There wasn’t a whole lot of debate between the candidates for Southampton Town Board and Suffolk County Legislature at a candidate forum held by the Bay View Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association Friday night at the David Crohan Community Center in Flanders.
In response to written questions they were provided with in advance, the candidates agreed, for example, that Flanders, Riverside and Northampton residents should get the maximum amount of money the Community Preservation Fund allows to offset school taxes in those hamlets, where a large percentage of the property is tax-exempt state and county parkland.
They also agreed that the dozen storm-damaged properties in Flanders acquired by the state’s New York Rising program in the wake of Hurricane Sandy should be allowed to go back to their natural state and not be rebuilt and resold as homes.
Seven of the eight candidates invited to the event attended, with only Republican Supervisor candidate Richard Yastrzemski absent. Bay View Pines president Ron Fisher acknowledged that the invitations were sent out on relatively short notice.
The Southampton Town Board and the South Fork’s County Legislature seat will see some changes next year regardless of who wins in November.
Incumbent Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who was elected with Democratic backing in 2010, is not seeking re-election and has instead sought the party’s nod for Congress in 2016.
County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who has held that position for 12 years and was East Hampton Town supervisor before then, is prevented by term limits from running for legislator again. He has become a Southampton Town resident, and is now running for Southampton Town supervisor against Mr. Yastrzemski, a financial planner and Southampton Village Trustee.
Democratic Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, an attorney who was elected in a special election in 2010, also opted not to seek re-election this year and is instead running for Mr. Schneiderman’s seat in the Legislature, where she will face Republican Amos Goodman, a financial advisor from Springs.
Mr. Schneiderman’s running mates on the Democratic line are John Bouvier of Westhampton, a former NASA engineer and a member of the town’s conservation board, and Julie Lofstad of Hampton Bays, who owns a commercial fishing business and has been active in school and community issues.
The Republican slate also has incumbent four-year Councilwoman Christine Scalera of Southampton and newcomer Damon Hagan of East Quogue, both attorneys, running for council.
Southampton Town candidates will be in Flanders again on Tuesday, October 13, when the Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association holds its candidate forum at 7 p.m. in the David Crohan Community Center.
Here’s why the candidates say they’re running for office:
• Ms. Lofstad said she’s running to “give a voice to people who think they may not have a voice at Town Hall,” as well as for the people who can’t attend town meetings because they work or are busy with children. She also wants to help protect the area’s water quality and protecting the area’s resources, she said.
• Mr. Bouvier also cited water quality issues as one of his reasons for running.
“Our entire economy depends on water quality,” he said, adding that fish kills and other recent problems in the bays indicate that “we’re not taking care of our environment,” particularly due to the area’s septic systems. He says his background on the conservation board qualifies him to help.
• Ms. Scalera, a land use attorney and former member of the Oyster Bay Town Board, said she originally ran for office four years ago to give back to the community. Now, Ms. Scalera says she wants to finish many of the projects she’s been involved with, such as the Riverside revitalization project, improving water quality, and reinstating a quality of life and housing task force, issues she says she is “wholeheartedly invested in.”
• Mr. Hagan said he’s running because he wants to “take things that seem unnecessarily complicated and seek ways to simplify them.”
“I’ve felt a lot of the same frustrations a lot of you in this room have [with government],” he said.
• Mr. Schneiderman, who is currently the county Legislature’s deputy presiding officer, said he’s often asked why he would want to be supervisor.
“I’ve been your legislator for 12 years and I’ve loved every second of it,” he said.
Many of the issues that have been addressed in the area initiated with local civic meetings, he added.
“I enjoy trying to solve problems,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I stay up late at night trying to figure these things out…I love this stuff. If I can make a difference in people’s lives, that’s where I want to be.”
• Mr. Goodman said Springs, where he’s from, is a lot like Flanders.
“We’ve always been considered the wrong side of the tracks in East Hampton,” he said. “We’ve been short-changed by the town and pay the highest taxes in the Town of East Hampton. Flanders is the same way. They get a raw deal both in the town and from the county.”
He said he’s running because, “I’m tired of waiting for the same career politicians to over-promise and under-deliver and to claim credit all the time and shirk responsibility all the time.
“I think it’s time for a new generation of leadership to step forward,” he added.
• Ms. Fleming said she’s running because Mr. Schneiderman is term-limited and somebody needs to step up and “serve our community with an effective approach, and I hope I can be that person.”
The economy still doesn’t provide middle-class residents with enough income to meet the cost of living, she said, and as a result, the county is facing another deficit budget, which relies mostly on lagging sales tax revenue.
With just two of 16 legislators located on the East End, “We need a strong, effective and experienced and hard-working advocate and I hope to be that person for you,” she said.
She vowed to make water quality a top priority and with the county prepared to spend $380 million on western Suffolk septic improvement projects, “we need to make sure some of those dollars come here to protect our very special way of life.”
Both she and Mr. Goodman felt extending a sewer district down to the Bay View Pines area would be too expensive.
Photo Caption: Southampton Council candidates Julie Lofstad, John Bouvier, Christine Scalera and Damon Hagan at the Bay View Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association candidate forum Friday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)