10/09/14 11:11am
State Senator Lee Zeldin (left) and Congressman Tim Bishop (right) took turns a podium in Polish Hall to address questions Wednesday night in Riverhead.

Republican state Senator Lee Zeldin (left) and Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop (right). (Credit: Grant Parpan)

The two major party candidates for the 1st Congressional District squared off at a contentious debate — at least, contentious between incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and the GOP-dominated crowd — in a packed Polish Hall in Riverhead Wednesday night.

State Senator Lee Zeldin of Shirley, a Republican and Iraq War veteran who unsuccessfully ran against Mr. Bishop in 2008 before seeking office in Albany, enjoyed a political home-field advantage among the nearly 250 who showed up at the event, organized and sponsored by RiverheadLocal.com, an online news website.

RiverheadLocal co-publisher Denise Civiletti moderated.

At times during the debate, specifically when Mr. Bishop faulted Tea Party members in Congress for much of the gridlock in Washington, the crowd degenerated into shout-downs and name-calling.

“You’re a liar!” yelled one attendee, after Mr. Bishop said “compromise has become a four-letter word in Washington under Tea Party control.” (more…)

10/17/13 11:07am
10/17/2013 11:07 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Trustee candidates debate issues like water pollution and beach access during Tuesday’s forum.

Democratic Trustee challengers took aim at their Republican opponents Tuesday on the issues of water pollution and public beach access at a candidates’ forum sponsored by The Suffolk Times and hosted by Peconic Landing in Greenport.

Democratic challengers Geoffrey Wells, Joseph Finora and William Funke are opposing incumbent Republican Town Trustees John Bredemeyer and Mike Domino and Republican challenger Charles Sanders for three open seats on the board.

[Related: Deer management, Vineyard 48 hot topics among Town Board hopefuls]

Here’s what the candidates had to say about the issues.

WATER POLLUTION

All the candidates agreed that water pollution, specifically nitrogen loading, is a major and ongoing issue facing Southold Town.

When nitrogen gets into streams, ponds, Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay, it causes an overgrowth of algae, which sucks up oxygen in the water, the candidates said.

Mr. Bredemeyer and Mr. Domino said the board is keenly aware of groundwater conditions and, as a waterfront community with a strong agricultural industry, monitoring nitrate levels is a top priority.

Mr. Bredemeyer said the Trustees base permitting on science and work with sister regulatory agencies, such as the state Department of Environment Conservation, to control water contamination.

It’s a system Mr. Domino says doesn’t need fixing.

“Things are getting better in Southold Town,” he said. “We have to use scientific data to find out what we need to address first.”

Mr. Finora said he believes Southold Town does a better job than municipalities further west, but he suggested there’s room for improvement.

He and Mr. Wells said the primary source of Southold’s nitrate problem is not the farmer, but failing residential septic systems.

“Leaching is happening on a daily basis,” Mr. Wells said. “It is a very serious situation.”

Mr. Wells suggested that the Trustees revisit the manner in which town septic systems are monitored and reach out to other communities dealing with the issue of nitrate pollution, giving Cape Cod as an example. In recent years, several towns on the Cape have adopted legislation to oblige homeowners to purchase new septic systems to reduce nitrogen output, according to news reports.

While stating that nitrates are “the single worst problem” facing the Trustees, Mr. Funke said it would be unfair to ask residents to pay for expensive upgrades to their septic systems.

Mr. Finora disagreed sharply with his fellow Democrat.

“Little by little, we are losing the battle,” he said. “People will realize it’s better to have clean water than green grass.”

PUBLIC BEACH ACCESS

Where does waterfront beach property cross over to public land?

The Democratic challengers argued that the present town government hasn’t been doing enough to protect Southolders’ right to walk along local beaches.

The issue was brought to the forefront of the campaign two weeks ago, when the full slate of Democrats running for town offices — all currently all held by Republicans — purchased an advertisement in The Suffolk Times claiming that “some people” want to take away residents’ beach access.

During the debate, Mr. Finora said the ad was designed in response to an issue the public was bringing up “time and time again.”

The New York State Public Trust Doctrine says that anything seaward of the mean high water mark on the beach is public land and anything landward of the mean high water mark on the beach is private property. The wrack line, where debris washes up on the beach, is often considered an informal high tide mark, but it can change from day to day.

Mr. Finora and Mr. Wells said the town is responsible for drawing the line in the sand.

“We need to create a system where the community is involved in deciding were the mean high water mark is,” Mr. Wells said.

Republican hopefuls said the law is on the books and it is an enforcement issue outside the town Trustees’ purview.

“If you are doing something inappropriate, the bay constable should show up,” Mr. Bredemeyer said.

Mr. Funke said beach access “doesn’t seem like it is that much of a problem” and agreed with the Republicans’ stance on enforcement.

“I’m not sure what we can do with the wrack line, we certainly can’t monument it,” he said. “The people that are involved should just step down and stop fighting.”

TRUSTEE REPORT CARD

The current Board of Trustees is doing fairly well, according to hopefuls on both sides of the party line.

When asked to give current Trustees a letter grade, Mr. Wells gave a “B” rating.

“They uphold code and work hard,” he said. “However, they don’t reach out to the community.”

Mr. Wells feels the Trustees need to step up communication efforts with the public and make the process of applying for permits more transparent and easier for the average citizen to follow.

Incumbent Mr. Domino disagreed, saying members are accessible to the public and rewarding the board an “A+” grade.

“We hit all the bullet points in the mission statement,” he said.

Mr. Sanders echoed Mr. Domino’s response, while Mr. Finora and Mr. Bredemeyer said the voters would answer that question on Nov. 5.

Mr. Funke declined to respond.

“How am I supposed to know?” he said.

[email protected]

10/16/13 4:19pm
10/16/2013 4:19 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Town board candidates debate winery regulation and deer management during Tuesday's forum.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Town board candidates debate winery regulation and deer management during Tuesday’s forum.

Town finances, winery regulations and deer management were among the issues discussed at a Southold Town Board candidates forum sponsored by The Suffolk Times and hosted at Peconic Landing in Greenport Tuesday night.

Democratic challengers Mary Eisenstein and Ron Rothman asked voters to elect a different voice to the all-Republican board, while incumbent Town Board member Jim Dinizio, a registered Conservative, and Republican challenger and current town Trustee Bob Ghosio touted their experience and working knowledge of the issues facing Southold.

Here’s what the candidates had to say about the issues:

DEER MANAGEMENT

When it comes to Southold Town’s current deer management plan, Democratic hopefuls said there is none.

Mary Eisenstein, who has been diagnosed with Lyme disease four times during her 21 years on the North Fork, said the Town Board hasn’t been working hard enough to lobby Albany for more effective means of controlling the deer population.

“If I’m on the board, the first thing I’m doing is getting a busload of people to go to Albany,” she said.

The Republican candidates agreed deer management is a major issue in Southold Town. Mr. Ghosio pointed to Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) for letting legislation that would relax hunting regulations in Suffolk County and across the state to stall in committee.

“The problem is we are ready to address it, but the state is not,” Mr. Ghosio said. He believes when the North Fork’s vacant state Assembly seat is filled in November, Southold’s deer management issue will be better represented and more progress will be made. All the candidates said they would support Republican Town Supervisor Scott Russell’s proposal to allocate $75,000 in the 2014 town budget toward deer management.

TOWN FINANCES

Every candidate spoke in favor of Mr. Russell’s proposed budget for 2013-14 and supported the way the town manages its finances.

The proposed $41.6 million 2014 spending plan includes a 1 percent spending increase over the current year and would result in a 1.17 percent tax hike.

Mr. Dinizio said the town does a good job of limiting expenses and spending wisely, citing the Town Board’s recent authorization of a $3.5 million bond for construction improvements to the town’s highway facility. The proposed upgrades include demolition of existing fuel storage tanks and construction of a consolidated fueling station, he said.The consolidation would allow the town to store more fuel in the event of a natural disaster like superstorm Sandy.

“There are places were you can spend money to gain efficiency,” Mr. Dinizio said.

Democrats agreed the current Town Board handles its finances well.

“It is a well-managed town,” said Democrat Ron Rothman. “We are fiscally in good shape.”

Ms. Eisenstein said, “As I’m out speaking with people, they say how they like how Scott Russell manages our town and I concur with that.”

She agreed with Mr. Dinizio’s suggestion that the town could gain efficiency.

WINERY REGULATIONS

Any discussion on how to strike a balance between meeting the needs of agricultural businesses and maintaining the rural character of Southold Town will eventually turn to Vineyard 48’s controversial business practices. Tuesday’s debate was no exception.

The Cutchogue vineyard’s business practices have prompted investigations by both the town and the State Liquor Authority following a host of complaints, including reports of loud music and patrons allegedly wandering onto neighboring properties and engaging in illicit behavior.

While board members have traditionally taken a strong stance against the vineyard, Democratic hopeful Mr. Rothman said the winery is being stifled by the town’s excessive legislation, pointing specifically to the newly enacted special events law.The law and the winery use review were a response to residents’ complaints about such events — most notably at Vineyard 48 — and concern about the town’s options in addressing code violations.

Mr. Rothman, owner of Rothman’s Department Store in Southold, said the town should have enforced the laws already on the books rather then passing new regulations to restrict all of the town’s agricultural businesses.

“It’s overkill for the problem,” Mr. Rothman said. “I’m for agriculture and promoting the businesses that are zoned for these area. It is a good-neighbor policy.”

Mr. Dinizo said the need for the legislation stems from some operations not following a “good-neighbor policy.”

“If you mention [Vineyard] 48 you have to mention what goes on there; this establishment breaks the law every week,” he said. “That is a safety problem and a police problem.”

Mr. Dinizio, who has served for more than two decades on various Southold Town boards, said he’s seen the town’s need for more extensive regulations grow.

“In 1988 it was cheese and crackers and sipping wine and it was fine, but things are changing and that’s why we have a Town Board so we can all sleep at night,” he said.

Viewing the issue on a broader scale, Mr. Ghosio said his priority was to maintain the rural charm of the town.

“Riverhead used to be a rural town and we all see what’s happening out west and we don’t want that to happen here,” he said. “If we need to create laws to maintain that from time to time, so be it.”

[email protected]

09/29/12 11:00am
09/29/2012 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Thursday evening.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James, debated Thursday night at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

The debate, moderated by Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly, can be seen below in three parts.