists will direct the town on the best use of the office space.
Last year the committee interviewed architecture firms who specialize in these kinds of assessments, but their services came with price tags ranging from $30,000 to $70,000 for a complete study of the town’s spatial needs. With limited funds available for an extensive renovation, some board members believe it’s an inopportune time to spend money on outside consultants.
“If the economy stays slow for a couple years, we can’t do a big renovation,” said councilwoman Sally Pope, who believes the preliminary assessment work could be done in-house through a questionnaire distributed to each department. Although divided on hiring an outside consultant, the board seemed to endorse Pope’s idea for now and said the town and the committee could start to create questions.
“I think we need a consultant, but at least we are starting the data gathering,” Kabot said.

State to Audit Southampton Town Budget Systems

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In light of the current fiscal discrepancy in the Southampton Town’s capital accounts, Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst is calling for a legal opinion on reorganization of the staffing, reporting systems, and processes in the town’s financial department.

On Tuesday, at a regular town board meeting, Throne-Holst had one supporter for the resolution, which she said was designed to help speed the process in determining the problems with the capital accounts.

Behind Throne-Holst in favor of the legislation was newest member to the town board, Sally Pope. Pope also introduced legislation on Tuesday, which has called for the state comptroller to come in to audit the town’s accounting systems.

In January, board members learned of a problem with the capital accounts that showed some $19 million in “missing funds.” That number has since been reduced to $250,000 and is believed to be the result of certain bonds being authorized, but never issued.

Since then, the town has made some changes, including deputy supervisor Richard Blowes stepping down from that position so he can devote his time to the capital budget discrepancy with Tamara Wright, a financial consultant, hired by the town recently on a per diem basis.

Now, councilwoman Throne-Holst has introduced legislation that would add a new position, in an effort to sort out the problems with the capital budget.

“I asked for a legal opinion to achieve a reorganization of our financial needs,” the councilwoman said and added the town is facing numerous audits at present and possibly more audits in the future.

“For those of us who have been through those processes, we know it is an enormous burden on staff and personnel,” Throne-Holst commented, and added she believes there are very talented, experienced and capable people who work for the town who can better suit the town’s needs. 

Throne-Holst maintained she is calling for a “lateral change” for employees and is not speaking about demotions or salary changes for anyone.

“It is time for us to act and bite the bullet,” she continued.

Supervisor Linda Kabot was opposed to Throne-Holst’s proposal, arguing it should have been a joint discussion among board members and not introduced as a walk-on resolution, just minutes before the town board meeting.

“I agree that we need to take a look at what is going on here on our financial systems,” Kabot said, “But I don’t think this is time sensitive and should be introduced as a walk on. I perceived it as grandstanding at other people’s expense …  administrators that we respect that are in this building are being sandbagged … I do not feel that this is the proper way to go about this.”

Although Kabot said there has been some discussion and “plans in the works,” for a re-organization, she argued that the board needs to work together as decision-makers. Kabot felt that learning of a position being transferred, abolished or reorganized in the media, prior to the meeting, was unconscionable to her. It was “disrespecting the process” and “not the way to treat our human beings,” she said.

Pope backed Throne-Holst’s efforts and said “sometimes you need to bring attention to something to get it to happen.”

Board member Chris Nuzzi explained that, while he wants to iron out the problem with the capital accounts, he voted against the resolution, saying this was “not the way to do it.”


Kabot Promises a Conservative 2009

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On Monday, Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot opened the town council meeting by welcoming new councilwoman Sally Pope to the board. Because it was an organizational meeting, the board members went over some preliminary planning for 2009 and Kabot announced that with the addition of Pope, this is the first time in history, that Southampton Town has had four women on the board.

Prior to the meeting, Kabot took to the podium to present her state of the town address.

“It is my intention to continue to be a positive driving force, while encouraging others to also exhibit leadership on the issues and civility in local government,” Kabot said.

In her address, the supervisor also talked about the town’s plans to eliminate the $7.5 million deficit in the police, highway and waste management funds.

“Over the course of 2008, working with the town board, we have made improvements to the town’s financial condition but much more work must be done,” she continued.

The supervisor also announced that the town had seen a reduction in the police fund deficit at the end of 2008, but, she added, “the general fund balance is precariously low, due to I.O.U.’s from other funds and certain expenses authorized by the town board during 2008.”

“We are navigating in treacherous seas and it is the supervisor’s job to steer the ship in the right direction as the town’s chief financial officer,” said Kabot who added that in May, she will present a plan that will more specifically address issues related to the financial situation of the town.

Kabot also recounted what had been done in 2008 to help alleviate the deficit and said that 25 positions, most of which have been vacated in recent month by employees who have left town hall, were abolished. She also added that a hiring freeze has been enacted.

Kabot further added that the town’s “cookie jar” has very little cash on hand to soften impacts to taxpayers for the year 2010.

“Which means that the town board has to make difficult decisions and important changes going forward,” said Kabot who noted that many of these changes are likely to begin prior to the official release of the 2010 budget on September 30.

Kabot also asked each board member to be a department head on a “search and find” mission for savings and “find ways to do more with less.” Last year, the town used $4.5 million in “rainy day” funds to provide fiscal stability for taxpayers. Kabot said on Monday, that the board will need to be innovative, because, “they do not have that level of a rescue plan.”

“However, there is hope,” the supervisor said, “It is not all gloom and doom. With a new president to be inaugurated shortly, there is the promise of change. We express our support for President Barack Obama’s leadership of our great country during this critical time.”

She added that since the federal government was exploring economic stimulus strategies, so, too, will Southampton Town.

Pope Ready for Business

Also on Monday newcomer councilwoman Sally Pope brought up a piece of legislation that she feels is very important — particularly now that there are four women on the five seat town board. The legislation that she pioneered deals with the term “town councilman” as opposed to town councilperson or town council member.

“It was with great surprise to learn that I was campaigning for the seat of town councilman,” Pope said.

The legislation introduced by Pope at Monday’s meeting stated that the town board would like to petition the State of New York to allow for modifications to the current election law, which uses the term “town councilman.”

Pope announced, after the town board unanimously adopted the plan, that this piece of legislation will be sent to other legislators within the state.

“The town legal department will research the proposal we will make to the state, and the request will be sent to a number of officials with the state and the county to effect the change,” Pope said.

Southampton Town Swears in a Pair of Ladies

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On Friday, between light snowfall at Southampton Town Hall Supervisor Linda Kabot honored two democratic women as they took their oaths of office. Andrea Schiavoni, a North Haven resident, and Sally Pope from Remsenburg were sworn in as town justice and town councilwoman, respectively.
“Andrea and Sally really know how to pack a house,” Supervisor Kabot said to the brimming meeting room of over 70 guests.
Firstly, the supervisor acknowledged Schiavoni for her hard work and dedication along the campaign trail as she competed for the fourth seat on the town justice.
“Schiavoni’s professional skills as an attorney, mediator and arbitrator will aid her seamless transition into the role of Town Justice,” the supervisor said.
Schiavoni worked in Miami and represented more than 1,000 clients. In 1997, she took over her father’s business when he passed away, and became president of the firm, then renamed, Harum & Harum.
“I always hoped I would follow in my father’s footsteps,” she said on Friday holding back tears.
In 2001, Schiavoni changed the focus of that business to mediation and moved back to Sag Harbor, a place where she spent many summers as a child.

During the 2008 campaign trail, Schiavoni won the endorsements of the Working Families Party, the Independence Party and the Conservative Party. Republican Incumbent Tomas Demayo later challenged her to a primary election where he was able to win back his Conservative Party endorsement, which in the end, did not help him to maintain his seat.
On Friday, Schiavoni thanked her friends, family and colleagues alongside her husband and campaign manager, Tom Schiavoni and two children and said she will take all the “blessings she has been given with her to the bench.”
“We appreciate her gift of service to our judicial system and the people of Southampton Town,” Supervisor Kabot said.
“We also thank Sally Pope for her desire to make a difference on the local political landscape and contribute to the town’s governance,” Kabot said as she acknowledged Pope for her civic interests and executive experience with not for profit organizations.
Pope worked as a corporate attorney on Wall Street and in the publishing business. Later, Pope started her own private practice as an attorney and mediator. Pope mediated controversies for a wide variety of people, including school board members and teachers, governmental employees, workplace teams, business owners, families with estate problems, parents and children, divorcing couples and arguing neighbors.
“She’s also a mother and a grandmother – and wow – look at all the woman in public service these days,” Kabot said. With the addition of Pope there is now four women on the five seat town board.
After acknowledging Pope for her successes in her career, Kabot asked Schiavoni to perform her first duty as a town justice and swear-in the new town councilwoman. After taking her oath, Pope thanked friends, family and colleagues and said to her audience, “By simply electing me, my job is not done, I have a job to do and I hope you can help me do it.”
Pope also announced that she will be looking at producing round table meetings among members of the community.“We will publicize open doors and round tables and that’s the start we are looking forward to.”
Kabot welcomed Pope and joked that the town could use “lots of mediation and conflict resolution.”
Pope narrowly defeated republican incumbent Dan Russo by 832 votes in the 2008 election. Russo was appointed to the seat left vacant by Kabot when she was appointed town supervisor.
“As we look to Andrea Schiavoni and Sally Pope today,” said Supervisor Kabot, “we acknowledge their own commitment to the public’s welfare and the betterment of our community.”

Southampton Town races confirmed

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The results are in, and it’s now official — Sally Pope and Andrea Schiavoni, Democrats both — have won their seats as Southampton Town councilperson and town justice, respectively.

A mandatory machine recount was ordered after election night results left Pope in the lead over Republican incumbent Dan Russo by just 740 votes. Late Friday afternoon, the official results of that recount — which gave Pope an 832 vote margin — were sent to new Southampton Town board member, Sally Pope. Pope said Russo’s lawyer decided not to challenge the results and Pope was declared the winner.

After Election Day, the two candidates also had to await results from town absentee ballots. The official numbers came in on Friday — 12,582 votes for Remsenburg resident Pope and 11,750 for Russo, who resides in East Quogue. Pope earned 11,025 votes from registered Democrats and 1,009 from Independence party voters while Russo had 10,269 votes from Republicans and 1,481 from registered Conservatives. Another 548 votes came in for Pope from The Working Families Party, who endorsed her.

Russo was appointed to the town board earlier this year and replaced the seat vacated by councilwoman Linda Kabot when she was elected supervisor.

Now that she has won, Pope said she is looking forward to the experience of being part of the Southampton Town Board.

“As one of my first tasks, I want to look at how we perform and how we manage with scarcer resources,” Pope said.

As her first duty as an elected official, Pope said she will attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new store in Hampton Bays this Saturday, called Geek Hampton.

January 5 will be the first organizational meeting for Pope who says she is busy collecting information for that date.

Schiavoni, a Sag Harbor resident, ran against Westhampton incumbent Republican Tom DeMayo for the town justice position. Earlier this fall, DeMayo challenged Schiavoni to primary races for the Working Families, Independence and Conservative parties endorsement. DeMayo won the Conservative party line, which had previously been given to Schiavoni while Schiavoni took the other two endorsements.

By last Friday, with all the absentee votes counted, Schiavoni led DeMayo by 3,257 votes totaling 13,974 to DeMayo’s 10,717. Of those votes for Schiavoni, 11,733 came from registered Democrats, 1,462 came from Independence voters and 599 from the Working Families party. DeMayo gained 9,392 votes from registered Republicans and 1,325 from Conservative Party voters.

Schiavoni will take her seat on January 1.