ENDORSEMENT: Bill Ruland and Marie Domenici for Town Board and others

11/03/2011 12:00 PM |

Bill Ruland and Marie Domenici

For Town Council

Two seats, each with four-year terms, will be decided next Tuesday and only one is held by an incumbent. That incumbent, Republican Bill Ruland, is cut from the same bolt of cloth as Mr. Russell and is equally deserving of re-election.

One of two farmers on the board — Mr. Krupski being the other — Mr. Ruland brings a farmer’s sensibilities and values to the position. He’s also soft-spoken, perhaps because as a farmer he knows that raising his voice won’t bring the rain or make it stop. And as anyone in a public position knows — and Mr. Meguin has learned — if you need to scream to win a point you’ve already lost.

Mr. Ruland is far from talkative, but when he does speak it’s on point and to the point. He brings a subdued yet forceful sense of practicality to the job. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But if something does need attention, find out what the problem is, what needs to be done and what tools and personnel are needed to get the job done. His is a steady hand on the wheel, but that should not be confused with a hidebound adherence to dogma. Farmers and elected officials who slavishly follow the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” approach, also have a short shelf life.

The incumbent’s calm common sense is, fortunately, not a rare commodity on the current Town Board. Southold would be well served to keep Mr. Ruland on board for another four years.

There’s an open seat this year, the result of Vinny Orlando’s decision to step down after one term. Bear in mind that Southold’s Town Board candidates run at-large, not for a particular seat. How they line up in the voting booth is of no consequence. The top two vote-getters will be taking office in January.

Mr. Orlando’s replacement on the Republican line is Jill Doherty, currently president of the Board of Trustees. Representing the Democrats are Nicholas Deegan, best known as a Mattituck Park District commissioner, and Marie Domenici, who worked as an aide to former Assemblyman Marc Alessi and as former head of the town’s renewable and alternative energy committee.

As is the case with the supervisor’s election, all four Town Board candidates are solid citizens with records of civic accomplishments. Coincidentally, all reside in Mattituck. It’s a tough call.

Although she is alone among the three in having never held elected office, Ms. Domenici brings a broader view to the job. Her background reflects that.

She’s served on the town’s stormwater runoff committee, as a trustee of the Mattituck-Laurel Historical Society and as volunteer coordinator for the North Fork Environmental Council. Her love of Southold is unquestionable and we feel she would provide a new perspective and new energy to a very good board. We’ve no doubt that she will bring the same level of intelligence and commitment to the more mundane aspects of town government — the Town Board’s bread and butter — that has been her trademark on big-ticket issues.
Ms. Doherty is a knowledgeable, energetic and dedicated Trustee, but her strength seems to lie in her grasp of wetlands law and issues. The town is best served by having Ms. Doherty continue in her present capacity as one of the guardians of the wetlands, a duty and responsibility dating back to colonial times.

Mr. Deegan likewise has distinguished himself as a parks district commissioner. He’s been a key member of a team that has brought a halt to wasteful, close to corrupt practices, which has resulted in park district taxpayers enjoying a 16 percent reduction on that part of their property tax bill. No small achievement that.

But he too seems too narrowly focused, in this case on matters of parks and recreation. That’s not a knock against his efforts; residents would be well served to have more people of Mr. Deegan’s stripe working on their behalf. We believe he and Ms. Doherty are not quite ready for the Town Board, but fervently hope they continue to serve in their current capacities for years to come.

Town Trustees

This was a very easy decision. The two incumbents, Republicans Jim King and Bob Ghosio, are both engaged and accomplished stewards of Southold’s saltwater and freshwater wetlands and we enthusiastically support their bids for new terms.

Once a lobsterman who now fishes for conch, Mr. King takes his responsibility to conduct field inspections to a whole new level. When the state Department of Conservation lacked the personnel to conduct water quality testing in Mattituck Creek, a necessary step toward determining if long-closed shellfish beds could be reopened, Mr. King stepped up to learn the correct collection procedures and took the samples himself. The northern reaches of Mattituck Inlet received state recognition as safe this year through Mr. King’s efforts.

He’s been in office for 16 years and in one of those races received Democratic cross-endorsement. It’s not hard to understand why.

With five years of service, Mr. Ghosio may be the board’s junior member, but he served in the minor leagues, if you will, as chairman of the town’s Conservation Advisory Council, which as its name suggests advises the Trustees. He’s perhaps best known for speaking out against “preservation by procrastination,” the all too frequent and frustrating paralysis that’s a by-product of an application going through multiple reviewing agencies.

Their Democratic opponents, Steve Brautigam and Lynn Summers, are no newcomers to public service. Mr. Brautigam, who held several high administrative position for the Village of Greenport, currently serves as village administrator for Ocean Beach on Fire Island. Ms. Summers is a teacher holding a master’s degree in science education. Mr. Brautigam and other Ocean Beach officials are pursuing “engineered beaches,” a new approach to shoreline protection. In that, a particular part of the shore is closely measured, establishing a baseline against which changes can be measured. Ms. Summers tapped her knowledge and experience to help establish a marine education program in Mattituck schools.

Given the quality of the candidates, it’s unfortunate in this case that only two seats are available. But through their records and experience, the incumbents have the edge and win our endorsement.

Tax Receiver

For the second time in as many elections, the Democratic Party is fielding a candidate for an office he doesn’t want to fill. Two years ago former councilman Dan Ross ran for Fishers Island justice, not to serve in that capacity but to provide the legal standing he needed to challenge the constitutionality of a state law giving the judge a seat on the Town Board. Mr. Ross lost on Election Day and state courts at three levels ruled against him.

This year former councilman Bill Edwards is running for tax receiver, again not because he wants the job but because he believes the office should be eliminated and the duties transferred to the town clerk.

While both of those efforts involve questions of public policy — in the tax receiver’s case the professed ability to save close to half a million dollars over 10 years — both were born of partisan concerns. In the case of the Fishers Island justice position, that seat is a virtual lock for the GOP. Regarding the tax receiver, Mr. Edwards is a fill-in candidate, recruited after the party’s original choice withdrew.

The Democrats have said openly that they’re not criticizing the service of GOP incumbent George Sullivan and this is a straightforward effort to trim town spending. The problem is the evidence provided is rather thin, basically taking the receiver’s annual salary, only about $37,000 a year, and multiplying by 10. Left unsaid is how much the town might have to pay a new staffer to take on the task of collecting not just the town’s taxes, but the schools’, libraries’ and fire departments’ as well.

Mr. Sullivan is unquestionably qualified to continue in his office and seeing no hard numbers to support the call to abolish his office, we endorse Mr. Sullivan.


Here’s a similar situation. GOP incumbent Darline Duffy is running and so her qualifications go unchallenged as well. But as part of its campaign, the Democratic Party is calling for the abolition of the town’s three elected assessors and turning instead to an appointed official. That, it’s said, would remove the “taint of politics” always hovering over the office and its work.

That’s a back-door effort to plant the perception of corruption without having to back it up with particulars. According to the argument, an elected official could be tempted to provide owner-friendly assessments for political or other considerations. Is it more efficient to switch to a single assessor with a larger support staff? Maybe, but could or would that remove the “taint” that no one previously identified? Unlikely. In fact, it might increase the chance of such unsavory influence.

An appointed assessor would need Town Board approval to stay in office. Who is more susceptible to corruption? An official who is responsible to the entire town or someone whose livelihood is directly tied to a single political party?

We endorse Ms. Duffy.

Town Justice

This is perhaps the most difficult choice this year.

The race pits GOP incumbent Rudolph Bruer against Brian Hughes, a Republican running on the Democratic line. Mr. Bruer has a long and distinguished career behind the bench, while Mr. Hughes has served as an NYC fire marshal and bureau chief for the Brooklyn district attorney. The one campaign issue deviating from the discussion of education and experience is Mr. Bruer’s handling of a case in which Mr. Hughes served as defense attorney. A state appeals court overturned the conviction and dismissed the charge after finding Mr. Bruer made several serious procedural errors. One case does not a legacy erase, but it does raise the question of whether the town and the court would be better served with an infusion of new blood.

On the other hand, would Mr. Hughes find satisfaction in a job dominated by petty offenses and drunk driving arrests? You don’t need to be an assistant attorney general, as Mr. Hughes was, to wear the robes. In fact, non-attorneys can hold the position.

In this race, we offer no endorsement. Both candidates are unquestionably qualified, but it’s unclear who is the better choice.