For the first time in 24 years, Frank Petrone’s name is not on the ballot for Huntington Town supervisor.
His retirement after six terms presents challenges for his successor. Huntington needs a capable shepherd for the good initiatives Petrone pushed in his later years, like the revitalization of Huntington Station and construction of a parking garage in downtown Huntington. But the town also needs a dynamic and proven leader to guide Huntington toward an even brighter future.
Both principal candidates in the Nov. 7 election, Democratic town board member Tracey Edwards and Republican state Assemb. Chad Lupinacci, are lifelong Huntington residents. But Edwards conveys more passion, and has a more granular knowledge of Huntington, how its government works, the town’s problems and the range of solutions.
Her common-sense approach stems from her impressive breadth of experience, including 37 years at Verizon, where she retired last year as regional president for operations and construction. Edwards, 55, of Dix Hills, also served as an Elwood school board member and town planning board chairwoman, and is Long Island regional director of the NAACP.
Lupinacci, 38, of South Huntington, is less prepared to be the town’s chief executive. He is genial but lacks fire, perhaps a residue of being in the minority party in his three terms in Albany. Another former school board member, Lupinacci knows the town’s schools well but is less informed in other areas and seems incapable of presenting a concrete agenda.
And his position on the overassessment of power plants is almost disqualifying on its own. The Long Island Power Authority has been paying inflated taxes for years on four National Grid gas-fired plants, including the one in Northport. The grievances LIPA has filed in court on behalf of its ratepayers should be settled because a likely court judgment in favor of the utility would require Huntington to pay tens of millions of dollars in refunds. And the Northport school district, villages and other special districts that benefited from the tax windfall would have to contend with the loss of that money virtually overnight. Lupinacci wants to continue the irresponsible fight in court. Edwards favors a settlement, but wants to negotiate the best possible deal for the town and says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should intervene to make that happen. That is by far the wiser approach.
We like other Edwards proposals, too, like holding public meetings with department heads and budget workshops with the community participation. She’d like to establish public-private partnerships to help develop the downtown Huntington waterfront with walkable areas, and says the building department needs more staff and should be reorganized into residential, commercial and transformational “lanes” to streamline permitting. A strong proponent for the parking garage with a rooftop restaurant, she also plans to continue her work for more rental and affordable housing, especially for young adults. Part of that push is an exciting idea to convert underused office park space, such as along the Route 110 corridor, into housing. Lupinacci is less enthusiastic about this issue, expressing concerns about density and transportation.
Huntington is at an interesting juncture, poised to take off but still contending with attitudes that would keep it in place. Edwards has the skills and drive to take this vibrant town to a new level.
Newsday endorses Edwards. — The editorial board