Shelter Island Reporter endorsements

Seeking your support Candidates for Supervisor and Town Board seats, clockwise from lower left, Albert Dickson, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Gary Gerth, Marcus Kaasik and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams.
Candidates for Supervisor and Town Board seats, clockwise from lower left, Albert Dickson, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Gary Gerth, Marcus Kaasik and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams.

It’s rare that a newspaper’s editorial staff withholds an endorsement from either candidate standing for an election.

But that’s the position the Reporter finds itself in looking at the race for Shelter Island town supervisor between Supervisor Jim Dougherty, a Democrat running for a sixth term, and his challenger, Republican Gary Gerth.

Mr. Dougherty is a talented and intelligent man who is responsible for many positive contributions to a place he clearly loves. He’s proud of keeping taxes low, but many say at the expense of not caring for the infrastructure needs that are apparent now and will become more so in the near future.

As for a strategic capital plan, there is none, but Mr. Dougherty, curiously, said there was at a recent candidates forum.

But we withhold our endorsement mainly because of what former town engineer John Cronin called “a leadership vacuum.”

Mr. Dougherty has alienated his colleagues and other town officials on numerous occasions, sometimes with petty and cutting remarks directed toward them at public meetings.

As Councilwoman Chris Lewis admonished Mr. Dougherty at one point during a meeting, “You don’t diminish people you’re opposing, it’s just necessary to state your point of view.”

The lack of responsible leadership was clearly on display during the debate — malevolent food fight is more apt — over regulating short-term rentals (STRs).

Whether you are for or against the regulations, and there are fine arguments on either side, the issue consumed close to 18 months of the Town Board’s time, when it could have been settled in half that, all resulting in an Island divided.

It was as disgraceful as it was unnecessary, and Mr. Dougherty, who, in his role as supervisor, is charged with controlling meetings, allowed it to continue.

Mr. Gerth has many good ideas and presented a quiet and reasoned personality at two public forums. But it’s telling that in both instances he began his remarks with a rhetorical question: “Who is Gary Gerth?” Mr. Gerth has not served on any town committees or boards, or run for office here until announcing his candidacy for supervisor.

We respect him and his ability, and hope he continues to participate in debating the issues facing Shelter Island.

Not endorsing doesn’t mean not voting. We encourage all residents to weigh the flaws and the strengths of each candidate and make an informed decision at the polls.

Amber Brach-Williams for Town Council
The easiest endorsement the editorial staff has to make this November is for the reelection of Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams.

Ms. Brach-Williams, a certified public accountant and local businesswoman, brings her financial expertise to the board. One recent example of this was when she had to call her colleagues back to a budget meeting when she spied an error in a tax levy formula.

Ms. Brach-Williams is hardworking, intelligent and committed to making the Island a better place. She has been a consistent voice on the board calling for action on affordable housing, and given a full term of four years she will, we believe, turn ideas into action.

Albert Dickson for Town Council
If picking a Town Board candidate to endorse is easy in the case of Ms. Brach-Williams, choosing between Democrat Albert Dickson and Republican Marcus Kaasik is difficult. Both candidates are up to speed on all issues facing the Island and have sound ideas to improve the lives of all residents.

Mr. Dickson, who is the chairman of the Water Advisory Committee, knows as much or more about the problems of polluted water plaguing the Island as anyone, and is working hard to solve problems.

Plus, he’s brought another dimension to the campaign that other candidates have not explored — the need for elected officials to inspire their constituents. At a recent public event, Mr. Dickson said, “I want to engage you. I want to encourage your participation.”

Mr. Kaasik is intelligent, caring and has a no-nonsense outlook on water issues, affordable housing and tick-borne illnesses. He has concrete ideas about solving problems that often look intractable.

We hope Mr. Kaasik remains a steady and contributing presence at Town Hall and look forward to supporting him in the future. He is an excellent candidate and would make a fine councilman. But for Town Council on November 7, the Reporter gives its endorsement to Albert Dickson.

Other endorsements
The Reporter enthusiastically endorses Highway Superintendent and Commissioner of Public Works Jay Card Jr. for reelection; Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar for reelection; Assessor Patricia Castoldi for reelection; and Assessor Craig Wood for election, all of whom are running unopposed.
Proposition 1: The idea of convening a convention to alter New York State’s Constitution is a bad one at this time. A broad coalition that rarely speaks together on issues — including the Working Families and the Conservative parties — are opposed to a convention.

At risk are environmental protections of open spaces and cutting back on funding for education. Vote no on Proposition 1.

Proposition 2: A “yes” vote would alter the state Constitution on pension payments for some public officials who have been convicted of corruption. Vote “yes.”

Proposition 3: Voting “yes” would allow municipalities in the Adirondack and Catskill regions to purchase small tracts of state land — to be used mainly for roads — for essential services such as those needed by first responders, without seeking an amendment to the Constitution each time. This seems to be a reasonable idea and we suggest a “yes” vote.