Brookhaven's two candidates for supervisor met together at a public forum for the first time since beginning their campaigns, attending a "Meet the Candidates" event hosted by the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook.
Candidates were first given the opportunity to briefly introduce themselves to the several dozen people in attendance, then each were given a few minutes to answer questions drawn up by the board of the Civic Association.
"You guys get the treat," Brian Beedenbender, the Democratic town supervisor candidate, said in his introduction. "This is the first time Ed and I have been together. You didn’t get to see the 50th version of this, you get to see the first version. The kinks haven’t been worked out yet."
Beedenbender introduced himself as a former Suffolk county legislator who served as Chief of Staff in the Town of Brookhaven since January of 2010.
"The next supervisor is going to face three big challenges. One, the budget; two, development and land use; ... and three, the relationship with the workers," Beedenbender said.
Romaine, the Republican town supervisor candidate, introduced himself as a county legislator and former county clerk with more than 20 years of experience in public service as an elected official.
"I am gravely concerned about the future of this town," Romaine said. "My job is to end the deficit, rebuild the reserves, and ensure that vital services are provided."
Below are some of the questions posed by the Civic Association and answers provided by the candidates.
Question: "The town’s power to control land use and zoning largely shapes the look and feel of our communities for future generations. Certainly, many are critical of the seemingly haphazard decisions made by some previous administrations. Discuss how you will ensure that there is better future growth around the town."
Beedenbender: “There’s nothing wrong with coming up with an idea and saying, ‘Should we try this?’ Come up with as much fact as possible and come to the community and say, 'What do you think?' If you say no, that’s ok. I think we have to not be afraid to say we’re going to try something. … That’s a good model of land use in the community in that we’re going to come up with an idea, present it to the civics, the chambers, have everybody talk about it, have everybody give their input, and in the end, if it’s not what you want, that’s ok. … The community is going to have to drive that process. The responsibility as elected officials with things like land use is to say, 'This is what’s been proposed, this is what we think, tell us what your input is.' I think that’s how we make our best decisions.”
Romaine: "I am for community planning. I believe in involving the community. I believe, as a member of my civic [association], as a member of my community and as an elected official, that a community should have a voice in its destiny, in its direction, and its future. I look at Brookhaven and I have a unique perspective because although I’m a resident of Brookhaven, most of my district lies east. And I look east, and then I look west, and I look east again. There’s a clearer difference about how these communities were planned, how they were developed and how the people in these communities were given a voice or denied a voice. ... I believe in involving a community. A community should have a voice in its destiny, direction and future."
Question: With declining revenue and increased costs impacting the town's bottom line, discuss your plans to balance the town's budget.
Romaine: "First, control overtime. Overtime is out of control. if I’m elected supervisor every OT slip will come on my desk. Because while it’s great to have these great ideas and concepts and go off and change Long Island, the hard work of a supervisor is the day-to-day activity of running that office. So first, control overtime. Second, control vacancies. Take a look at where the vacancies are. Third, look at the balance of part-timers to full-timers. Understand in the budget they laid off 31 full-timers, but 118 part-timers who are making 9, 10, 12 dollars an hour maximum, no health benefits, so weekend jobs can’t get done, so overtime has to be called out. Take a look at who are assigned to cars, and why are they assigned cars, and how many cars we have. Take a look at how much space we use. If we’re laying off all these people, why do we occupy the same space? If you’re laying off 150 people, don’t you think that you should take a look at the space you occupy in all the town buildings? Do you really need that space? Can some of it not be rented? Can some of it be rented out instead? Take a look at a whole host of things that deal directly with the bottom line. Believe me, I’m going to have to scramble if I’m elected, that first week or two is going to be a madhouse to get all of these facts and core people in, and understand we are going to reign in spending we are going to control it and whenever possible we are going to convert whatever funds we have to rebuild those reserves, which are the future of Brookhaven town."
Beedenbender: We have to talk about the budget in a way that everybody understands their own personal household budget. If revenues are going down and you have no options to raise any revenue then things have to be cut. You can’t not cut anything, not raise any revenue, and do the same thing. One of the first things, one of the easiest things we can do as a community, as a town, is recycling. ... Every ton of garbage we burn costs us $100. Every ton of recyclables we recycle, get $50. ... The first thing that this town should do is something called single stream recycling. Instead of putting the paper out one week and the plastic out the next week, you put them both out every week. Municipalities throughout the country have shown a 10 to 15 percent increase in recycling rates just because you’ve made it easier for people. ... A 15 percent increase in recycling could mean almost a extra million dollars in extra revenue a year, and it’s good for the environment. ... Now, talking about waste management, we should talk about the landfill. ... When we met with the landfill liaison committee they said we’re willing to talk to you about taking in a little more material in each year for a few years to get some more money. Say we take one million tons? If we take 1.1 million tons it could mean almost 1.5 to 2 million more a year to our budget. just taking more of what were taking in now. ... Those two things, the recycling and that, could mean almost $3 million or $4 million a year. That’s not everything we need to do, but it’s a good start.
Priority No. 1
Question: What do you envision as your first important act should you be elected town supervisor?
Romaine: In a town that has run a structural deficit for eight years, in a town that could not balance its budget for eight years, in a town that’s spent more than it took in, the first thing is to restore fiscal sanity to the Town of Brookhaven. That would be my first and most driving obligation, because there’s a lot of things the town can and cannot do, but it can’t do anything if it doesn’t have the money to do it. I will restore fiscal sanity to this town. I will make the decisions that will do exactly that. That’s my first and absolute compelling priority.
Beedenbender: The Carmans River. The Forge River is a highly polluted waterway in the Town of Brookhaven. The Carmans River is not, but without action to prevent overdevelopment around the river, it could easily go that direction. ... We need to get all the board members together and we need to get that plan done because we have an opportunity. ... I said the three biggest things facing the supervisor are relationship with our workers, our budget and development, but this is about development. This is about saving a river and protecting land. Part of that plan was money to protect land throughout the entire town, not just by the Carmans River. ... I think that a new supervisor, me or Ed, has a new opportunity to say we’re starting again. We’re going to get this done.