Even Edward P. Romaine's opponent refers to the Brookhaven Town supervisor as an "institution."
It's a nod to the Republican incumbent's lengthy career in public service, the degree to which he is known throughout the town and Suffolk County, and his record of accomplishment. And it underscores the challenge facing anyone looking to turn him out of office.
This year, the Democratic candidate for supervisor is William B. Ferraro III, 36, of Selden, a political activist and senior contracts manager for New York City. Ferraro has lots of ideas and says he is running on vision. But ideas need to be implemented and plans cost money, and Ferraro doesn't have good answers for that end of the equation.
Ferraro rightly observes that Brookhaven faces a huge financial hit when the town landfill closes in 2024, and says he would assemble a group of experts to develop a plan. But Romaine, 72, of Center Moriches, set the date for closure, has put $12 million in reserve so far for closure costs with a goal of $20 million by 2024, and has long advocated for regional cooperation to solve Long Island's looming garbage disposal crisis. One caveat: Romaine should be more sensitive to the plight of nearby homeowners who have complained for years about sickening odors, complaints that led state officials last month to order the town to take immediate action to control the smell or face $178,000 in fines.
Ferraro also is not wrong to express frustration that Brookhaven no longer picks up glass for recycling; he'd like to see monthly pickups, at least. But Romaine is not wrong that the market for recycled glass is weak after the collapse of the recycling market worldwide. To compensate for that, Romaine is smartly trying to persuade a company upstate that crushes glass for use in concrete to locate a factory on Long Island.
Since he took office in 2012, Romaine's fiscal stewardship has earned the town a AAA bond rating. He led Brookhaven's winning application for a $20 million state grant to incentivize shared services between the town and other municipalities to increase efficiency in government while saving taxpayer dollars. Brookhaven has consolidated 17 special districts and signed 30 agreements with other municipalities. Romaine also has started a process that would let the town act as an energy broker and sell electricity and gas more cheaply to residents and businesses.
Romaine says his job invigorates him. That's good news for Brookhaven residents, who for the first time since 2002 are picking someone to fill a four-year term instead of two years, the result of last year's public referendum. Ferraro has a promising future in politics once his knowledge and experience catch up with his passion and energy. But Romaine has the steady hand the town needs to confront big uncertainties over the next four years.
Newsday endorses Romaine. — The editorial board