10/26/11 12:59pm

The Bible tells us leadership is about “acting justly and walking humbly.”  It’s about honesty and integrity. It’s about accuracy and care. It’s about character, intellect, diligence and experience. It’s about competence and trust and service. It’s about devoting yourself fully to the task before you.

Leadership is not about pride and arrogance.

Woody Allen has said, “Life is 90 percent showing up.” So is leadership. Showing up is one of the challenges to which our current supervisor has not responded well.

Leadership is about being open and honest with the public — another challenge to which our current supervisor has not responded well.

Recall that this supervisor signed a no-bid contract with a relative of his campaign treasurer, often left government Channel 22 silent and black, ignored Freedom of Information Law requests, refused to schedule work sessions to discuss the town budget and waited until after his election to announce he’d continue to practice law while serving as supervisor.

Our current supervisor speaks frequently of “illusions of progress” during my time as supervisor.

What is illusory about adding $11 million to the town’s reserves from non-refundable deposits at EPCAL, successful litigation against LIPA, and careful fiscal management?

What is illusory about the fact that on my watch, Riverhead’s credit rating was twice raised to its highest level ever, and now our Town can borrow at lower interest rates with less expense to the taxpayers?

What is illusory about producing six Town budgets with tax increases averaging less than the rate of inflation?

What is illusory about giving back $20,000 of my salary to the town?

What is illusory about a 10 percent increase in police officers, creation of a town youth bureau, passage of the town’s first ethics code, preservation of over 1,100 acres of farmland and open space, passage of Master Plan zoning, passage of laws encouraging use of renewable energy and energy conservation, and adoption of a rental law, an accessory apartment law and a safe housing initiative.

My opponent speaks of “true leadership.”  What is more true than a leader who respects his fellow board members regardless of party affiliation, asks each to vote his or her conscience on a matter critical to the town and is rewarded by a unanimous vote across party lines, putting Riverhead first?  This happened often during my time as supervisor.

During my opponent’s time as supervisor, town residents have been treated to the spectacle of Town Board members accusing their same-party supervisor of immaturity (Dunleavy), paranoia (Wooten) and threatening behavior (Giglio, Gabrielsen and Dunleavy).

What happened to civil discourse between Town Board members?

Former Republican Town Board members Barbara Blass and Rose Sanders both recently endorsed me in this year’s race for supervisor. Leadership is about earning the respect of others by treating others with respect.

Leadership is about being a servant to the public, not their master.

Leadership is about awareness that rule of law and equality under the law are fundamental to democracy.

These are other challenges to which our current supervisor has not responded well.

Leadership is also about good new ideas.  How many good new ideas have you heard from Supervisor Walter recently?

Here are some from me:

•    A professional town manager
•    Designation as a first-class town
•    Sales tax sharing with the county
•    Annual review of discretionary tax exemptions
•    Competitive bidding for professional services
•    A regional association of Long Island supervisors
•    A smart growth comprehensive downtown re-development plan

How about this idea, which isn’t new but is certainly new to this administration?

•    Respect for fellow Town Board members and the public.

We must learn to respect people and attack problems; polarization doesn’t work. Cooperation does work by inspiring mutual respect and problem solving.  To solve our problems we must stop screaming at each other and begin talking to each other in a spirit of humility and hope.

Mr. Cardinale is a former Riverhead supervisor who is running as a Democrat for his previous post, now held by Republican Sean Walter. Mr. Cardinale is a Jamesport attorney. This piece will also run in the Oct. 27 edition of the Riverhead News-Review newspaper.

Mr. Walter has also penned a Guest Spot that will appear in this space at 1 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 26.

Mr. Walter’s piece will also appear in the Oct. 27 News-Review newspaper.

09/21/11 8:55am

A certified audit by independent accountants showing Riverhead’s financial condition as of Dec. 31, 2009, is complete and available online at riverheadli.com. It establishes that when Supervisor Sean Walter took office on Jan. 1, 2010, an unrestricted general fund surplus of $8,060,427 existed and the town’s governmental funds had “$15,349,623 unreserved and available to meet the town’s current and future needs.”

The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s also recently announced it is continuing the town’s strong AA+ credit rating, the highest credit rating ever held by the town and achieved during my time as supervisor.

Hearing those two news items I could not help but smile.

The then newly elected Supervisor Walter spent most of 2010 semi-hysterical about the town’s financial condition, constantly whining that Riverhead was in the midst of a great financial crisis that he blamed alternately on “the previous supervisor” and “the previous administration.”

Last November, in a frenzy over finances, he fired a fire marshal and other longtime town employees.

Now, in September 2011, we finally have the truth as confirmed by an independent audit and an independent credit rating agency review.

Ronald Reagan said “facts are stubborn things.” These are the stubborn facts.

• The principal reason Riverhead had ample surplus fund balances on Dec. 31, 2009, as now certified, was that during my administration we added $10,875,000 to the town’s reserves, ($7,500,000 from non-refundable contract deposits from Riverhead Resorts; $375,000 from non-refundable contract deposits from Rechler; $2,000,000 from successful settlement of litigation against LIPA; and $1,000,000 through thrifty management resulting in year-end surpluses).

• Riverhead received two upgrades from national credit rating agencies while I was supervisor, and on Dec. 31, 2009, Riverhead enjoyed its highest credit rating ever.

• The six budgets I proposed while in office contained tax rate increases averaging less than the rate of inflation. My 2005 budget proposed a tax rate decrease.

• Each of my proposed budgets used less of the town reserves than had the previous one. All used less than the previous supervisor had.

• Not one of my proposed budgets was adopted without the Republican majority’s increasing it over my objection. For example, my final budget proposed in September 2009 was adopted by the Town Board on Nov. 20, 2009, after the Republican majority had added $1.5 million to it.

In view of the certification of a large surplus when I left office and the renewal of the town’s strong credit rating achieved while I was in office, how can Mr. Walter explain his hysteria about town finances? His hysteria reached a crescendo last November with the adoption of a 2011 budget featuring the firing of town employees, including the fire marshal, and the highest town tax increase on Long Island.

Did Mr. Walter’s inaccurate statements about the town’s financial condition result from deliberate deceit or simple stupidity? You choose. There is a better way to handle the Town’s finances — honestly, openly, truthfully and with respect for the intelligence of the taxpayers.

Mr. Cardinale is a former Riverhead supervisor who is running as a Democrat for his previous post, now held by Republican Sean Walter. Mr. Cardinale is a Jamesport attorney.

09/01/11 1:14am

All of us want the same thing downtown: a vibrant center of activity for our community.

All of us understand downtown’s lifeblood has been drained by the development of Route 58 and the construction of Tanger Outlet Center. Downtown has been trying for a long time to re-create itself with projects such as the aquarium, the Culinary Arts Center, the new Supreme Court complex, the Hyatt hotel, the renovation at One East Main Street and the Summerwind retail/apartment complex.

Every one of these projects, including The Riverhead Project restaurant — and every other new development project downtown — was, incidentally, either complete, under way or planned when I left office on Jan. 1, 2010.

Despite various projects launched over the last decade, a large swath of the south side of Main Street from the Rendezvous Restaurant to the Riverhead Grill and the area surrounding the empty Suffolk Theatre continue unused, unchanged and forlorn.
We all agree on our shared objective downtown. We don’t all agree on the best way to achieve that objective.

The best way to achieve our objective is, I believe, a comprehensive redevelopment rather than piecemeal redevelopment favored by my successor. A comprehensive redevelopment is especially appropriate for the long-vacant south side, which opens to the river, and the long-vacant north side surrounding the theater. These blighted areas face each other at the center of our downtown.

Central downtown presents a unique opportunity for precisely the kind of comprehensive downtown renewal recommended by planning professionals.

The Downtown Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for which Apollo Investors paid nearly $1 million several years ago greatly benefits current developers and makes the downtown particularly attractive for comprehensive redevelopment. Developers can avoid the usual 18-month delay occasioned by a site-specific Environmental Impact Statement by using Apollo’s GEIS. and adding a short supplement.

The stubborn refusal of the current administration to consider comprehensive redevelopment, including condemnation in central downtown, and its total reliance on the piecemeal approach is a mistake.

Creating a vibrant center of community activity is an important downtown objective. A second, equally important objective is to grow our commercial tax base so that the tax burden on the rest of us is reduced. This objective cannot be achieved when our Town Board fails to monitor the actions of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency members who serve at the board’s pleasure.

The Town Board cannot stand silent when incredibly long (20 years in one case) and incredibly large (100 percent for each of those 20 years) real estate tax abatements are awarded to developers who are already fully committed to projects that have already received substantial state and county grants with town sponsorship.

The real estate tax burden lifted from the developer must be carried by the rest of us. This raises an issue of fundamental fairness to which the current administration appears oblivious as it acquiesces to excessive and unnecessary tax abatements for some downtown projects.

There is a “Better Way” to redevelop our central downtown: planned comprehensive redevelopment using every available tool to overcome blight, and the good sense to say “no” to excessive and unnecessary tax abatements, which add to our already crushing tax burden.

Mr. Cardinale is a former Riverhead supervisor who is running as a Democrat for his previous post. He is a Jamesport attorney.

08/03/11 3:03pm

Two major contracts at the Enterprise Park at Calverton were terminated during Sean Walter’s term as supervisor, the $18 million Rechler Industrial Park contract and the $155 million Riverhead Resorts contract.

When Mr. Walter terminated the Rechler contract, he said he was “happy” about what he called good news.

Most residents of Riverhead were not happy nor did they consider the demise of this contract good news.

Gregg Rechler, the most experienced and best financed developer of industrial property on Long Island, gave back what Mr. Walter was fond of calling “The Great Giveaway.” By doing so he dashed Riverhead’s hopes of an $18 million increase to our reserve fund, a larger tax base and thousands of new jobs.

Tellingly, the Rechler group blamed the contract termination on “the Town Board’s inability to understand economic fundamentals and its unwillingness to adapt to the changing economic landscape.” Rechler added: “The board had an opportunity to ensure the future of a more vibrant Riverhead. Unfortunately, the Town Board’s inability to understand the economic fundamentals of a successful project forced us to withdraw.”

Next, Mr. Walter terminated the Riverhead Resorts contract. Ever since, he has refused to consider purchase offers at EPCAL including those proposing an Indian casino and a polo and equestrian center. According to Mr. Walter, all offers conflict with “his plan.”  The property is no longer for sale.  Exactly what is Mr. Walter’s plan?

Mr. Walter’s plan is for the town to pay to survey the land, subdivide it into small lots, obtain all town, state, county and federal approvals, and then pay to build roads and install utilities and other improvements. He’s going to develop EPCAL at taxpayer expense.

In the midst of a recession, at a time when Long Island’s best financed industrial developer has declined to move forward, Mr. Walter, with no relevant experience, no clear plan, and using our tax dollars, is pushing Riverhead to be the developer of property that Long Island’s most experienced developer walked away from.

Mr. Walter promised in his inaugural address that he “would not call for another study at EPCAL.” His “plan” has already cost taxpayers more than half a million dollars for more unnecessary EPCAL studies. He is pushing to spend millions more to subdivide and improve the site, tasks typically paid for by developers. Under Mr. Walter’s plan, EPCAL will be a financial drain on taxpayers for years to come, rather than the source of immediate tax relief that it could be.

Receiving $8 million dollars at EPCAL in non-refundable deposits which happened during my administration is preferable to spending millions of tax dollars at EPCAL as is happening during Mr. Walter’s administration. Selling at market value is preferable to holding EPCAL off the tax rolls indefinitely.

The town must focus on getting EPCAL sold and back on the tax rolls so it can expand our tax base and diminish our tax burden.
The supervisor and Town Board should not use our tax dollars to play real estate developer. Town Boards are untrained and ill suited to be developers. Riverhead Town Board’s past performance trying to be a developer (e.g. at the Suffolk Theater) proved unfortunate and expensive for the taxpayers.

All that’s assured by Mr. Walter’s plan is enormous risk and excessive expense for the taxpayer.

The better way for Riverhead is to sell the property at market value, get it back on the tax rolls, and leave its development to experienced private developers.

Mr. Cardinale is a former Riverhead supervisor who is running for his old post as a Democrat.

06/30/11 4:23am

After a close and painful election loss in November 2009, what I thought I needed most was to withdraw from the limelight and avoid comment about town matters. I did that for more than a year. I stopped talking, but I couldn’t stop listening. And what I heard from my successor disturbed me.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I thought about that and about what I had tried to do during my six years as Riverhead Town supervisor — much of which was being undone by my successor.

I discovered Riverhead’s future still did matter to me, and I was sure there was a better way for Riverhead.

I’d come full circle. I stopped being silent. Around the first day of spring this year I decided to run.

What is a better way for Riverhead? A town government that’s honest, open, fair and prudent. It’s what we don’t have and badly need. It’s why I’m running and why I’m asking the questions that follow.

HONEST

How is it honest for a supervisor to announce after his election that he will continue his law practice and work part-time at that while accepting a full-time salary from the town?

How is it honest for a supervisor to credit himself with the work of his predecessor and others downtown, where virtually every project now under way was started before he came into office?

How is it honest for a supervisor to claim the town is nearly in an all-out fiscal crisis when the town actually has over $7 million in reserve funds and its highest credit rating ever?

Dishonesty steals our better future.  Honesty is a better way for Riverhead.

Open

How is it open for our supervisor to disregard town ethics law and refuse to identify law clients he represented before town agencies?

How is it open for the Town Board to repeatedly discuss in closed executive session topics that the open meetings law requires be discussed in public?

How is it open to repeatedly fail to program Channel 22, leaving silent and black the government public access channel?

How is it open to schedule for the same time public hearings on proposed actions and the actual votes on those actions — telegraphing the Town Board’s disregard for public input?

How is it open to take months to respond to Freedom of Information Law requests, which must by law be answered within five days?

How is it open to announce a taxpayer-financed investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing by town workers, and then refuse to discuss the investigation or disclose its results or refer the matter to the Suffolk County District Attorney?

Information is the lifeblood of democracy. Open government is a better way for Riverhead.

Fair

How is it fair for our supervisor to disregard the Master Plan and the zoning laws passed after years of public participation as “a load of crap”?

How is it fair for the Town Board to look the other way, fail to protect our neighborhoods and disregard the laws governing land use in order to benefit political supporters?

How is it fair for the town to treat some town residents differently than others?

The rule of law applies to all of us. Enforce the law equally. No special rules for special people. That’s a better way for Riverhead.

Prudent

How is it prudent for our supervisor to refuse to even consider comprehensive redevelopment and condemnation downtown when virtually the entire south side of Main Street is empty?

How is it prudent to lay off a fire marshal, jeopardizing public safety?

How is it prudent for our supervisor to refuse to even consider purchase offers at the Grumman property, leaving the land off the tax rolls indefinitely while spending more than $500,000 on another unnecessary study?

How is it prudent for our supervisor to use our tax dollars to play real estate developer at the Grumman property, wasting years of time, spending millions of dollars and taking enormous risks with taxpayer money?

Prudence is a better way for Riverhead.

To find that “A Better Way for Riverhead” we must talk to each other, not through each other. In that spirit and with that hope, Ibegin my run for supervisor.

Mr. Cardinale, of Jamesport, is the Democratic candidate for town supervisor. He is a lawyer and former Riverhead Town supervisor.