Lillian Clayman is no stranger to municipal government. She served three terms as a town council member and three terms as mayor of Hamden, Conn., from 1991 to 1997. As mayor, Clayman increased services in the town and never raised taxes during her six-year term. She eliminated a looming town deficit, balanced the budget, and increased the town’s bond rating. She also introduced a townwide composting plan, built a linear park, and paved over 40 miles of roads. She earned a Series 7 securities license and worked as a financial planner. She served as a political director for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union and an organizer for 1188-SEIU, the health care workers union. Since 2005, Clayman and her husband, Roger, have lived in Port Jefferson. She teaches labor and industrial relations at SUNY-Old Westbury, where she is a member of New York State United Teachers and serves on the executive board of United University Board of Professors. She also teaches at Opportunities Long Island, a pre-apprenticeship program, and taught financial literacy in Brookhaven Town’s Dress for Success program. Clayman is a former Brookhaven Democratic chair, who stood in for Marjorie Garant when she stepped down running for supervisor.
Tackling corruption and initiatives introduced
Clayman was asked what Hamden was like when she took over as mayor and the successful initiatives she introduced.
“When I ran, in most places, women didn’t hold a political office. I was a 38-year-old woman who ran in a four-way primary. Hamden then was headed by ‘good old boys.’ The police chief had an iron grip on all of the politics of the town. It was pretty corrupt, and I challenged it. The incumbent mayor was embroiled in a lawsuit with the police chief back then, lost the lawsuit, and he dropped out. No one paid attention to me, but I went door to door. And I won, 2 to 1.
“One of the initiatives I’m very proud of is building the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail line along an abandoned canal. It’s a linear park that extends from south to north, about 84 miles, and runs past Quinnipiac College. I broke the stranglehold the good old boys had on land commission and town government and sent contracts out to bid, including trash contacts. Everything that could be put out to bid, I sent out. Previously, contracts were given to someone’s cousin.”
Would stop the delivery of fly ash
“One of the areas of concern to address first is the landfill problem and bringing environmental justice,” she said. “I wouldn’t allow Covanta to deliver any more fly ash. I would also make sure the DEC and state and federal governments were monitoring the air quality around the landfill as well as toxins leached into the water and introduce recycling, like composting and the elimination of food waste. I would also look at other markets for any kind of recycling materials. I wouldn’t say, ‘Oops, no market.’”
“Most people will compost and will participate if the materials are given and the opportunity is provided,” she pointed out. “If you provide bins, we could pick up bins curbside. In some communities there are four bins provided—metal, glass, plastic, paper—and it depends on what the community decides. If you go to Boston and Denver, they provide four bins. If you have grass clippings collected, that would take materials away from the landfill. Grass clippings or leaves can be turned into mulch. Recycling is a business, but you have to separate items. There has not been any effort for that. In Connecticut, I got a federal grant for composting bins that were made out of milk containers, and we distributed them. Also, education was included in schools. It’s amazing; anyone who’s started composting, they realize they can cut out a lot of materials from their trash. We also got a federal grant to pick up all the leaves raked up and brought them to our town landfill to a screening machine that acts like a huge sieve, where stones and debris are taken out. These were huge piles and becomes black gold like you see at Lowe’s or Home Depot. It was turned into mulch and made available to residents for free.”
Addressing the landfill
Regarding the town’s proposed solution to close to commercial/demolition debris in 2024 and closed and capped in 2028 to household incinerator ash, “I think it was a decision made in secret under the cover of night,” she said. “You have to find out everything second hand. They say it would close after the election in 2028. What are they going to do to make up the loss in revenue? They say they would use $5-$6 million from a deal cut with Orsted laying cables down for wind farms. Brookhaven got $1 million upfront, then they’ll get $5 to $6 million a year. Just recently, Orsted asked the New York State Public Service Commission to raise the rates; they can’t lay cables down at the same price they proposed. The Public Service Commission said ‘no.’ So Orsted is in the position of possibly not laying down the cables. If they don’t, Brookhaven doesn’t get $5 or $6 million. It is the gorilla in the room. You have to look at the budget and find savings and pay for the distribution off island someplace else. That’s all going to be reexamined. It is a problem, and you have to be honest about it.”
Clayman responded to the New York State Energy Research and Development (NYSERDA) agreement for a potential renewable energy park (Build Ready Renewable Program) at the Brookhaven Town Landfill announced last year.
“The agreement, announced over a year ago, is a Memorandum of Understanding that allows NYSERDA to evaluate the prospects of a renewable energy project at the landfill. No one knows what form the project would take or even if it would be built. Therefore, it is premature and pure speculation to claim that any hypothetical project could produce enough energy for all of Long Island, nor can anyone claim that revenues would be realized. While I support NYSERDA’s efforts and hope they follow through with their plans, public officials should refrain from making specious claims.”
New initiatives and programs expanded
“I would introduce new recycling programs to reduce amounts of curbside waste and look to county and state government to monitor the toxic fumes from the landfill and monitor the infiltration of toxins into the aquifer. It’s 10 years—they’ve had opportunities to address that. It’s worked for [town officials] in the past [not monitoring], so why shouldn’t it continue to work? Look at the fish kills (a recent major fish kill in Beaver Dam Creek along the Post-Morrow Foundation) and people around the landfill getting sick. It’s all about the money.
“As for current town programs expanded, I would expand mental health services and drug prevention.”
Clayman is endorsed by the Long Island Federation of Labor, State Comptroller DiNapoli, Communication Workers Local 1109, United Auto Workers, 1199 SEIU Health Care Workers and Retail Wholesale and Department Union 338, Planned Parenthood, Eleanor’s Legacy and the National Organization of Women.