Candidates for county and Town of Brookhaven offices answered questions from voters on Oct. 18 at a forum, where the topics ranged from the Brookhaven Animal Shelter to plans for redevelopment of downtown Mastic Beach.
The event was held at William Floyd High School and was organized by the Chamber of Commerce of the Mastics and Shirley, the Chamber of Commerce of the Moriches, and the Greater Mastic Beach Chamber.
Those attending included incumbent Jim Mazzarella (R) and Thad O’Neil (D), who are running for Suffolk County Legislature in the 3rd District; Dr. Kerry Spooner (D) and Karen Dunne (R), who are running for Brookhaven Town Council from the 6th District; superintendent of highways candidates incumbent Daniel Losquadro (R) and Mike Kaplan (D); and Ed Romaine and Dan Panico, the Republican candidates for county executive and Brookhaven Town supervisor.
Democrats Dave Calone, who is running for county executive, and Lillian Clayman, who is running for supervisor, did not attend.
Romaine, the current Brookhaven supervisor, pointed to Brookhaven’s AAA bond rating and top score from the state Comptroller’s Office in a report on the town’s ability to generate the revenue needed to meet expenses, as examples of the fiscal strength he would bring to county government.
He blasted Suffolk County for including positions in the budget and not filling them, including 51 detective slots in the police department.
“If I put positions in the budget, they will get filled,” Romaine said.
Romaine said he would create a small-business development office within county government to help people start and grow businesses and connect them with financing. He would also eliminate the county’s tax on home energy, which he called “regressive.”
Panico, the current deputy supervisor, who is running to succeed Romaine, said the town has continued to preserve open space by acquiring “meaningful” parcels.
Panico touted progress at the Brookhaven Animal Shelter, where volunteers raised questions about the conditions. The shelter has hired a full-time veterinarian and increased staffing and funding, he said.
As for plans for redeveloping downtown Mastic Beach, Panico said the town is proceeding with the Beechwood Organization to develop and implement a master plan for revitalizing the area. He said the plan will incorporate input from residents and result in a look unique to Mastic Beach.
“We’re going to go forward, and we’re going to get this done,” Panico said.
Mazzarella, who is running for reelection to the county legislature, pointed out that he sponsored legislation allocating $1 million for low-cost loans to help businesses in the Forge River Sewer District to pay part of the cost of connecting to sewers and legislation allocating $2 million for beautification of the Montauk Highway corridor in Mastic and Shirley.
Mazzarella also helped secure funding for a replacement for the Smith Point Bridge, which will include a pedestrian and bicycle path and a fishing pier.
O’Neil, an entrepreneur and associate adjunct professor at the New School’s Parsons School of Design, who is challenging Mazzarella, spoke of the importance of education. He said that if elected, he would be a “strategic partner” with school districts in his district.
The two candidates for superintendent of highways touted their experience and discussed their plans for the job.
Losquadro, a former state assemblyman and county legislator, who was elected highway superintendent in March 2013, said he helped secure $150 million in state and federal grants.
Kaplan, who works for the Town of Huntington Highway Department and for the Town of Islip Highway Department before that, said he’d ask the state and federal government for $80 million to fix road drainage issues in the town. That wouldn’t be enough to fix the problem, Losquadro countered.
Spooner and Dunne, who are running to succeed Panico as the town board representative in the 6th District, each said they would be an independent voice on the board.
“We need an independent voice on that council,” said Spooner, the president and founder of Sound Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that provides job training and college courses to people involved with the justice system.
Dunne, an attorney and deputy chair of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board, said she would take a “community first” approach to governing.
“I don’t think you can be more of an independent voice than mine,” she said.