Featured Story

The Reporter’s endorsements for Election 2019

Gary Gerth for supervisor
Two fine public servants are vying for the job of supervisor on Tuesday.

Democrat Gerry Siller, a local businessman, former town supervisor and former member of the School Board, is dedicated to making the Island a better place.

As supervisor, he accomplished important objectives, from infrastructure reform and maintenance to a solid record of keeping taxes low and services efficiently provided to all Islanders. Mr. Siller’s recent service on the Community Housing Board, tasked to make real the ideal of affordable housing, is testament to his commitment to his home town. He said recently that it’s “imperative for the town to identify a housing project and begin work on it immediately.”

After narrowly defeating incumbent Supervisor Jim Dougherty in 2017, Republican Gary Gerth has produced real accomplishments in his first term.

He led the move to keep Chase Bank’s branch on North Ferry Road open, when most people thought it would be gone in a matter of months. (It’s still an open question how long Chase will remain.) Mr. Gerth heard the community loud and clear and acted, skillfully negotiating with Chase officials to keep the bank here.

He’s also working to keep Dr. Peter Kelt’s practice open at the Medical Center, negotiating an agreement with the doctor that allows him to serve his many patients, who have organized to keep him here.

And again, it looks like he has negotiated successfully with Stony Brook/Southampton to have the Medical Center staffed by at least one physician who lives on the Island.

Like the best leaders, he has delegated authority, allowing Town Engineer John Cronin to continue his essential work; giving Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams the gavel at board meetings and letting her steer the agendas; and picking an excellent Town Attorney, Bob DeStefano Jr., who is an active contributor to the board’s discussions.

And one accomplishment that is equal to others is Mr. Gerth has brought a sense of civility to the Town Hall meeting room when, in the past, ad hominem attacks, table pounding and shouting was an all-too-common and sad spectacle at public meetings.

Those deplorable displays haven’t completely gone away. There are still people treating a policy discussion as if it’s Apocalypse Now, or at the very least, scheduled for tomorrow, but the volume has been lowered, and the supervisor has much to do with that.

On the downside, he has strayed too close to the line separating his duties from politics, stunning the community when, at the 11th hour, he voted against a short-term rental law he helped to craft, including a brilliant provision for middle class people who need the income from rentals to survive.

Did his finger in the wind tell him that the organized and ardent anti-regulation crowd would hammer him all summer?

He also, as head of the Republican Party, signed off on denying Councilman Paul Shepherd the Republican line in this election. Mr. Shepherd, a proven vote-getter and the board’s conscience on many issues, was shunted aside because of an issue of “age” we were told (Mr. Gerth is 77). It’s more likely that Mr. Shepherd’s support for STR regulations didn’t sit well with a Republican ticket that is in lockstep for no regulations.

But politics, as they say, is a contact sport, and Mr. Gerth is a seasoned player.

The Reporter believes Mr. Gerth has achieved real results for Shelter Island and is acting on an ambitious agenda to make life here better and safer. We believe he deserves another term as supervisor and endorse his re-election.

Shepherd, Bebon for Town Board
Shelter Island is fortunate to have five good candidates seeking two Town Board seats this year when voters in many communities are faced with a choice of the least of the evils.

Councilman Jim Colligan, a Democrat, has worked harder than anyone on the Town Board to achieve results on every issue the community has faced. He has endured a campaign of misinformation and verbal abuse in a public place because of his honest work. What’s worse is an example of the low level that public discourse has sunk to on the Island, when Mr. Colligan was publicly mocked for his military record, which included his service in Vietnam.

Republican Marcus Kaasik, who narrowly missed winning a seat on the Town Board last time around, has shown himself to be an informed and active citizen, especially as a champion of the baymen and those who make their livings on the water. He brings traditional Island values to the fore, and shown passion and intelligence in his public comments.

Julia Romanchuk Weisenberg, a newcomer to politics, running on the Republican line, has an engaging personality paired with a solid understanding of the issues at stake. Her voice, along with Mr. Colligan’s and Mr. Kaasik’s, should be heard and listened to for clear thinking and new ideas.

All would be fine representatives.

That said, two candidates, in our opinion, stand out as the best choices for the Town Board.

Incumbent Councilman Paul Shepherd, running on the Conservative, Libertarian, and Independence lines, is a public figure who, as we have said before, is most interesting in his contradictions. He’s a free thinker who can plunge into the minutiae of aquifer-related topics and then, practically in the next breath, ask larger-themed questions about where the Island’s values are headed.

He is the most involved Town Board member when engaging with his colleagues, speakers before the board and the issues. Although he is the first to concede that he likes the sound of his own voice, he’s no blowhard.

One example of his homework and dedication is that he knew what nitrates were before his colleagues could pronounce the word. He takes his post seriously and with passion.

We endorse Mr. Shepherd because he’s an intelligent, hard-working and dedicated elected official who unequivocally deserves another term on the Town Board.

Mike Bebon has demonstrated strong leadership qualities and in-depth knowledge of two critical issues facing this town: water quality and affordable housing. As chairman of both the Water Advisory Committee and the Community Housing Board, he has shown an ability to keep the focus where it needs to be.

He has brought innovative thinking to the Community Housing Board and shared his expertise in engineering and construction and environmental compliance and remediation with the Water Advisory Committee.

Some have pointed out that because of Mr. Bebon’s critical knowledge of these areas, he should remain as chairman of the committees. But as a Town Board member, he can be a liaison to these committees. Mr. Bebon would be in a position to advise and bring new ideas in that role, as well as bringing a thoughtful approach to other issues facing the town.

The Reporter strongly endorses the candidacy of Mike Bebon for Town Board.

Cross endorsed by the two major parties — and the Reporter — are Highway Superintendent Brian Sherman, Receiver of Taxes Ann Marie Seddio, and Assessors Craig Wood and Judith C. Lechmanski.

Steve Bellone for Suffolk County Executive
Suffolk County is the most densely populated area with septic systems in the United States. These systems are heavy polluters of groundwater — the water we drink. County Executive Steve Bellone’s administration began promoting new I/A septic systems, (Innovative and Alternative), which are said to reduce nitrogen by up to 70%. They also cost individual homeowners in excess of $20,000.

Mr. Bellone’s staff has held community meetings to promote the systems, but also to promote access to county grants of up to $20,000 to cover installation costs. This is very important news for the East End, where septic systems are ubiquitous and, in hundreds of locations, very close to saltwater. By last spring, 102 systems had been installed countywide. On Tuesday, Mr. Bellone announced that more than 100 county residents applied for the grants in October.

We on eastern Long Island need to do whatever it takes to keep our groundwater safe and our creeks and bays clean.

Mr. Bellone’s opponents are John M. Kennedy, running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines, and Gregory John Fischer, on the Libertarian line.

We endorse Steve Bellone for Suffolk County Executive.

Bridget Fleming for Suffolk County Legislature
Bridget Fleming, running for re-election to the Suffolk County Legislature on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines, has achieved solid results in her tenure in Hauppauge. She has been active in drafting sanitary code revisions that allowed nitrogen-removing septic systems to replace out-of-date cesspools and helped secure more than $10 million for her district in clean water initiatives.

On the issue of reducing tick-borne diseases, Ms. Fleming has been out front, pushing for funds for the Tick Surveillance and Management Program, which is dedicated, through the county’s departments of health and public works, to scientifically taking the health crisis head-on.

Her challenger is the former Southampton Town supervisor, Linda Kabot, running on the Republican, Conservative and Libertarian lines. She is an able campaigner and a veteran of elected office.

But the incumbent’s work has been exemplary. Bridget Fleming is the Reporter’s overwhelming choice to continue her duties representing the Legislature’s 2nd district and Shelter Island.