Incumbent Legis. William Lindsay and his Republican challenger Anthony Piccirillo have both admitted that the race for the 8th district seat has been “ugly.” Both had two-minute opportunities to address the race in that regard at Sycamore Avenue Elementary School in Bohemia on Wednesday, Oct. 23.
The Meet the Candidates event also featured the 10th legislative district, and incumbent Tom Cilmi was present and participated onstage. His opponent, Joe Hagelmann, did not attend. Those running for county executive — incumbent Steve Bellone and challenger John Kennedy — also made their mark on the night.
Upon being asked about the most important concern in Suffolk County, Lindsay took the opportunity to talk about the Oakdale Sewer project that is planned, overall, to span eastward to Sayville.
“Wastewater treatment is the biggest concern we have in the county,” he said. “Not only does it kill our economy, but it destroys our home values, drinking water, bays and estuaries. We have to figure out a way to get the 360,000 homes that are on traditional cesspools [off of them and install sewers.]”
On the other hand, Piccirillo took the same stance as fellow Republican Cilmi in saying that the financial situation in the county is the largest concern.
“The budget is our biggest concern,” Piccirillo said. “If you don’t have money to pay for anything, you can’t pay for it. It is a bad recipe for the future of Suffolk County.”
Lindsay and Piccirillo disagree in regard to the county’s red-light camera program, though both concur that it was instituted on logical grounds. Lindsay is in favor of the program, adding that counties across the nation that got rid of red-light cameras after instituting them averaged a 30 percent increase in accidents and a 60 percent increase in fatalities at intersections.
“The No. 1 complaint we get from all of our constituents is driver safety,” Linsday said. “We need to pay more attention, drive safer and be more courteous to people on the road.”
However, Lindsay did suggest a change or two to the program in order to make the process more educational for the offender.
“Allow drivers who get a red-light camera ticket for the first time to take an accident-prevention course in order to avoid paying the fine,” he said.
Piccirillo, on the other hand, called the program a money grab.
“It was supposed to be a safety program,” he said. “We saw a 100 percent increase in accidents with injuries [at intersections]. We saw a 60 percent increase in rear-end accidents. We see these numbers of increased accidents [with injury] at 34 locations of 100 percent. You would think those cameras would come down.”
Piccirillo added that his Democratic colleagues ensure that passing the program through the Legislature is necessary before it can be reworked.
“I just think that is not the right way to go about things,” he said. “I think that this program should totally be paused [so we can] look to see how we can fix it.”
Both Lindsay and Piccirillo are against a housing development at the previous Island Hills Golf Course location in Sayville, referring to traffic. Lindsay said he lives within two miles of the site.
“It would have an effect on my quality of life as well,” he said. “It is too much density for that area, and it doesn’t fit the character of the community. I would like to see more interaction with the community so that they can help to determine their own fate for what is going to happen there.”
Piccirillo, like Lindsay, is against the implementation of more development at the location and said this is not a popular opinion on the matter within the Republican Party.
“I put my political life on the line within my own party to stand against something that I definitely believe should not happen,” he said. “No one is going to agree with everyone 100 percent of the time, but hopefully we can find some middle ground and listen to community members to make sure that something — if anything goes there — is compatible with our community.”
In his opening statement, Kennedy addressed the financial situation that the county is currently immersed in: an estimation of a $20 million deficit by the end of 2020.
“I would say that it is actually closer to $50 million because we have a $29.4 million judgment that has been upheld by the appellate division based on the administration’s removal of sewer construction around the protection money,” Kennedy said. “Inevitably, it will come due in 2020.
“We spend more than we take in, and until we ratchet back and walk down on some of the prolific spending that this county does, we will continue to spiral downwards.”
When Bellone had the opportunity to speak about the budget and the anticipated deficit calculated for the close of 2020, he referred back to 2010 when he inherited almost a $500 million deficit when swearing in.
“This was a county that was on the verge of bankruptcy,” Bellone said. “We came in and we started making the tough decisions right away. I believe in leading by example. On Day 1, I cut my own pay. I refused to take a county car. I volunteered to be the first [executive] in county history to pay for their own health care.”
Bellone said that the financial situation, in the last decade, has been trending in the right direction. He said that the $20 million figure presented is “statistically, almost nothing.”
“Despite the massive deficit we had, we were able to reduce that deficit and eliminate it now,” he said. “We have two years in a row of an operating surplus. [We have been consistently] keeping taxes below the tax cap.”