1. How did you get started in politics?
When my daughter Stefanie, who is now a 20 year old college junior, was one year old, I was motivated to get involved in local politics and volunteered for then County Legislator Rick Lazio who was running for Congress. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the campaign, met lots of great people, ended up joining the Board of Directors of the South Shore Republican Club where I eventually became President, and was finally asked to join the staff of Legislator Tom Finlay. Ever since, I have been active in politics, youth sports and local community groups and business organizations.
2. Explain how your professional career prepared or will prepare you for a role as Suffolk County Legislator?
Certainly, my time as a Legislative Aide for Tom Finlay acquainted me with the workings of County Government and constituent service. My involvement in the community eventually led to leadership roles in both the Islip Chamber of Commerce and the East Islip Soccer Club. Having managed businesses previously and having owned my own business, I learned what it takes to manage people, to work within a budget, and to solve problems with the ultimate goal of business growth. I began to wonder why government couldn’t operate more like business.
3. If elected or re-elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would enact in 2012?
I think one of the biggest mistakes any new legislator can make is to rush to pass legislation. We have too much legislation as it is. I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for transparency in the budget process. I will push for a “LEAN GOVERNMENT” initiative to reduce bureaucracy and red tape and make County government as efficient as possible. And I will continue to work tirelessly to fight against unfunded mandates and onerous regulation that costs Suffolk taxpayers millions of dollars.
4. The Suffolk County Legislature has a history of passing landmark “First-in-Nation” legislation, giving it the name “The Wild, Wild East.” As a legislator, would you tame the legislature or let it remain “wild”?
It’s true that Suffolk has been the breeding ground for some important legislation, but I think members sometimes get carried away. In an effort to try and reverse New York State’s reputation as the least friendly state to do business, I will continue to bring a more cautious, thoughtful, balanced approach to the Legislature.
5. Each year, a Legislator receives $160,000/year in member items for projects in his/her district. Do you support this budget line-item? Why?
Last year, I transferred all but $15,000 of this so-called member-item money back to the tax stabilization fund. The $15,000 was transferred to the County Executive’s budget to implement a LEAN GOVERNMENT pilot program which never materialized. While a very limited amount of member-item money is appropriate, $160,000 per legislator far exceeds the bounds of prudence. Having each legislator dole out funds unilaterally lends itself to a disjointed, inefficient use of what amounts to $3 million…not to mention the risk of choosing winners based on politics. Money for health care agencies should be budgeted by the Health Department. Money for social service agencies should be budgeted by the Department of Social Services, etc. These department heads are better equipped than legislators to use this money in the most productive, comprehensive fashion with total transparency and scrutiny.
6. Taxes appear to be one of the most pressing issue facing Suffolk County residents today? However, approximately 65% of the average tax bill comes in the form of school taxes — which the citizens, not the legislators, vote to increase or decrease. With that, is taxes truly an issue in a Legislative campaign? Why?
Taxes and jobs continue to be the two most important issues to residents of the 10th LD, and appropriately so. Despite the fact that the lions share of property taxes go to public school districts, there are things the County can do to reduce that burden. One of my favorite sayings is, the best way to create jobs is to stop preventing them. The United States is a remarkable place and New Yorkers in particular are remarkable people. When you have risk-takers, entrepreneurs, in this economy, who want to start or expand businesses, we should be doing everything in our power to help, not hinder that process. Yet, government has become experts at setting up the obstacle course. If we can tear down that obstacle course and make it easier for businesses to expand and for new businesses to start, we will create jobs and grow our tax base. That will in turn lower the individual burden on each of us. Very few people believe their tax bill is too low, and if it was lower, that would attract more home-buyers, enable our children to stay here, attract more businesses, creating more jobs, growing our economy and ultimately leading to a better quality of life for our families.
7. What makes you better qualified for the position of Suffolk Legislator over your opponent.
I have the experience in both government and business, and the energy to aggressively attack the challenges with an open mind, an open door and with common sense solutions. I have been involved in my community for many years and have developed critical relationships at all levels of government from all political parties that help me do my very best to provide constituent service. I cannot speak for my opponent.
8. Give us one question that YOU always wanted to be asked in this campaign. Answer it.
What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? My answer: African or European? [That's for all my fellow Monty Python fans.]
9. Any interesting moments from the campaign trail you’d like to share
One of my favorite stories continues to be relative to the pronunciation of my last name which is pronounced ‘sill me’. I knocked on a door to say hello and a woman answered. I introduced myself and she said, “THAT’S how you pronounce your name! My seven year old keeps asking me why there are signs on everyone’s front lawn that say ‘kill me’.”
10. One word to BEST describe Suffolk County.