A dozen candidates vying for Oyster Bay Town Supervisor and three town board seats gave starkly different views of the town during a debate Thursday night in Hicksville.
Democratic candidates placed the blame for the Oyster Bay’s legal and financial troubles squarely in the lap of the Republican incumbents during the debate at the Hicksville Public Library. The Republicans, led by Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, stressed their experience and efforts aimed at reducing Oyster Bay’s debt.
About 170 people watched, listened, cheered and jeered as the Democrats tried to paint the GOP candidates as an extension of the regime in power over the past two years when corruption charges were filed against town officials and contractors.
Independent candidates for supervisor, Jonathan Clarke and Robert Ripp, and the Reform Party pick for Supervisor John Mangelli, also took part in the debate.
Saladino, a former state assemblyman, attacked the record of his Democratic opponent, Marc Herman, on taxes when he was head of the Syosset school board. Herman defended his record and boasted of the quality of the schools.
Candidates said they were in favor of redevelopment and rezoning of downtown Hicksville but with different approaches.
Mangelli said he wanted public referendums to decide the issue.
“My job as supervisor is not going to be to govern,” Mangelli said to members of the audience. “My job is going to be to implement your decisions.”
Saladino said the town would develop Hicksville into “the finest downtown anywhere on Long Island with your help, with your input and we will get it done correctly because we have the experience.”
Herman said he was proposing residential advisory boards to give input to the town government, which would create a master plan.
“We’re going to do what you want us to do,” Herman said.
Asked about a proposal for towns to take over the property assessment system from Nassau County, most candidates said the county should continue to be in charge of the system.
“The town can’t handle it,” Ripp said, referring to Oyster Bay. “The tax problem, it’s a wreck, it was purposely set up this way.”
Clarke said the town should take over the assessment system because it has more information about properties.
“The towns would have an easier way of doing an assessment system,” Clarke said. “The county, they over assess. What they don’t tell you is they have to pay it back. It should be shifted to the towns.”