Greenlawn -- Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol used the occasion of the annual League of Women Voters Meet the Candidates debate October 22 to set the record straight on where she stands on issues and to highlight the clear differences between herself and her Republican opponent.
Among the starkest distinctions were in the areas of the proposed 2019 Town budget and the need for diversity on the Town Board. Councilwoman Cergol noted that she opposes the administration’s submitted budget because it increases taxes and raises fees, including a general property tax hike, a proposed 50 percent hike in rates in the Dix Hills Water District and the imposition of mooring fees for Town residents who own boats. In contrast, Republican James Leonick said he had been too busy campaigning to look at the budget.
Councilwoman Cergol noted that women represent 51 percent of the population and that she is the only woman on the five-member board. If she were unsuccessful in her election bid, the Town Board would be all male. Leonick said he “did not see an issue” with a Town Board that’s composition did not attempt to represent any of the Town’s many diverse components – gender, race and ethnic background.
Councilwoman Cergol also cited her experience in both the private sector and Town government and how she had obtained $20 million in grants for community revitalization, much of that for Huntington Station. She spoke of the need to create additional business opportunities and affordable housing for the area, in fulfilling the desires community members expressed in meetings over the past decade. Leonick suggested what the community really wanted for revitalization was brighter street lights on New York Avenue.
In response to questions from the audience, Councilwoman Cergol noted that she is committed to protecting Huntington’s history and historic structures and cited her vote against a proposed development at the historic Platt’s Tavern site on Main Street and Park Avenue in Huntington Village.
Asked about her vision for Huntington Village 10 years from now, she spoke of reacting to the changing retail environment and the possibility of turning parking lots into green spaces if car use declines, as some have forecast. A key to Huntington’s future, she noted, is creating jobs and affordable housing.
When asked about the LIPA tax certiorari suit, Councilwoman Cergol spoke of the need to be unified in its opposition and to continue working with the Northport-East Northport School District in seeking a resolution. “It needs NOT to be a political issue,” she said. Leonick’s main point was that he needed to “educate people in the Town” about the existence of the suit and its ramifications.
But perhaps the greatest difference came in response to a question about independence. Leonick noted that he was part of the Republican team. As Councilwoman Cergol noted, “I don’t wear my political affiliation on my sleeve. I am an independent, not part of a team. Being part of a team suggests a rubber stamp. I refuse to deal in absolutes. I evaluate every matter and make decisions based on their merits, not on a political view or party-line vote.”
Councilwoman Cergol, who was named to the seat in December after spending 17 years in government and 18 in the private sector, is running on the Democratic, Independence, Working Families and Women’s Equality lines