Republican Ray Overton, a native of Westhampton and the general manager of Mulco Plumbing and Heating in Quogue, was considering running for Southampton Town trustee when the Republican committee asked him if he would consider challenging Jay Schneiderman for supervisor.
“My opponent is a career politician,” Mr. Overton said. “I’ve been trying to stress I’m a business person. I’m running for office because I’ve seen problems I think should be addressed.”
Mr. Overton said while things may look good east of the Shinnecock Canal, to the west there are problems that need immediate attention. “Hampton Bays is up on arms right now. They’ve got the highest tax rate in the town,” he said. “A lot of that is due to school taxes, but the town is ineffective in enforcing the zoning code.”
He cited motels that he said have been converted into overcrowded — and unsafe — apartments, which place stress on schools and emergency services. Another area that needs attention is in economic redevelopment. As an example, Mr. Overton said the town was moving too slowly when it comes to the revitalization of the Flanders and Riverside areas.
East of the Shinnecock Canal, the issue is traffic, traffic, traffic,” Mr. Overton said. “If we are really going to try to solve this problem, there is no one silver bullet.”
Mr. Overton said improving mass transit would do little to alleviate traffic jams because most of the vehicles on the road are work trucks. “If you talk about people who don’t need a vehicle, the train makes sense,” he said, “but if you are talking about someone who needs to bring tools to a job, it does not.”
While he acknowledged it is a wildly unpopular idea, Mr. Overton said the time had come to consider widening Route 27 or improving back roads that currently serve as a de facto bypass. “What are we looking to do, complain or solve a problem?” he said.
Incumbent Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman is seeking his second two-year term. Currently a member of the Independence Party, Mr. Schneiderman announced last week he would change his affiliation to Democrat later this month, reflecting his position as that party’s de facto standard bearer. He also has the backing of the Working Families and Conservative parties.
Prior to serving as Southampton supervisor, Mr. Schneiderman represented East Hampton and Southampton on the Suffolk County Legislature for 12 years and served as East Hampton Town supervisor for four years before that.
“By all reasonable measures, I’ve done a good job as supervisor,” he said. “Our finances are in better shape, our tax rate is lower and our credit rating is higher. We have worked aggressively to preserve open space, and we have put a new law in place to protect water quality. When it comes to public safety, we’re safer than we were, and the crime rate has dropped.”
The supervisor said the current town board, despite its differences, works well together as a team and he would like to continue that bipartisanship if reelected.
One of the hottest topics in this year’s election has been the proposed Hills Planned Development District in East Quogue, where a developer has proposed putting 118 houses and a private golf club on a 600-acre tract. Although there has been intense community opposition, Mr. Schneiderman said the town had an opportunity to preserve land when he was county legislator and failed to act and that the environmental safeguards proposed for the PDD would likely make it less environmentally damaging.
Mr. Schneiderman said one of the biggest problems facing the town is the lack of affordable housing, and he has pledged to seek ways to provide more housing units, including accessory apartments, east of the Shinnecock Canal as well as work on mass transportation initiatives to ease traffic congestion.