County Executive hopeful Bellone preaches importance of East End

Babylon, Suffolk County
TIM KELLY PHOTO | Democratic candidate for Town Supervisor Steve Bellone addresses Southold Democrats last weekend.

Steve Bellone, supervisor of a West End town, came east over the weekend to declare his belief that East End open space preservation pays economic dividends all across Suffolk County.

But it wasn’t his role as Babylon’s supervisor that brought Mr. Bellone to Southold Saturday to address the Southold Democratic Club. In this case, he was Steve Bellone, candidate for county executive, a title Democrats made official at a nominating convention Wednesday night.

Suffolk’s GOP leadership is leaning toward Randy Altschuler, who lost a close contest to Congressman Tim Bishop last year. Party leaders are said to be negotiating with County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who has expressed a willingness to wage a primary for the nomination, to withdraw. Mr. Altschuler, who is likely to receive Conservative Party backing, as he did last year, has reportedly said he won’t be the candidate if there’s a GOP primary.

Suffolk’s Republicans will hold their nominating convention next Wednesday.

Mr. Bellone is the only Democrat to actively campaign for the seat currently held by Steve Levy, a former Democrat who became a Republican prior to his unsuccessful bid for the governorship last year.

Addressing the belief shared by many East Enders that West End officials are less than concerned about the welfare of their eastern neighbors, Mr. Bellone told Southold Democrats, “This place is incredibly important for our region.”

Money spent on open space preservation is not money wasted, as some officials believe, the supervisor said.

“Part of our quality of life and our property values is the proximity to an incredible place that is a throwback to generations before that has to be preserved,” he said. “People want to live in communities with great public spaces and great parks. Even if you never step into that park, you are benefiting from it.”

Never mentioning the county executive by name, Mr. Bellone was especially critical of the Levy administration, which he said believes “someone on the 12th floor of the Dennison Building in Hauppauge knows what you should do with zoning.”

Mr. Bellone further accused the executive of deliberately misleading Suffolk residents on the size and scope of the county’s financial troubles.

Suffolk’s debt has doubled, to $1.3 billion, during Mr. Levy’s two terms, he said. Regarding the executive’s state of the county claim that Suffolk is on firm financial footing, Mr. Bellone said, “Charitably, that was misleading.”

He claims the county’s deficit is “structural,” meaning it’s not limited to one year and, unless addressed, will remain in upcoming years.

Mr. Bellone was elected Babylon supervisor in 2001 after serving four years as a councilman. Prior to that he served as an assistant to the supervisor.

Speaking at the Universalist Church hall in Southold, the candidate said his administration has cut the size of Babylon town government in half.

“We are not doing less in Babylon today,” he said. “We are doing much less.”

He added that in 2006 Babylon became the first Long Island town to adopt Energy Star standards for new home construction and also enacted the nation’s most comprehensive green building code.

“It’s not just about the environment, it’s about making economic sense as well,” he said. “The age of cheap energy is over.”

An attorney and an Army veteran, Mr. Bellone is a graduate of North Babylon High School. While there, he was a student of Art Tillman, Southold’s Democratic leader, who taught history.

“I am so lucky to have lived so long, not only to see my student become my teacher, but leader,” Mr. Tillman said.

[email protected]