Suffolk Times hosts Greenport candidates forum

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Greenport Mayor David Nyce, who is running unopposed for mayor, incumbent trustee George Hubbard Jr, Historic Preservation Commission Chairman David Murray and former trustee Bill Swiskey, who are running for two seats on the Village Board.

“Silly season,” as Mayor David Nyce likes to call it, is nearing an end and Greenport voters will have the final say on Tuesday, March 15, about who they want to fill two Village Board seats as trustees.

Voting will be from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Third Street firehouse.

First-term incumbent George Hubbard Jr. wants to return for another four years. Former trustee Bill Swiskey, who served one year after the death of Mr. Hubbard’s father, wants a full four-year term. So does Historic Preservation Commission chairman David Murray, a relative newcomer to the local political scene.

The mayor has been running unopposed since former Southold Town supervisor Josh Horton dropped out soon after entering the race.

It was evident at a forum sponsored last week by The Suffolk Times that both Mr. Nyce and Mr. Hubbard favored Mr. Murray over Mr. Swiskey, a frequent critic at Village Board meetings. That forum, held last Thursday night at Greenport United Methodist Church, drew about 40 people.

Even Mr. Swiskey acknowledged that the incumbents opposed him but he said he was the best choice. It was a critical time in Greenport, he said, with more than $7 million in debt coming due in 2014. It’s going to take knowledge and a plan to deal with that debt — something he said the current Village Board hasn’t offered.

The alternatives are few, Mr. Swiskey added. To avoid a 40 percent tax hike, the board has to refinance, sell assets to pay down the debt or find ways to bring more revenues into the village, he said.

His comment about needing knowledge to deal with the problem was clearly aimed at Mr. Murray, a relative newcomer in the village, who admitted he didn’t yet have all the answers to questions people asked at the forum.

But Mr. Murray argued that he was a quick study and “very good with people and I can get things done.” He was backed up by Mr. Nyce and Mr. Hubbard, who both said board members need to be able to work together effectively without rancor.

“We need to succeed or our residents fail,” the mayor said, arguing that it will take all five board members working cooperatively.
Asked about his confrontational approach during his one-year tenure on the board, and subsequently as a member of the audience, Mr. Swiskey said he would continue to be contentious “if that’s what it takes. Sometimes you have to speak truth to power,” he said.

Mr. Nyce said the debt situation was under control. He boasted of having paid nearly half of the $13 million in debt he inherited.
Also, he had made progress, he said, on the upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant, on laying the groundwork for a major upgrade to the electric plant and on raising the village’s bond rate, which he said was up by two points. His administration’s achievements, he added, were accomplished during the worst economic time the country has known since the Great Depression.

Mr. Hubbard said he had been instrumental in improving the Moore’s Lane ballfield, getting Southold Town to finally dismantle the scavenger waste plant, and working with the tree committee to replace dead and dying trees. He and his family have volunteered time and money on village projects and it has been satisfying to him to see his efforts bear fruit, he said. He defended taking health insurance coverage through the village, saying that as a small business owner, he needed to do so. But he said he paid some of the premium and was willing to pay more.

Mr. Swiskey pointed to his many hours of work during his year as a trustee and his call to get improvements at the Fifth Street and Third Street playgrounds. He pledged to put in the necessary time the job takes and challenged his opponents to do the same. He accused current Village Board members of overspending on personnel and work at the electric plant and ignoring basics such as sidewalk and curb repairs.

Mr. Murray, who had previously made a call to expand the historic district to include the entire village, defended that call, rejecting Mr. Swiskey’s claim that it would result in higher repair costs for all village residents.

He was backed up by Mr. Nyce, who said homeowners could actually save money if their properties were in the historic district. State law now requires those who renovate more than 50 percent of their homes to bring them fully up to code unless they’re in a historic district, according to Mr. Nyce. By putting the entire village in the historic village, it could actually save money for residents who want to do major renovations, he said.

All agreed there was a need for more recreational activities, especially for teens, and Mr. Nyce said he had been working with the American Legion for more than a year to help see the Third Street post restored. Fixed up, it could be rented to the village for recreational activities. That would provide revenue to the legionnaires, he said.

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