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Shelter Island Reporter endorsements for Election 2021

Gerry Siller for Town Supervisor

Buzzwords initially sting, but the more they’re employed, especially when there’s not much substance behind them, the more irrelevant they become.

“Transparency” is the term buzzing around Supervisor Gerry Siller through our Letters page and columns and Town Hall. Charges of a lack of transparency on Mr. Siller’s part have been at times valid, but in most cases is simply not true. Cases where Mr. Siller hasn’t been upfront about decision-making must be addressed, and we believe he’s learning lessons. And it must be said that some — certainly not all — of his critics are happily floating conspiracy theories, using condescending dismissals of policy instead of debate, and disrupting meetings as a tactic to bait opponents.

One example of Mr. Siller’s advocacy for transparency was a discussion about the Town’s preparations for Tropical Storm Henri in August. For the first time, at the instigation of Police Chief Jim Read and Mr. Siller, the media was invited in to the emergency planning decisions. We could ask questions, allowing reliable information to be disseminated via our print and digital editions.

Mr. Siller’s steady leadership was apparent from his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Town employees were quickly mobilized to help and protect the public, and several times a week the Town Board held informational meetings to get the word out on what was happening and how Islanders could protect themselves and their loved ones.

For those who carp about government being a bloated conspiracy dedicated to taking away our freedoms, and elected officials who do nothing but feed at the public trough, you should have been at the school gym on Feb. 26. In a remarkable example of extremely hard work, dedication, communication and perseverance — words used by Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) — the Island under Mr. Siller managed a complicated logistical problem of providing a vaccination event to ensure public health that ran like clockwork. And repeated the action a few weeks later.

Mr. Siller has been a strong advocate for affordable housing, which we endorse, and has brought in a budget proposal to keep taxes low.

Peter S. Reich, who recently announced a write-in candidacy, has always had this page’s support of him and his ideas. He has always had the Island’s interests at heart. But his run seems a bit too little, and a bit too late.

The Reporter enthusiastically supports Gerry Siller to be re-elected supervisor.

Brach-Williams, Kaasik, Surerus for Town Council

The easiest endorsement the editorial staff had to make is the re-election of Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams. Also appointed as deputy supervisor, Ms. Brach-Williams is an accountant and local businesswoman, who brings her financial expertise to the board. She 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 a wide range of issues and deserves another term to continue her fine work.

Marcus Kaasik is running against Barbara Jean (BJ) Ianfolla to fill the remaining two years of Mike Bebon’s term, after the former councilman resigned. Ms. Ianfolla proved her intelligence, work ethic and belief in public service during her terms as a town assessor. We applaud her run for Town Council, but the nod here goes to Mr. Kaasik. He’s no stranger to running for elective office; this is his third try and we hope it’s the charm. Mr. Kaasik serves as a member of the Planning Board and on the Baymen and Anglers Committee. In the latter role he has proven himself to be an able advocate for clean water that sustains us all. We believe he will bring that advocacy and dedication to smart planning to the Town Council.

The most difficult decision on endorsements our staff had to make was the race between Brett Surerus and Margaret (Meg) Larsen, running for four-year terms on the Council. Both of these Islanders would bring youthful energy to Town government and represent the concerns of younger Islanders making their homes here. Ms. Larsen has been a constant presence at Town Board meetings and is up-to-date on all issues affecting her fellow Islanders. A businesswoman, she’s expressed her advocacy of affordable housing and, through her family’s business of installing septic systems, is firm in her belief that the Island must mitigate runoff problems resulting in pollutants affecting waterways. Our community needs Ms. Larsen’s dedication and passion and we know she will stay involved and engaged.

Our choice here, however, is Mr. Surerus. He has been a citizen-advocate of the best kind, initiating programs and policies from the grass roots. This was apparent when he led the effort to keep the July Fourth fireworks as one of the Island’s greatest community events when the Chamber of Commerce couldn’t continue to sponsor them. His skill as an organizer and motivator of people was evident from the beginning. While most people were stunned at the start of the COVID pandemic, Mr. Surerus acted. He created the Shelter Island Action Alliance that helped sustain Island restaurants while feeding first responders during the height of the pandemic.

Mr. Surerus deserves to bring his skills and passion to the Town Board.

Dorothy Ogar for Town Clerk

For the first time in many years, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar has a challenger in this year’s election. Kristina Martin Majdisova, who is a clerk for many town committees, does excellent work and is a responsive and gracious public servant. She’s running on a platform to update systems within the clerk’s office to provide its services in a quicker and easier way. We applaud Ms. Martin Majdisova’s ideas and hope Ms. Ogar is listening.

But our nod goes unequivocally to Ms. Ogar for another term as Town Clerk. In every dealing the Reporter has ever had with her, she has been immediately responsive and forthcoming. Her institutional knowledge of Shelter Island’s town government and history are invaluable assets. Vote for Dorothy Ogar for Town Clerk on Tuesday.

Highway Superintendent Brian Sherman, Assessor Patricia Castoldi

Mr. Sherman and Ms. Castoldi have been endorsed by both political parties, and the Reporter adds its endorsement to their candidacies.

Bridget Fleming for County Legislator

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) has demonstrated a strong commitment to her constituents, not simply showing up to shake hands and ask for votes. She has attended hearings on the Island, a small corner of her district, and worked to secure money for needed projects. She becomes truly engaged with local office holders to achieve their aims. Ms. Fleming, for her intelligence, perseverance and hard work, deserves the win she will no doubt get on Nov. 2.

Ballot propositions

We encourage voters to vote “Yes” on Proposal 1, which would regulate redistricting of Congressional and the state’s legislative districts.

We also endorse voting in favor of Proposal 2, which adds to the Bill of Rights the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment. This is not bureaucratic happy-talk, but requires all state and local governments and businesses to consider the environment in all decisions. It’s beyond time to keep the fate of our planet’s existence front and center in all deliberations.

Vote “Yes” on Proposal 3, which removes the requirement that voters must be registered at least 10 days before the vote. In any democracy worth the name, it should be the duty of legislators to make it easier to vote rather than more difficult.

Proposal 4, which would permit no-excuse absentee voting, deserves a “Yes.” See Proposal 3.

Proposal 5, which would enable all New York City Civil Courts to hear and decide on cases up to $50,000, double the current limit, is deserving of a “yes” vote. We agree with those advocating for this idea because it will reduce the backlog of cases.

Voting information

There is no early voting on Shelter Island, but Islanders can cast early ballots through Sunday, Oct. 31 at the Southold Senior Center, 750 Pacific Street, Mattituck; or Stony Brook University Southampton Campus Student Center, 39 Tuckahoe Road, Southampton, on:

Oct. 28 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Oct. 29 noon to 8 p.m.

Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Although it’s too late to apply online or by mail for an absentee ballot, you can pick up an absentee ballot in person at the Suffolk County Board of Elections 34-399 Yaphank Avenue in Yaphank, through Nov. 1.

Election Day polls on Nov. 2 are open at Shelter Island School from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

All in-person voters must have proof they are fully vaccinated or must wear masks.