Primary Day: Sept. 12
SUFFOLK COUNTY—Registered party voters will be heading to the polls this Tuesday, Sept. 12 to vote in the Primary elections. Locally, there are two Republican candidates for the 11th District Suffolk County Legislature seat that currently belongs to Thomas Barraga, who is termed-out. Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron and newcomer Mike McElwee are hoping for a chance to fill that position.
McElwee is a native of Holbrook and has been a resident of West Islip for the past 18 years. The Bay Shore businessman said he recently decided to run for office because “I want to give back to my two communities that are phenomenal,” he said.
The father of three children is married to Mary Ellen, the daughter of Legis. Tom Barraga. “That’s not why I’m running,” McElwee emphasized. “[My father-in-law] had no idea I was interested in running, and didn’t get involved in my screenings,” he said. “I wanted to do this on my own.”
However, McElwee noted that through his association with the legislator and former NYS assemblyman, he has been around the political scene for many years. Similarly, through family members, he had been around the restaurant/bar business a good part of his life, which led him to venturing out on his own. The NYIT graduate opened a bar, The Nutty Irishman, in Bay Shore, in 2003. It closed in 2015. Other similar businesses he currently co-owns are T.J. Finley’s and The Penny Pub, followed by the restaurant Local Burger in 2015, which are all located on Bay Shore’s Main Street. He said the county’s taxpayers could benefit from his business experience.
McElwee has remained active in both of his communities. He’s involved in West Islip Little League and is a board member for the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore and the Bay Shore BID. He heads the Bay Shore Restaurant Committee, which was responsible for the new initiative “Alive By the Bay” summertime Main Street event.
He said if elected to the county job, he’d like to tackle issues that are important to the people of his district, such as Suffolk’s recently passed mortgage tax. “I’d love to see that repealed,” he said.
McElwee said he is also concerned with the county’s increased fees and fines, such as the false alarm fines, which he notes can be very unfair, especially to business owners. He said the red light cameras are unfair as well. “The timing of [many of them] is off and so they could cause more accidents. It’s not doing what it was designed to do,” he said.
In addition, he said, “We need to find other ways to generate revenue for the county…and eliminate some of the non-mandated spending.”
McElwee said his opponent, Steve Flotteron, while a town councilman has voted to raise taxes 45 percent in the past five years and created issues that are of serious concern, among them parking meters in Bay Shore. “They are hurting our businesses. They were done wrong and now many people have to pay just to go to work,” he said. “No one listened to the community.”
As a legislator, the candidate said he’d like to focus in on the heroin epidemic and find ways to minimize the problem locally. “It has led to burglaries and has destroyed families,” he said.
These issues seem to be of major concern for residents, which he learned while hitting the campaign trail. McElwee said he’s enjoyed meeting so many people while walking the streets of his district. “It’s been great,” he remarked.
Flotteron has been a Town of Islip resident since 1995 and has been an Islip Town Councilman since 2006. Although he has one term left to run in his current position, he’s decided to try for a county seat.
“I’ve done a lot of things here,” he said, adding that he hopes to bring some of that energy and success to the county level.
Among his accomplishments, Flotteron said he has been able to champion enhancements without the use of taxpayer funds.
“I’ve done projects through donations and grants,” he noted. Among them is Madeleine’s Playground at West Islip Beach. Similar playground equipment that was donated by a nonprofit group had been placed all around the tri-state area, each one named after a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Dec. 14, 2012. “I got the only [playground] in Suffolk County,” Flotteron said, adding that he was able to garner more than 300 volunteers and donated materials to make that project become a reality.
The councilman said he was also instrumental in the revitalization of the Brookwood Hall grounds, where recent plantings that are valued at $500,000 were made possible through fiscal and material donations and the sweat equity of volunteers. “We built and created that grand garden without using taxpayer money,” he said.
One program he’s particularly proud of is Par F.O.R.E. Flotteron said he was able to put a Stony Brook University professor’s idea for at-risk kids into action. While teaching kids golf, they also imparted important life lessons on how to make better choices. “We came up with a plan and I helped open doors,” Flotteron noted. “The program went national.”
The candidate, who owns his own business, said that running for county office would be “taking the next step.”
“There are things to be done on all levels in the county,” he added. Among the issues he would focus on are homelessness, drug abuse and gangs. “I’ll try to bring people together to fix things.”
High taxes seem to be the one issue he’s heard repeatedly from residents while out and about on campaign walks, where he noted, “I lost 10 pounds.” He said, “Taxes comes up with everyone. The county has been spending money like drunken sailors.”
Flotteron responded to his opponent’s remarks about him increasing town taxes by noting, “My town taxes have only gone up $5 in 20 years. It’s a lot lower than the library tax,” which he said has gone up exponentially. He added that his opponent’s complaints about the parking meters has no merit since he had been on a parking task force to address parking problems in Bay Shore. “This is what he wanted,” said Flotteron.
If elected, he said he’d look into the county’s “wasteful spending” that could bring tax relief to Suffolk’s residents.
“They deserve a break and they deserve better than they’ve been getting,” he said.
Flotteron is married and has two grown daughters. He and his wife reside in Brightwaters.
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