10/18/12 6:00am
10/18/2012 6:00 AM

To the editor:

I’m very troubled by what Mitt Romney said regarding Big Bird and PBS television no longer being funded in part by the federal government. I would like to know how much money in the past Romney, Obama, Ryan, Biden, Bishop and Altschuler have given to PBS, Big Bird and education programs for pre-schoolers. Can you investigate this for voters like me? Also, if the government will not help fund these programs, how much of a percentage of these men’s wealth will they pledge to keep these vital programs up and running?

Our little children need all the help they can get to mature into healthy, happy and productive adults, and Big Bird and PBS have done a fantastic job. Let’s find out what our candidates are made of.

Warren McKnight, Riverhead

09/29/12 11:00am
09/29/2012 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Thursday evening.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James, debated Thursday night at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

The debate, moderated by Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly, can be seen below in three parts.

09/27/12 12:00pm
09/27/2012 12:00 PM
Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Randy Altschuler, Tim Bishop, Congress

xBARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead is modeled after the Ford Theater in Washington D.C.

The first of a pair of 90-minute Times/Review Newsgroup co-sponsored debates between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James is set for 7 p.m. tonight in downtown Riverhead.

Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly will moderate the debate at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead. Vail-Leavitt will seat up to 250 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Audience members will have an opportunity to submit questions for the candidates at both debates.

The first 45 minutes of the debate will focus specifically on health care reform, Mr. Kelly said, and then be opened to general questions.

The second debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15, at Bridgehampton School. The first 45 minutes of that debate will focus on jobs and the economy.

The Bridgehampton debate will be moderated by Joe Shaw, executive editor for The Press News Group, publishers of the Southampton Press, Southampton Press Western Edition and Easthampton Press newspapers, as well as 27east.com.

“We’re very excited to be working together to give the public more than sound bites to make a decision in this important race,” Mr. Shaw said of the partnership with Times/Review. “Our goal is to allow the candidates to more fully explore the complicated issues and give voters an opportunity to cast an informed vote.”

Both debates will be free and open to the public.

“With so much at stake, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of this race,” Mr. Kelly said. “We’re proud to be teaming up with our South Fork counterparts, The Press News Group, to bring the candidates and the issues to light.”

psquire@timesreview.com

08/23/12 4:00am
08/23/2012 4:00 AM

JAMESPORT

It’s about respect

The Iron Pier handicap ramp to the beach is covered with sand up to the handrails and has been this way all season. After a number of calls to the recreation department and advising them of this condition, as well as handicap and disability laws, the deplorable conditions still remain the same. My brother, who is a disabled Vietnam veteran who visits Riverhead and loves our beaches, is unable to gain access to the beach due to these conditions on the handicap ramp, as well as the handicap residents who live in our town.

This needs to be corrected immediately and Riverhead Town must abide by handicap and disability laws to give our veterans and handicap residents access to our beaches.

Phillip Piegari

JAMESPORT

Pay the landfill debt

The Riverhead Town has just awarded a 20-year lease to a San Diego solar energy firm to erect solar panels on the former landfill site and to receive a minimum payment of $145,600 a year for 20 years.

Unfortunately the reclamation of the site started out with the Town Board voting on the separation of the garbage from the sand, and to sell the sand while having the garbage trucked away and burned. This was the idea of our most astute elected officials and which was completely contrary to all state and federal agencies and their suggestion of just covering the landfill.

So after all of the budgeted money was spent, along with an additional $10 million, it finally dawned on both the town supervisor and board that this was in fact an error of epic proportions, and which the taxpayers of the town must continue to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for both the extra costs as well as the yearly interest on the $10 million.

Therefore, as an idea to our current town supervisor and board, may I suggest that any and all money received for the lease of the landfill be used to assist in paying off the landfill debt as quickly as possible, instead of just putting the money into the general fund and wasting it on unnecessary expenditures.

Thomas W. Smith

SOUTHAMPTON

Sad situation

It’s been almost two years since I signed up to volunteer at the Riverhead Animal Shelter, which insiders call “the pound.”

A wonderful senior pit named Champ who was filled with heartworm and destined for euthanasia was adopted by Riverhead citizen Vince Taldone. Vince gave Champ the only real home he ever had. Recently, that wonderful dog died. Sadly, the pound is the same and great dogs like Chester and Preston sit and wait. Why spend money when you can get away with running a pound with a skeleton staff and no one complains? It seems that just a temp and the police chief run the place.

Vince’s shelter beautification program is still in limbo. Bob, a professional photographer and Vince’s friend, never got a chance to film the dogs, put them on the Internet and get them adopted; that was Chief Hegermiller’s decision.

I was banned for revealing the murder of a great dog, Bruno, by the retired animal control officer who followed official orders. Almost two years ago I gave the News-Review the real story given to me by Councilman Jim Wooten.

The town supervisor no longer talks about privatizing the shelter to the North Fork Animal Welfare League.

Why help the dogs at the pound when most of the public don’t care? Supervisor Walter likes to save money, and dogs don’t vote. Trainer Gina Rizzo still volunteers her time, as do some other good people. You’d think Supervisor Walter would find a place for Ms. Rizzo? She cares.

I and others recently helped save the life of Henry, a dog who was going to be killed. He has a great life now at a place I know well — Silverstreak Sanctuary upstate — and is on his way to having his own home. A success story. And I haven’t been able to volunteer since Bruno’s killing. And so it goes. How terribly sad for the animals. This situation reflects badly on the good people of Riverhead.

Pat Lynch

GREENPORT

Puppy store concerns

I am concerned about these puppy stores. How many animals come from the puppy mills?

There is not enough being done about this situation. My main concern is the store in Aquebogue, where there’s been an effort to shut it down. There are too many dogs there that I believe are not being taken care of.

If you’re an animal lover like myself we need more people to get involved.

Elizabeth Day

RIVERHEAD

Her hard work

The organizing committee for Riverhead High School’s Class of 1962 reunion would like to thank Kathy Berezny for her help in locating the whereabouts of three 1962 graduates. No one knew where these people resided. When contact was made with these individuals they were thankful just to know we were concerned and wanted to have them with us for the Aug. 11 ceremonies at the Olde Vine Golf Club.

At the event, a scrumptious cake was brought out with the writing “SENIORS TO SENIORS, 1962-2012, Riverhead High School.”

Frank Stepnoski

CUTCHOGUE

Overwhelming help

In the August 16 issue of The Riverhead News-Review, Bob Liepa wrote a great column describing the recovery of my son, Joe Crosser, from an injury sustained during his senior year of high school baseball. Such an amazing recovery could never have happened without the many people who helped Joe get through a most difficult time.

The EMTs who arrived at the scene used their training, skill, expertise and humor to keep Joe calm and transport him to Peconic Bay Medical Center. Teammates, coaches, classmates, friends and parents provided support.

The PBMC staff was amazing. Vince Barry and the staff of Maximum Performance in Riverhead provided the physical therapy expertise to help Joe move from patient to participant. Joe was able to participate in a 120-mile Bike for Life Retreat thanks to the conditioning he received. Motivation to work hard to heal quickly so he could participate in that retreat was provided by fellow McGann-Mercy students and chaplain Father Jerry Cestare.

A happy ending to this story would never have occurred, however, without the skill and expertise of the surgeon, Dr. John Brennan.

Fifty days after bloodcurdling screams echoed over the Mercy baseball field, Joe walked to the front of the auditorium to receive his high school diploma. One hundred and three days after that injury and 120 miles later, Joe completed the Bike for Life journey, his leg intact with hardware.

It is said that people are put in our path for a reason. There is no doubt that these many people were clearly put in Joe’s path so that, as the headline read, “Crosser finds there is life after injury.”

Thank you just seems so inadequate.

Diane Crosser

St. James

Time for a change

I am sure most, if not all, of you have now read about the very serious ethical and legal questions surrounding Congressman Tim Bishop and his shady fundraising practices.

The fact that Newsday, other local newspapers and the leading non-partisan ethics group in Washington are all calling for an investigation into Congressman Bishop, suggesting he may have even broken the law, speaks volumes.

Congressman Bishop’s attempts to blame others for his own actions — going so far as to claim that the allegations are somehow an attack on his family — reek of desperation.

If this whole sordid tale teaches us anything, it’s that the career politicians who have made a mess of Washington simply cannot be the ones trusted to clean it up.

We need to change Congress. And we can start by changing our congressman.

My 10-point plan, which I encourage you all to read at www.Randy2012.com/jobsplan, outlines real solutions to the problems we face. My plan will foster a climate of job creation, boost small businesses, attract new jobs to Long Island and help to transform our local economy for the future.

As the father of two children under the age 6, my wife and I are deeply concerned about what awaits them in the future. On the campaign trail, one of the chief concerns I hear from parents and grandparents is the lack of jobs for their children and grandchildren here on Long Island. I couldn’t agree with them more.

With your support, I will work with common-sense people on both sides of the aisle in Congress to clean up the mess we have now and build a brighter future for Long Island and our country.

Randy Altschuler

Editor’s note: Mr. Altschuler is the GOP candidate in this year’s 1st Congressional District race.

CALVERTON

Debating a
moving target?

Now that Mitt Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate, he’s also doubled down on his previous support of Paul Ryan’s budget as well as Ryan’s extreme social positions. Unfortunately, immediately upon joining the ticket, Ryan began out-Romneying Romney by flip-flopping on many of his long held beliefs.

For example, Ryan has attacked President Obama for “raiding Medicare” of over $700 million. The fact is that in the Ryan budget passed by the Republican House in 2011, Congressman Ryan included the exact same $700 million elimination of waste from Medicare

Advantage! When he originally proposed this, it was hailed by Republicans as making Medicare more efficient. Secondly, this weekend Senate candidate Todd Akin, congressman from Missouri, answered a question about why he opposes abortion even in the case of rape. His extreme language brought cries of outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike, including Mitt Romney, but previously there had been no daylight between Akin’s positions on abortion and Paul Ryan’s. In fact, Akin and Ryan co-sponsored a personhood bill that would have classified abortion as murder (declaring that a fertilized egg is a person) and effectively outlawing many common types of contraception. Since both Romney and Ryan have publicly supported personhood amendments, who can believe Romney’s faux outrage now that Akin’s (and in effect Ryan’s) views are being scrutinized in the national spotlight.

At a time when the country hungers for a serious discussion of the issues, how can we have a reasonable debate with two candidates like Ryan and Romney, whose former and current beliefs are moving targets? Presidential candidate Rick Santorum summed it up best during the Republican primary when he said to CBS News on March 19 that “Mitt Romney is someone who doesn’t have a core. He has been on both sides of almost every single issue over the last 10 years.”

Jerry Silverstein

SOUTHOLD

Safety net shredder

Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be his running mate, a radical choice.

Paul Ryan is by any measure a radical conservative. He is the author of the tea party budget plan, and that plan will cut taxes for the wealthy and shred all the social safety net that has been developed in the United States over the last 80 years.

He wants to change Medicare into a voucher program that has no provision for rising health care cost and may cost senior citizens an additional $6,000 a year.

Mr. Ryan’s budget makes drastic cuts in education funding, from Head Start to college loans and Pell grants. Hundreds of thousands would be denied funding.

Like Mr. Romney, he would kill the Affordable Health Care Act and offer nothing in its place. He would ban all choice for women when it comes to health care issues.

He believes climate change is a myth and his budget severely limits the EPA’s ability to address environmental issues. But he supports large tax cuts for the wealthy and does not explain how his budget choices will reduce the fiscal problems without major tax increases for the middle class.

When Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan talk about the federal budget they’re not talking about real numbers and calculations. It’s all words and no analysis. Nobody has sat down with a pencil and a calculator and run the numbers.

They’re making very large claims about how all of this will increase jobs and bring the economy back to life, but in reality they are proposing exactly the same policies put forward by George W. Bush, which caused the problem in the first place.

We’ve already had 12 years of the Bush tax cuts and where is the economy today?

Steve Curry

CUTCHOGUE

Profit over patients

During the Bush administration, whenever the Democrats criticized the president they were called unpatriotic, yet when Mitt Romney traveled to Europe he not only insulted our allies but also bashed the present U.S. administration. How come there were no calls about his lack of patriotism?

If the Romney/Ryan team wants to privatize Medicare, and their plan really affects those in nursing homes right now, who will pay for my mother in a nursing home I could not afford?

Talk about killing grandma, one of the Republican charges against Obamacare.

If you want to know why Romney hates Obamacare, read The New York Times August 15 front page article “A giant hospital chain is blazing a profit trail.”  Profit, not patient care, is the topic. This is exactly why we need the new programs for health care for everyone, not just the rich.

In the late 19th century, businessmen ran the government on almost every level. They claimed they were defending capitalism and freedom. What were they called? The Robber Barons.

Barbara Ripel, Ph.D.

SOUTHOLD

Spending isn’t cut

Howard Meinke continues to wail about ”massive cuts” in federal spending supposedly promoted by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan that would lead to all kinds of horrors.

But as Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute pointed out in an article in The Wall Street Journal last week, the budget proposed by Mr. Ryan projects federal spending will increase at an annual rate of 3.3 percent over the next 10 years. That compares with the Obama administration’s projected increases of 4.3 percent a year over the same period.

The only “cut” would be in the rate of increase.

Mr. Mitchell also noted that federal spending now amounts to 24 percent of gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nations’s economy. That’s 32 percent higher than the rate in 2001, when Bill Clinton was president.

Jack Abele

EAST MARION

Who’s serving whom?

The Obama administration has succeeded in its efforts to make us all dependent on big government.

Think about it: How many government employees and their spouses will vote against Obama in this coming election? Why would they, since they make on average $20,000 more than the comparable private sector employee.

Why do you suppose that the only significant new hiring has been by the federal government? More votes and dependency? Is Mr. Obama trying to buy more votes?

There are 107 million Americans receiving some kind of government welfare. No, that doesn’t include Medicare and Social Security.

Neither does it include benefits that the illegal immigrants are receiving. They’re soon to include educational benefits that you as a taxpayer may not have access to for your children.

Mr. Obama would lead you to believe that the wealthy are too wealthy. How absurd, since the top 20 percent earners paid 70 percent of all federal taxes collected and more than 50 percent of working Americans pay no federal income taxes at all.

So what’s the gripe?

A question we should ask is why go into debt to send my kids to college if their education will eventually enable the entitlement group to sit back and leech off their taxes?

Keep this in mind: The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government doesn’t first take from someone else.

Read the history of the failed regimes of the smooth-talking socialist dictators of the past and compare this to that of the Obama administration’s blueprint for government control over our lives.

Be aware that if the government controls health care, it then controls you.

God help America.

God bless America.

John Copertino

07/12/12 5:00am
07/12/2012 5:00 AM

LAUREL

Don’t kill health care bill

After much nervousness, we recently listened to Justice Roberts approve the Affordable Care Act.

Would it be OK to tell everyone to have health insurance or would this be a violation of the commerce clause? Well, with a thoughtful reversal he called the requirement a tax, which is OK.

The pundits howling and the attorneys flying one wild idea after another turned this into a serious brawl. The legalese and distortion of our language and the twisting of logic was outstanding. The Roberts opinion, however, is not in doubt and the Affordable Care Act is safe, at least for now.

However, I could not drive out of my mind the Shakespearean comment from Dick the Butcher in Henry the VI: “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers”.

In spite of the lawyers, we now have a plan that we need to make work.

Our health results are not as good as many European countries’. We are behind on infant mortality and general longevity, while our costs are almost twice those of many European countries. If we are as smart and business savvy as we think, we should be able to reduce duplicate tests, institute early preventive care and cut the costs of downstream serious health issues.

We should be able to reduce ridiculously high medical malpractice insurance costs. We should be able to send patients to the right medical people where costs relate to the seriousness of treatment. We should be able to make paperwork a simple tracker and recorder of care, and not a major cost-driver.

Instead of promising to kill “Obamacare” on his first day in office, Mr. Romney, who installed an equivalent program in Massachusetts, should vow to demonstrate his vaunted business acumen and reduce the costs and make the program a winner for all those citizens in dire need.

Unfortunately, he does not care or is not smart enough to do it. Does it really matter which is the right description? I don’t think so.

Howard Meinke

MATTITUCK

Speak up, Mr. O

When Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, the federal tax on people making $212,000 was 70 percent. When the great Reagan left office in 1988, the tax rate was at 28.5 percent. Since then our country has been in a slow decline economically.

Obviously, trickle-down economics did not work. We must learn from this tax issue quickly. Right now, President Obama is worried about beating Mr. Romney in fundraising, when in fact he should be talking about a clear and concise message on tax reform. He has the bully pulpit.

People are starving for information and they will listen to the lies from the right when the president is so quiet. He needs to explain what Obamacare is all about. Many think that if they have health insurance it’s going to change into something else, not that it will remain the same.

Start naming bridges in need of repair again and again to engage the other party into explaining why they have shot down rebuilding our infrastructure again and again.

Tell everybody that you saved the auto industry. Say it loud and proud. Explain your plans for immigration reform, education reform, Wall Street regulations.

And for God’s sake call the Republicans what they are: obstructionists.

Edward Donohue

AQUEBOGUE

Can’t take it anymore

I awakened this morning to what should have been a beautiful day. The rain was ending, breaking the recent heat wave. Subsequently, I feel an aura of apprehension with regard to our present liberal course.

Since the Supreme Court has upheld it, we can kiss small business goodbye.

Unemployment, as a whole, is totally unacceptable. State, county and local municipalities seem to be in a layoff mode. Who feels the Sword of Damocles? The low man on the pole, the actual worker.

I also saw on TV news that this administration was paring back our military. I can only ask myself if we’ve gone totally out of our minds.

Higher fuel prices, coupled with the cost of just about everything, have consumed most of our retirement funds. In addition, our salaries just can’t cover our everyday living expenses.

Time is overdue for changes. We must send Randy Altschuler to Congress. I have the utmost confidence he will work for us. No more failed Obama policies rubber-stamped by Pelosi and Bishop.

The time is now for a positive change. The time has come to send Randy Altschuler to Washington.

Frederick Rogers

SOUTHOLD

Equality in doubt

Some readers have claimed that Mr. Bishop is serving the North Fork as equally as the South Fork.

The steady stream of noisy South Fork commuter copters crossing the North Fork in both directions casts some serious doubt upon this.

Bob Gazza

SOUTHOLD

Let the
voter beware

Business drives the economy by creating wealth. Government drains wealth by taxing that wealth to provide protection, regulation and those services business can’t or won’t provide.

Benja Schwartz wrote that government is the largest contributor to Long Island’s economy. Hardly. It may be the largest employer, but not contributor. You and I pay for government and it does not produce a profit. In fact, government takes on obligations it cannot presently afford and raises taxes to pay those future pensions and health care.

Mr. Katz urges young people to seek jobs allowing retirement in 25 years and “then let the government work for you.” You and I will pay for those benefits; the government has nothing we aren’t taxed to provide. To paraphrase the comic strip character Pogo, “We have met them and they are us!”

The world is in a period of very rapid change and few people recognize the change while it takes place. The pension and health care obligations of the past will change because you and I can’t afford to continue them.

Government pensions are based on expecting 8 percent investment returns and additional taxes to make up shortfalls. Who knows how to earn 8 percent in this economy? Each new tier (revision) of state pensions requires more of new employees and promises less because you and I can’t afford to make up the shortfall of past promises.

Don’t relive the past; prepare for the future. Don’t aim to share my wealth; aim to match my work ethic.

Mr. Schwartz concludes: “In other words, especially distrust those who tell you to just trust them.” He may not fully understand what he says, but I completely agree, and would emphasize that we not trust anyone making promises to deliver in the future.

Be very wary of those asking for your vote with a promise.

Gunther Geiss

SOUTHOLD

Keep your
eyes open

About letters to the editor, I think the editors should cast a wary eye when local writers get going on national politics.

Some of them are gaming the system by trying to get free publicity for their favorite candidates and their stands on various issues. Others make claims that are dubious and cite “facts” that are fuzzy.

For example, in the June 28 issue Howard Meinke says Republicans, and by extension Mitt Romney, who does not hold public office at this time, have “gutted federal and state budgets.”

But federal spending has increased almost 20 percent since 2008 and is projected to make a similar increase over the next five years. That doesn’t look like gutting to me. Perhaps Mr. Meinke’s definition of gutting is not getting everything you wanted.

I also would note that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress in the first two years of the Obama administration and still control the Senate. They still have considerable say on what goes on in Washington.

Writers on political issues should identify their political affiliations. I’ll bet Mr. Meinke is a card-carrying Democrat. Me? I’m a former Democrat turned independent, a “blank” as the politicians would say.

The Democrats are too beholden to special interest groups to make me happy.

Jack Abele

03/08/11 8:00pm
03/08/2011 8:00 PM

Congressman Tim Bishop’s office, which had been located on Route 112 in Coram since he was elected eight years ago, was moved to Patchogue last weekend.

Bishop aide Jon Schneider said the office was moved primarily due to logistics, but also because of some maintenance issues.

“When a ceiling tile falls on the congressman’s chair, shall we say, it’s a sign from above?” Mr. Schneider said. “We loved the location. Coram is right in the heart of our district, but Patchogue is too and we’re excited about the new location.”

While the new space for Mr. Bishop’s staff of seven people isn’t much bigger than the former location, one positive difference is its proximity to a train station, Mr. Schneider said.

An open house will be held at Mr. Bishop’s new office, located at 31 Oak St., later this month.

The new phone number is 631-289-6500.

jennifer@northshoresun.com

02/13/11 1:40pm
02/13/2011 1:40 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop was one of 11 Suffolk County elected officials in attendance at Saturday's Legislative Breakfast at Longwood High School.

Suffolk school officials got their first shot this weekend at publicly lobbying local lawmakers to fight Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state aid cuts.

Education advocates, including superintendents from 25 school districts, attended Saturday’s annual Longwood Legislative Breakfast at Longwood Middle School, where they urged 11 elected officials to help ensure Long Island doesn’t bear the brunt of the governor’s proposed cuts.

Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, said Nassau and Suffolk counties’ schools are hit with disproportionate cuts under Mr. Cuomo’s proposed state budget. Mr. Cuomo has pitched cutting aid to Long Island schools by an average of 9 percent, compared to the 7.3 percent cut to the rest of the state, Mr. Bixhorn noted. Those cuts would come on top of a system that has seen local schools shortchanged for years, he said, noting Long Island schools enroll about 17 percent of all students in the state, but receive just 12 percent of school aid from Albany.

Under current formulas, Foundation Aid — which accounts for the vast majority of state aid to public school districts — every Long Island student gets about $3,300, versus $4,800 for students in the rest of the state – a 31 percent difference.

“This impact will be real and at least must be made fair across the state,” said Jim Kaden, president of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association.

Newly elected state Senator Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) called on elected and school officials to join forces in demanding equitable aid share for Long Island’s students. “I don’t understand why Long Island is paying a share that’s so significantly higher,” Mr. Zeldin said. “What the governor’s done is not fair to Long Island. That’s why we really need to stand and fight.”

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney said she’s confident the legislators will work to secure a fair share of state aid for Suffolk schools.

“I do think there’s going to be some compromise and I’m hopeful that we will get some of our state aid restored,” she said.

She said the proposed $2.9 million cut in state aid for her district is a tough blow, as the district is also facing increases in the Teacher Retirement System and Employee Retirement System, while no longer receiving stimulus funds given in previous years.

“What’s really challenging for us is that everything is coming at one time,” she said. The expenditure increases and state aid cuts “make for an enormously challenging budget year.”

Superintendent Harriet Copel of the Shoreham-Wading River School District told a reporter after the breakfast that proposed aid cuts perpetuate the inequitable school aid formula. And that’s leaving administrators with tough choices.

“We have very, very hard decisions to make about programs that are near and dear to our hearts,” Dr. Copel said.

Elected officials also said relief from unfunded state mandates is a necessary component to freeing up cash and providing programs and services for students. Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said those sentiments are on the radar of elected leaders in the federal government.

“All of us believe mandate relief is absolutely critical,” he said.

State Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) said reform is also needed for the pension system, as teacher pension contributions are eroding school budgets. “We’ve created a monster that’s fed upon our pension system,” he said of the system that’s evolved to fund and disperse pensions to retired education officials.

Despite the promises and strong words, Mr. Zeldin did not sugar-coat that there will be financial hardships coming school districts’ way.

“It’s another year that you have to tighten your belts,” Mr. Zelden told the school officials and the rest of the crowd of about 250. “We’re going to do our best to improve the governor’s budget proposal, but you have to be prepared for the worst.”

samantha@nortshoresun.com

12/01/10 2:40pm
12/01/2010 2:40 PM



Randy Altschuler



With Republican Dan Losquadro declared the winner in the state’s 1st Assembly District race, the prolonged battle between Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop and his Republican challenger, businessman Randy Altschuler, remains the only undecided race in the region. And the last undecided congressional race in the country.

At last report Thursday, Mr. Bishop was leading Mr. Altschuler by 259 votes.

The race will likely be decided by a state Supreme Court judge who arrived at the Board of Elections in Yaphank about 3 p.m. Wednesday to start making calls on contested absentee ballots sent to the district by mail.

Some 71 military ballots, which had to be in officials’ hands by Nov. 24, were counted Tuesday, which narrowed Mr. Bishop’s lead over Mr. Altschuler’s by 20 votes. The candidates’ camps then agreed to concede a total of 418 previously contested absentee ballots — 209 each — and that ended up adding 32 votes to Mr. Bishop’s lead, according to the incumbent’s spokesman, Jon Schneider. Mr. Bishop then picked up an additional 12 votes after the judge made his first ruling Wednesday, allowing 161 paper ballots that for various reasons weren’t scanned on Election Day to count in the race.

Both sides have had a roller coaster ride since election night, when preliminary tallies had Mr. Bishop up by about 3,500 votes. Then a re-canvassing of the optical voting machines, used for the first time in a Suffolk County general election, put him behind his challenger by 383 votes. But Mr. Altschuler watched that lead vanish after the week-long process of counting some 11,500 absentee and affidavit ballots wrapped up last Tuesday, leaving Mr. Bishop up by 235.
Both camps agreed Thursday to allow an additional 52 ballots be counted, 29 that were being contested by Mr. Bishop and 23 by Mr. Altschuler.
Of the 1,473 still-contested ballots that were awaiting the judge’s review, 1,123 were being challenged by the Republican side and 510 by the Democrats.

A required audit of 3 percent of voting machines has revealed no problems with the equipment, officials said.

And while Mr. Bishop appeared ready to declare victory, the rival camp’s suspicions of voter fraud have prompted Republicans to stay and fight — leaving the outcome up to the judge and the court system.

Rob Ryan, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign spokesman, said the courts have subpoena power to require that a voter prove his or her residency in the district, something Board of Elections commissioners can’t do.

Mr. Ryan estimated Mr. Bishop’s lead to actually be closer to 150 votes, considering the Democrats have challenged the votes of some 94 Republican poll inspectors who voted outside the district.

“We should get them back,” Mr. Ryan said of those votes, adding that he expected to see “a lot of contested ballots” end up in the hands of the judge.
He said that, above all, Mr. Altschuler wants to be sure that only the votes of people who can legally vote in the district are counted.

“The Bishop campaign put out their stuff yesterday saying they wanting to close things down,” Mr. Ryan said. “But two short weeks ago [when Mr. Bishop appeared down], they were calling for a hand recount of every single ballot. And now for some reason they don’t want to wait until this residency issue is dealt with, and the possibility of widespread fraud.”

Potential voter fraud was outlined by FoxNews.com writer Eric Shawn in a report earlier this week. According to the FoxNews story, 48 of the 438 absentee ballot voters “reviewed” by the Fox News Voter Fraud Unit were cast via absentee ballot in Suffolk by people who “are also listed as ‘active’ voters on the New York City rolls. Being registered in two separate jurisdictions is illegal and is a felony in New York State.

“In addition, our investigation reveals that one absentee ballot was apparently submitted in the name of a Democratic voter enrolled in Suffolk County, while election records at the Board of Elections in New York City show that the same voter voted, on Election Day, in Manhattan.”

The story did not name the voter in question. Mr. Altschuler’s campaign circulated the FoxNews report by e-mail Tuesday.

Mr. Bishop’s spokesman called the fraud allegations “nonsense.”

“We’re not saying Altschuler should concede,” he said. “We’re just saying let’s open the ballots and count the votes,” Mr. Schneider said. “And this FoxNews thing is nonsense. Great, you found one guy who voted twice, but let’s move on. Show me two, show me 10, show me 50 who voted twice.”
He said that no votes had been counted on Thursday, and that the judge wouldn’t be back to the Board of Elections until Wednesday, “so there goes another week.”

“I’m sure there’s not going to be any movement unless they start dropping [contested] ballots,” he added. “We want to all get on with our lives. I’m not worried about the outcome of this election; I’m worried that I’m going to be here on Christmas.”

Mr. Bishop, of Southampton, is seeking his fifth two-year term in office. No 1st District congressman since Otis Pike of Riverhead, a Democrat, has served more than four terms. Mr. Pike served nine terms before retiring in 1978.

As for the state Assembly race, which dragged on exactly three weeks after Election Day Nov. 2, Democrat Marc Alessi conceded to Mr. Losquadro last Wednesday after it appeared he could not make up the more than 800 votes by which he trailed. Both men are residents of Shoreham.

“It has been an absolute privilege to serve the residents of the First Assembly District over the past five years,” Mr. Alessi said in a statement sent just after 4 p.m. last Wednesday. “I’ve taken the state’s problems home with me, internalized them and tried to help — both on the large scale and individually — one constituent at a time.”

In his statement, Mr. Alessi blamed Albany dysfunction for his loss and touted his record in office.

“For five years, I worked tirelessly for the hardworking families of Suffolk and kept my pledges to the people who elected me. I will forever be proud of that,” he said. “While I accomplished much of what I set out to do for Suffolk, there is still more work to be done.”
The attorney said he would focus on his family, as his wife, Gretchen, is expecting the couple’s third child in January.

The two candidates were separated by just 40 votes on election night but Mr. Losquadro increased his lead after election night results were verified and corrected and also during the absentee ballot count.

Mr. Losquadro’s win sets up a special election to finish out the final year of his term in the county Legislature, where he serves as minority leader. Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner has been reported as a possible Republican/Conservative nominee to replace Mr. Losquadro, whom she served four years as a legislative aide before seeking her first public office in 2007.

A source in the Democratic Party did not rule out the possibility of Mr. Alessi pursuing the county seat.

The third local race this year was not a close one, with longtime incumbent Republican state Senator Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson trouncing Democratic challenger Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point, taking 67 percent of the vote.

mwhite@timesreview.com