October 30, 2013

For East Hampton Town Board

Though many residents don't consider the airport a major issue, most of the 'soft' money in this campaign comes from those on one side or the other.

Rest assured, though, it is a fait accompli – the town won't be taking any FAA money any time soon, regardless of who prevails in this race. But don't be deluded into thinking the town will then control noise and air traffic for the next 20 years as opponents are claiming.

What happens in the future depends on future boards, and when a $10 million repaving project comes up, or when the FAA sues the town for overstepping its bounds, voters may well decide they'd rather have a new town board then spend taxpayers' money on the airport.

When choosing a town board candidate we must look beyond the airport and the party labels and focus on the individual candidates. Fred Overton is clearly a top candidate. He's been involved in our town's affairs for 40 years; as town clerk he has seen first hand how to be an effective town board member. He's efficient, he listens, and he's intelligent. Overton, a former assessor, knows this town needs a reassessment from experience -- he recently checked deed transfers which conclusively prove an inequity exists wherein modest homeowners are paying far too much in taxes and South of the Highway types are getting away with murder.

Overton is non-political – he's been elected as a Republican and a Democrat, so his "People Not Politics" campaign slogan is indeed factual, a rarity. There are too many special interest types and candidates driven by agendas in this town. Fred won't be manipulated by any of them and he is beholden to no one but the voters who elect him.

Job Potter's first go around on the town board was marred by the infamous Keyes Island scandal -- a spit of land was sold to the town for nearly twice what it was worth using Community Preservation Funds.

Potter also was involved in another outrageous CPF purchase: A party insider, Marvin Hyman, borrowed $2.2 million, bought an 11-acre parcel, sold most of it back to the town for $1.8 million, and carved four lots worth $1 million each out of the remainder. Potter helped grease the skids for Hyman twice: he was on the Planning Board when the application was green-lighted, and on the town board when it voted to allow Hyman to exceed clearing limitations on his lots.

All that time the town put off an upzoning that would have squashed Hyman's subdivision – until the day after the deal was signed.

Potter left the board two years after Bill McGintee was elected town supervisor, so he gets points for having good sense, and for the most part Potter did good work on the Planning Board and was at times effective during his stint on the town board. It is also true CPF money flowed freely back then, and a lot of deals were made that should have been given more scrutiny.

Potter continued to serve on McGintee's finance committee after he left office, and given the fact the town budget officer was arrested and the town lost $30 million during the disgraced former supervisor's tenure, Potter should rightly be held accountable for not speaking out.

More recently Potter was the only candidate to hedge on the CfAR survey about beach driving. He used the word "compromise" and that worries us. "Compromise" to us means giving in to those who would limit our rights as freeholders to unfettered access to our beaches. Given Potter's baggage, it's probably best to look for some fresh faces.

Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the former Springs School Board head, served on that board for eight years. She is indeed a fresh face, though the fact she was chosen by the Democrats may be because of her willingness to recite the anti-airport mantra of David Gruber.

When the Springs School scandal broke Burke-Gonzalez presided over at least one illegal school board meeting – none of the three local papers were notified it was taking place - and perhaps more than that. Her insistence on rehiring the district's temporary superintendent, Dominic Mucci, backfired because she didn't know the state requirements governing his rehire, even though this newspaper did two articles about the State Department of Education law that limited his continued employment because he was a double dipper – already collecting a state pension.

At times it seemed Burke-Gonzalez acted in the best interest of the district's administrators and insiders and seemed to keep the public out of the loop. Board members, be it school or town, are elected to represent the people. Hush-hush meetings and backroom whispers will not be tolerated by this newspaper -- Mucci learned that the hard way.

That is not to say there isn't a place for Burke-Gonzalez – she did an excellent job clamping spending down in Springs and dealing with the tricky business of illegal immigrants enrolling their students in the school. At this juncture though, she is by her own account a "newbie" and has no experience whatsoever on the town level. We suggest she immerse herself in local government to gain the experience she needs and hopefully come back for another run – ready to serve the people, not the party.

Dominick Stanzione has been a lightening rod, and yes, he's tried to be all things to all people. Let's not forget, though, he sided with the Democrats on the town board to block zoning board appointments that would have made that board pro-development.

His insistence on going against the Theresa Quigley/Bill Wilkinson plan to lease out or even sell the Scavenger Waste Plant was critical; he literally may have saved the drinking water of this town. Though he often voted with the Democrats on the board to forge a new majority, the Dems refuse to acknowledge that fact while they continue to bash him over the airport. Incumbents Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc should acknowledge that without Stanzione they would be useless cogs on the board, there only to bark at Theresa and Bill but without the teeth to bite them.

Stanzione has been backed into a corner, with attacks coming from all angles, even his former running mates.

Part of it is his own doing – he's firmly pro-airport, although he's the first board member in eight years to at least try to address the problem of helicopter noise and come up with some solutions.

Stanzione has been on the right side of some important issues and he's worked hard. If voters want to blame him for every helicopter that flies over their backyards, so be it – but anyone who thinks that problem will be solved come January is myopic and underestimates the resolve of the pro-airport forces.

The Independent endorses Dominick Stanzione and Fred Overton for East Hampton Town Board.

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