Shelter Island Reporter endorsements for Election 2022

Gun Rights

Bridget Fleming for Congress

It’s a rare election when politicians and pundits don’t declare that Election Day will be one of the most important in voters’ lifetimes. The pols want to encourage a large turnout of their supporters, and the chattering class wants to generate some heat for their predictions and endorsements.

One of the elections, when the political and journalism classes were correct in their warning, was the presidential election of 2020, when a record was set for voter participation in this century and Joe Biden won a decisive victory, ending the one-term, chaotic executive branch reign led by Mr. Trump.

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The defeat sent him packing — literally, with classified documents — to his country club, where he still maintains an unyielding grip on his party.

Again, next Tuesday will be another milestone moment for American democracy. Shelter Islanders will have a large say in this momentous decision, when they vote for who will represent the 1st District in the House of Representatives, and which party will control the House.

Nick LaLota is running under the Republican and Conservative banners, and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming is the Democrat and Working Families Party candidate.

Mr. LaLota is a 43-year-old resident of Amityville, which is not in the 1st District, but he’s said he will move here. (It’s not a requirement that an elected official live in the district he or she represents.)

Mr. LaLota is a bright and engaging person and in many ways an attractive candidate. But our pick for Congress, without reservation, is Ms. Fleming, 62, of Noyac.

The long-serving County Legislator has been in the vanguard on issues that concern East End residents, achieving solid results in her tenure in Hauppauge. She’s been active in drafting sanitary code revisions that allowed nitrogen-removing septic systems to replace out-of-date cesspools and helped secure more than $10 million for her district in clean water initiatives.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (Reporter file photo)

On reducing tick-borne diseases, Ms. Fleming has pushed for funds for the Tick Surveillance and Management Program, dedicated to taking the health crisis head on. A consensus-seeking environmentalist throughout her career, Ms. Fleming will bring a much needed voice to Congress from our coastal communities. Committed to fast-tracking solar energy and electric vehicles to protect the climate, bringing good-paying green jobs to Long Island, and bringing down energy costs for her constituents. Ms. Fleming is working to wholeheartedly encourage capital investment to protect our coastal resources from the effects of climate change.

Mr. LaLota is, like all Republicans, pounding a well-worn drum about public safety and blaming crime on Democrats. But Ms. Fleming has a long and distinguished record on fighting crime and supporting law enforcement, which is evident in her endorsements from the Police Conference of New York and the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association.

On abortion rights, Ms. Fleming has always and unequivocally supported a woman’s right to choose decisions about her body and health. Mr. LaLota called the overturing of Roe v. Wade “a step in the right direction,” and that New York should repeal “the extreme position” it holds on abortion. Now, as his party’s standard bearer, he’s softened that position a bit.

Electing a Democrat in this watershed election is essential. The national Republican Party has been overtaken by radicals who once lived in the far-right fringes and now have leadership roles. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference, is a loud election denier who voted on Jan. 6 not to validate President Biden’s victory. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the most unhinged public officials to attain high office in history, is seen at public events with GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. If Mr. LaLota is elected to Congress, do you think he will vote to make Mr. McCarthy, a passionate Trump lieutenant, Speaker of the House?

Mr. LaLota is running to join an extreme caucus of Congress. In an interview with Times Review, Ms. Fleming said that “fundamental freedoms” and “American democracy itself is at stake in the 2022 election cycle.”

She’s correct, and along with her dedication to solving problems affecting East End residents, Ms. Fleming will be a vibrant, independent voice in Congress who has pledged to shore up the protections of American values of equality, honest speech and representative democracy.

The Reporter wholeheartedly endorses Bridget Fleming for Congress for what she will do for Shelter Island, and what she will do for the country.

Fred Thiele Jr. for Assembly

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) has often said no one has to tell him how to get to Shelter Island. Unlike some State and County officials, Mr. Thiele, 69, not only is familiar with issues facing Islanders, he is a clear voice in Albany expressing our concerns. But he’s more than that; Mr. Thiele is a doer, not just a talker.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (Courtesy photo)

Now, through redistricting, Mr. Thiele, if re-elected, will represent Southold town as well. He is being opposed by 26-year-old Republican Peter Ganley, a first-time office seeker, who is also running on the Conservative line.

Mr. Thiele is that rare person in government — a visionary who gets things done. People talk about “saving what’s left.” Mr. Thiele did something about it, spearheading the Community Preservation Fund (CPF), a real estate transfer tax paid by buyers and used to fund and preserve open space. Over the years, the CPF has raised over $1 billion for land preservation in the five East End towns.

Now, with the Island and its neighbors facing a crisis of polluted water in our aquifer, creeks, ponds and bays, Mr. Thiele again came through with an idea to help ensure an environmentally sound future with additions to the CPF for water quality projects. And when many thought trying to preserve the traditional diversity of income levels here and that welcoming young families was a hopeless case, Mr. Thiele got legislation passed that gives East Enders the opportunity to vote for funds to support affordable housing.

We heartily endorse Mr. Thiele for re-election to the Assembly.

Anthony Palumbo for State Senate

Anthony Palumbo was elected to the State Assembly in 2013 where he served until he was elected two years ago to the seat long held by Republican State Senator Ken LaValle.

Mr. Palumbo is seeking reelection and is running against Democratic challenger Skyler Johnson. Mr. Palumbo has the Republican and Conservative Party lines, while Mr. Johnson also has the Working Families Party line. Mr. Johnson ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2020.

State Senator Anthony Palumbo (Credit: Courtesy photo)

There is much to be said about both candidates. Mr. Johnson was raised in Mount Sinai and sits on the board of Temple Beth Emeth. He works for the nonprofit New Hour LI, which advocates for women, children and families.

Mr. Palumbo worked as a prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and has a private law practice in Mattituck. Critical to the 1st Senate District, which includes Shelter Island, Mr. Palumbo has a strong environmental record. He voted for a bill intended to kick-start a kelp industry on the East End; he voted to modify the Community Preservation Fund to include up to 20% for clean water and infrastructure. Those funds can also be used for maintenance of historic properties.

He voted for the Peconic Region Community Housing Fund bill, to raise funds for affordable housing on Shelter Island and tree other East end towns, where such housing is a crisis.

Mr. Palumbo has the endorsement of a host of labor unions, including New York State United Teachers. While we urge Mr. Johnson to continue his community efforts and his involvement in politics in the region, we believe Mr. Palumbo’s record in the Senate has earned our endorsement.

Kathy Hochul for governor

The race for New York governor is playing out on a larger stage. National political figures have campaigned here on behalf of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and her Republican opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has represented the 1st Congressional District since 2015.

Polls show a tight race, with much of the focus on crime rates and bail reform. Mr. Zeldin, who also is on the Conservative Party line, has pushed those two issues hard; until recently, Ms. Hochul, who is also on the Working Families Party line, has failed to confront them in an equally forceful way. Her campaign should have done better.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (Credit: Office of the Governor)

Beyond the boundaries of New York politics are critical issues for the nation. It can be summed up this way: Mr. Zeldin during the four years of the Trump presidency was as loyal a follower of Mr. Trump as anyone in Congress.

Even after a violent pro-Trump mob’s effort to upend the electoral college vote that certified the presidency for Joe Biden, after all the destruction in the Capitol by Trump’s conspiracy-loving followers and after gallows appeared outside the Capitol as the crowd chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” Mr. Zeldin voted not to accept the results in some states.

In spite of all the violence, Mr. Zeldin held Mr. Trump blameless.

Ms. Hochul became governor in August 2021 when Andrew Cuomo resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. Ever since, she’s had to deal with the COVID pandemic — as of mid-October, more than 70,000 New York residents have died — and a host of other crises, from a struggling economy to a housing squeeze causing rents and purchase prices to skyrocket.

As governor, Ms. Hochul has responded effectively to specific issues impacting the state’s residents, while Mr. Zeldin has painted the state as awash in crime. He said he would fire the Manhattan district attorney — who was elected by voters. That kind of interference in the democratic process has Trumpian echoes.

Ms. Hochul has beefed up state laws to protect reproductive freedoms and, critically important, pushed through State legislation to counteract the high court’s reversal of New York’s restriction on the concealed carrying of firearms.

Mr. Zeldin hailed the overturning of Roe v. Wade and remains a strong promoter of the interests of the National Rifle Association. He talks tough on crime, but is the opposite on gun rights. Does he believe in any restrictions at all?

It is inexplicable that Mr. Zeldin has so steadfastly aligned himself with the MAGA crowd, some of whom are antisemitic and work to spread absurd conspiracy theories that promote violence.

Recent polls suggest that a centrist Republican — one who respects the Constitution and the rule of law — could have been elected governor. Mr. Zeldin is not that Republican.

We endorse Kathy Hochul for governor.

Yes on all three propositions

Proposition 3

There may not have been a more controversial proposition on a ballot in any recent year than the Community Housing Fund 0.5% transfer tax.

For months, hard-working volunteers have listened to the public, made adjustments to plans, answered questions and made an honest effort to be transparent. A relatively small group of deep-pocketed people have paid for advertisements that sought to defeat Proposition 3. Some have also spread false information and used scare tactics. Some are also trying to take Shelter Island politics into the gutter, with cowardly anonymous letters targeting Supervisor Gerry Siller (who is not on the ballot) and predicting Armageddon if a small real estate transfer tax is voted in. It’s time to repudiate these gutless individuals who are ashamed to put their names on messages sent to the community. 

Accusations of a “slush fund” or “blank check” that politicians could use for all kinds of purposes is simply impossible. The legislation is clear in outlining how money can be used, and if voters look back on the money that has reached the coffers from the original 2% Community Preservation Fund, they will see that Shelter Island has dedicated funds solely for preservation and water quality. What money comes in during a 20-year period will help offset the costs of providing rental units, including units in existing structures where owners may wish to offer apartments at reasonable prices, but need some financial assistance.

Some claimed taxes would rise to meet the cost of more police and other service workers. There is no evidence that would be the case. But if we fail to get younger residents who can volunteer as firefighters and emergency medical service members, taxes will rise to create a paid fire department and a paid ambulance service.

We enthusiastically recommend a “Yes” vote on Proposition 3.

Proposition 1

The New York State Proposition 1 would enable bonding to fund efforts to ensure clean water and clean air and to create green jobs.

Nothing is closer to the hearts and minds of Islanders than protecting the environment. A “Yes” vote on Proposition 1 would allow the State to bond up to $4.2 billion to make environmental improvements to preserve, enhance and restore natural resources. It would fund capital projects to offset flood risks, provide open space land conservation and money to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and fund infrastructure.

Again, we enthusiastically recommend a “Yes” vote on Proposition 1.

Proposition 2

This proposition would set term limits for a County Executive, Comptroller and members of the County Legislature to serve no more than 12 years. But that term would be based only on 12 full years of service to which the person is elected. It would remove a calculation that currently includes any part of a term that person might serve by fulfilling the remainder of a term of another person who resigned, was removed or for any other reason did not complete that term.

Too many long-serving elected officials forget they are public servants with an obligation to represent the interests of the people who put them in office. It’s time to clarify the term limit provisions so they stand up in court.

We recommend a “Yes” vote on Proposition 2.

VOTING IN THE  2022 GENERAL ELECTION

Early voting continues at the Community Center through Sunday.

Hours:

Friday from noon to 8 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Election Day

Tuesday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Shelter Island School.

Those who applied for and received absentee ballots can’t opt to vote in person either during the early voting period or on election day.

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