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Supervisor says Jens-Smith’s speech Tuesday sounds familiar

Sean Walter

Supervisor Sean Walter’s reaction to Laura Jens-Smith’s speech announcing her intention to challenge him in the upcoming November elections?

“First of all, that was basically a speech written by Tony Coates for Sean Walter,” the supervisor said Wednesday. “So either Tony Coates is running her campaign or she’s 100 percent plagiarizing me.”

Mr. Coates, who ran against Mr. Walter for supervisor in 2015, denied having any role in Ms. Jen-Smith’s campaign but added he does support her. Ms. Jens-Smith was a Democratic candidate for council that same year and finished third behind Republicans Tim Hubbard and Jim Wooten.

Mr. Coates had previously worked on Mr. Walter’s campaign and contributed to many of the supervisor’s speeches.

Mr. Walter, who said he will seek re-election, said Ms. Jens-Smith’s speech included some of Mr. Coates’ favorite lines, such as a reference to “artist’s renderings on easels,” an Ed Koch reference (“So how’s he doing?”) and a reference to “Magic Kingdom.”

“We did a whole press release on Magic Kingdom,” Mr. Walter said of when Mr. Coates was writing for him.

Mr. Coates, who no longer lives in Riverhead Town, said Ms. Jens-Smith likely picked up some of his catch-phrases while campaigning with him in 2015.

Beyond that, Mr. Walter said much of Ms. Jens-Smith’s speech needs “fact checking.”

The claim that Riverhead has the highest debt per person of any town in Suffolk County is wrong, the supervisor said.

“All you have to do is look on East Hampton Town’s website to see that they are higher,” he said.

A check of East Hampton’s 2017 budget says that town’s total indebtedness is $94.3 million for 2017. The town’s population, according to the U.S. Census, whose most recent figures are from 2010, is 21,457.

By comparison, Riverhead’s overall indebtedness, including special districts like the sewer and water district, was $92.8 million, according to the town’s 2015 annual financial update report, the most recent available, while the latest Census figures for Riverhead, also from 2010, put the town population at 33,506.

Thus, East Hampton’s debt per person is higher than Riverhead.

Ms. Jens-Smith was correct, however, when she said that Riverhead had the lowest bond rating of any town in Suffolk County, according to a check of those ratings on Moody’s website.

Mr. Walter disputed Ms. Jens-Smith’s contention that he hasn’t accomplished anything.

“By every measure, the town is in better shape than it was before I took office in 2010,” Mr. Walter said. “And I think the residents can see that.”

The town’s long-awaited subdivision map for EPCAL is basically complete, but the town still needs permits from the state for a waiver from the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, and for an incidental take permit to allow building in an endangered species habitat, he said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has added three years to the review process at EPCAL, he said.

“I don’t know how she says that EPCAL will be of no benefit to the town,” Mr. Walter said. “The town could realize up to $45 million this year” from the sale of land at EPCAL.

He added that Luminati Aerospace, which was criticized by Ms. Jens-Smith, is planning to launch the first aircraft designed at EPCAL since Grumman.

On the issue of finances, he said 12 percent of the town budget relied on one-shot revenues when he took over in 2010, and now there are no one-shot revenues being used.

On downtown, Mr. Walter said there are new mixed-use apartment projects being planned in three locations downtown and the zoning that allowed them was approved by the prior administration of then-Supervisor Phil Cardinale as part of a master plan update. Mr. Walter said he supports that zoning.

Photo caption: Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, right, speaks at a Town Board meeting earlier this month. (Credit: Paul Squire)

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