Never mind the status quo—or the troubled past.
Though Republicans have dominated politics in the Town of Oyster Bay for decades, Supervisor Joseph Saladino touted the GOP as the party of change and the future.
The town’s Republican Committee officially began its 2017 campaign season on June 3 in conjunction with opening its headquarters on South Broadway in Hicksville.
The large first floor retail/office space was packed with officials, candidates and supporters as Saladino rallied the troops, touted his team’s qualifications and record, and blasted the Democratic opposition.
In January, Saladino succeeded the town’s longtime leader, John Venditto, who stepped down to prepare his defense against federal corruption charges. Venditto’s term was to have ended on Dec. 31, and so Saladino will have to run this November to win a mandate on his own. Also on the ballot will be councilmembers Michelle Johnson, seeking her third term; Lou Imbroto, who replaced Joseph Pinto in March (Pinto stepped down to become parks commissioner); and Thomas Hand, who replaced Chris Coschignano last month. James Altadonna Jr. will seek another term as town clerk.
Also on hand were Jack Martins, Steve Labriola and Maureen O’Connell, running respectively for county executive, comptroller and clerk. Martins was tapped by the county GOP instead of two-term incumbent Ed Mangano, who is facing federal corruption charges and has not indicated if he will enter the race. Labriola is seeking to replace George Maragos, Republican turned Democrat, who is retiring. O’Connell is the incumbent.
Observing the considerable number of attendees hailing from Pakistan or India, part of Hicksville’s diverse mosaic, Saladino affirmed that his party welcomed them, “and we will succeed together, in a town that has room for everyone.”
Saladino contrasted the changes his team had instituted while leading the town with the “wild changes that brings high density, like the Democrats want. The crowded communities that the Democrats want. And the crime that they turned a blind eye to. I’ve seen it too long in Albany (where Saladino served 13 years in the Assembly). And that’s why I came home, to fix this town, and make sure it’s the best of the best for everyone.”
Saladino affirmed that “We are one town. We are one family. We will win together. We can’t be beaten. We will make the [town] the best it’s ever been.”
He added, “These are not words. These are not campaign promises. You know this, and the public knows this, because we have a proven record.”
Saladino also mentioned the support the ticket would be getting from the Conservative, Independent, Reform and Tax Revolt parties.
“They support us because they know what we offer: good government, truth, transparency and trust,” Saladino stated, and went on to note that since taking office, “we’ve worked on finances to right this ship. We have reduced the town’s total debt (which had surpassed $900 million) by $70 million. The budget that we will present this October will have a zero percent increase.”
Summing up the GOP slate, Saladino said, “Our candidates have the best record, the best experience, and we are proving that we have what it takes to get the job done.”
He took aim at what he considered the Democrats’ focus on past misdeeds that have seen a cloud of suspicion hang over the town.
“The Democrats just sit on the sidelines and throw stones, because they have nothing,” Saladino charged. “They’re running a campaign where they jump up and down like children and keep yelling ‘Corruption. Corruption.’ But we’ve gotten rid of the corruption….The corruption issue in Oyster Bay is a thing of the past, because we’re bringing truth, honesty, transparency and a proven record.”
Saladino, in a press release, listed the town board’s actions in the ethics area since he took over: “a tough new ethics law; creation of a new, bipartisan, independent ethics board; the appointment of a former federal prosecutor as the new attorney; new financial disclosure requirements for vendors and town employees, as well as increased contract oversight. The cornerstone of the sweeping ethics reforms includes a brand new open and transparent process for choosing town concessionaires.”
Other speakers also made note of the opposition’s campaign strategy.
“They’re going to keep talking about the past, but we know better,” said Martins.“This election is about today, and the future…The Democrats want to talk about ethics reform. I say, bring it on. There is no one more ethical in this town than Joe Saladino.”
Martins promised that the county and town’s best days were ahead.
Labriola said, “The Democrats are throwing around the ‘C’ [corruption] word everywhere, speaking in platitudes without any specific details about what they’ll actually do. It’s a name calling race. It’s tearing down. It’s the politics of personal destruction.”
Labriola urged those in attendance to use social media to spread the word that “we have the integrity, we have the leadership, we have the courage to do the right thing and make the tough decisions.”
He added, “It’s our job to restore the public trust, [which] has been shaken. I understand that. We have dedicated public officials that will make sure to restore the public trust.”
Saladino had final words of encouragement for the GOP faithful: “ We’re going to turn this town around and make it the best it’s ever been. And you know why we’re going to win? Because we have you. This is our town. This is our time. And no one is going to take that away from us. Are you ready to win?”
The ensuing response made it clear that the people in the room were confident that the Republican dominance of Oyster Bay would continue.
In an interview with Anton Media Group after the rally, Saladino affirmed, “I’m very confident. It’s not ego. It’s because we’re doing the right thing. We’re showing the residents and the voters the kind of town we can be proud of. We fixed the finances of the town. We brought back trust and transparency. I’ve lived here my entire life and I love this town. I want it to be the cherished beautiful place that it’s always been, especially when I was growing up.”
Saladino pointed to a May 31 decision by a federal judge dismissing the first of three lawsuits brought by a creditor seeking what it claims were loan guarantees made by the town for moneys lent to a former concessionaire of the town golf course and one of its beaches. The decision essentially said that the town was not liable for these loan guarantees because the town board never approved them and further, they violated the state constitution.
“The results of this case prove beyond a shadow of the doubt that the Democrats are wrong,” to accuse the present town leadership of being tied to the corruption of the past, according to Saladino.
“Why vote for our team?” Saladino asked. ““Because we are the leaders in protecting the environment and our communities. We are turning the town around and rebuilding the trust. We’re putting people first. The other side doesn’t have the résumés and hasn’t provided suggestions.”
“With a majority of the board and supervisor now undemocratically selected in secret, it should come as no surprise that the voters are ready to throw out politicians like Joe Saladino who made their careers by servicing disgraced former Supervisor John Venditto,” said Oyster Bay Democratic Chair David Gugerty. “Democrats have proposed the most sweeping ethics reforms that Oyster Bay has ever seen, yet they are ignored at every turn by the current administration.”
“The facts are simple and indisputable,” said supervisor candidate Marc Herman. “Joe Saladino was Venditto’s town director of operations for many years. If the residents of Oyster Bay are upset with the status quo, then they’re going to be equally as frustrated with the current unelected administration in charge.”
“The taxpayers deserve a government that serves the public, not one that has a history of working with John Venditto and treating politics like their personal piggy banks,” said board candidate Bob Freier.
“Town of Oyster Bay residents are smart enough see right through this administration’s fake reforms and know that Joe Saladino, right-hand man to John Venditto, can’t be trusted,” said board candidate Eva Pearson.
“Oyster Bay Town Hall resembles Tammany Hall more and more each day,” said board candidate James Versocki. “You can’t rely on the people who drove us into the ditch, to then pull us out.”