Tag Archive | "Tim Bishop"

Weir Tapped to Lead Altschuler’s 2012 Campaign for Congress

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Wainscott resident Diana Weir, a longtime public servant on the East End of Long Island, has been tapped to lead Randy Altschuler’s 2012 Congressional contest campaign, according to a press release issued by Altschuler’s office on Monday morning.

Altschuler, a Republican, narrowly lost his first bid for a Congressional seat against incumbent Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop in 2010.

Altschuler cited Weir’s “deep roots in the community and vast private, public and political experience,” as the reason he has selected her to serve as his campaign manager in his second bid for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Weir is the former Executive Vice President of the Long Island Housing Partnership and is currently a member of the Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees.

She was the first Hispanic councilwoman elected to the East Hampton Town Board and formerly served as Chief of Staff to Congressman Michael Forbes, directing his offices in Washington and Long Island before resigning when Forbes became a Democrat in 1999. Most recently, she has served as the chairwoman of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the East Hampton Town Board and is also a new member of the town’s planning board.

“Diana is widely-respected across Long Island in the private, public and political arenas,” said Altschuler. “I am thrilled to formally announce her hiring today as the person leading my team on the ground. Today’s news continues the positive momentum my campaign has demonstrated since I announced my plans to seek a rematch against Congressman Bishop last spring.”

Prior to serving in government, Weir served as Senior Vice-President at the Bank of The Hamptons, and prior to that, as Senior Vice-President and Corporate Secretary for Smithtown Bancorp. Weir was appointed by Governor Pataki to the SUNY Stony Brook Council, served as a Suffolk County Human Rights Commissioner and co-chaired the Economic Development panel at the Long Island Hispanic Leadership Summit. Weir’s honors include New York City El Diario / La Prensa’s “Distinguished Latinas,” Suffolk County Hispanic Heritage Month’s “Hispanic Role Model” and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s “Small Business Minority Advocate of the Year.”

“Given the depressed state of our local economy, Long Island is in desperate need of a representative with Randy’s business experience and proven track record of creating jobs,” said Weir. “Raised by a single mother, Randy overcame his humble beginnings to turn himself into a successful entrepreneur. Randy embodies the American Dream and I couldn’t be more excited to take on this challenge and lead the charge to defeat Tim Bishop in November.”

Congressman Tim Bishop Talks Candidly About the Future

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By Claire Walla

New York Congressman Tim Bishop doesn’t seem the type to lounge around. He commutes between offices in Southampton, Patchogue and Washington D.C., and attends events across the state and across the East End, where he represents nearly 700,000 people.

But last Tuesday, October 18, Bishop sank comfortably into the cushions of a big white couch in a house off the Bridgehampton Turnpike and, surrounded by a dozen of his constituents, he began to chat.

The purpose of his visit was as part of the Bridgehampton Children’s Center’s series: “The Politics of it All.” (Past guests have included State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.) And although the conversation hinged on politics, Bishop spoke candidly about his positions on all topics raised that night, from early childhood education to what he called the “repulsive” tactics of the Tea Party Movement.

While casual, the tone of the evening was relatively dour as those who attended the discussion looked to the congressman for answers to what they see as glaring inefficiencies within the U.S. political system.

Perhaps the most outspoken attendee that evening was Randall Dobler, who before he spoke distributed a five-page document titled “Randall Dobler Economic Recovery Plan.”

He asked Bishop why — especially if the United States is looking to create more jobs and lessen its dependence on foreign oil — the U.S. government is not moving faster to promote the use of natural gas as a clean energy alternative.

Bishop’s answer turned out to be the relative mantra for the evening: “political opposition.” In the case of natural gas, he said many members of Congress who have thus far been opposed to passing legislation that would give American families the economic incentive to switch from heating their homes with oil to natural gas object to the part of the proposed bill that would put a tax on carbon-based fuels. According to Bishop, they maintain that the free market economy should reign supreme.

While political opposition is nothing new in Bishop’s line of work, the assemblyman’s critique of the current political climate went far deeper than typical party spats. For example, he said there’s “no political will” among many conservative members of Congress to move away from carbon-based fuels. And then, raising the pitch of his voice in frustration, he added: “Many members [of Congress] don’t even believe in climate change!”

Bishop reaffirmed what many in the room seemed to already believe, that such fundamental differences between members of Congress have created a vast schism within government, which has steered the country to where it is now: at a relative stalemate.

After the group lamented the woes of the American work force — which event organizer Bonnie Cannon said is worrisome because it’s been flooded with many college graduates who can’t find employment — attendee Lucius Ware, head of the East End chapter of the NAACP, drew comparisons between today’s problems and the American workforce in the 1950s and 60s. The so-called “space race,” he said, “kicked the workforce into high gear.”

“This is our Sputnik moment,” Bishop agreed. “But the environment could not possibly be more adverse to get that done.”

Bishop said he is baffled by the notion that certain measures he feels would bolster the American economy — like bills to boost spending for infrastructure that would create jobs — have been shot down by Congress in large part because Republicans are unwilling to budge on the issue of raising taxes in any way, shape or form. Referencing a Republican debate back in August during which the eight candidates stated they wouldn’t even consider raising taxes $1 for every $10 of spending cuts, Bishop said, “That’s lunacy!”

“I hate to say it,” he continued, “But [the conservative right] is not about to give [President Barack Obama] a win. That sounds hopelessly partisan, but I believe it’s right.”

Bishop explained that there are currently 25 million Americans under or unemployed in the United States, and he feels there is “no chance” the conservative right will accept the president’s spending plans, which currently propose $50 million for infrastructure and $35 million for schools.

“I see intransigence on the part of Republicans,” he added. “And a total unwillingness to move [on these points].”

The group went on to discuss government cuts to early childhood education programs, including Head Start. Bishop complained that the budget passed by Congress last April included 25 percent cuts to the program. To which Bridgehampton Head Start Manager Daphne Gil, who shared the couch with Bishop that night, noted that such cuts actually have an adverse affect on the work force as a whole.

“You have to allow people to let their children go to daycare and go to school so that they can go to work,” she said.

Bishop sympathized with her complaints and said, of the cuts, “there’s not logic to it.” Bishop added that he believes these programs should be restored, and said the country needs to put more effort into bolstering math and science programs, because this, he noted, is where the future of the job market will be.

In the midst of such a seemingly bleak forecast, Cannon made an attempt to shift the discussion.

“I’m feeling a bit down,” she said with an ironic laugh. “Can you tell me there’s some light at the end of the tunnel?”

Without being specific, Bishop offered an analysis of the current political climate.

“At the root of everything is fear,” he explained. “Fear of not having a job, of not being able to send your kids to college… and that leads to resentment, resentment leads to distrust, and distrust leads to anger. And that is one of the forces at play that I think is very debilitating.”

As an antidote, Bishop said he is advocating passion; people in politics “who think we can do better.” As for how the U.S. gets to a place where passion overcomes anger, “It’s hard,” he added. “But it’s important for people to say: this isn’t the country we had in mind.”

Hard to Find Anti-Nuke Rep

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By Karl Grossman

The 1st Congressional District of eastern Long Island has a long record of opposition to nuclear power. It is here that because of citizen and governmental opposition, a completed nuclear power plant, Shoreham, was stopped from going into commercial operation–a first for the United States.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex disaster has, according to polls, increased the negative stance on nuclear power in the U.S. causing a majority to now be against it. In eastern Suffolk, with a majority already against nuclear power, that  majority is likely to have grown.

So it is surprising that Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton, in a letter earlier this month to a long-time environmental activist, educator and leader in the fight against the Shoreham plant, would declare his support for nuclear power.

“Nuclear energy is clean burning, offers little in the way of emissions, and creates an abundant supply of energy independent of the influence of foreign governments and their policies,” wrote Congressman Bishop in a September 1 letter to Peter Maniscalco of Manorville. Mr. Bishop went on, “I agree with the [Obama] Administration that it should remain part of our domestic energy portfolio in the short and long term, and therefore merits support from the American people.”

“The recent crisis in Japan,” Mr. Bishop continued, “underscores the significant risk posed by the failure of radiation containment systems at nuclear plants. Drawing lessons learned from the crisis in Japan, we must reevaluate the safety of our existing nuclear facilities and whether effective plans are in place for protecting the public if radiation is released. Security policies must be updated to reflect not only the possibility of natural disasters but also the heightened risk of a terrorist attack on nuclear facilities in the U.S. Specifically for our area, the response plan for a potential release at Millstone must take into account the population density within a twenty mile radius of the plant and the limited routes for evacuation from Long Island.”

“I support robust new standards for proper siting, safety, and community input for new nuclear plants,” said the congressman. “Although it is impossible to guarantee the absolute safety of nuclear facilities, our safety advancements must match our nuclear ambitions.”

The letter was prompted by a letter sent to Mr. Bishop by Mr. Maniscalco stating that “the earthquake and ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Japan must be a wake-up call to us all. New nuclear reactors in the United States are unacceptable. It is impossible to imagine given the images from Japan that anyone could ever again confuse nuclear power with ‘clean’ energy.
Please end — immediately — all taxpayer subsidies for nuclear power. I do not want one more penny of my tax dollars going to this dangerous, dirty, and wholly unnecessary industry.”

Commenting on Mr. Bishop’s reply, Mr. Maniscalco said: “Has Congressman Bishop learned nothing from Fukushima? Didn’t Fukushima prove that nuclear power is neither clean nor safe? … He still believes the arrogant assurances of nuclear scientists — like those at Brookhaven Lab, where a new nuclear division has opened.”

“If Representative Bishop can’t hear the arguments of nuclear opponents, maybe he should listen to Wall Street and its many investment bankers who consider nuclear power an investment that is too risky and too costly,” Mr. Maniscalco went on. “But it appears that Mr. Bishop is unwilling to turn away from nuclear power, so he supports publicly subsidizing the construction of new nuclear plants.  Why should taxpayers underwrite the costs of filthy, risky, deadly nuclear power?”

As to Mr. Bishop’s reference to “population density within twenty miles” of the two Millstone nuclear plants across the Long Island Sound and evacuation of the public, Mr. Maniscalco noted that the U.S. government directed U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the Fukushima plants to evacuate. That’s a distance which, if there were a major accident at Millstone, would cover most of eastern Long Island — including all of Sag Harbor and neighboring communities.

If voters in the 1st C.D. don’t like Democrat Bishop’s position on nuclear power, their voting options are likely to be limited in the next Congressional election. Of his leading Republican challengers, Randy Altschuler of St. James declares on his website that he is for “greater use of safe nuclear power,” and George Demos of Ronkonkoma says “nuclear power is essential to our energy independence.”

New Coalition Seeks to Limit Aircraft Noise

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By Claire Walla

In the height of the summer season, when many of the city’s Hamptons-bound denizens take to the skies to circumvent traffic, local discontent over noisy aircraft tends to bubble to the surface.

Two weeks ago, these sentiments coalesced in the form of a new organization called The Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC).

“The amount of traffic using the airport uncontrolled is mind-boggling,” said QSC member Bob Wolfram, a resident of Carlisle Lane in Sag Harbor.

He pointed to the very first QSC meeting to illustrate his point. When founding members of the grass-roots coalition were gathered in QSC Chairman Barry Raebeck’s backyard (a two-minute drive from the airport), Wolfram said he counted precisely 12 small planes, five jets and two helicopters, all of which flew over the property in the course of the two-hour meeting, from 10 a.m. to noon.

“We had to stop talking when they flew over,” he said.

While local efforts have voiced strong opinions against aircraft noise for years, Raebeck said this coalition (which already has about 140 members) represents a stronger, more far-reaching alliance, all united under the notion that airplanes and helicopters “are an aural and visual blight to the East End,” Raebeck explained. “They are for the benefit of a wealthy few, at the expanse of everyone else.”

East Hampton Town has currently set recommended restrictions on airplane travel between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. And it encourages planes and helicopters to travel no lower that 2,500 feet for as long as possible before reaching the East Hampton tarmac.

“They have recommendations, but no one is enforcing them,” Raebeck continued.

For members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, many problems with the airport stem from the fact that the town has collected grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which in effect bars the town from regulating any of these restrictions. “The town has abdicated all responsibility. [The East Hampton Airport] is legally and technically an ‘uncontrolled airport,’” Raebeck said.

Airport manager Jim Brundige confirmed that airport regulation is in the hands of the FAA, which forbids the town from limiting access to the airport, even imposing time restrictions. The town accepted money from the FAA as recently as 2001 for minor repairs like repaving, Brundige explained. And because FAA grants carry a stipulation that binds airports to federal aviation regulations for a 20-year period, this means East Hampton Town must adhere to FAA rules through 2021.

Congressman Tim Bishop — who has been involved with efforts to regulate helicopter noise on the East End — said the town will have to decide, once the 20-year period is up, whether or not to continue receiving grant money.

“If they don’t, then the obligation would fall to the tax payers of East Hampton,” he explained.

In general, Bishop said FAA regulations are reasonable. However, “I don’t want to say aircraft noise needs to be reduced, but it needs to be regulated in some way.”

According to East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, that’s exactly what he, as the airport liaison, has been working on for the past year.

“Helicopter traffic is a regional problem that starts in Manhattan,” Stanzione explained. Along with elected officials in Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southampton, he said he’s reestablished the town’s relationship with the FAA to establish a southern route to the airport. (He said the town would officially announce the new route in the next couple of weeks.) Stanzione estimated this would cut traffic over the northern communities down by about 60 percent.

“We call it burden-sharing,” he added.

Stanzione also said the town is working with the FAA to get permission to place a seasonal control tower at the airport, as well.

“If we have permission to install this seasonal control tower, then we will have effective control in and around East Hampton,” he said. In the end, he added, “I suspect the town’s new relationship with the FAA will provide helpful improvements with noise management, and provide the best possible solutions for our neighbors.”

But the QSC is calling for more than just an additional southern route. Airplanes and helicopters, the group contends, carry more burden that noise pollution. They are also hazardous to the environment.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” QSC member Bob Wolfram continued. “The East End of Long Island is a beautiful place. [Little pieces] get chipped away over time,” he admitted. “But the growth of the airport has taken a big hunk out of our quality of life.”

Demos Announces Candidacy for Congress

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Republican and former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer George Demos officially filed papers this week to run for Congress, sending an email and video to supporters and media Monday morning announcing his decision.

Seeking to unseat Congressman Tim Bishop, Demos will have to face off in a primary next year against Saint James businessman Randy Altschuler, who bested Chris Cox and Demos in a primary battle in 2010. Altschuler narrowly lost to Bishop in one of the closest elections races in the country last year.

“More than ever we see how important it is, not just to elect someone with an R next to their name, but to elect a real Conservative with steely determination who will not fail us, who will not falter, and who will not waiver when he gets to Washington,” said Demos in a statement.

Altschuler, who announced his decision to run for Congress in 2012 in June, already has the garnered the support of the Republican and Conservative party leaders in Suffolk County.

“We need to learn from last year’s mistakes and not let divisions within our own party allow Tim Bishop to sneak back into office again,” said County GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle said in a statement released to media on Monday. “Our country is in the midst of a severe economic and fiscal crisis, and we need a business leader like Randy Atlschuler in Washington to fix it.”

“Today’s announcement by George Demos has no impact on our strategy moving forward,” said Altschuler spokesman Chris Russell. “Randy is humbled by the broad support he’s receiving from Republican and Conservative Party leaders, and he’s focused on holding Tim Bishop accountable for the mess in Washington and defeating him next November.”

Bishop, currently serving his fifth term, has already said he will seek a sixth term in 2012.

26 Acres in Wainscott Purchased by East Hampton Town

The East Hampton Town Board approved a $3.2 million purchase of 26-acres in Wainscott through the Community Preservation Fund after holding a public hearing during its Thursday, August 4 meeting.

The property consists of exactly 25.7 acres at 198 Six Pole Highway near the intersection of Route 114, just outside the Village of Sag Harbor. The purchase was supporting by the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society at the Thursday evening meeting.

An additional acre on the same property has already been promised to an adjacent cemetery, which will be given the land through a lot line modification, according to a resolution passed by the board on the purchase of the land.

Thiele Continues to Survey Local Gas Prices

In his ongoing crusade to bring fair gas prices to the East End, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. submitted a third report this week to the State Attorney General detailing illegal zone pricing of gasoline on the Twin Forks.

However, according to the survey, gas prices have become more equitable and have stabilized over the last two weeks when compared to other regions in New York.

In the August 7 survey, the most prevalent price on the South Fork for gasoline was $3.99 a gallon or lower at nine stations located on Montauk Highway between East Hampton and Sunrise Highway. The lowest price was $3.97 and the highest $4.09. The average price is about $0.05 lower than the Long Island Average, and $0.04 more than the state average.

“Gasoline prices are still too high,” said Thiele in a written statement. “However, they have remained stable over the last two weeks. The differential between the South Fork and the rest of Long Island remains small with prices between East Hampton and Southampton slightly lower than the Island-wide average. The differential with the North Fork, which has the lowest gasoline prices on Long Island, was around $0.35 on the South Fork on Memorial Day. It is now about $0.10.”

However, the Assembly added that Amagansett and Montauk continue to face higher gas prices than the rest of the region. There, according to Thiele, gas prices are more than $.30 cents above the Long Island average.

“Amagansett and Montauk are clearly paying too much,” said Thiele. “This is why we need a stronger zone pricing law and open supply legislation.”

Thiele first contacted the attorney general’s office after Memorial Day weekend gas prices on the South Fork remained at $4.25 cents per gallon, while the rest of Long Island averaged around $4.08, and the rest of New York State averaged $4.02.

Thiele has also sponsored legislation to strengthen New York’s existing law on zone pricing of gasoline – when an arbitrary price is assigned to gasoline based on geography rather than the wholesale or legitimate cost of the product.

Thiele has also sponsored open supply legislation that would enable gas stations to purchase cheaper motor fuel on the wholesale market from alternative suppliers and pass the savings on to the consumer.

Governor Signs Southampton CPF PILOT Legislation

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that resolve some of the issues raised in a state comptroller’s audit of the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) PILOT payments by the Town of Southampton.

The legislation was sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and New York State Senator Ken LaValle.

The audit, completed in November of 2010, found that in the years 2008 and 2009 the Town of Southampton had made payments from the CPF to school and special districts that exceeded the amount permitted by State law by $664, 647. In particular, the Riverhead School District and the Eastport-South Manor School District received excessive payments, according to the report. The State Comptroller directed the town to resolve the issue in his report.

Under the proposed legislation, the overpayments would be legally validated and the school districts would be absolved from having to make any repayment. The town will be legally responsible to restore the excess payment to the fund either by dedicating land or providing non-CPF funds equal to or greater than the overpayment.

“The Town of Southampton made overpayments of CPF monies for PILOTS in 2008 and 2009,” said Thiele “This has been confirmed by the state comptroller. It was imperative that these funds be restored to be used for the rightful purpose of land preservation. This legislation insures that will happen. It also insures that local school taxpayers will not be punished for a mistake that they did not make. The school districts will be held harmless. Further, the Town will be permitted to use funds, such as impact fees collected from developers, to replenish the fund. This legislation will maintain the integrity of the CPF, while insuring that neither school nor town property taxpayers have to bear the burden of the repayment.”

The legislation also establishes additional requirements for PILOT payments in the future to ensure that such overpayments never happen again. The new law provides that in determining payments to each school and special district, each parcel eligible for a PILOT payment shall be assessed in the same manner as state land is and that the assessment for each parcel is approved by the state. The new law also states that not more than ten percent of the CPF may be used for these purposes. The maximum percentage of 10% for such purposes may be reduced by a proposition approved by the voters.

Finally, the new law requires the town board to adopt an annual plan, after input through a public hearing, which specifies each eligible parcel and provides the amount of payment for each eligible parcel.

Bishop: Reid, Not Boehner

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Congressman Tim Bishop on Tuesday announced he would not support a new debt proposal by United States House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and would instead “reluctantly” support a plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Bishop said that supporting Boehner’s proposal would be tantamount to supporting cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, while preserving tax loopholes, assuring the country’s credit rating would be downgraded and “the specter of government default” would continue to haunt the country.

“I cannot vote for something that is so damaging to the middle class families I was elected to fight for and so contrary to every value I believe in,” said Congressman Bishop in a statement. “My line in the sand is that I will not support a deal that asks Medicare recipients to sacrifice, but does not ask for an ounce of sacrifice from big oil companies and hedge fund managers. It is long past time to find a reasonable compromise and then get on to the business of helping Americans find jobs.”

Under Boehner’s two-stage plan to help increase the $14.3 trillion federal debt limit, Congress would immediately cut $1.2 trillion in domestic discretionary spending over the next 10 years. That would reduce the debt ceiling for six months, when Congress would have to take up the issue again.

Bishop said the plan would then require Congress to cut an additional $1.8 trillion in spending over 10 years without any increase in revenues, which would lead to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, as outlined in the budget passed by House Republicans in April.

The White House has also come out against the Boehner plan, with President Barack Obama stating the plan offers only a temporary solution, which could lead to market instability, wounding an already delicate economy.

In his statement, Bishop said that should the nation be subjected to another “debt limit showdown” in six months time, bond rating agencies, including Standard & Poor’s, have said they might still reduce the country’s AAA bond rating to AA despite the extension of the debt ceiling.

Such an historic cut would mean higher interest rates on everything, said Bishop, from the debt paid by the government to mortgages, credit cards and student loans — essentially imposing a tax on all Americans, he added.

Bishop said he has consistently advocated for a balanced approach in deficit reduction, combining spending cuts with revenue increases by eliminating loopholes and “waste expenditures” in the tax code.

Bishop said he would “reluctantly” vote for a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Reid, despite the fact that his plan does not seek to close loopholes in the tax code, in an effort to avoid a government default.

According to Bishop, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake in an address to Congress last week said that failing to raise the debt ceiling by the August 2 deadline would “no doubt have a very adverse effect very quickly on recovery.”

The government would have to cut 40 to 45 percent of federal outlays, said Bishop, potentially jeopardizing Social Security benefits, paychecks for members of the military, and the nation’s ability to pay interest on outstanding debt.

With that knowledge, Bishop has decided to support the Reid proposal to cut $2.7 trillion over 10 years with no revenue increases or cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. The plan also takes into account $1 trillion in savings in reduced costs relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, after Bishop released his statement, on Tuesday night House Republican leaders were forced to delay a scheduled vote on the Boehner plan to Wednesday or Thursday, as Republican House leaders scrambled to revise the proposal after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said his plan would cut spending by $850 billion over the next decade. That is about $150 billion less than the $1 trillion increase proposed for the debt limit.

The Congressional Budget Office also released its findings on the Reid proposal on Tuesday morning, stating it would actually save $2.2 trillion over the next decade, not $2.7 trillion as Reid has stated.

President Obama has said he will veto the Boehner plan if it passes both the House and the Senate and arrives on his desk. Pundits in Washington have stated the Reid plan has little hope of making it through a conservative House of Representatives.

Village Races Remain Uncontested – So Far

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By Kathryn G. Menu

With village elections in both Sag Harbor and North Haven slated for June 21, both villages currently are looking at uncontested races, although with just less than two weeks before nominating petitions are due, it is possible a dark horse candidate could enter either race.

Sag Harbor Village previously reported a May 5 deadline for nominating petitions. But on Tuesday Sag Harbor Village Clerk Beth Kamper confirmed that the actual earliest date a candidate can file a petition is May 10. The deadline to file a petition is a week later, on Tuesday, May 17. This is true for North Haven as well.

In Sag Harbor, despite rumors about former village mayor Pierce Hance and former village board candidate Ryan Horn, Jr. throwing their hats into the ring, as of Tuesday afternoon only incumbent mayor Brian Gilbride, trustee Ed Gregory, trustee Tim Culver and village justice Andrea Schiavoni had picked up petitions for re-election under the Sag Harbor Party banner.

Similarly, in North Haven Village, incumbent trustees Jim Smyth and Jeff Sander — on the North Haven Party ticket — are the only candidates to pick up petitions to run for election. There is no mayoral race in that village this year.

In other election news, the East Hampton Town Republican Committee announced this week that it has nominated Jill Massa for Town Assessor and Lisa Rana — the acting village justice in Sag Harbor — for town justice.

The remainder of the Republican Committee nominees will be announced after the May 11 nominating convention. The East Hampton Democratic Committee will convene its nominating convention on May 16.

Thiele Aims to Combat Gas Prices

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced last week that he has co-sponsored two new bills in the state assembly to combat the rising cost of gas on Long Island as prices have soared locally to over $4.50 at some stations.

In the short term, Thiele has introduced legislation that would suspend three different state taxes on motor fuel during the four-day Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends.

The three taxes are an $0.08 cent excise tax, a 4.25 percent sales tax above $2 per gallon and the $0.17 cent petroleum business tax. According to Thiele, these taxes currently cost motorists about $0.34 cents per gallon, which at $5 per galloon could save motorists about $0.38 cents a gallon or about $5.70 on a 15-gallon fill-up.

According to Thiele, New York State currently ranks sixth in the nation for gas prices at an average of $4.07 and is second only to Connecticut on the Northeast.

“The Eastern Long Island economy is highly dependent on tourism and vacation homes,” said Thiele. “Nearly 60 percent of homes east of the Shinnecock Canal are vacation homes. Small businesses in our region generate a disproportionate amount of their revenues during these holiday periods.”

“This legislation would not only make it more affordable to get here, it would make the region more attractive than many other states in the Northeast for vacations,” continued Thiele. “This is a win-win-win for motorists, small business, and the state, which will more than make up for the loss of gas tax revenue through increased sales tax revenue from shopping, restaurants, hotels, and more.”

While the short-term solution is helpful to motorists, Thiele said this week it is imperative the state do more.

“While motorists need short-term relief, in the long run it is imperative the state reduce its dependence on expensive foreign fossil fuels,” he said. “Since the 1970’s, we have pledged action to pursue alternative energy, only to revert back to gas guzzling ways after the crisis has passed. This time must be different.”

The second bill Thiele has introduced would create an “Alternative Fuel Incentive Fund.”

Currently, state sales tax on gasoline is capped so that there is no tax above $2 per gallon. Thiele’s bill would take the state sales tax from  motor and diesel fuel priced between $1 and $2 per gallon and deposit it into a dedicated fund. That fund would then be used towards a personal income tax and corporate franchise tax credit equal to $500 for every hybrid or fuel flexible vehicle purchased. It would also provide a rebate for 30 percent of the cost to install an alternative fueling station or convert an existing gas station to allow for the sale of alternative fuels.

In addition, $30 million would go towards research and development of fuel diversification and energy efficiency and $27 million to provide the travel plazas on the New York State Thruway with fueling stations for alternative fuels.

“Investment in the research and development for alternative energy, creating green jobs, protecting the environment, and reducing dependence on foreign oil would all be enhanced by this fund,” said Thiele.

CR 39 Ceremony Set in Honor of Edwin “Buzz” Schwenk

On Friday, May 6 at 11 a.m. County Road 39 will be named in memory of Southampton businessman Edwin M. “Buzz” Schwenk in a public dedication ceremony organized by Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

The ceremony will be held at the intersection of County Road 39 and the northwest corner of David White’s Lane in Southampton.

Schwenk passed away on December 17, 2009 at the age of 86.

A Southampton native, Schwenk was not just a businessman, but an accomplished military officer who took on civic causes during the course of his life. He was involved in the creation of the 1993 Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act and helped bring about the passage of the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund.

In November of 2010, Schneiderman introduced legislation to name County Road 39 in Schwenk’s memory. His legislation followed a July veto by then-Governor David Paterson of a measure sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Ken LaValle. That measure would have renamed 154 acres of state land north of the Francis Gabreski Airport in Westhampton the “Edwin M. Schwenk Memorial Nature Preserve.” The legislation was vetoed because only the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had jurisdiction to rename the acreage.

In December of 2010, Schneiderman gained unanimous Suffolk County Legislature approval to rename County Road 39 in Schwenk’s memory — a tribute he said was fitting as Schwenk long fought for the expansion of the road.

Fight For the First

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By Karl Grossman

The final count in the lst Congressional District race is 98,316 for Democrat Tim Bishop and 97,723 for Republican Randy Atschuler—a razor-thin Bishop win by just 593 votes. Never in recent years has the margin of victory been as tiny in the lst C.D. Meanwhile, Suffolk Republicans see a big lesson from the small Bishop win.

Political blood was smelled in the lst C.D. before the campaign began. Indeed, four-term incumbent Bishop’s perceived vulnerability was the reason Mr. Atschuler, after considering running for Congress in several areas, moved to Suffolk from New Jersey—to take Mr. Bishop on.

Now, after Mr. Bishop’s thin win—contested for more than a month by Mr. Atschuler who only conceded last week—the GOP sees Mr. Bishop as more vulnerable than earlier thought.

“Absolutely I think he is extremely vulnerable,” said Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle last week. Mr. LaValle emphasized that with nearly 200,000 votes cast, the Bishop edge was miniscule. It was .003 percent. “That’s remarkably low.”

There are numerous causes as to why. Clearly, the GOP tsunami this year which resulted in a gain of 63 Republican seats in the House of Representatives was a substantial factor. There was the discontent of many with President Obama, a major reason for the tsunami. The enormous amount of money spent in the race by Mr. Atschuler—reportedly $2.8 million of his own money between primary and general election campaigns for a total of $4.2 million—was a big factor. However, Mr. Bishop spent plenty, too: $2.5 million. For both camps, it was mostly for advertising.
Then there was the resurgence of Republican strength in Brookhaven Town which makes up two/thirds of the lst C.D. by population. The district also includes Southampton and East Hampton and the other East End towns and most of Smithtown. Mr. LaValle also cites “a slipping in constituent service” by Mr. Bishop’s Congressional office which has become “politicized.”
Candidate Atschuler ran with an albatross on his back: having made his fortune in outsourcing jobs overseas, especially to India—which Mr. Bishop focused on and made his central issue. It undoubtedly cost Mr. Atschuler votes.

What about a nominee next time without this kind of handicap? A leading elected government official in Suffolk said last week: “If the candidate had Mike Fitzpatrick’s resume and Atschuler’s money, Bishop would have lost.” Being referred to was four-term State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick who won re-election last month with a startling 72% of the vote. GOPer Fitzpatrick had sought to run against Mr. Bishop this year but withdrew after Mr. Atschuler got Conservative support.

A popular figure in Smithtown—the son of a former town supervisor—the affable Mr. Fitzpatrick said last week that “my phone has been ringing” about his being a candidate the next time Mr. Bishop is up for re-election. “Am I interested? Yes. There will be conversations over who will be the best candidate in 2012.” Also, “we’ll hear what [Suffolk Conservative Party Chairman] Ed Walsh is going to do. If he says he’s going to go with Atschuler again, we’ll see.” Conservative backing is seen as important for a Republican to win in the lst C.D.

Will Mr. Atschuler take a path tread in the lst C.D. a half-century ago by Democrat Otis Pike after he lost in 1958? Mr. Pike spent the next two years doing non-stop campaigning—including constant civic group appearances. Then, in 1960, he ran again and this time won—narrowly, by 2,737 votes—over four-term Republican incumbent Stuyvesant Wainwright II. Mr. Pike then comfortably held the seat until retiring from it 18 years later.
Mr. LaValle notes that it is unknown whether Mr. Bishop “will run for re-election in 2012” and also stresses that “a lot happens in two years.”
These are also politically volatile times in the U.S. If the GOP persists in such moves as what Democrats are now decrying as extending “tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” there could be a new tidal wave—this one favoring Democrats. And, in a switch, Mr. Bishop could be in a strong position for re-election. But it sure doesn’t look that way now.

Congressman Tim Bishop

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By Emily J Weitz

Now that you have a renewed mandate from your electorate, what are the issues at the top of your agenda?

Nationally, far and away the number one issue is job creation. Everything we do has to be related to this. One of the frustrations a great many of us have had is there hasn’t been enough focus on this and hopefully we will now.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

A couple of things: some of the pieces of the tax cut compromise that has been worked out can be very stimulative. Certainly the payroll tax reduction. Moving the Social Security tax from 6.2 to 4.2 percent will pump $120 billion into the economy over the next two years. That can be tremendously stimulative. The other is the allowing of small businesses to expense 100% of their investments, which can be very stimulative as well. I have a real optimism about those two things. We also have to focus on full and robust reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Bill, or the Highway Bill. That is a proven job creator in my opinion.

What does that look like in New York?

We’re going to see federal dollars coming to New York for road and bridge jobs that will put more people to work. The bill deals with all forms of transportation, including mass transit, rail, roads and bridges. We have a crumbling infrastructure. We are trying to run a 21st century economy on 20th century infrastructure. We must take on this effort. What challenges do you foresee with the new makeup of the House? The Surface Transportation Bill, for example, will be a heavy lift. The bill doesn’t have much support among Republicans. It will require real leadership from the White House to get that done.I’m very concerned about that.

Are there any other issues that are particularly important to you?

There are a lot. But it’s important to get the federal government to pay attention to New York. I serve on an education committee and there’s an important piece of financial aid policy: the Perkins Student Loan Program. Higher education is a huge industry on Long Island. I am going to work very hard on that. Also, the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, which deals with shoreline protection and storm damage. This study has been going on far too long and we want to end it. It will recommend a whole series of actions to help protect our shorelines. My job is to see that they get funded.

What do you want the public to know about your philosophy as an elected official? Well, I believe I have been elected and my principal job is to represent my constituents and to help solve problems. The piece of our work I am most proud of is the work we’ve done assisting individual constituents. We have helped thousands over the time I’ve been in office. I’m proud of how I’ve partnered with every other elected official in this local government to bring the federal government to the local level. These are two things I believe in strongly: constituent service and bringing the power of the federal government to help resolve local problems.

Altschuler Concedes Congressional Race to Bishop

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By Bryan Boyhan

Ending the last contested race this year for a seat in the U.S. Congress, Republican candidate Randy Altschuler conceded the election Wednesday morning, offering his congratulations to Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop in the First Congressional District.

“I entered this race because I was worried about the future of our nation,” Altschuler said in a release from his campaign. “The problems America faces are many and will not be easily solved. I plan to stay active in politics and continue to speak out on the issues that affect the residents of Suffolk County, our state and our nation.”

Four-term Congressman Bishop said Altschuler called him at about 8:45 a.m. “to give me a heads up that he was going to make the announcement.”

“We had a very gracious and cordial conversation,” said Bishop in an interview Wednesday. “I said even though we had gone head to head pretty hard during the campaign, I had great respect for him and wished him well.”

Depending upon which camp you spoke with, Bishop led Wednesday by either 263 or 270 votes. Both campaigns were in the middle of counting through more than 2,000 challenged ballots — after approximately 11,500 absentee and affidavit votes had been cast —  and were expecting to be in front of State Supreme Court Judge Peter Mayer today to move further through the count. As of Tuesday, about 1,100 of the contested absentee ballots remained to be judged. There were more than 194,000 votes cast in the race.

“After consulting with my family and campaign staff, I am ending my campaign and offering congratulations to Congressman Tim Bishop on his victory,” Atschuler said in his statement.

“Although Newsday, The New York Times and the Bishop campaign have all called for a hand recount of all the ballots cast on Election Day, I will not support such an action as I feel its cost will place an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers of Suffolk County,” the candidate said.

The Altschuler campaign also dropped its legal challenges to the remaining uncounted absentee ballots, allowing the county’s board of elections to count the remaining ballots, said the release.

“While the Altschuler campaign has uncovered numerous instances of absentee ballots that may have been unlawfully cast, the campaign is confident that the proper authorities will take the appropriate action concerning them and that their number is too small to alter the outcome of the election,” the release said.

In a press conference Wednesday, Bishop called the allegations of broad voter fraud “a red herring,” and said his campaign was not pushing for a full recount.

“We would have a very high bar to reach,” to begin a recount, said Bishop adding he was satisfied with the bi-partisan and Suffolk County Board of Elections-ratified count.

Of the 1,100 challenged votes remaining to be counted, “about 800 were presumed Bishop votes and about 300 were presumed Altschuler votes,” said Bishop Wednesday morning. “I just think they figured the numbers didn’t add up.”

“Mathematically, it just did not seem possible to win,” Altschuler agreed in an interview Wednesday. “It was really unnecessary to prolong the effort.”

He said he intended to remain active, but said it was too early to consider another run for congress, and added he had not decided what role he may play politically.

On offering advice to Bishop, Altschuler stated: “One thing I had said when I was leading the race is that this is a divided district; so whoever wins must make an effort to represent all of our district.”

Acknowledging the closeness of the race, Bishop said the First District is a difficult place for a Democrat to get elected.

“There are 30,000 to 35,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the district,” Bishop said, adding there are more registered Conservatives in the district than anywhere else in the state.

He also acknowledged that, nationwide, Democrats were fighting off a tremendous Republican wave, with more than 30 of his Democratic colleagues losing their seats in the House.

“I’m delighted, frankly, to have withstood what amounted to be a Category 5 hurricane,” Bishop said.

The congressman credited the work he and his staff have done as one of the reasons for his victory.

“I see it as a validation,” he said and added during the press conference Wednesday morning that “you elect a representative to solve problems, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Bishop acknowledged that, since the election changed so many seats in the House, “I now have a very different job. I’m going to try to use the relationships I’ve developed to influence my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. And I’m going to have to resist that which I think is detrimental to my constituents.”

The concession marks the end of a race that has fluctuated wildly over the past month. Unofficial Election Day results had given Bishop a 3,500 vote lead, only to have Altschuler claim a 383-vote advantage after the county’s new electronic voting machines were re-read. It wasn’t until after the absentee votes had been tabulated that Bishop regained a narrow lead that built until Wednesday morning’s concession.

On the narrow margin of victory, Bishop concluded “If ever anyone needed a civics lesson on the platitude that every vote counts, this is that civics lesson.”