Featured Story

Featured Letter: Defending my record on code enforcement

At night, in the void and the dark, you can hear the sound of crickets. 

I read with interest, and disappointment, my opponent’s column in last week’s News-Review (“Housing crackdown will fix overcrowding,” Oct. 17), in which she attempted to somehow blame illegal, overcrowded housing on my administration. 

Ms. Aguiar is new to Riverhead, so let me recap some recent history.

I have proposed the toughest fines of any East End town against landlords who foster illegal, overcrowded, out-of-code housing. Period. End of story.

I have recommended raising town fines against code violators from the current level of $250 per offense, to a maximum of $10,000 per violation. Under my plan, the town would have the right to revoke the certificate of occupancy for any building with repeated violations and I want to haul bad landlords into State Supreme Court; a court with teeth.

My budget last year, and this year, are the only recent back-to-back town budgets that actually added new money to pay staff to investigate and prosecute landlords that aren’t doing the right thing by Riverhead. What did we hear from previous town boards? My opponent? Crickets.

Under my administration, we’ve written more tickets and prosecuted more code violators than my predecessor, and we’ve done it all while staying on budget and under the tax cap. What does my opponent say in response? Crickets.

Finally, my administration has made it easier for neighbors to report code breakers, blighted and “zombie” homes. Town Hall stands ready to take your complaints and we’re here to cut through red tape, because we’re resolute about bringing code violators to justice.

My opponent? Crickets. The sound of silence.

We all know the warning signs. Too many cars parked overnight, numerous overflowing trash cans, too many cable TV connections, and all outside a tiny home. We know how to spot illegal, overcrowded homes and we are doing so. We’re identifying these homes and prosecuting them the landlords that own them.

Are we where we want to be? Hell no. We never will be, because I work to make every new day better than yesterday. But we’ve made a heck of start and maybe, just maybe, if my fellow board members would put politics aside, and stop worrying about election day, we could increase fines and hit bad landlords like a ton of bricks.

There are those that have criticized my housing reforms calling them, “too tough.” Certainly, I am not a favorite among out-of-compliance landlords. Change isn’t easy. But true leadership isn’t spewing a menu of grievances, buck passing and complaints. Real leadership is about finding practical solutions to problems, enforcing the law and getting results.

Leadership is about providing a clear voice — among the crickets and in the silence.

Laura Jens-Smith

Ms. Smith-Smith is the Riverhead Town supervisor. She is running for re-election in November as Democrat.