11/02/13 8:00am
11/02/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

TOWN COUNCIL
Four-year term, part time
Salary: $48,955

John Dunleavy
Incumbent
Hamlet: Calverton
Occupation: Retired police officer
Party lines: Republican, Conservative

About him: Mr. Dunleavy, 72, is running for a third four-year term as a town councilman. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Grumman Corporation employee who later joined the Riverhead Police Department, where he came to head the juvenile aid bureau for 15 years before retiring in 1988. He then worked in banking until 2007. Mr. Dunleavy was first elected councilman in 2006. He was born in Brooklyn and lived in Rockaway, Queens, before his family moved to East Islip. He joined the Navy in 1957.

His pitch: Mr. Dunleavy says he’s helped bring $8 million into town coffers, a number that includes $7.5 million in down payments for the Riverhead Resorts project that never happened. He helped negotiate a cell tower contract that has brought in $300,000 in fees and has saved $250,000 in salaries and benefits by heading the municipal garage, he says. He also lists two police dogs and an ATV obtained through the DA’s office, as well as a natural gas vehicle donated for senior use, as items he’s helped bring to the town at no cost.

In his words: “These are some of the examples of the work I’ve done and will continue to do if re-elected.”

 

Jodi Giglio
Incumbent
Hamlet: Baiting Hollow
Occupation: Owner of Bennett Enterprises
Party lines: Republican, Independence

About her: Ms. Giglio, 45, is running for her second four-year term as a town councilwoman. She has a business background, which includes relocating corporate executives for United Van Lines and serving as an on-site construction superintendent for a Long Island townhouse project. She owns and runs Bennett Enterprises, which assists landowners with residential and commercial applications. Ms. Giglio was born in Syosset and grew up in Wantagh and California before moving back to New York at age 19.

Her pitch: Ms. Giglio says she’s made good on several promises to the taxpayer since first running for office in 2009. Among them, she says, she’s looked out for how tax dollars are being spent while finding innovative ways to improve on quality of life in town. As a businessperson, she says her work and expertise in Town Hall are instrumental in identifying problems within the town code that can stifle businesses and job creation.

In her words: “I know that with your support, I will have even more to offer our great town.”

 

Bill Bianchi
Challenger
Hamlet: Riverhead
Occupation: Owner of Bianchi-Davis Greenhouses
Party lines: Democrat, Independence, Working Families

About him: Mr. Bianchi, 82, is a former Bellport resident who served as a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994. He got started in public service as a South Country School District Board of Education member and president. He then was part of a lawsuit that effectively ended the county’s Board of Supervisors in favor of a Legislature. He’s worked continually in the orchid business and co-owns orchid greenhouses off Doctors Path.

His pitch: Mr. Bianchi touts his experience in the Assembly, during which time he said it was necessary to work with both parties, and believes he can bring a certain depth of knowledge and government experience to Riverhead Town. Mr. Bianchi says he is most proud of legislation he got passed in Albany that preserves the county’s four major rivers. He was also chairman of the Assembly’s agricultural and local government committees and a member of its ways and means committee.

In his words: “I always worked well with both parties.”

 

Millie Thomas
Challenger
Hamlet: Baiting Hollow
Occupation: Owner of Landmark Realty
Party lines: Democrat, Working Families

About her: Ms. Thomas, 63, has been a licensed realtor for 21 years. She owns Landmark Realty as well as a commercial building in Wading River. She is a past president of the Long Island Board of Realtors/North Shore Chapter and secretary of the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce. She currently has 31 agents and two administrative assistants working for her company. She was born in Brooklyn and moved to Rocky Point in 1978. She moved to Baiting Hollow in 2002.

Her pitch: Ms. Thomas points to her success in navigating her real estate business through the recent economic downtown as proof she would be a good steward of the town’s finances. She says her business in Wading River not only stayed afloat but thrived during one of the worst housing markets in years. She knows how to squeeze a budget, she says, and will be fiscally responsible and accountable to taxpayers. She favors well-planned development but wants to work protect the area’s way of life.

In her words: “We should fight for revenue from large commercial developers who take from our town and should give back. We also need to make Riverhead a safer, better place through increased code enforcement.”

Read our endorsements for town council here

11/02/13 7:59am
Town council candidates Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas

Town council candidates Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas

The job of Town Council member is described as part-time, but it takes hard work and dedication for candidates to make good on those oft-repeated campaign promises to keep the town’s taxes in check while “preserving our way of life.” It takes not only time but also guts and the ability to learn all the technical aspects of what makes town government work — in order to help it work better.

Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas have just the type of skills to be highly effective Town Council people.

Profiles: Meet the candidates for town council

Ms. Giglio, a Republican incumbent, already has four years’ experience under her belt and has proven her ability to understand the inner workings of town government. She’s also helped keep fellow GOP member and political rival Supervisor Sean Walter in check — especially in voting against Mr. Walter’s plan to hire his own political adviser, Anthony Coates, for a made-up job in 2012.

In addition, she has spearheaded an attempt to lure the Federal Aviation Administration to the town’s EPCAL site, despite pushback from the supervisor.

But as she made clear in her first run in 2009, Ms. Giglio is “business- friendly.” By trade, she is a permit expediter for developers. This could prove beneficial when it comes to recognizing when developers are trying to play the town. But when developers do exactly that — and they have; one has only to look to the Costco site along Route 58 for a recent example — one can’t help but wonder: Where was Jodi? But she makes no apologies about land-use rights, to the point that it’s hard to even imagine her as someone who will truly fight to make sure developers give back to the town just as much as they take from it.

Enter Ms. Thomas. Her résumé, like Ms. Giglio’s, includes “business owner,” but her civic involvement and the priorities of the town’s Democratic slate in general — neighborhood preservation through strict adherence to the town code — may serve to counterbalance Ms. Giglio’s business-friendly approach.

Ms. Thomas’ ability to navigate one of the worst economic downturns in the real estate market while maintaining her business, Landmark Realty, is impressive. A former president of the Long Island Board of Realtors, she said at a debate co-sponsored by the News-Review that her firm handled $27 million worth of sales last year, ranking in the top 10 percent in Suffolk County.

It’s a shame Ms. Thomas wasn’t more vocal in touting her achievements out on the campaign trail. Unlike her fellow candidates, she failed to start a campaign fund or raise any money. While many politicians often say they’re “not a politician,” to explain away what would appear to be a lack of true dedication, with Ms. Thomas, it’s believable. Aside from her business, she’s been involved in numerous charitable endeavors, taught religious classes for a dozen years through St. Anthony’s Church in Rocky Point and has dedicated time and knowledge to the Long Island Board of Realtors, serving it as director, secretary and vice president. No one could ever accuse her of being lazy. Given her track record, there’s no reason to believe she wouldn’t bring the requisite level of dedication to improving town government.

As for Republican incumbent John Dunleavy, he should be credited for his public service to the town as a police offer and for eight years as a councilman. But he’s been too comfortable for too long maintaining a superficial knowledge of how the town works. He’s too apt to take people coming to the Town Board at their word, without the appropriate level of skepticism and research.

He’s recently said he doesn’t know how to read site plans but, after eight years in office, what’s the excuse? With respect to the clearing of vegetation to make way for the Costco, Mr. Dunleavy said early in last week’s council debates that he “did not know they were going to clear-cut the whole shopping center.”

Yet in November 2011, the News-Review ran the first of several news stories explaining that developers intended to do exactly that at the 42-acre site. The story’s headline read: “Costco plans shrink; land clearing doesn’t.”

Here’s an excerpt from that story: “The new layout presented to the town shows the northern quarter of the site — closest to the senior complex — unoccupied by buildings or other infrastructure, but it also shows this area being entirely cleared of the trees currently there, then revegetated with landscaping.”

Even if Mr. Dunleavy can’t read site plans, he can read the newspaper. His job as a Town Board member is to stay on top of issues for his constituents, and maintaining a thorough base of knowledge about issues of such importance reigns paramount.

We think it’s time he moves on.

Back on the Democratic side of the ticket, council candidate Bill Bianchi would bring 22 years’ experience as a state assemblyman to Town Hall, but he’s been unable to articulate in any detail his accomplishments in state office or exactly how that experience would translate into his Town Council work. He has said he knows how to work across party lines, but it seems that fighting within political parties poses more of a challenge for Riverhead. Mr. Bianchi’s experience in Albany, we imagine, could prove useful as the town continues to work with the state on the effort to redevelop the EPCAL land — but, so far, Mr. Walter, state Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele seem to be moving along just fine. Introducing a new personality coming out of Town Hall could disrupt that chemistry.

10/10/13 4:30pm
10/10/2013 4:30 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

When it came to issues like town finances, Route 58 planning, Town Board bickering, and redevelopment downtown and at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Republican incumbents largely saw the glass half full at a candidates forum held in Calverton Wednesday night.

The Democratic challengers? Well, they saw the glass half empty.

The Greater Calverton Civic Association and the Wading River Civic Association sponsored the event at the Riley Avenue school in Calverton. Sid Bail of the Wading River Civic Association served as moderator.

Incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter and council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio are being opposed by Democratic supervisor challenger Angela DeVito and council candidates Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas.

Mr. Dunleavy was not present, due to a previously planned vacation.

Here’s what the rest of the candidates had to say about the issues:

TOWN FINANCES 

Mr. Walter said that when he took office four years ago, the town’s annual audits were many years behind. The town was bonding items that should have been funded by the general fund, it had no budget for road paving, and taxes were rising due to the debt associated with a failed landfill reclamation project, which has accounted for more than $4 million in debt service each year, he said.

Since then, he said the town has drastically cut its spending, the audits are caught up and the town is closing in on a plan to be able to sell land at EPCAL, which he feels will provide tax relief in the future.

“The revenue streams are trending in the right direction,” he said.

But Ms. DeVito said the town has been offsetting taxes with the use of about $3 million in surplus funds each year, and that money is close to running out.

She pointed out that a recent audit states that unless the town gets a big infusion of money by 2014, this approach “will result in a catastrophic tax increase in the next few years,” she said.

Mr. Walter said the landfill debt, which was accumulated by the previous administration, is the main reason for the town’s tax increases.

Ms. Thomas disagreed with the supervisor’s assessment of town financing.

“As far as I know, the town’s broke,” she said, adding that while downtown is improving it still needs to be revitalized.

Ms. Giglio says she’s saved the town $2 million by insisting that its garbage contract be put out to bid, and she initiated a phone audit that gained the town $75,000.

EPCAL

Ms. DeVito and the Democratic candidates said that while the EPCAL subdivision is close to happening, the redevelopment of EPCAL won’t bring the town any money until the land is actually sold.

“EPCAL still is pie in the sky until that first shovel goes in the ground,” Ms. DeVito said. “It could still blow up in our faces.”

Mr. Bianchi said he believes the town still needs to upgrade the sewer system and infrastructure at EPCAL, which could cost $40 million, and he says the industrial park at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton already has infrastructure and still hasn’t attracted many businesses.

Mr. Walter said he’s confident the lots at EPCAL will sell once the subdivision is approved. He said the town doesn’t need to sell all of the lots at once, since selling one or two per year will provide enough revenue to offset tax increases.

The state legislature has approved a proposal for development applications at EPCAL to be fast-tracked, so long as they meet criteria spelled out in the legislation, said Mr. Walter, who added that no other municipality in the state has such legislation.

But Ms. DeVito pointed out that the EPCAL legislation has not yet been signed into law by the governor.

TOWN BOARD BICKERING

Mr. Walter said people have criticized the all-Republican board for its infighting, but “the proof is in the pudding.” He said EPCAL, downtown and the town finances are improving under the current board, despite the fighting. The supervisor said that when Ms. Giglio first suggested trying to lure the Federal Aviation Administration’s new air traffic control center to EPCAL, he opposed it, but he says now it could be a reality.

“Don’t worry about us fighting,” he said. “It makes for good TV.”

Ms. DeVito said she’s heard from many people who don’t participate in government because “they are made to feel unwelcome and they don’t like the environment.”

Ms. Giglio, also said the board does fight a lot, but that they are a “spirited board” whose members come from diverse backgrounds. She said the board communicates with each other, debates issues and compromises.

ROUTE 58

The current condition of Route 58, where four large commercial projects have resulted in hundreds of acres of trees being cleared, was a topic where the Republicans acknowledged there were mistakes made, but vowed to correct them.

Democrats went on the attack.

“Route 58 looks like a war zone,” said Mr. Bianchi, who served 22 years in the state Assembly when he lived in Bellport. “It looks like Saudi Arabia, just a sea of sand.”

He said residents in Foxwood Village found their lives “partially destroyed” by the clearing near their homes.

“How anyone on the Town Board can allow that to happen boggles the mind,” Mr. Bianchi said. “Do you think East Hampton or Southampton would allow that to happen?”

Ms. Thomas said the town doesn’t need all the big box stores on Route 58, which are providing “minimum wage jobs” and not even increasing as much taxes as they should.

Mr. Walter and Ms. Giglio both argued that Route 58 does generate a lot of taxes for the town, and people’s tax bills would be a lot higher without that money.

Ms. DeVito said Route 58 stores are a major source of income tax revenue for Suffolk County, and the town doesn’t get any of that money. She feels the town should fight to get a bigger share of the income tax revenue it generates.

The town generates about $30 million in income tax revenue for the county, Mr. Walter said. But he feels it would be “pie in the sky” to think the county would give up that money.

As for the recent clearing on Route 58, the supervisor said the town Planning Board made a mistake and will fix it. But he said those boards are autonomous, and the Town Board can talk to them, but can’t tell them what to do.

tgannon@timesreview.com