The candidates for the East Hampton Town Board include one who is new to town politics but not elected office, an incumbent seeking a second term, a candidate who has served the town in various elected posts for 26 years, and a former councilman who wants to return to Town Hall. On Tuesday, voters will choose two of them to serve for the next four years.
Kathee Burke-Gonzalez of Springs is making her first run for townwide office on both the Democratic and Working Families tickets. In June, she completed a nine-year tenure as a member of the Springs School Board, serving the last two years as president.
During her campaign, she has pointed out that despite a state mandated 2-percent spending cap that went into effect while she was president and forced the board to make many hard choices, voters came out in overwhelming numbers to support the district’s budgets.
If elected, she has vowed to bring the same careful approach to managing tax dollars that she brought to the school board, stressing, for instance, that while she supports the idea of hiring a town manager, since funding for it was not included in the 2014 budget, it is a moot point for now. Some of the townspeople’s needs, in areas such as human services for example, might be met through creative public-private partnerships, she said during a discussion last Thursday with members of The Star’s editorial staff.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez also says her time on the school board has taught her the importance of building consensus when making tough decisions. She promised to bring that kind of thinking to code enforcement and quality-of-life issues that have drawn angry complaints from Montauk to Springs. In that vein, she has called on the town to create a task force from among town police, code enforcement, the town attorney, and other officials to come up with workable solutions.
The candidate said she supports the idea of having the Army Corps of Engineers rebuild the beach in downtown Montauk, but she is adamantly opposed to the construction of rock revetments or other shore-hardening work.
While Ms. Burke-Gonzalez supports what will be a federally-funded project along the Montauk shoreline, when it comes to East Hampton Airport she is against accepting additional Federal Aviation Administration grants until the town completes noise studies and takes other steps required to have the municipality recognized as a “quiet community” so it can take meaningful steps to control the number and types of aircraft that use the airport as well as impose a reasonable curfew on operations.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez is an advertising account executive with Blumenfeld+ Fleming, a Montauk advertising agency. She is married to Joe Gonzalez, a bartender at Rowdy Hall. The couple have two children, Burke, 15, and Nina, 13.
Fred Overton, who was elected East Hampton Town clerk in 1999 and served 10 years as an assessor and two years as a town trustee before that, is running for town board on the Republican, Independence, and Conservative Party lines.
With Mr. Cantwell running unopposed for supervisor, the Democrats are guaranteed a board majority, and Mr. Overton has promised that if elected, he will both work across party lines as well as serve as a watchdog on the majority. He has promised to continue the fiscal restraint shown by the Wilkinson administration.
Mr. Overton also stresses that his many years in the town clerk’s office have forced him to keep abreast of town issues and, as such, he said he offers voters an invaluable source of institutional knowledge.
One area where he differs with his Democratic opponents is whether or not to accept federal funding for improvements at East Hampton Airport. While the Democrats say they want to hold off on accepting any additional funding until noise and use studies are completed, Mr. Overton believes that refusing federal grants is a de facto death sentence to the facility, which he said is an important town asset. He argues that the town should continue to apply for federal funding even as it works to reroute noisy helicopters and other aircraft to reduce the impact on residential neighborhoods.
Mr. Overton said he will take a pragmatic approach to governing if he is elected and promised to listen to all sides before coming to a conclusion. As an example, he recently changed his position on what type of erosion control measures would be best suited to the Montauk coastline. Earlier this fall, Mr. Overton was the only candidate to support the construction of a stone revetment, which would be covered by sand, along downtown Montauk. But after attending a forum on the topic sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, he said he would now be willing to pursue the installation of geotextile tubes, which are sand-filled bags, as a compromise measure.
Mr. Overton was born in Springs and left the East End for only four years when he served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He later worked as an electrician and was partner in a truck and parts sales company before joining town government. He is a longtime member of the Springs Fire Department. He and his wife, Lynn, have three grown daughters, Nicole Gilbride, Rebecca Morin, and Katie Overton.
Job Potter, a Democrat who has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party, is seeking a return to Town Hall, where he served two terms under three different supervisors after first being elected in 1997.
This campaign season, Mr. Potter said he hopes the next town board will be able to jumpstart land-buying programs with money from the community preservation fund, which has amassed a balance of more than $42 million.
“The program needs to be energized,” he said, with the town aggressively targeting properties that could otherwise be developed.
Mr. Potter said he would also like the town board to focus more attention on providing affordable housing for town residents. Now that the St. Michael’s senior apartment project in Amagansett, the result of a public-private partnership, has been completed, Mr. Potter said there were no other projects in “the pipeline,” a situation that could exacerbate an already difficult market for affordable housing.
Finally, Mr. Potter has called for the town to ramp up code enforcement and address quality-of-life issues that have frustrated residents across the town.
“It’s not all just related to code enforcement,” he said, arguing that many of the problems have been caused because the current town board has taken a hands-off approach to business developments that should have been referred to the planning board for site plan review.
“Motels are finding themselves getting second uses and turning into night clubs,” he said. “Someone has a poolside service bar and there is a danger that it is going to morph into something bigger.”
Throughout his campaign, he has talked about the importance of good planning and called for a renewed respect for the work of the town’s Planning Department.
Since the zoning and planning boards are appointed by the town board, they often reflect that board’s biases, Mr. Potter has said. “This election should clearly be a referendum on the approach the people want the town to take.”
Mr. Potter acknowledged, though, that the administration of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson had its hands full dealing with the financial crisis that was left by former Supervisor Bill McGintee. “It’s fair to say the Wilkinson administration inherited a terrible situation and have had very little opportunity to do positive things,” he said. “I think that the most important thing is really to get the town working again from top to bottom, where everyone is pulling in the same direction and where there is a sense of respect.”
Before his two terms as a councilman, Mr. Potter served for four years on the planning board. Mr. Potter has two grown children, Cary, who lives in Brooklyn, and Ben, who is a student at New York University.
Dominick Stanzione, who has the backing of the Republican, Independence, and Conservative parties, is seeking his second term on the board.
Mr. Stanzione originally ran as an ally of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson on a platform that focused on digging the town out from under a mountain of debt in 2009. But once a financial plan was in place, he broke from the Republican majority to join forces with the two Democrats on the board on a number of occasions. The first example was when the three board members blocked Supervisor Wilkinson’s attempt to sell the town’s scavenger waste treatment facility until a comprehensive wastewater management plan was undertaken. “I took a lot of bullets and demonstrated my independence and my commitment to the future of the town by doing this,” he said last Thursday. He also joined with the Democrats to remove Fort Pond House in Montauk from the market.
During the campaign, Mr. Stanzione has portrayed himself as the candidate with the most knowledge of key issues facing the town. Down the homestretch, he has also reached back to his Republican roots, praising Supervisor Wilkinson for his management of the financial crisis and pointing to his own role in helping resolve it.
Mr. Stanzione said he was proud of having “authored” the comprehensive wastewater management plan that a town board majority agreed to hire professional consultants to prepare. He also pointed to his leadership on the town’s deer management plan, which responded to “widespread concern over safety,” and was passed unanimously by the board earlier this year.
The most controversial issue Mr. Stanzione has dealt with is East Hampton Airport. As the board’s liaison, he oversaw the adoption of an airport master plan and a board vote to seek federal funding for a deer fence around the airport perimeter. The town has also brought in a seasonal air traffic control tower to direct traffic and efforts have been made to redirect air traffic over a broader area.
“I think I’ve brought a level of professionalism to the conversation,” said Mr. Stanzione. Nonetheless, his pro-airport stance has put him in the crosshairs of quiet skies advocates who have argued that accepting any federal funding will prevent the town from exerting greater control over an airport that has grown from a sleepy seasonal facility to a busy landing strip for private jets and helicopters.
Mr. Stanzione is a managing partner in Colonial Capital Advisors, which serves institutional investors. He has been a member of the Amagansett Fire Department for six years, helped raise more than $200,000 in private donations for the restoration of the Amagansett Life-Saving Station, and is a founder of the Amagansett food pantry.