BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Three candidates running for Town Board seats met at a forum Sunday in the school’s auditorium. From left, moderator Cathy Kenny, Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Robert Reylek and Councilman Ed Brown.
Those looking for a vigorous debate of the issues facing Shelter Island didn’t find it at Sunday afternoon’s candidate forum.
The three candidates for two Town Board seats were in almost total agreement at the forum held in the school auditorium. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Shelter Island and the Shelter Island Association, the event was moderated by League past president Cathy Kenny.
The two incumbents, Councilwoman Chris Lewis and Councilman Ed Brown, both running on the Republican and Conservative tickets, made a case of sticking with experienced leadership. And Robert Reylek, the challenger on the Democrat, Independence and Working Families lines, in essence made the same case, noting he had served 21 years on the Board of Education, 19 as president.
Ms. Lewis, the only woman on the board, said in her opening statement that “a woman has a place in this government,” and that she also spoke as a voice for senior citizens. Mr. Brown asked “why change what’s working?” Mr. Reylek said he would focus on the issues facing the town and touted his long record of pubic service as a qualification for a seat on the TownBoard.
The candidates were in basic agreement on finding ways to fund 4-posters to control the tick population through county and state measures, rather than fully fund them on the town level because of a lack of money.
These units are stands that deer feed at and are then brushed with a chemical, premetherin, which kills ticks. There is substantial evidence that the units significantly reduce the tick population.
The three candidates also believed an emphasis on hunting, through relaxed regulations such as “nuisance hunting,” should be encouraged.
With the Town Board declaring a moratorium on a law banning inground irrigation systems, originally set to kick in last month, and appointing a committee to study the issue, all three candidates said they would wait and see what the committee had to say before weighing in with their own stands on the issue.
Protecting the surface water bodies of Shelter Island from pollution was also discussed, with pesticide runoff from lawns and septic systems functioning too close to shorelines coming under scrutiny. All candidates believed one tool was better education for the community to solve the problem.
On public transportation on Shelter Island, Mr. Brown and Mr. Reylek followed Ms. Lewis’s lead in noting there’s “not a great outcry for it.”
Piercing the state-mandated 2 percent cap on raising property taxes was often a necessary evil, the candidates agreed, but all believed the town was doing a good job holding taxes down.
On the state mandate itself, Ms. Lewis said that it “might not have been a well thought out piece of legislation. It reads better than it works.”
On the pollution in Fresh Pond, candidates were asked about mapping, or checking septic systems around the pond. Mr. Brown was wholeheartedly in favor of it. Mr. Reylek said adding alum to the pond would help eliminate phosphorus and said other strategies might be employed, including “phytoremediation,” a system using native, non-invasive plants, placed in pots in a float system.
No surprise, but all candidates were for civility and respect to reign at Town Board meetings. Ms. Lewis said that often the public came away from meetings with the wrong perception.
“A family understands the dynamic of the fight,” Ms. Lewis said. “People watching it don’t.”
Near the end of the forum, Ms. Kenny asked the candidates to define the role of government on the Island. Mr. Reylek said the main goals were to protect the health and safety of the residents and to educate the children.
Ms. Lewis said those in government should take a strong leadership role in the community and give volunteers the tools and support they need.
Keeping taxes “palatable” to the residents was of prime importance to Mr. Brown, who noted people of all ages were leaving the Island because they couldn’t afford to live here. He also, along with his colleagues, believed in preserving the rural character of Shelter Island.