Written by Ronald Scaglia Friday, 16 October 2009 00:00
The same questions were asked of all candidates running for the Town of Oyster Bay Board, which is a four-year term. In the event a council member leaves office prior to completion of a full term, the town board appoints a replacement. That person serves until the next regularly scheduled election, at which time the voters elect an individual to serve the remainder of the term. There is no limit to the number of terms council members may serve.
Incumbent Republican councilmembers Chris J. Coschignano, Elizabeth A. Faughnan and Joseph G. Pinto are being challenged by Democrats Matt Meng, Erin Reilley and Doug Watson. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Their stories appear below in alphabetical order.
Chris Coschignano is seeking re-election as an Oyster Bay Councilman. He was first elected to the town council in 2001 and re-elected in 2005. He is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines.
“I’ve served for eight years,” said Coschignano. “I believe that what we’ve accomplished is very positive for the Town of Oyster Bay. The town is going in the right direction. We’re the most stable level of government. We have a terrific bond rating and provide the services that our residents call for and respect. We’re very responsive as the closest level of government.”
Coschignano has very strong ties to the Town of Oyster Bay. His family came to the town in 1903 has he has been a lifelong resident have been born in Syosset and spending his entire life in and near the Syosset area. He and his wife Elisabetta currently reside in Muttontown with their three children.
“It was a great place to grow up and I want to keep it a great place,” said Coschignano.
Coschignano feels his desire to serve the community in which has he has spent his whole life and well as his experience as an attorney, makes him an ideal candidate with the right balance to serve the residents of Oyster Bay. His is a partner with a Garden City-based law firm and feels this very important as the town council has to deal with many legal issues. He also strongly believes that his eight years of experience are also an invaluable asset when governing. He has the most experience as a Town of Oyster Bay Councilman of any of the candidates seeking that position.
Coschignano strongly believes that the current board has done an excellent of managing the town’s finances. He cites the town’s AAA bond rating as evidence of the good job that has been done. However, challengers running for councilman have raised the issue of taxes being too high in the town and specifically the issue of patronage jobs. There have been claims of tax increases over forty percent. Coschignano strongly disputes these claims and feels the town has done an excellent job of maintaining and increasing services while raising taxes minimally.
Said Coschignano, “The numbers thrown out are laughable. The math simply doesn’t work. Taxes have only been raised 2, 3 or 4 percent. If we raised taxes as much ass our opponents are claiming, the public would see it. We wouldn’t have a AAA Bond Rating and we wouldn’t be backed by Standard & Poors if all we did was raise taxes. You couldn’t get a better bond rating and you couldn’t balance the books better. What would they change? I’d like to hear some ideas.”
As far as patronage jobs, Coschignano states that the vast majority of Oyster Bay’s employees are civil service employees that have to be hired from the list. He states that there are maybe 100 jobs in the town that are hired which some would classify as patronage.
If re-elected, Coschignano vows to maintain services for the residents while keeping the finances in order. He believes that the town has done an excellent job of preserving open space having preserved over 100 acres of some very important pieces of Oyster Bay and states that he will continue those policies. Coschignano also believes that the town has done an excellent job with the town’s infrastructure and feels this will be of significant importance in the future as the county’s troubles finances have prevented it from doing much work on roadways. He stated that the town may have to provide some of those services.
Elizabeth Faughnan is seeking re-election to the Town of Oyster Bay Board after being elected in 2005. She is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines and said that she is known in her community and beyond as someone who knows how to get things done. She was named in 2005 by Long Island Business News as one of Long Island’s top 40 achievers under the age of 40.
Faughnan has served as a Town of Oyster Bay Councilwoman since January 2006. Prior to her election to the town board, Faughnan was a village deputy prosecuting attorney for eight and a half years. She has been a member for the past nine years of the Town of Oyster Bay’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which reviews and makes recommendations to the Oyster Bay Town Board concerning applications for the landmark designation of properties or alteration of currently designated landmarks.
A long-time volunteer in community activities, Faughnan said that she was instrumental in the establishment of the North Shore Rotary Club, whose role is to provide humanitarian service. She served as charter president of the organization in 2003-2004, which was the newest club in Nassau County in the past 25 years.
Faughnan has been involved in the Planting Fields Foundation, Friends of the Bay, Locust Valley Neighborhood Watch, the Brehon Law Society of Nassau County and Irish-Americans in Government.
An accomplished attorney, Faughnan worked her way through college while earning degrees at St. John’s University (BA, 1990) and St. John’s School of Law (JD, 1993). She has been admitted to practice in the states of New York and Connecticut as well as before the United States Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the Eastern and Southern Districts of the United States District Court.
For over a decade, Faughnan was associated with the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, P.C., where she worked closely with former Suffolk County Executive John Klein in representing both buyers and sellers of residential and commercial real estate and businesses.
She is a member of the Nassau County and New York State Bar Associations and the Alumni Associations of St. John’s and St. John’s School of Law.
Faughnan ran for town council four years ago because she loves living in the Town of Oyster Bay and is seeking re-election based on that same mantra. “I want to continue my goal of keeping Oyster Bay an affordable place to live without decreasing the services that we have,” she said. “I do also want to move along with the times and see our town website become more user friendly.”
Another goal for Faughnan is to help revitalize some areas with their downtowns. “I would like the zoning to be more appropriate to the times.”
Faughnan is a lifelong resident of Locust Valley and a graduate of St. Dominic’s Schools in Oyster Bay. She is a lifelong parishioner of St. Dominic’s parish and has served as one of its youngest lectors and one of its first Eucharistic Ministers. She is also a member of the parish’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Guild.
“A vote for me is a vote for someone who watches the bottom line, understand why people came to Oyster Bay and why they want to stay here,” said Faughnan.
Matt Meng, a resident of East Norwich, is running for election to the Oyster Bay Town Council. He is running on two party lines, Democrat and Working Families.
“People are fed up with government, politics, politicians and in particular the system of cronyism,” said Meng about his reasons for seeking election as an Oyster Bay Councilman. “People are at a breaking party. We need to reduce government and the burden of taxes which is just wiping everyone out.”
Meng states that taxes are the first and foremost issue currently facing the town. He also feels that the current makeup of the town board, which is comprised of Republicans, is a problem.
“With a diversity of opinion, you come up with creative solutions,” said Meng. “We are working on a one party system in the Town of Oyster Bay. Taxes have gone up 40 percent in the last five years. Patronage is out of control. Government has to be leaner, do more with less and there has to be checks and balances.”
Meng gives the Cerro Wire development project as an example of the ineffectiveness of the town board. He feels that the project could have taken a more productive tract and he would like to have seen something proposed that the community would be happy with that would be both regionally beneficial and more marketable than what was proposed. Meng feels instead of a better proposal, the current proposal has been tied up in the courts for 11 years and that the 55 acres are sitting sallow.
If elected Meng also vows to pay attention to issues outside of the town. He strongly believes that issues occurring in other parts of Nassau County as well as in Suffolk, could eventually impact the town. He says that this methodology does not exist on the current board. He also feels that his experience as the owner of an auto repair shop as well as his new approach to government make him a strong candidate.
Said Meng, “I look at government, the way I look at cars. They run better clean. I’m a small business owner and a practical problem solver with over twenty years of experience to the community. There are many issues and challenges in the Town of Oyster Bay and we need new ideas and fresh leadership. I’m the person that can bring the solutions that we need to town government.”
Meng owns and operates an auto repair center that specializes in German cars. He and wife, Claire-Louise, have three daughters. He participates in many community associations including the East Norwich Civic Association for which he is the president. He is also a board member of Friends of the Bay, an environmental organization, is co-founder and vice-president of the Long Island Drinking Water Coalition and is also the co-founder and vice-president of the United Civic Association of North Oyster Bay. He has previously run for public office in 2007 when he ran for Oyster Bay Town Clerk and in 2008 when he ran for New York State Senator.
Joseph Pinto, a current Town of Oyster Bay Councilman, is seeking election for a full term. He was appointed to the position on Feb. 3 to fill the vacancy left by Angelo Delligatti who left to become a district court judge. Previously, Pinto had served on the Village Board of Massapequa Park for almost 10 years, having been elected in 1999 and subsequently re-elected in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007. He is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines.
“I was honored to take this place on the board and I’m honored to be running with a team that has a proven record of providing services to the residents and maintaining a very good quality of life,” said Pinto when speaking about his fellow incumbent Republican council members who are seeking re-election as well as John Venditto, the incumbent Oyster Bay Town Supervisor seeking re-election for the Republican Party.
Pinto strongly believes that Oyster Bay’s current elected officials have done a very good job of maintaining services for its residents. He also feels that in these difficult financial times, Oyster Bay has remained strong financially while other levels of government including Nassau County and New York State have been struggling.
“Compared to the rest of the county and the state, we are on strong financial footing,” said Pinto. “Our communities are healthy, we’ve revitalized our roads, we’ve maintained and improved our beautiful parks and we’ve increased services.”
Pinto says that he is concerned about some of the issues that have plagued other parts of Long Island such as the ability of first-time home buyers to purchase a home as well seniors being able to afford to stay in their homes. However, he feels that Oyster Bay has been able to deal with these issues very effectively.
Said Pinto, “Because of the programs we’ve put in place you don’t see the mass exodus in Oyster Bay as you do in other parts of the county. People want to move here and stay here because of the job we’ve done. I really feel comfortable with the leadership of Supervisor Venditto. We have the town in the right place and going in the right direction.”
Pinto also scoffs at charges from his opponents that the current town board has raised to unacceptably high levels. According to Pinto, town taxes comprise just ten cents of every tax dollar and that the town has been able to provide its residents with many services and benefits from the small component of taxes that go to the town.
Pinto has been a coach with the Massapequa International Little League since 1998. He is also a member of the Sons of Italy in Massapequa. He moved to Massapequa Park in 1994 and resides there with his three children. Pinto is a Certified Public Accountant.
Erin Reilley, a Farmingdale resident, is running for Oyster Bay Town Council on the Democrat and Working Families Party lines.
“I’m running because as a young person, I know how difficult it is for young people to buy a home and stay on Long Island,” said Reilley. “I want to keep our young people and our seniors here. I don’t want them to be forced off Long Island. They are getting taxed off the island. The current board’s pattern of raising taxes every other year is irresponsible.”
Reilley is an environmental grants manager. She seeks state and federal funding for road and community improvement. She states that in that capacity she has raised over two and one half million dollars for environmental programs here on Long Island. She feels that her experience in bringing tax dollars back to Long Island, along with her creative thinking, will serve her well on the Oyster Bay Town Council.
Said Reilley, “I have experience in bringing tax dollars back to Long Island. I am a creative thinker. It is time for fresh blood. It is time for someone who is committed to restraining spending.”
Reilley feels that the biggest issue facing the town is spending. She wants to reign in spending to make the town more livable for seniors and young people and to restore downtown areas. She strongly states that she does not want to cut services to the residents but to cut what she calls wasteful internal spending. She also wants to examine the issue of patronage jobs at the town.
“The town government has quite a few patronage employment issues that need to be examined,” said Reilly. “There are hundreds of patronage jobs. We need to examine town efficiency, cut spending and get rid of pockets of inefficiency and waste. For example, there are 14 town lawyers and the town still gives contracts to outside legal firms.”
Reilley also feels that downtown areas need to be preserved and said she is committed to protecting the environment. “The Town of Oyster Bay has great parks and wonderful environmental departments,” said Reilley. “Some of the best examples of village living and mains street downtowns are here in the Town of Oyster Bay and that is what needs to be preserved and invested in.”
In addition to her work as an environmental grants manager, Reilley has volunteered at an animal shelter and has done litter and beach clean ups.
Doug Watson, a resident of Bayville since 1980, is seeking election to the Oyster Bay Town Council. Watson, who has served on the Village of Bayville’s Board of Trustees since 1992 and is currently serving as deputy mayor, is running on the Democratic Party line.
“I’ve done the job in Bayville and now I want to take it to the next level,” said Watson about his campaign for councilman. “I enjoy being of service to the community. It is very rewarding to take a large problem and reduce it to a non-issue.”
Watson said his many years of experience as well as his strong commitment serving the community is what makes him a good candidate for the position. If elected he vows to get deeply involved in all issues. He stressed that he will thoroughly examine all of the issues that he confronts as well as the ramifications and that he will make decisions that are best for the community and not necessarily what are the easiest or most popular.
Said Watson, “I feel that what makes me a good candidate is my many years of experience looking at issues and doing research. Sometimes things are not what they appear. I take a look at everything.”
Furthermore, he emphasizes that he will reach out to the entire town to make sure that he has a firm grasp on what is happening throughout Oyster Bay. Watson says that he will earn the residents trust by listening to their concerns.
“I’m very self-confident in my ability,” said Watson. “If this were a job interview, I’d have the job, but it’s an election and I have to be elected.”
Being a Democrat with a town board that is currently dominated by Republicans would be a challenge for Watson, but one that he feels he is up to. He states that he would reach out to all members of the community, from all parties, to provide good representation for the residents. While campaigning, he has come across some financial concerns that he would like into further if he is elected.
When speaking about the current town board, Watson said, “They see Oyster Bay as a great place because they are on the board, and I want to make it a great place because I am on the board.”
Watson is the owner of an auto body shop. However, he says that he will be able to serve on the town council full-time, while again emphasizing his commitment to the residents. In addition to his service on the Village of Bayville’s Board of Trustees, Watson is also a member of the Knight of Columbus in Bayville as well as the Nassau County Village Officials Association and the Matinecock Rod and Gun Club. He and his wife Gwen have three adult children.