Reporter editorial: Who will speak for the Island?

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

If it seems like you just voted for a county legislator, you’re right. In January, in a special election, Al Krupski was elected to represent the Island along with the North Fork in District 1.

But because of the vagaries of redistricting, we are now separated from the North Fork, in legislative terms, and have joined the South Fork in District 2. And the election for that district is November 5,

What is the Suffolk County Legislature? Some history might help.

Born in January 1970, the new body replaced the centuries-old Suffolk County Board of Supervisors. A Shelter Islander, Evans K. Griffing, the town’s supervisor and chairman of that governing board, opposed the change, sued and lost.

There’s some kind of dark irony at work in the naming of the venue where the Legislature meets in Hauppauge: the Evans K. Griffing Office Building.

To form the new governing structure, Suffolk was divided into 18 districts of equal population, which became the basis for the Legislature. After taking the U.S. Census each decade, boundaries of the districts are reapportioned to adjust to population changes. Most recently, the population of each district was raised to a target of 82,864 and district lines redrawn.

For more than 40 years, Shelter Island has alternated between being part of a district mainly composed of the South Fork and a district mainly composed of the North Fork. In the most recent reapportionment, the Island was returned to the district to our south, one that runs from Montauk to the Moriches.

Every two years there are elections for the Legislature. It functions under the Suffolk County Charter, which gives it the powers to, among other things, “organize, alter and abolish any unit of county government … make appropriations, levy taxes and incur indebtedness … Investigate the performance of any of the functions, offices or departments of Suffolk County government.”

In other words, it’s got a hammer, and voters should take note on who they want to wield it.

Two relative strangers to the Island are running to represent us. Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, 39, who has been in office eight years and is now term-limited out, is running on the Republican and Conservative tickets. He’s challenging the incumbent, Legislator Jay Schneiderman, 51, who has held the seat since 2004, and runs on the Independence Party line.

Both men are bright, capable, tough and experienced. But where do they come down on the issues that mean the most to Islanders? Among these are tick-borne illnesses, dredging our harbors and bays, maintaining county roads, public transportation and open space preservation vs. development.

There’s a way to find out where these candidates stand. This Saturday, October 12, at the library beginning at 11 a.m., Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Nuzzi will square off to debate the issues. Sponsored by the Reporter, the Shelter Island Association and the League of Women Voters of Shelter Island, questions will also be submitted by the audience.

It should be a spirited and informative event, one that will help you decide who will best serve your interests and concerns.

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