Speaking to members of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce at their annual membership dinner on Thursday at the Southampton Inn, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said it was a new day at Town Hall and that she was looking forward to working with the other board members.
Ms. Kabot told the hundred or so members at the event, held on March 13, that her administration was committed to open and responsive government and that all voices would be heard. “No more dog and pony shows,” she said, adding that the members of the Town Board are working well together.
Before taking to the podium, Ms. Kabot distributed her business cards and said her door was always open. She also encouraged those present to call her if they wanted to voice any concerns.
The supervisor outlined a preview of her State of the Town speech slated for mid-April and returned to the hotly debated general election issues of affordable housing, the rental law, and tax assessments.
Ms. Kabot assured the gathering that her administration was working to solve the affordable housing crisis and not just give it lip service. “I understand how hard it is for working people to afford to live here,” Ms. Kabot said. “Had I not bought my home when I did some 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live here myself.” The supervisor acknowledged that if the issue was not solved then future generations would be forced to relocate leaving a dearth of needed workers and skills.
Speaking to the recent controversy of the town shutting down overcrowded homes on North Sea Road, Ms. Kabot said the new rental law was about “public safety and health” and had nothing to do with anyone’s documented status. “We’re obligated to enforce our codes,” Ms. Kabot said. “We have to address the issues of unsafe housing. We have to do it humanely, but we can’t have people living in dangerous or unhealthy conditions.”
The supervisor said the town was updating commercial assessments and vowed there would not be a repeat of the tax assessments of 2006. “Everyone’s going to pay their fair share.”
Ms. Kabot also highlighted the success of the Community Preservation Fund, which she said has preserved 2,700 acres of land over the last nine years. She added, nevertheless, that the town had to be judicious in how it used money from the CPF. Lands purchased by the town are taken off the tax rolls when they are purchased by the town for preservation resulting in tax loss. “That shifts the burden to the taxpayers,” Ms. Kabot said. “That’s a tradeoff that has to been considered.”
With a downturn in the national economy and a softening of the housing market, which generates so much of the surplus that benefits the town, Ms. Kabot cautioned that the town could be facing tougher times. “We need to control spending and increase efficiency,” Ms. Kabot said. “We need to do more with less.”