Half the Candidates, Half the Audience

    The threat of Hurricane Sandy kept several politicians from joining the Concerned Citizens of Montauk’s annual Meet the Candidates forum‚ held at the Montauk Firehouse on Sunday. The afternoon event had half the audience it usually gets.
    Representative Tim Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton, was busy working in Yaphank with representatives from Suffolk County, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and local officials to coordinate storm planning across Long Island. He sent a representative to explain his absence.
    His Republican challenger, Randy Altschuler, said at the start of the forum that the congressman was doing critical work and he, Mr. Altschuler, would discuss only his own position. He refrained from making comments about Mr. Bishop, even when audience members prompted him to.
    Mr. Altschuler, the founder of Cloud Blue, an electronic recycling company, said he was seriously concerned about the country. He said that as a businessman he has created 1,000 jobs in America and all over the world.
    As a freshman in Congress he feels he could bring a new perspective to government. He said there was a lot of money in recycling and that would be one issue he would promote to private businesses to help improve the economy.
    He was asked about his party affiliation. One member of the audience wondered if he shared their positions. “That’s a loaded question. I am proud to have the endorsement of a large group of people. I certainly don’t agree with all my party’s positions,” he said.
    He promised to continue to support the Brookhaven Laboratory and Stony Brook University and to fight against financial budget cuts to both institutions. He expressed frustration that state regulations have ended the black sea bass season two months earlier than usual and said he would find out why, since he knows the sea bass stocks have rebounded.
    Most of the forum focused on environmental issues. Mr. Altschuler said he supports domestic drilling as long as it’s conducted in a way that won’t endanger fisheries or the ocean. He said he did not know enough about the proposed Broadwater liquified natural gas platform in Long Island Sound to comment on it. “That said, we do need to find other options,” he said.
    On the environment, he said that “we do understand the change of climate. I don’t think we can stop it and we have to deal with this.”
    The recycling industry, he said, must stick to the highest standard and create “green” American jobs. “I am very supportive of the environment. I am not unabashedly in support of the environment,” he said.
    Moving on, State Senator Kenneth LaValle said he was running on his record. He said he had helped form the alliance between Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook, which he said will improve health care on the East End. During the question-and-answer period, Senator LaValle was asked what has happened to the Fire Island to Montauk Point coastal study that has been in the works for many years. Bill Akin, the former president of C.C.O.M., asked if the senator could do anything on a state level to move it forward. “It’s all about money; it’s not there,” the senator answered.
    Mr. LaValle promised to improve technology in schools and help get students interested in science, math, and technology. He also noted that he supports the sharing of services and consolidation of local schools.
    “Parents have to challenge their children and let them know that if they meet the challenge they will end up with a good job,” he said.
    Mary Ella Moeller, the health care coordinator of the Retired Teachers Association, stood to announce that the New York State United Teachers Union had once again endorsed Mr. LaValle. “And they never endorse Republicans!” she said to laughter.
    Before the senator left, saying he had a “honey-do‚” list from his wife at home, he was asked about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial method of extracting natural gas from the ground. “I think it’s not unreasonable for Long Island to worry,” he said.
    Bridget Fleming, Mr. LaValle’s  Democratic challenger, came running in just as the meeting was about to end. She apologized and spoke about her campaign promises, which include supporting a woman’s right to make her own health choices and a woman’s right to fair pay.
    During her short statement she asserted that Senator LaValle was known as “one of the biggest spenders” in the State Senate and said he had recently spent a half-million dollars on office equipment and campaign fliers, adding that it was perfectly legal.