You don’t often see candidates for U.S. Congress and New York State Senate and Assembly in the same room with candidates for Southold Town Trustee, talking about similar issues. But that’s what members of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce got to experience at a “meet the candidates” luncheon at the Meetinghouse Creek Inn in Aquebogue Wednesday afternoon.
Sen. Ken LaValle, U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop and challenger Assemblyman Dan Losquadro and challenger Nicholas Deegan, and Southold Town Trustee Mike Domino and challenger Jeri Woodhouse all gathered at a table for an interesting back-and-forth on the economy, environment, taxes and how all levels of government big and small need to work together for a better future for New York and the whole of the North Fork.
Each candidate made an opening statement before answering questions from chamber members read by a moderator. Here are some highlights of the luncheon held late in the game of Election 2012:
• Longtime Republican Sen. Ken LaValle, who had to leave before the Q&A session, said that by being a good listener, he believes he’s built a good agenda in the senate for the district over the last two years, including work in pension reform and passing a $3.3 billion tax relief package to provide middle income tax relief.
“The part of my job I’ve always enjoyed the most has been working with communities and individuals and solving problems,” he said.
• U.S. Rep. Bishop, a Democrat, began by highlighting his recent efforts in restoring funding for the North Fork’s multi-campus high school NJROTC program, securing $55,600 in retroactive benefits in three weeks for Air Force veteran and Mattituck resident Bruce Sykes, and for helping Greenport Village secure $3.9 million to comply with a mandated upgrade to village sewage treatment.
“I’m proud every time I hear of a ROTC student from the North Fork getting accepted into the military,” Bishop said. “And in order to get anything done through the Veterans Affairs in three weeks, you’ve got to really know where to go. We’ve got a very experienced staff that can get the job done.”
• As he has since the first time he ran for congress in 2010, Altschuler, a Republican entrepreneur, said that it’s time for change in Washington, focusing on immigration reform, tax relief and other ways to help farmers in his 10-point jobs plan.
“I’ve been in business my entire life, and it’s time to bring some sanity to Washington — the inaction is hurting everyone and it’s time to break the log jam,” he said. “I never worry about party lines — I worry about making decisions and how to help people so we can continue together. The fact is, people are in trouble here on Long Island and I don’t put that all on Mr. Bishop — I put that on both parties. I’m ready to tackle local issues with a very tactical plan, as I would in my own business.”
• Republican Assemblyman Dan Losquadro told the chamber that he left a seat on the Suffolk County Legislature because he “saw what was being handed down to us on the county level and it was time to do something about it.” Besides helping to rollback MTA payroll tax and pass pension reform, Losquadro has also been vocal in keeping the North Fork separate from the South Fork in assembly districts.
“The continuity of issues on the North Fork is much closer to that of the North Shore and eastern Brookhaven than the South Fork,” he said.
• Nick Deegan, democratic challenger to Losquadro who serves on the Mattituck Park District Board, said he is looking for more efficiency in government, strengthening women’s rights and raising minimum wage.
“Better paid workers are more productive workers,” he said. “I have a history of being able to get things done without raising taxes.”
• Southold Town Trustee Mike Domino, who was appointed to the board in January to replace Southold Town Councilwoman Jill Doherty, said that with his background as an engineer, a science teacher and a businessman, he’s still the man to help keep a watchful eye on Southold’s miles of coastal and wetlands areas.
“I’ve been before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, I know what it’s like to go through a process that often seems arbitrary, and I’d like to make the process more user-friendly,” he said. “The Department of Environmental Conservation is notorious for making arbitrary decisions, but as an engineer, I like to make optimal decisions.”
• Jeri Woodhouse, democratic challenger for a seat on the board of trustees, said that she’s lived in coastal communities all of her life and understands how important water quality is especially on the North Fork. She has previously served on the Planning Board and is also a local business owner. With a background in teaching and social work, she said she understands all aspects of government "inside and out."
“I’m familiar with all the agencies involved in government, I regularly work with farmers and wineries, and water quality is the most important thing I could think of to spend the rest of my life being involved with,” she said.
• On state of local economy:
Altschuler: “At best it’s holding its own if not getting worse. There’s a lot of uncertainly in the air. My 10-point plan will help cut through the red tape, help farmers and fishermen. It's nuts-and-bolts and we're going to go about it in a mechanical way. The private sector is important in my plan.”
Bishop: “We are struggling after the nation’s deep recession. Job creation is a partnership between the public and private sectors — the public sector creates an environment where the private sector does what it does best. Here, our environment is our economy, so when you hear me fighting about weakening our clean water act, I’m thinking about our economy — we’ve got to keep the water swimmable and fishable.”
Deegan: “I think we’re starting on an economic upswing. My focus is on helping agritainment and tourism with better public transportation, which needs to happen fairly quickly. By next summer, we should have something in place to get the traffic off the roads.”
Losquadro: “The economy is not doing well at all. Businesses have had to raise prices, making them less competitive. New York is less competitive. At the state level, we cannot continue to spend so much in one area and increase in another — the tax burden is placed on the businesses. I’m looking for a more systemic attack.”
• Trustee candidates on water pollution from road runoff and antiquated home septic systems:
Woodhouse: “New septic systems are very costly to get and install, so I would look for funding to start helping people replace what is already here and to help filter water at the end of the streets. But I also think one of the roles of the board of trustees is to education people in the community about steps they can take themselves on their own properties — you don’t have to live on the water to be responsible. Anything you throw on your law goes into the water table — it doesn’t just stay underneath your house.”
Domino: “As a science teacher of 31 years, I agree you always have to educate more, but on a practical level here, with state-driven mandates, there’s not a lot of funding. The trustees understand storm water runoff, but the problem as usual is funding. If a creek is closed, we need to ask why is it closed — is it because of human sewage or wildlife in the area — not just throw money around at a problem. These new septic systems may or may not work. My thought is to go slow approaching something like that.”
• On increasing Environmental Protection Agency Regulations and effects on business:
Bishop: “The key as with anything is balance. In some cases, the EPA is too harsh, in others not aggressive enough. The regulations to help protect clean water are good regulations in terms of health and economy, and I think something like a general use permit for pesticides is a good idea. But there has been push back depending on the issue.”
Altschuler: “My jobs plan outlines EPA relief mandates, because businesses are already spending too much money on compliance and the cost of doing business has become too expensive. Of course we want to protect the environment, but for regulators to come in and attack businesses is nonsensical — businesses are the ones who pay for government. It should be more of a partnership. The wrong attitude in regulations results in more costs, slower production and puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”
• On the biggest threats to the economy, district:
Losquadro: “The biggest threat to all of New York State but especially for down state districts is the cost of living. Businesses are leaving, young people are leaving. If the next generation can’t live here, then it’s all for naught.”
Bishop: “The federal deficit is unsustainable, and to reign it in, we must do it in a balanced way. 48 cents on every dollar is spent on people over the age of 65, 18 cents on every dollar is spent on national defense, 9 cents on every dollar on national debt — that’s 75 cents on very dollar. To think that we can get this done exclusively on cutting spending is not only wishing thinking — it’s hurtful thinking and will inflict and enormous amount of pain on many in this country. We must do it in a balanced way over a multi-year period.”
Altschuler: “We’re $16 trillion in debt and the problem is becoming more acute all the time. We don’t even have a federal budget — we haven’t had a budget in three years. The economy is running on something called a continuing resolution. But if you don’t have a budget then you don’t know how much you are spending and you have no control. No one should get paid in congress until we pass a budget, and we have not made any progress. Obamacare is just adding to costs. When we can’t afford what we have already, more costs and mandates are not going to work.”
Who has your vote? Let us know in the comment boxes below, and please use Patch's Election Guide 2012 here.