Four candidates running for Town of Oyster Bay supervisor participated in a Meet The candidates forum at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library in preparation for the Nov. 7 election, where they discussed issues ranging from the town’s debt, ethics, wasteful spending and their overall motivation for seek the supervisor role.
Hosted by the League of Women Voters, the supervisor candidates were Jonathan Clarke, Marc Herman, John Mangelli and Robert Ripp, who all carried the same sentiment that the current system in Oyster Bay is “corrupt.”
The Town of Oyster Bay is currently headed by Supervisor Joseph Saladino, who was appointed in January following the resignation of John Venditto. Norma Shaefer, from the East Nassau League of Women Voters, noted that Saladino did not respond to numerous requests by the league to attend their forum.
Saladino said while his campaign received the invitation, it never confirmed his attendance, and that “government business took priority over politics that evening, as I met with civic leaders from North Massapequa. Afterwards, I was the honoree at a reception.”
Front and center through most of the evening was the town’s debt, which is estimated to be nearly $1 billion, as well as how to better manage the town’s finances and funding for programs/services in future years.
Herman, a dentist and past Syosset School Board trustee is on the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality Party, and he says the town’s bond rating (Baa3 as of January) must first be increased; urging “this is not an easy fix” and adding that the town’s budget is $300 million with a debt of $900 million. Herman pressed for the settlement of numerous lawsuits and the hiring of an independent forensic auditor to “tell us where that $900 million went.”
Mangelli, a debt consolidation attorney on the Reform Party line, broke down his strategy to “increase income and decrease our spending” by way of renegotiating a majority of the debt—or simply not pay it. He estimated the salaries for town employees as costing more than $100,000 million, which he said must be cut down. He also aims to bid for NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approximately $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 for out east Long Island, remarking he would take $1 billion to pay off the debt, and put $1 billion towards property taxes.
Clarke, a Jericho-based attorney who is running on the Progressive Moose Party, argued that services must be streamlined, and with payroll increasing due to pensions, they would have to be streamlined as well. He also proposed that individuals who donate to candidates would be prohibited from conducting business with the town.
Ripp, a retired NYPD officer on the ENDC line, said the town does not need to reduce their work staff, however wants to eliminate “wasteful spending” such as a recently estimated $500,000 contract to resurface tennis courts.
Speaking to road repairs needed throughout the township, Clarke concurred with Herman that the town’s bond rating must be increased, and once the town’s overall governmental system is improved, infrastructure spending on roads would then be looked at.
Herman proposed an eventual online system where residents would be able to select their road to observe a history and scheduling of its repairing, and advocates for TownStat, a login system of calls from residents for improvements as well as employee’s actions to address them.
“The roads aren’t fixed because we were paying 10 times the amount we should have been paying, and we’re going to get rid of those contracts,” Mangelli said. “We’re going to have the town employees work for us from now on, and they’re going to earn their keep by taking care of the roads—they’re going to get fixed and the salaries will go down.”
Ripp said that the town must end borrowing, and potentially cut spending on items such as winter holiday choruses and have high school students perform instead. Both Ripp and Mangelli mentioned Carlo Lizza Paving & Son as “wasteful and redundant contracts” with the town.
“If you look at our debt and who received that money, it’s the same handful of contractors,” Ripp said. “If you eliminate that, we can get on the right track.”
Mangelli said he does not feel the need for an inspector general, which Saladino announced last month as a new town position responsible for overseeing all aspects of the town’s contracting processes. Mangelli referred to it as “just another salary, office and staff.” He said the town board should be ethical in and of itself, referring to ethics courses as “there if you need them.”
Clarke also referred to the inspector general as “redundant” if the town administration wants to have an ethical township.
Ripp, who served in the US Marie Corps., said if elected, residents would not need any other watchdog other than himself, and also disagreed with the inspector general position.
“The town board are your inspector generals, that is where the integrity is,” Ripp said.
Herman, who has a masters degree in ethics, said he would put that expertise to work in “bringing the strictest ethics in the entire country to Oyster Bay,” by requiring “real courses on ethics” for all town employees and officials. He did not speak out against the inspector general position.
Saladino proposed earlier this month that the public safety department be eliminated, and on keeping, reducing or eliminating the department, Clarke said if the county or state is adequately providing public safety services, the department should be cut. Herman praised public safety and said it should not be eliminated, and Mangelli and Ripp say it should be downsized.
On why each candidate is running, Ripp said his initial mission was to expose the corruption and malfeasance he encountered, and remarked that he believes there is no other candidate in the town who can correct the town’s issues as well as he can.
“I’m not a member of any party and don’t owe anything to anyone, and I truly hold the well-being of the residents first and foremost,” Ripp said.
Herman, who in addition to his nearly 40 year dental practice teaches at Northshore Hospital, said his motivation to run for supervisor came primarily when he saw an 11.5 percent tax increase on his town bill, and inspiration from now deceased Legislator Judy Jacobs, who he said got him to seek a Syosset Board of Education trustee seat.
“I want to give the town back to the residents,” Herman said.
Mangelli ran for US Senate six years ago, as well as TOB supervisor in 2015, said he wants to be “advised by the people, and I want referendums on almost everything.”
He also announced plans to set up an interactive website where residents can “have a direct say in everything that goes on in town government,” and said he plans to bring about “green (environmental) jobs” to the town.
Clarke’s educational background is in philosophy of ethics and politics, and in becoming a trial attorney, he said he has “set out to use my law degree to do good in the world.”
“It’s the pro-bono cases I take that make me feel good about what I do, and now I want to fight for the people who are underserved by the town, feel they’re being stepped on and want justice,” he said.