Equal Time: Phil’s revisionist history of Riverhead

To hear Phil Cardinale tell it, during his time as supervisor, Riverhead was the Land of Oz, where all was good and the people prospered.

As in every column Mr. Cardinale writes, there are words and they run together to make paragraphs but there is also of a lot of revisionist history, half truths and just plain wishful thinking. Last week, Mr. Cardinale, in what has now become his regular tall tale column, explained that during his tenure as supervisor all was well here in Riverhead and we never had it so good.

Consider the facts:

During his entire six years as supervisor, Mr. Cardinale employed one-shot gimmicks to artificially make Riverhead’s finances look good. Make a deal that will never close at EPCAL? Use the deposit check to make the town budget look better. Ski mountains? Housing developments? Unrealistic, never going to happen, pipe dreams? No bother, as long as there is a deposit check to be collected and as long as that check could make Mr. Cardinale’s next campaign easier then “book it, Dano.”

Unfortunately, that pitifully cynical, self-centered approach to “economic development” is exactly why Mr. Cardinale did not sell even one acre of town land in Calverton during Long Island’s biggest land boom. Mr. Cardinale may feel that cashing the checks of rag-tag developers that have no chance of closing deals is good policy. I say that offers nothing more than wasted time, empty promises, needless expense and that squandering of opportunity is exactly why EPCAL floundered under Mr. Cardinale.

In his Sept. 22 News-Review Guest Spot, Mr. Cardinale called me “hysterical” about town finances and bemoaned the fact that I have reduced staff levels in Town Hall. The last I checked, our economy is in shambles and the public likes the idea of smaller government. After all, Mr. Cardinale, wasn’t it you that proposed cutting all of Riverhead’s emergency dispatchers? I seem to remember, Mr. Cardinale, in one of your final “Supervisor’s Reports” on local radio you said that considering salaries are about 70 percent of the town budget, that realistically we need to cut staffing to hold the line on taxes, and then you joked that it’s easy to say that as a lame duck supervisor.

That’s kind of the point, Phil. In government you have to have the guts to make tough choices … you didn’t.

Mr. Cardinale, you also fail to come clean that on your watch Riverhead wasted more than $40 million dollars at the landfill. And while Mr. Cardinale is busy straining muscles patting himself on the back for submitting thrifty budgets, he neglects to say that those budgets were always political documents that left out critical town services and had no chance of being adopted. It was the responsible members of the Town Board that rose above partisan politics to add back vital services to keep Riverhead running.

After 10 years in office, Phil Cardinale disappeared entirely from town government for two years. Mr. Cardinale claims that he sort of went into the woods, found himself and has come back a wiser man to offer a “better way” for Riverhead, according to his campaign slogan. Mr. Cardinale, your “better way” sounds like your same old way. As I have termed it in the past, your way is “the illusion of progress.” It sounds good, it looks good, but it isn’t real.

You presided over Riverhead Town Hall during the best of economic times; it didn’t work. Downtown was empty. Our finances were false. No sales at EPCAL. Little land was preserved. It’s time for Riverhead to move on. We’ve been there. We’ve done that.

Sean Walter, a Republican, is Riverhead Town supervisor and seeks his second term in office in November 2011. He is being challenged by former Democratic supervisor Phil Cardinale of Jamesport. Mr. Walter lives in Wading River.