Babylon Town Supervisor and Democratic Party Candidate for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone wasted no time in answering the charges of his opponents that he was a liberal tax-and-spend Democrat who is not being truthful about his tax record. He told me in a recent interview, “I won my last two elections with 73% and 74% of the vote. What the other side is saying about my record is an insult to the voters of Babylon and to their intelligence. In my 10 years the Town taxes on the median home went up around $140.” With his voice at a strong pitch he went on to say, “Listen, Angie Carpenter is a good person, I like Angie Carpenter but she just doesn’t have the executive experience I have.”
The story of Steve Bellone is one of a Babylon Town Supervisor so popular he has run virtually unopposed in his last two elections. He and his backers believe that speaks volumes about his integrity, his ability to lead during difficult times and his executive capabilities. When I met him in Sag Harbor I was surprised by his youthful energy and his poise. In a follow-up phone call he said, “We need to make Suffolk a more affordable place to live once again—whether you want to retire, raise a family or start a business here. To do that, we need to create more good high-paying jobs, cut red tape, make government more efficient and transform it to focus on job creation. With my Innovate Suffolk economic vision, I want to partner our research institutions with entrepreneurs and have the next “Research Triangle” take root here in Suffolk County.”
He stressed he had a vision of “growing the economy and reforming county government.” So I asked him about the new reality of budget cuts, and this is what he said about doing more with less: “Over my 10 years in Babylon, we have significantly reduced the size of government, but today we are doing more than we have ever done before because we have made government more efficient…like adding a centralized Town call center and installing GPS units in Town vehicles. I will look for ways to make government work better and more efficiently, but ultimately, the fastest way out of our budget challenges is by growing our economy.”
Then I asked Bellone about the big-time taxing charges leveled against him, actually calling him “Big Tax Bellone,” by the Republicans and their candidate Angie Carpenter. He calmly stated, “ The attack is simply false. The New York State Comptroller data indicates that Babylon’s Town tax rate is in the lower half of towns in Suffolk County, something that was substantiated by an analysis by Suffolk’s Office of Legislative Budget Review requested by Newsday. The fact remains that Babylon residents have overwhelmingly supported me because of an excellent fiscal record of reducing debt every year, improving the Town’s bond rating and delivering a $4.3 million tax cut this year.”
Finally, I asked Bellone why it was important to the average Suffolk County voter that he defeats Carpenter. He paused, thought, and responded calmly, but with energy, “I have 10 years of executive experience running one of the largest town governments in New York State with a track record of strong fiscal management. To turn the county around, we need to create more good high-paying jobs, focus government on job creation and diversify our housing stock to keep young people here and reward innovation. I have the experience and the economic ideas that, coupled with Suffolk County’s natural beauty and proximity to New York City, can turn this county into an economic powerhouse.”
Then he added, “She just doesn’t have the executive experience, period.” Bellone went on to say he plans on stopping the trend of young people leaving the county to find work and live; he mentioned this is a “critical juncture,” thus making the County Executive race this year a most important election.