Tom Licari (Democratic, Working Families, Women’s Equality): Candidate
A lifelong town resident, Tom Licari never really thought about running for town office before. “It wasn’t in my field of vision,” he remarked. In fact, he’d actually been looking to retirement when he was asked to take on that challenge. “That’s when I started to explore some things in the town that I was not happy with, and the more I did that I began to realize that I could make a difference,” he said.
Licari, the father of two grown children, is an East Islip attorney who resides in that hamlet for part of the year and the remaining seven months lives in a house he owns in Kismet on Fire Island. It is where he has been a volunteer for the Kismet Fire Department for over 17 years and a 20-year member of the Kismet Association. He is also a member of the Islip Rotary and the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce.
He said he sees something wrong with the way the town has been managed and is looking to restore the people’s faith in local government.
One of his major concerns is the red tape and bureaucracy that often discourages many aspiring proprietors when trying to open a business in the town.
“It can take eight months to open a coffee shop,” he said. “And some of the reasons are beyond absurdity, such as no Men’s Room sign.
“[The businesses] try to follow the rules and the rules [in the town] are always changing.”
He said he’d like to find a way to streamline that process and make the town more business-friendly.
Code enforcement is one of his big concerns as well. He said town code enforcement employees treat residents from the town’s more northern hamlets differently than anywhere else. The residents have been threatened with fines unnecessarily to the point that many are now afraid to even file for a permit for fear of being slapped with an expensive fine. Licari said their handling of these residents is unfair and discriminatory.
“These are not slumlords,” he said. “These are senior citizens renting rooms to help make ends meet. The town needs to be able to distinguish between these people and those who are milking the system. You can’t balance a budget on the backs of people who can least afford it.”
Licari said that there is a problem with the way town contracts are granted as well as the way positions are filled.
“The whole town is run as a source of political patronage,” he said, noting the documented criminal investigation of workers who had lied on their job applications, but were granted positions anyway. “The more I looked at it, the more disgusted I got.”
He said the toxic dumping that occurred at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood was a perfect example of unqualified individuals running a department.
“There needs to be a better way to handle input from the community,” he said. “If residents are complaining [about a situation] there better be some investigation.”
Licari said that although the town has declared that the cleanup in the park is complete, there are issues that remain.
“The scary part is [the wells in that park] will have to be monitored for years to come so you can’t put a final number on the cost of that cleanup.”
And he said the inequity in that area has been going on a lot longer than the dumping.
“There was a $500,000 grant for a water park at Roberto Clemente Park three years ago. Where did that money go?”
Despite all of the fiscal losses in recent years, Licari still regards Long Island MacArthur Airport as an asset to the town that needs to be better promoted and better managed. “You have to have the right people in there to turn it around,” he remarked.
Regarding the Heartland development that’s planned for the Brentwood area, he said, “It’s too big a project for just Islip alone [to decide]. This needs to be a regional plan involving the state, the county and the other towns [the project borders]. We definitely need to look at the infrastructure. Right now, the infrastructure that’s there—roads, schools, fire and police department—can’t take it.
“[The developer] wants all or nothing. But it has to be done in a lot more than just three phases.” He also noted that the current plan for phases is still much too large.
Licari said he’s concerned about the escalating taxes in the town and has a plan to get that under control. One of the changes he’d make is to hold workshops for the public to weigh in on the proposal well before Election Day and long before the budget is being voted on. “The budget will be voted on the day they are holding the workshop (Nov. 5), after Election Day. What good is public input then?
“We all deserve to know why our taxes are going up. So let us have access to it [ahead of the vote]. We all know that it’s going to be tweaked.”
Should he be elected supervisor, Licari said he would look over all departments to see where the town could save money. “Right now we’re overloaded with commissioners and deputy commissioners. I’d cut from the top down and combine departments,” he added, noting that Islip should be run more like a business.
The candidate said his ideas are based on the questions and concerns he has been hearing from the residents he’s met during the campaign. And although there’s a lot to be done, he said he’s looking forward to having the opportunity to make things better in Islip Town.
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