The candidates for Southampton Town supervisor traded barbs at a debate in North Sea on Monday while their running mates for Town Board tried to boost their own public support. Meanwhile, people from both sides of the aisle did their best to produce the loudest applause for their candidates’ promises.
Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and her challenger, Linda Kabot, a former supervisor, blasted each other’s management style and cut down each other’s claims of achievement while touting their own accomplishments.
Ms. Throne-Holst accused Ms. Kabot of failing to get a handle on the town’s financial security during her two years in office, 2007 to 2009, and of failing to manage the town efficiently.
“When I took that seat, it was clear that the town’s finances were in great disarray,” she said. “We had over 100 capital projects on the books, and anyone who looked could know there were not 100 capital projects going on. The person in charge … was clearly not suited for the job.”
Ms. Throne-Holst touted the forensic audit that she implemented and policies that reduced staffing, slashed borrowing and cut spending, resulting in flat tax rates and rebuilt surpluses.
Ms. Kabot, in turn, attempted to paint Ms. Throne-Holst as dishonest and a dictator who is dismissive of her colleagues and town residents, and who owes her successes to policies first set by Ms. Kabot, her predecessor.
“There was $7.5 million in operating deficits when I took over—the budgets I proposed and corrective actions that I did are the ones that put us on the right track,” Ms. Kabot said. “The facts do not lie. What’s happening is a lot of taking credit for things. I stepped up and did the right thing, and any attempt to besmirch my reputation is just pure dirty politics.”
Ms. Kabot said that a report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office said that a budget recovery plan she included in her 2010 budget, her last while supervisor, is credited as having started the town’s fiscal turnaround.
The incumbent also took some shots from the audience on Monday night. The location of the first debate in North Sea brought it into the backyard of two hot-button issues: the expansion of a once-quiet tennis camp on the shore of Little Fresh Pond, and plans for an apartment complex on Sandy Hollow Road. Ms. Throne-Holst took lumps from residents on both issues.
“A number of us are quite angry with you, Anna,” said North Sea resident Jimmy Silver. “We asked you to investigate the impropriety of [the tennis camp]. You said you would get back to us. Then you went silent. And this developer is the recent chairman of the State Democratic Party, whose endorsement you have sought in your reelection bid.”
The supervisor countered that her office holds no authority over the operation or legality of the camp, and that she has had no interaction with its owner, Jay Jacobs, in the political arena. She hinted that perhaps the residents had been spurred, or misled, in their anger by promises from her opponent that could not be kept.
“It is misinformation that has gone around,” said Ms. Throne-Holst. “I explained it when all of you came to my office. You don’t like my answer, but I gave you an honest answer. The [Zoning Board of Appeals] is vested by law in making those decisions, and I can’t influence them. If anyone submits to you that they can do that, they are in fact submitting a violation of law.”
Ms. Kabot took the opportunity to twist the knife. “Hooray to the community for standing up,” she said. “Take back your town, continue to stand up.”
Questions directed to the four Town Council candidates—Republican nominees Jeff Mansfield and Stan Glinka, and Democratic nominees Brad Bender and Frank Zappone—focused more on more general issues of quality of life and the sort of policies they would support.
“What are you going to do for us here in North Sea?” asked John Watson.
Mr. Mansfield reversed the question. “The real answer is, what do you want us to do?” he said. “I believe in representative government. We shouldn’t be sitting in our ivory tower of Town Hall telling you what you need. Each of us should get out into the community … [and] inspire debate.”
Mr. Glinka echoed his sentiment, saying, “The most important thing in being on Town Board is listening to the community.”
Mr. Zappone, a Democrat who has served as Ms. Throne-Holst’s deputy supervisor for the last five years, said he thinks he could get a jump start on that effort. “If I could be so presumptuous, I think I know what you want us to do,” he said. “I think you want us to find a way to ensure that Big Fresh Pond and Little Fresh Pond are protected in perpetuity. … I think this community wants us to protect historic properties … [and] what you want is more effective code enforcement.”
In response to questions about code enforcement issues, Mr. Mansfield, a Republican political newcomer from Bridgehampton, said he would like to see the town’s code enforcement staff increased, however possible. “Code enforcement touches all Southampton Town residents—it’s about quality of life,” he said. “We’ve operated code enforcement on what could be termed a skeleton staff. I, for one, would like to see more boots on the ground … and supplementing code enforcement with the assets we already have, like the Building Department.”
Mr. Bender, a registered Independent who is cross-endorsed by the Democrats, said that his years as the president of the Flanders-Riverside-Northampton Community Association had familiarized him well with code enforcement issues. He noted that the town needs technology upgrades to help it police and track code infractions, upgrades he said the current Republican majority has stymied.
Mr. Glinka noted that the Republican Party campaign platform calls for the Town Justice Court to hold at least one session of proceedings at night, a policy change that could make it easier for residents to track the adjudication of code violation cases from their neighborhood.
Mr. Mansfield and Mr. Glinka trumpeted platforms of closer interaction with the community on various issues and a shedding of party influences.
“Someone like myself, who was born and raised in the Town of Southampton, is also sick of the politics,” Mr. Glinka said in response to a question about a recent proposal to bar political committee members from serving on appointed regulatory boards. “I think everything needs to be looked and listened to … but stop the politics.”
On the other side of the room, Mr. Bender and Mr. Zappone pointed to their past involvement with many issues and their pledges to treat the councilman role as a full-time job.
“I love this community and I love our rural character,” Mr. Bender said. “I’ve managed many building projects over my life, from $500 to $5 million. But I’m ready to hang up my hammer and work for the people of Southampton, full-time. When you call the Town Council office, you should get [a councilman].”