Maybe I’m too trusting, but I’ve always believed that we (the people) hire the people who sit on our town board. Our votes put them on the payroll. Our taxes pay their salaries. We entrust running the town government to those who have sworn to take care of it while we focus on our own jobs, homes and families. Right?
But that’s not always what how it works out. Sometimes people we’ve hired forget who and what they’re working for, becoming too impressed with their position and inflated by the power their decisions wield. What’s best for the people gets pushed aside as politics moves center stage.
I’ve lived in Riverhead long enough to see Route 58 sold off into Brake Light Highway, our rural character compromised by bad zoning, Main Street held hostage by property owners and the seeming free-for-all of development benefiting business but breaking our budgets. I’ve attended town hall meetings and have heard logical, concise and often impassioned statements voiced by residents that were scoffed at, talked over and ultimately ignored when it was time to vote.
So, I decided to move from viewer to participant in this fall’s local elections. And what I’m seeing is that politics is as deeply baked into campaigning as it is into governing.
Take campaign contributions. Or give them, especially if you are doing business with town hall. An article on RiverheadLOCAL last week on who’s gotten what shows that the incumbents (‘candidates’ currently in office) have collected three times as much in contributions as the women running for supervisor and town board.
Three times more? Interesting that when you take a close look at the incumbent Supervisor’s list, it shares a lot of familiar names with news reports on town business. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I sure can be appalled at how blatant the secret handshake is.
There’s J. King, whose Riverhead Ciderhouse has set up shop, opened its doors and is apparently a booming business. That, in spite of ignoring site plan covenants imposed by the planning board. And yet, the doors stay open and the Ciderhouse has welcomed the incumbent Supervisor more than once. Apparently a campaign contribution makes a lovely thank you.
There are any number of law offices making hefty donations. I won’t even begin to guess why they’re lining up in support.
Why does Luminati ring a bell? Oh right, that’s the company trying to purchase EPCAL, the former Grumman property, for couple of million under current market value. And if that’s not bad enough, the town board is negotiating a contract without looking too closely into this ’aerospace’ company that appears to be more in the business of smoke and mirrors. Never mind that the town hasn’t collected or even requested a dollar of down payment or good faith deposit. Funny. I remember writing a check with my initial offer when we bought our house. But Luminati? No deposit, no problem. However, Luminati did manage to pull out the checkbook to help fund the supervisor’s campaign.
Have you even heard of Island Water Park Group? Didn’t ring a bell with me either. You have to go back 10 years to their big pitch to bring a water ski park to EPCAL. That didn’t work out. Or so it seems. However, a decade later, they’re still making hefty campaign donations (double the legal limit) and still getting annual permits to access the property to remove sand for a hefty profit. Did you even know that?
And who the heck is DGS Group LLC? And why have they given three times the legal limit of campaign donations? How come a Google search only brings up listings under Wikibusiness and EntitySource, where it’s noted that “After conducting a search for principal and owners of DGS GROUP LLC, we could not find any results.” But look! The url ‘DGSGroupLLC.com’ is available on GoDaddy for $11.99. Seems to me, if they can afford to donate $3,000 to the incumbent supervisor’s campaign, they could swing 12 bucks for a website. Maybe he should be donating to them instead.
Looking over the list, I am not surprised that the Republicans have three times the campaign contributions of the Democratic challengers. It triples my belief that they are not working for us, the people who hired them. In a campaign, and in the daily business of taking care of Riverhead and its residents, shouldn’t there be a clear system of checks and balances? In the case of the incumbent Supervisor, all we’re seeing is a long list of checks.
Clifford, former co-host of the WALK Breakfast Club, is the volunteer campaign manager for Laura Jens-Smith, Michele Lynch and Catherine Kent. She lives in Riverhead.
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