Candidates for the Suffolk County 10th Legislative district
Tenth District Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi, a Republican, is running for a fifth term in office. His opponent is a newcomer to the political arena, Democrat Joe Tronolone. The 10th District is comprised of parts of: Islip, East Islip, Great River, Islip Terrace, Bohemia, Islandia, Central Islip, Bay Shore, Ronkonkoma, Hauppauge, Brentwood and Oakdale.
The Suffolk County News recently spoke with both candidates.
Joe Tronolone (D, WF, WE)
The candidate is a 2002 graduate of Islip High School, who now teaches in the Brentwood School District. Although he has worked on many political campaigns over the years, he decided to take a more active role in the election this year.
“It’s not something I was planning on doing,” said Tronolone regarding running for office. “But the political environment over the last few years has shown there are not many people in office who are working for the best interests of the middle class,” he said.
“Long Island is an extremely expensive place to live,” Tronolone said, noting that if elected he would work to address the issues that are causing so many young people and senior citizens to have to move way.
He said one of the major problems is that special interest is deciding on the area’s future.
“We need campaign finance reform,” he said. “Ninety percent of elections are won by the candidates who raise the most money.” He added that this pay-to-play practice has discouraged many voters from turning out at the polls.
“Last November’s election only had a 40 percent turnout. That’s a disgrace,” he said.
Tronolone, who has been a volunteer firefighter since 2006, said he has seen so many calls for EMT services for people who have overdosed on drugs. Given the opportunity to serve in the Legislature, he said he’d focus on the severe opioid epidemic on Long Island, noting that too little has been done in recent years. “This is a public health crisis,” he said. “There are not enough treatment centers here. We need to get the funding for them and for prevention [programs].” He noted, however, that he’s glad Suffolk County has joined other municipalities in an effort to file suit against drug manufacturers that he said “didn’t tell the truth” about their products.
The candidate said water quality is another major concern. He explained that of the three layers of Long Island’s aquifer, only the bottom layer has remained untouched by pollution.
“What happens when it gets down to the bottom layer?” he remarked. “Where will we go to get our drinking water?”
Tronolone said the sewer district must be expanded and that there should be legislative changes made to the way we take care of lawns. “We need to get away from using fertilizers filled with nitrogen,” he said.
Tronolone left a career in banking to work as a math teacher. He said having a business background would be an advantage in helping the county through tough fiscal circumstances.
He said one way to deal with that issue is to attract more businesses that will also offer good-paying jobs. “We need to ensure that people will be working in good-paying jobs to put that money back into our economy.”
Tronolone said he’d work to attract businesses without “giving away the farm” in tax incentives. And he said he’d hold those companies that do receive them accountable to produce employment.
He believes county revenue should be used to fix infrastructure and any new development should be done with a healthy future in mind. “We need to develop in a smart way,” he added, noting that some of that development should be with green renewable energy. “That could put people to work and change our carbon footprint,” he said.
“We also need transit-oriented development, but on a small scale,” Tronolone noted. “We don’t want to change the character of Long Island.”
The candidate said he is not in favor of the red light camera program. “They are not accurate and just a revenue generator,” he said.
However, he’s still on the fence about the alarm management program because as a first responder, he’s seen where alarms can be a problem. “There are certain places where alarms go off twice a week,” he said, adding that alarm owners need to take responsibility and get their alarms fixed. In that case, a fine is justifiable.
Over the past few months, the candidate, who resides in Islip, said he has enjoyed campaigning in his district, walking through many familiar streets and knocking on not-so-familiar doors. “I’ve enjoyed meeting new people,” he said. “I like finding out what’s important to them.”
Tom Cilmi (R, C, I, Reform, Libertarian)
First elected in 2009, Legis. Tom Cilmi is seeking a fifth term in office.
Cilmi said there have been many changes in the county since his first term, but one constant is that he has enjoyed being a legislator and looks forward to continuing to work for the people of his district.
The legislator said there’s a lot more work to do. The heroin epidemic on Long Island is a major concern for sure, as is the county’s fiscal challenges, which have always been an issue, but it’s one that’s becoming “more substantial,” he said. “Those two issues alone are enough to occupy the Legislature, except there are lots of others.”
The increased fees on vehicle registration and on mortgage recording are just a couple of changes he has been opposed to, as is the alarm management program that charges a fine for false alarms in businesses and private homes. He is also opposed to red light cameras. “These are the issues that take up a lot of time [in the Legislature],” he said.
Cilmi remarked that he’d like the governing body to spend more time focusing on the opioid use and abuse on Long Island and protecting the county’s drinking water. He’s also very concerned about the county’s debt.
“The amount of debt in the county now exceeds $2 billion, and we’re still running an operating deficit,” Cilmi noted, adding that there is not a lot of bipartisan support for his ideas to help control it.
“I tried to get the county to institute multi-year budget planning and cut [spending] by 10 percent,” he said, adding that any suggestions to reign in “spending and borrowing” were thwarted.
“The leadership is not engaged,” he remarked, noting that the county’s recent breach of contract with a private solar power company for the parking lot at the Ronkonkoma railroad station has resulted in a $15 million lawsuit, which only adds to that debt.
“Think about the number of employees we could have [put to work] for that money,” he said.
Despite some of the frustrations, Cilmi said he is proud of his many accomplishments during his tenure. He sits on the Legislature’s Public Safety, Ways and Means, Health, Seniors’ and Consumer Protection committees. As the chair of the Task Force on Substance Abuse, Cilmi said he has made underage drinking and all teen substance abuse a priority and often speaks in schools throughout his district, warning students about those dangers. Cilmi sponsored legislation to increase enforcement of the social host law as well as a bill that requires e-cigarette retailers to register with the county.
Legis. Cilmi said he’s worked hard for veterans and sponsored a law to examine veteran charities to make sure they are all legit. His HOV bill for veterans helps them to be fast-tracked through the Department of Social Services process.
Cilmi said he has fought to make the county more business-friendly, but has also been involved with a program that fills the county coffers while cleaning up vacant, dilapidated properties. He helped to create and now sits on the board of the Suffolk County Land Bank, a not-for-profit corporation the county started to address the many properties labeled as brownfield, which are tax-delinquent, often contaminated parcels of land or zombie homes.
“It has resulted in the cleaning up and rehabilitation of these properties,” he said. “We are selling them, putting them back on the tax rolls and returning the revenue back to the taxpayers.”
Of all his many accomplishments, Cilmi said he is most proud of the relationship he has with his constituents. “Our office has become a trusted and respected resource for our community,” he noted.
“I began here promising to be the most accessible elected official in Suffolk County and I’ve strived for that. I think folks know they can come to me and find an open mind that results in some action. If I can’t help them, I put them in contact with someone who could.
“I’m a full-time legislator.”
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