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08/26/13 10:00am
08/26/2013 10:00 AM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater’s grand re-opening night in February.

The first of two town political debates being sponsored by local media and held at the historic Suffolk Theater tonight will see two Democratic primary supervisor candidates square off, followed by three Republican primary hopefuls for town council.

The debate, sponsored by Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com, will start at 7 p.m.

There will be a suggested $5 donation at the door, with all proceeds going to Brendan House, New Beginnings.

“We’re very excited to be working together to bring these debates to the public,” said Times/Review Newsgroup executive editor Grant Parpan. “Given the current political climate in this town, there’s no doubt these events will be good shows worthy of the theater’s grand stage.”

Both debates will be moderated by Mr. Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

“Riverhead is at a crossroads,” Ms. Civiletti said. “The next town board will be making crucial decisions that will affect our future for generations to come. Voters need to know where the candidates stand on important local issues.”

Monday’s debate will feature Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio,

The Democratic candidates will debate first, for about 45 to 50 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates. Those arriving early for the second debate may be asked to wait in the theater’s lobby area, as to not disturb the first round of candidates.

All questions for the debates have been prepared in advance, and were written by readers as well as the moderators. All candidates will be given time to make closing statements. No outside video recording of the event is allowed.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and the theater’s bar and restaurant will be open at that time, but shut down during the debates, which are scheduled to run until 9 p.m.

The theater’s bar and restaurant will re-open after 9 p.m.

07/30/13 12:08pm
07/30/2013 12:08 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Just two petitions have been challenged in Riverhead Town this election season.

Only Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is running a Democratic primary for Riverhead Town supervisor, and Mike Panchak, the Riverhead Republican Committee’s candidate for highway superintendent, have had specific objections filed against their nominating petitions for this fall’s town elections.

Since the deadline for filing objections has passed, that means there will be a Republican primary for Town Council in September, with Anthony Coates challenging committee nominees John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The challenge against Mr. Panchak came from Keisha Washington Dean, who is a member of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee.

Ms. Dean claimed that since Mr. Panchak is not a registered Republican, he requires a certificate of authorization from the Republican leadership, and failed to get that certificate, sometimes called a “Wilson Pakula,” by the July 15 deadline.

“It’s still in the hands of the Board of Elections,” Mr. Panchak said.

He said he plans to run whether he’s on the Republican line or not because he’s still going to be on the Conservative line and no challenges were filed on his position there.

Mr. Panchak, who is challenging incumbent Democrat George ‘Gio’ Woodson, is not registered with a political party, and is listed as a “blank” by the Board of Elections.

“We missed the filing period to give him a Wilson Pakula,” said Republican vice chairman Mason Haas of Mr. Panchak. “Normally we would have caught this mistake. However, the distractions of late has unfortunately caused us to have missed the filing deadline for the Wilson Pakula and Mr. Panchak may be a casualty of that.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, whose name appears on the ballot as Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse, filed 429 signatures, and three different people filed objections to them, including Ms. Washington Dean. Maxine Kleedorfer of Baiting Hollow also challenged all of Ms. Cotten’s petitions on the grounds that she listed her address incorrectly.  Jeanne Luboja of South Jamesport is the third person to file petitions against Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who is challenging Democratic party nominee for Angela DeVito for supervisor, listed her address as 8 Legend Lane in Jamesport, although the town changed her address to 37 Legend Lane for the e-911 emergency phone system. In addition, since she gets mail delivered to a mailbox, her mailing address should be Legend Lane in Riverhead, since the Jamesport Post Office doesn’t deliver to mailboxes in front of homes.

The Board of Elections will rule on both cases in the coming weeks.

Mr. Coates said he filed general objections to the Republican petitions, through his girlfriend, Cleo Beletsis, but decided not to file specific objections because it would be too much of a distraction.

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04/16/13 4:56pm
04/16/2013 4:56 PM

VERA CHINESE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead school board president Anne Cotten-Degrasse is considering a run for Riverhead Town Supervisor.

While the Riverhead Republicans appear to have some high profile internal battles for Town Board seats awaiting them this election season, the town Democrats are taking a more low-key approach.

The committee is just beginning to set up a schedule now to screen potential candidates.

“Our screening committee will be meeting tomorrow night to set up a schedule for next week,” said Riverhead Democratic Committee chairwoman Marge Acevedo. “We have had about six people that have expressed a desire to screen. So far we have three for supervisor and three for council. Our screening committee has always had a policy that we do not give out names, if the candidates wish to do so that is up to them.”

So far, a few names have gotten out.

Angela DeVito, a former president of the Riverhead school board, announced in March she would seek the Democratic nomination for supervisor, and Ann Cotton-DeGrasse, the current president of the Riverhead school board, confirmed this week that she would also seek to the screened by the Democrats for supervisor.

Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse said she had hoped to keep her intentions quiets until after the screening, but it was leaked at an event over the weekend.

Also seeking to screen with both the Democrats and the Republicans is Greg Fischer of Calverton, who announced his intention to screen with both parties for a Town Board seat but did not specify if he would be seeking a supervisor or council seat.

Mr. Fischer ran a Democratic Primary for council in 2007 and for supervisor in 2011, when he also remained on the ballot on an independent line. He has been calling for elected trustees at the Long Island Power Authority, and has gone to court in an attempt to force that change.

Aside from her work on the school board, Angela DeVito is a retired director of workforce development with the Long Island Building Trades Council, and is active in the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, the Riverhead Democratic Committee and has sat on the town’s Industrial Development Agency board.

“I have many, many years of public sector service that I think will serve the citizens of this town better,” she said last month.

Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse is a retired teacher of 32 years who served as president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, the union serving district teachers, for five years. She and her husband, Antonio DeGrasse, also founded the North Fork Breast Health Coalition in 1998, and Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse served as president of that organization for eight years.

“I’ve never known when to quit,” Ms. Cotton-DeGrasse said. “I think I have a lot to offer. I certainly know how to get peep to work together.”

The Republicans held their first screening session Wednesday night, after press time.

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10/25/12 6:48pm

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Supporters hold signs during a rally demanding the state give more funding to local school districts

More than 100 people, including members of the Riverhead School District school board and Congressman Tim Bishop, gathered near the front steps of Pulaski Street School Thursday afternoon to demand the state provide additional funding to schools

Gatherers also criticized the state’s voter-approved tax levy cap.

The “pro-education” rally featured speeches by district teachers, students, Mr. Bishop and school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse, who compared the district today with the district as it was in 1969, a few years after she began working as a Riverhead High School teacher.

Education has changed since then, Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said. Despite more classes offered, more extra-curricular activities, and more sports in the district, the state devotes a smaller percentage of its annual budget now to education than it did in the 1960s, she said as the crowd booed.

“If we want to continue to provide the resources necessary for our students to succeed in today’s world we must insist that the state share more of the burden by relieving us of unfunded mandates,” she said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | More than 100 people attended the rally Thursday afternoon.

She said the year-to-year 2 percent tax levy cap — which limits the amount of money the district can collect — could turn out to be a good or bad thing, but added that if the district is to continue it’s current programs, people’s voices must be heard.

“We, all of you people, including parents, grandparents, are the stewards charged with preparing this and future generations for getting full employment,” Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said.

People at the rally carried homemade signs or ones distributed by Educate NY, a coalition devoted to state aid reform, that read “Reverse the Cuts” and “Stop the Cap, Close the Gap!” Many of the attendees wore red to send a message to the state to “stop.”

The rally was one of 11 rallies occurring across Long Island that called for the state to increase funding to schools, organizers said.

Catherine Kent, a Riley Avenue 2nd grade teacher and district parent, said there was a funding crisis in district schools.

“We have been writing letters, sending emails and faxes, having conversations with Governor Cuomo and the lawmakers in Albany,” Ms. Kent said. “Today, parents, educators, school leaders and community members are joining together to stand up for our schools and tell the state and Governor Cuomo that enough is enough.”

Riverhead High School junior Jessica Sisti spoke at the rally about the different school activities she enjoyed, like AP classes and music programs. She warned that losing these programs to cuts in the district would “have a negative impact” on her and fellow students, and blamed the tax levy cap and lack of state funds for the crisis.

“This is a backwards way of solving the problem of debt,” she said.

Mr. Bishop also made a speech at the rally, and also railed against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom he said supports spending cuts for education.

“If you care about K through 12 education … if you care about higher education, there’s only one vote to cast,” Mr. Bishop said. “Nationally that’s for President Obama and if you’re in the First Congressional District that’s for me.”

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | School board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse speaks at the rally Thursday afternoon.

Riverhead Central Faculty Association union president Barbara Barosa said she was “dismayed” to see that no school administrators attended the rally.

“If they can’t support a pro-education rally, what can they support?” Ms. Barosa said.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse was joined at the rally by fellow school board members Kimberly Ligon and Sue Koukounas.

At the previous board meeting, a resident said she felt it was inappropriate for the board to attend the rally because of the anti-tax cap implications, but Ms. Cotten-Degrasse disagreed.

“As an elected member of the board of education, I do not leave my rights at the door, and those rights include free speech,” she said. “I feel strongly about this … and I’m willing to stand up.”

She said that while she had hoped to see more members of the community, she saw the rally as “an excellent start.”

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done,” Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said. “A lot of people need to put their shoulder to the wheel. It affects all of us.

“It’s not just a teacher issue, it’s not just a board of education issue.”

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