10/15/12 7:45pm
10/15/2012 7:45 PM

Times/Review Newsgroup teamed up with The Press News Group of Southampton to co-sponsor a 90-minute debate between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James at Bridgehampton High School tonight.

The first half of the debate focused on jobs and the economy. Press executive editor Joe Shaw served as moderator for the debate, which also included questions submitted by audience members.

CD1, Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

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

10/15/12 8:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Sept. 27.

Times/Review Newsgroup is teaming up with The Press News Group of Southampton to co-sponsor a 90-minute debate between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James at Bridgehampton High School tonight.

The first half of the debate, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., will focus on jobs and the economy. Press executive editor Joe Shaw will serve as moderator for the debate, which will also include questions submitted by audience members.

The event is free and open to the public.

This is the second debate the two East End news groups have sponsored this election season. The first debate was on Sept. 27 at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead, with Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly moderating.

The first 45 minutes of that debate focused on health care before it was opened for questions from the public.

“We were very pleased with the first debate and are looking forward to this next one,” said Times/Review executive editor Grant Parpan. “Focusing on the important topic of jobs and the economy will make this event a must-see for the undecided voter.”

Times/Review hopes to broadcast tonight’s debate live on its websites. Technical issues forced us to cancel a live stream of the first debate. In the event that similar problems occur tonight, video will be posted Tuesday.

Click here for video from the Sept. 27 debate

10/11/12 4:00am
10/11/2012 4:00 AM

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The section of rails hat ends at Metro Terminals of Long Island.

Hoping to rally federal support for the town’s effort to subdivide and sell some 800 acres of town-owned land in Calverton for private development, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter has scheduled a meeting for Friday with representatives of U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tim Bishop, officials said.

Frustrated with stalled state legislation to create a commission to oversee and fast-track development proposals at the Enterprise Park at Calverton — and fearing that the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s vision for EPCAL would adversely affect development efforts there — Mr. Walter wrote to the federal leaders last week asking for help.

The supervisor has also reached out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office for a face-to-face about the town’s plan.

“I get the sense in speaking to people [in state government] that some don’t believe this project is real,” said Mr. Walter, who believes the skepticism stems in part from the town’s past failed efforts to sell and develop the land, most notably a proposed project involving an indoor ski mountain.

“Over and over, I hear from state staff members that we’re paying for the sins of the father,” he said, “by not doing what the DEC wants, and projects that just about everyone in New York State was laughing about when we were talking about Dubai-type ski mountains.”

Some 2,900 acres were conveyed to the town by the U.S. Navy in 1998 with the provision that the property be used for economic development to replace jobs lost when the Grumman contractor ceased operations. Another 3,000 acres were given to the state DEC for conservation at that time, Mr. Walter said. Having already sold some land in the developed “industrial core” at the former F-14 fighter test facility, the town hopes to sell and develop about 800 of the 2,100 acres it still owns, with the rest being preserved. (Other parts of the property are still owned by the Navy as it works to remediate soil and groundwater pollution.)

“The federal statute requires this property be used as economic development,” Mr. Walter said, adding that he believes elected leaders — not staffers at the DEC or elsewhere — should ultimately determine how the property is developed.

That’s the case he hopes to make to federal officials at 11 a.m. Friday in Town Hall.

Mr. Bishop’s office acknowledged Friday the congressman had received Mr. Walter’s letter and that an aide would attend.

“We hope to lay the groundwork before then for a productive session that will clarify the issues affecting development at EPCAL and forge a path forward,” said Oliver Longwell, the Bishop aide who will meet with the supervisor. Mr. Bishop is a supporter of EPCAL as a regional jobs hub.

Mr. Longwell noted that Mr. Bishop helped secure $4.8 million in stimulus funding in 2010 to extend a freight rail spur to the property to help with commerce there.

Spokespeople with Mr. Schumer and Ms. Gillibrand also confirmed office staffers would be attending the meeting.

Mr. Walter said he had hoped Gov. Cuomo would also be represented at the meeting but no one from his office could attend.

The town’s proposed EPCAL commission legislation, introduced by state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), passed in the state Senate but failed to get out of committee in the Assembly at the last legislative session in Albany.

“Senator LaValle, he’s been a huge supporter and he’s trying,” Mr. Walter said, “and Assemblyman Dan Losquadro is energized about our EPCAL efforts. But really we need the governor to get energized about this. And I think the combination of his support and trying to get a meeting with our federal senators and congressman, I think we can get there.”

Mr. Walter said an Oct. 4 News-Review editorial suggesting federal help may be needed at EPCAL inspired him to contact the federal representatives.

Town and DEC officials have been meeting since the town commissioned an almost $500,000 planning, marketing and environmental study in January 2011, with the first major step being to help hammer out the subdivision map. The subdivision is needed before the town can legally sell individual lots at EPCAL. Whereas the previous Town Board sought to sell large sections of the land — one proposed deal involved 755 acres and another 300 acres — this plan would chop the owned land into some 50 smaller lots.

But the DEC is demanding a bird study, which could take years, Mr. Walter said, adding the state agency is also demanding that all grasslands at the property’s northern end, near existing runways, be preserved for birds like the protected short-eared owl.

He said such a plan would preclude the sale and development of 60 to 70 percent of “prime real estate” along Route 25, where the town envisions placing a parallel service road and then selling parcels on both sides of the new road.

Mr. Walter says the DEC‘s subdivision plan, which would include 750 acres, not the town’s proposed 800, isn’t conducive to development.

“So we’re supposed to be close [in acreage], but in reality, the DEC’s plan would only see about 560 acres developed because the plan is so disjointed and doesn’t involve building anything on or near the existing runways, not a single blade of grass,” he said.

DEC and town officials have fought for years, often loudly and publicly, over differing views on development at EPCAL. The DEC has said it’s critical to protect sensitive species such as the tiger salamander and the short-eared owl.

“No application has been submitted yet,” DEC spokesman Bill Fonda said in an email about the DEC’s thoughts on the subdivision issue. “DEC staff is working with the town and its consultant in a cooperative effort to identify/clarify habitat areas to be protected as part of the subdivision map.”

The DEC also worked with the town when it subdivided the industrial core, Mr. Fonda said.

He also called Mr. Walter’s assertions that the DEC was demanding a bird study “puzzling,” because recent talks between DEC staff and town consultants have focused on advancing a subdivision plan without waiting for a bird survey which might otherwise be required.

“DEC staff continue to collaborate with the town and its consultant in a cooperative effort to agree upon a subdivision plan that will meet the town’s objectives and satisfy regulatory requirements,” Mr. Fonda said. “To say that DEC staff have  ‘demanded’ anything is simply inaccurate.”

The town and DEC officials last met on Sept. 2 and are expected to meet again soon, officials said.

In the meantime, Mr. Walter said “some on the Town Board” are starting to lose faith in the subdivision efforts, which would also require the town to undertake some $45 million in infrastructure upgrades, including $30 million in necessary sewer plant upgrades. The town had applied for a $6 million grant to help get started with the sewer work, but that money went elsewhere, Mr. Walter said. The supervisor hoped more state economic development grants would help fund more work at the park.

On Saturday, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio told the News-Review an Argentina-based group that last year offered to build a polo complex at EPCAL was preparing to make a new proposal this week to purchase a smaller portion of the land for polo grounds.

The new plan, she said, would develop 450 acres at EPCAL and does not include up to 400 residential units, which were included when the group first pitched its plan and drew criticism from some town officials.

“From what I’ve been told verbally, they can live without the housing,” Ms. Giglio said, adding that any transient housing on the property would be for the jockeys, owners and horses.

Ms. Giglio said polo group representatives “reached out to me on numerous occasions” and said they would be ready to close on a deal within six months.

“I want to see it on paper before I can actually take it to the board, but I think it fits in with the character of Riverhead,” she said. “I think it would be great for our wineries, it would be great for our catering facilities, it would be great for our hotels.”

Ms. Giglio said she’s not losing faith in the town’s current plans, but at the same time she doesn’t want to “turn a blind eye to other offers.
“The polo was an alternate plan in the study,” she said. “It seems now the DEC is spot preserving on the property which limits the ability to develop the property in an orderly and systematic fashion. The grass is growing; time is precious with this site.”

Mr. Walter said that if the town’s subdivision plans were to be scrapped, it would be up to the polo group — or whoever else wanted to buy property — to undertake creating its own subdivision, then figuring out where the company could build, as per the DEC.
He said he does not have faith that the polo group could build a complex, considering the DEC’s requirements.

“The reality is, in the areas that the DEC has laid out for us, polo would not be available,” he said, “because it’s not contiguous. And really I don’t even know what land we have to sell. If we went and tried to sell [the polo group] one block and the DEC wouldn’t let the project go forward, and then we went and tried to sell to someone else and the DEC wouldn’t let you sell that block of land, it really becomes unmanageable.

“It makes no sense to do anything but continue down this path [with a town subdivision], in my humble opinion.”

Mr. Walter has said the grasslands will eventually turn to forest anyway, thereby no longer being conducive feeding grounds for the owls.

mwhite@timesreview.com

with Paul Squire

10/01/12 8:32am
10/01/2012 8:32 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Randy Altschuler at Thursday’s debate at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

Looking for all the support he can get in his bid to unseat Congressman Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler will get some help next week from the Speaker of the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will be on Long Island Wednesday October 10, when he is expected to attend a $250-per-plate fundraiser at a private residence in Mr. Altschuler’s hometown of St. James.

Hoping the opportunity to meet the Speaker will energize volunteers, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign sent out several emails this week offering free tickets to the event for his most active volunteers over the next nine days.

While the Altschuler campaign no doubt hopes the Boehner visit will help them gain in the polls — a recent Sienna Research poll has him trailing Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton) by 13 points — it should certainly improve the challenger’s campaign finances.

Fundraiser attendees who offer a $1,000 contribution to Mr. Altschuler’s campaign will be given an opportunity to pose for pictures with Speaker Boehner. A $5,000 donation gets you a “VIP private roundtable” with the Speaker.

Records show Mr. Altschuler’s committee had about $800,000 cash on hand to Mr. Bishop’s $1.53 million at the end of June, the most recent filing date.

• Maybe it has to do with where I live or the fact that I’m a registered blank, but I seemed to be receiving a lot more campaign mailers from Mr. Altschuler than Mr. Bishop. Is that the case for all of you?

• For those of us you who might have missed the debate we co-sponsored at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead last week, the second part of the debate is scheduled for October 15 at Bridgehampton High School. Joe Shaw, executive editor of The Press New Group in Southampton, will moderate that debate.

While the first 45 minutes of the first debate the two East End media companies sponsored focused entirely on health care, the second will focus on jobs and the economy.

• My apologies to readers who wanted to watch the debate live on our website Thursday night, but couldn’t due to technical issues. We tested the internet connection and the live feed to mixed results a couple of times last week. While a test broadcast was uninterrupted earlier in the day Thursday, we couldn’t connect at the time of the debate. We’ve since posted debate video that features all but the first 10 minutes, when we were trying to transmit live.

• I promised a couple of readers who emailed me or wrote to me on Twitter that I’d weigh in on the debate with a column. After given it some thought, I felt it better to hold off until after the second part. So look out for that column in a couple weeks.

gparpan@timesreview.com

09/28/12 8:00am
09/28/2012 8:00 AM
CD1, Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

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

To hear an audio stream of the complete debate, click here. Audio courtesy of www.peconiscpublicbroadcasting.org

Is Randy Altschuler an “outsourcer?” Is Tim Bishop one of the  “most corrupt members of Congress?”

Is Obamacare a good idea?

And what should be done about illegal immigration, or the Middle East?

Those were some of many issues tackled during a debate between incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James Thursday night at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

The debate was sponsored jointly by Times/Review Newsgroup of the North Fork and The Press Newsgroup, which covers the South Fork.

This fall’s race for the First Congressional District seat, which represents much of Suffolk County including the entire East End, is actually a rematch, as Mr. Bishop narrowly defeated Mr. Altschuler two years ago.

The first-half of the 90-minute debate was set aside for health care issues.

They also delved into claims made in their campaign ads, where Mr. Bishop has labeled Mr. Altschuler an “outsourcer,” because a company he founded named Office Tiger outsourced labor to foreign countries. Mr. Altschuler’s ads have labeled him as Nancy Pelosi’s pawn, and have harped on a report calling him one of the most corrupt members of Congress in part because of a situation where he helped a Southampton man get a fireworks permit and then his campaign sent that man a request for a campaign contribution.

INTROS

Mr. Altschuler kicked-off a mini-bio by saying he’s grandchild of Polish immigrants who came here during World War II.

“They weren’t rich people,” said Mr. Altschuler, who is reportedly a millionaire. “They came here because of America’s promise. My grandfather sold newspapers on the street corner and then he got a great job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. My mom was the first person in her family to go to college and unfortunately, when I was young child my father left. She got a job and worked extremely hard to bring us up.

“I worked my way through school. I was a security guard and a short order cook.”

He founded Office Tiger, which he said had employees all over the world, including 750 in the U.S., and sold it in 2006. He then founded a company called Cloud Blue, which recycles electronics. That company has 400 American jobs, Mr. Altschuler said.

“I decided to run for office because I am deeply concerned about our future,” he said. “And I have been fortunate enough to live the American dream but that dream is imperiled by a lot of the things going on in Washington today. I deeply believe we need to fix Congress. The fault lies in both sides of the aisle. But the only way we going to change Congress is to change our congressmen and bring somebody new in who has new ideas.”

As for Mr. Bishop, he said, “I have worked on Eastern Long Island for almost 40 years. I’ve lived here my entire life and my family came here in the 1600s. I am a member of the 12th generation of my family to live in Southampton and I have two daughters and they are the 13th generation, and my grandchild is the 14th generation. I’ve had two jobs. I one was a Southampton College for 29 years and now I’m Congress for 10 years. And at each one, I spend most of my time helping people.”

Mr. Bishop was the provost at Southampton College before being elected to Congress.

“The reason I serve in Congress and the reason I wish to remain in Congress is to continue to be part of a process that helps people should realize the American dream.”

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, was debated extensively Thursday.

While Republicans have called for its repeal, both men agreed that unless the Republicans gain control of the presidency and gain a veto-proof majority in the House and the Senate, Obamacare will not be repealed.

“But we should talk about what overturning Obamacare means,” Mr. Bishop said. “It means that for every Medicare recipient, their Part A premiums will immediately go up and their Part B premiums will immediately go up, and the 50% reduction that seniors get for project prescription drugs when they’re in the doughnut hole will go away and they’ll pay 100% of their drug costs when they’re in the donut hole.

It means no more free preventive care screenings under Medicare. It means no more free wellness visits for Medicare recipients . It means that young men and women on their parents insurance between the ages of 18 and 25 would get kicked off. Just in this district, about 4,700 people between the ages of 18 and 25 that now have insurance so that didn’t, because they can stay on.”

“And it would mean that small businesses would no longer get the tax credits that they’ve been getting to provide healthcare to those that they employ,” he continued. “There are 700 small businesses in this first Congressional District that have taken advantage of those tax credits.”

Mr. Altschuler acknowledged there are good things in the controversial law, such as allowing young adults to be on their parents’ insurance.

But it also has some bad points, such as the cost, he said.

“When it was passed, the estimate was that it would cost $800 billion,” Mr. Altschuler said. Today, the Congressional Budget Office says it’s going to cost $1.7 trillion.”

Mr. Altschuler said government historically has a bad track record when it comes to estimating costs.

“It’s a very expensive program and with the fact that we have a $16 trillion debt, the last thing we can afford is more costs,” he said. “It also has over $500 billion in taxes. And Obamacare itself has $700 billion cuts in Medicare.”

“On the issue of costs, over 250 economists signed a letter saying Obamacare includes virtually every cost containment measure health care experts recommend,” Mr. Bishop said. “The Congressional Budget Office said a full repeal would add $800 billion to debt. And Obamacare won’t add a dime in taxes that affect families making less than $250,000. Those taxes only affect families making over $250,000.

“On the $700 billion cuts to Medicare, that is the reduction in rate of growth on Medicare expenses. We’re still going to spend $7 trillion on Medicare over the next ten years.  We’d spend $7.7 trillion without these cuts.”

Mr. Altschuler said the Supreme Court just ruled that Obamacare itself is a tax. And the plan won’t result in a reduction in the rate of reimbursement rates for doctors, “which will make the plan ineffective.”

OUTSOURCING CHARGE

Mr. Bishop’s campaign has heavily emphasized the allegation that Mr. Altschuler is an “outsourcer,” based on his founding of Office Tiger, which had had 2,000 employees in India, Sri Lanka and the Phillipines, 1,250 in Europe, and 750 in the United States, according to a release Mr. Altschuler handed out in May.

“I don’t think we are going to get to where we need to be by sending jobs overseas,” Mr. Bishop said. “I have proposed legislation that would tackle one piece of outsourcing, and that is, call center jobs.” That legislation would make companies with overseas call centers ineligible for federal grants, contracts or loans.”

“Outsourcing is one of the scourges of our economy,” Mr. Bishop said.

The U.S. lost 500,000 call center jobs to the Phillipines in recent years, he said.

But Mr. Altschuler said he sold Office Tiger in 2006, and yet Mr. Bishop continues to call him an outsourcer.

“My second company, Cloud Blue, is a recycling company that has created over 400 American jobs and has been praised by no less than the Obama administration for doing that,” Mr. Altschuler said.

Mr. Altschuler was asked about a quote from Brookhaven Town Republican leader John LaValle in 2010, saying he had “never seen candidate with more flaws than Mr. Altschuler.”

“If nothing else, this proves that I am not a man of the party,” he responded. In 2010, he ran a primary against party designee Christopher Cox, which is the son of the state Republican leader.

“I’m proud of my record,” Mr. Altschuler said. “It’s true, we had employees around the world but without them, we wouldn’t have been able to create jobs in America.”

He said that Mr. Bishop has personal stock in TIAA-CREF, which owns shares in outsourcing companies, and voted to give federal bailout money to Chrysler and General Motors, which have a history of outsourcing labor. And he said there have been 40,000 less jobs in Suffolk County since Mr. Bishop took office.

Mr. Bishop said that Mr. Altschuler labeling him an outsourcer “is the height of preposterousness.”

He said the TIAA-CREF account is his pension from Southampton College and he has no say in how it’s invested. Mr. Bishop added that Cloud Blue has 40 locations and none of them are in Suffolk County. Mr. Altschuler said he’s created American jobs, whereas Mr. Bishop has never created an American jobs.

CORRUPTION CHARGE

This issue stems from a recent case in which Mr. Bishop intervened to help Southampton resident Eric Semler get a fireworks permit, and then shortly afterward his campaign sent a letter asking Mr. Semler for a campaign contribution.

A group called the “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington” cited this incident in a recent report in which they named Mr. Bishop one of the most corrupt members of Congress.

But Mr. Bishop maintains he did nothing wrong. He said after he helped Mr. Semlers, the man indicated an interest in making a contribution, and they were just following up on that. But Mr. Altschuler said Mr. Semler was critical of the solicitation.

He said Mr. Bishop should call for an ethics investigation of himself. Mr. Bishop said he didn’t need to do that because others have done so already.

Politico, the web site that broke that story, quotes Mr. Semler as calling the request “really gross” in an email to the fireworks company, but that also quotes him as praising Bishop’s work, although insisting that the Congressman’s people, not him, suggested the contribution.

MIDDLE EAST

There wasn’t much difference of opinion between the two candidates on what to do in the Middle East

Mr. Bishop supports getting troops out of Afghanistan, and maintaining our support for and protection of Israel, “our closest ally in the Middle East.”

He said the U.S. “cannot tolerate” the prospect of Iran getting nuclear weapons and must “keep the military option as a distant option” in regards to Iran.

Mr. Altschuler agreed with Mr. Bishop on Afghanistan, Israel and Iran. He added that he doesn’t think the U.S. should be giving aid to Egypt and he thinks the U.S. needs an “independent energy policy.”

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Mr. Altschuler said the U.S. needs to secure its borders better and put in place Visa programs for employees in the farming and hospitality industries.

But, he said “we can’t penalize those who’ve played by the rules.”

Illegal immigrants using municipal services causes financial stress  in the U.S., and “we can’t reward people for breaking the rules.”

Mr. Bishop said his opponent is unclear about what he wants to do about the nearly 15 million undocumented immigrants who are already here. He said he agrees that better securing the borders in necessary, but he said it’s already being done. And he agreed that “we need a Visa program that works.”

He said 60 percent of the farm works on Long Island are undocumented.

He supports a program that would allow temporary work visas, after which the immigrants would go back home. And he thinks undocumented immigrants living in America should get “earned legalization,” in which they pay a fine, pay any back-taxes they owe, learn English, and maintain a clean record. Mr. Altschuler said after Mr. Bishop spoke that he too supports that plan.

Mr. Bishop said Mr. Altschuler likes to blame him for all of Congresses’ failings, despite the fact that Congress is currently under

Republican control. Mr. Altschuler said he holds Mr. Bishop responsible because he’s his district’s Congressman.

CLOSING STATEMENT

Mr. Bishop said he’s help save 1,000 jobs at Brookhaven National Lab, he’s saved 1, 200 jobs at the Air National Guard in Westhampton, he’s brought over $100 million in aids to local schools and $150 million in projects to local governments.

He said he’s successfully resolved more than 1,500 constituent service cases and made is easier to afford college, since he’s been in office.

Mr. Altschuler said “our money gets lost when we send it to Washington” and “I want to keep it here.”

He said there have been fewer jobs and more unemployment since Mr. Bishop took office.

“If you want to change Congress, you’ve got to change your congressman,” he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/25/12 7:19am
09/25/2012 7:19 AM
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 Thursday night in downtown Riverhead.

Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly will moderate the debate at 7 p.m. Thursday at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

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.

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.

“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

09/24/12 4:00pm
09/24/2012 4:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop during a press conference Monday in the Village of Old Field. Federal and state environmental officials announced that 35 municipalities and community groups in New York and Connecticut will receive grants totaling over $1.6 million

Congressman Tim Bishop and other federal and state officials announced Monday that 35 municipalities and community groups in New York and Connecticut will receive grants totaling over $1.6 million to help fund projects aimed at improving water quality within the Long Island Sound.

The grants are awarded annually through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, a public-private grant program that currently pools funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wells Fargo.

Officials said the 35 projects will open up water passages for fish, as well as restore 390 acres of fish and wildlife habitat along the waterfront. Fifteen grants totaling about $913,200 were awarded to groups in New York.

During a press conference in the Village of Old Field, officials announced that Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Peconic Green Growth, and the University of Connecticut were among the winners of the grant monies.

Mr. Bishop described partnerships between governmental entities and community groups as “critical” due to the current economic climate.

“The EPA and funding are under assault,” he said. “If we are going to proceed, as we must, we need to see to it that the environment we pass on is at least as good if not better than what we inherited. [To] protect the quality of life here on Long Island, both in our surface waters and our ground water, we’re going to need partnerships.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension received a $128,000 grant to help fund a nearly $330,000 project called “Engaging Vineyards to Implement Water Quality Improvement.” According to the proposal, Cornell Cooperative will develop a state-of-the-art pest and nutrient management pilot program aimed at improving water quality through reducing pesticide use at six wineries.

Becky Wiseman of Cornell said her group is in the process of finalizing a list of wineries that will participate in the program.

“We created this comprehensive idea for the vineyard industry, because it will dovetail nicely with other sustainability projects on Long Island,” she said.

In addition, Cornell Cooperative received a $95,000 grant to help pay for its “Marine Meadows Eelgrass Restoration Program.” The nearly $200,000 project includes organizing 400 volunteers to transplant eelgrass at different locations along the Sound.

The Peconic Green Growth, a not-for-profit organization focused on issues that integrate environment and community, received a $60,000 grant to help fund a nearly $150,000 decentralized wastewater treatment pilot project. The group has proposed that a solution to treating wastewater without the fear of high-density development is a “cluster” approach to sewering as opposed to a running a massive centralized system. The group is in the process of finding communities interested in taking part of a decentralized pilot program through Natural Systems Utilities, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in alternative wastewater systems.

The University of Connecticut received a $40,000 grant to help fund a more than $70,000 project to develop a management plan to remove invasive plants from seven acres at Great Gull Island, which is part of Southold Town, in order increase nesting habitat.

EPA officials said there is a review process associated with each project in order to monitor progress and success rates. Those reviews are expected to take place within the year.

jennifer@timesreview.com

09/24/12 8:09am

Randy Altshculer, left, and Tim Bishop, right, will take part in a debate we’re cosponsoring this Thursday at the Vail Leavitt Music Hall in downtown Riverhead.

About two weeks ago, we posted a poll asking our readers to vote on whether we should ban letters on national issues.

We gave readers two options: Yes, letter writers should stick to local topics or No, if the writer is local, so is the letter.

‘No’ won out … barely.

A total of 366 readers voted in the poll and 190 (52 percent) voted no.

When I discussed the issue internally with my fellow Times/Review editors, we agreed that letters on national issues should continue to be printed. There are several reasons for this:

– Like the answer states, any letter written from a local resident is a local letter.

– We want you to dictate what gets discussed on the letters pages, not us. Unlike the internet, where commenting is enabled for almost every story, the letters to the editor section is the only designated place in our print edition where anyone can have their say.

– One of the big reasons some folks, including 48 percent of people who voted in our poll, would like to have national letters banned, is due to the tone of the letters. Many folks told us they believed the letters stretched the facts, were based largely on biased cable TV news talking points and were just plain nasty. While I tend to agree with a lot of these concerns, I also see the value in a letter that gets our readers’ blood boiling a little. When one letter inspires other letters, I think that’s a good thing. Within reason, of course.

– National letters can have local impact. The line on which letters would be acceptable is a little blurry.

As always, we appreciate all the feedback we’ve received on this topic. It’s great to see such an engaged and passionate readership out there.

• Speaking of national issues, we’re co-sponsoring a Congressional debate at Vail Leavitt Music Hall this Thursday night between Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James.

The 90-minute debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. Doors will open at 6 p.m. I’d recommend getting their early since seating is limited to 250 people. We will, however, broadcast the debate live on our site for anyone who can’t be there. We’ll keep the video archived on our site, too.

This debate is the first of two we’re co-sponsoring along with The Press News Group of Southampton, publishers of the Southampton Press, Southampton Press Western Edition, East Hampton Press, and 27East.com. The second debate will be held on Oct. 15 at Bridgehampton School.

The first half of the Vail Leavitt debate will be focused on health care and the second half will cover general topics. The first half of the Bridgehampton debate will focus on the economy.

• We’ve received a bunch of emails, letters and web comments on Troy Gustavson’s column about driving drunk and DWI arrests this week. We are packaging many of your responses for an equal time in the paper. Check that out on newsstands Thursday. Subscribers can also access the responses digitally through our epaper.