Southampton Town Board Candidates Differ On Approach

Charles McArdle and Richard Martel with Independent executive editor Rick Murphy. Independent/Jessica Mackin-Cipro

John Bouvier, who is seeking re-election on the Democratic and Independence Party lines, is joined by four newcomers in the race for Southampton Town Board: Craig Catalanotto, a fellow Democratic Party candidate; Richard Martel, running on the Republican, Conservative, Working Families, and Libertarian Party tickets; Charles McArdle, running on the Republican, Conservative, and Working Families Party ballots; and Hannah Pell, an Independence Party candidate. The top two earn seats on the board regardless of party affiliation.

When Bouvier first ran for the Southampton Town Board, he boasted a resumé some might think better suited for OO7 training school, having worked for NASA, serving as a flight test engineer for a variety of naval weapons systems, and as an expert diver who specialized in underwater demolitions procedures.

But his second career as a politician has rejuvenated him, he said in an interview with The Independent. His calling card has been water quality, and Bouvier is in the forefront of the statewide fight to replace antiquated sewer systems and stop the flow of nitrogen into local waterways.

But his most controversial stance may well be the position he took on Discovery Land’s planned development district. He cast the deciding second vote that killed the proposal for The Hills golf course and luxury condos to be built in East Quogue, though it may well resurface in a less ambitious form.

“I think the PDD was a bad law,” he told The Independent. “But I was prepared to listen even if it meant compromising.”

Bouvier is a Democrat; both his Republican challengers felt politics clouded the incumbents’ judgments. Charles McArdle, a retired detective and former president of the local branch of the PBA, remembers Bouvier as someone that “feared losing the election” and “stretched the PDD out needlessly.”

“I feel no loyalty to any party. I vote with my conscience,” McArdle said. His running mate, Rick Martel, runs Skidmore Sports and has been a community leader in Hampton Bays for decades. He said the town board’s handling of Discovery Land has lagged on while important work in other hamlets languishes — saying especially Hampton Bays, where both GOP candidates call home.

“I know every street. I’ve been here. Everyone knows me. I can help make the natural progression.” Martel said. He was referring to the move championed by Jay Schneiderman to make Hampton Bays a resort destination again.

McArdle said the Hampton Bays downturn occurred when Southampton over-aggressively shut down nightclubs and bars, and motel owners doing good summer business had to expand to year-round dwelling. Many of those building languished, and school enrollment and property taxes rose.

Craig Catalanotto said, “The dialogue is changing.” He noted landlords are entitled to due process and the undermining goal is “affordability.” His focus would be on more town-sponsored dwellings to ease the housing burden.

There has been recent work done in Hampton Bays though, like the rehabilitation of the Ponquogue bridge and piers, Ponquogue pavilion at the beach, and rebuild of the Tiana Lifesaving Station, among other projects.

The Hampton Bays Water District is also at a crossroads. There were perfluorinated compounds in some of the wells and the Suffolk County Water Authority has made claims it can do a better job running it.

The community is split on the idea of SCWA taking over day-to-day management. One of the problems is local people work at the water district. “It’s familiarity,” Catalanotto said. “People say, ‘I can always call Jim.’ One problem keeping the district is the price for water will go up.”

Those rates may have to increase by as much as 10 to 20 percent to begin infrastructure upgrades, and that’s just to start.

Martel said when he campaigns in Hampton Bays no one knows who Bouvier is. Both complained Schneiderman froze the town assessment so he could freeze taxes during an election year, adding he took $2 million in reserves to balance the budget.

Meanwhile, new contracts are on tap for the town’s unions.

McArdle, as PBA head, is no stranger to the town budget. In fact, he negotiated three contracts for the PBA with the town. “I know what it involves,” he said. “I know how to make it go smoothly.”

Catalanotto, from Speonk, is a businessman, husband, and father of two boys. He is the co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee west, board member of the Speonk-Remsenburg Civic Association, and member of the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board. He first butted heads with the board over the building of Speonk Commons, and the two sides talked it out to reach an agreement the hamlet and town were comfortable with.

“I’m a consensus builder,” he said. “I spend an equal amount of time with those that are against me as those who are with me. I’m very, very patient, and I think that is going to serve the town board well. When something is hot, I have a feeling I’ll be the one dispatched into the hot zone, and I don’t mind going into the hot zone. I will entertain your argument for as long as you feel you need, and then we can start a conversation.”

“We debate a lot. We’ll have our disagreements,” Bouvier said of the current town board. “People may not now we do a lot of deliberating.”

Bouvier, who met Catalanotto first during the Speonk Commons debate, said he was impressed by the town board candidate pushing for what he believed in.

“But what impressed me more is he had an open mind,” Bouvier said. “He was willing to listen to what others were saying, and how the process works to learn. He was very willing to say he didn’t know things. When we’re closed-minded and not able to listen to other people speak I think that’s at the cost of public service.”

Catalanotto said he walked into his candidacy with theory, and realized theory did not link up with action.

“I think I can do some good in this world,” Caralanotto said. “I’d like to.”

Note: Because of a scheduling conflicts Bouvier and Catalanotto interviewed at The Independent on Friday October 18, while Martel and McArdle came in the following Friday. The Independent did not speak to Pell.

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