With Election Day less than two months away, Patch is providing lots of information on candidates at every level—local, state and national.
We recently touched base with the five candidates running for a seat (either District 6—which covers the northern and eastern sections of the Town of Southeast, as well as a portion of the western area—or District 7—which covers the Village of Brewster, the remainder of Southeast, and an eastern bit of the Town of Carmel and the Hamlet of Mahopac) on the Putnam County Legislature. We asked each the same set of questions.
Legislators serve for three years and are limited to four terms. The annual salary is $35,136.
Here are responses from Paul Morini, who is running for District 7 and has been endorsed by the Democrats. Now a Brewster resident, Morini is a lifelong Putnam resident who grew up in Mahopac. He has four daughters.
Patch: Talk a little about your family, community activities (past and/or present) and occupation, please.
- Works as a sales engineer for SolarCity (based in California). Worked a total of 14 years in the Telecom industry, and six self-employed, as owner of a remodeling business
- Coached basketball and often helps out with his kids' Girl Scout involvement
- Has four daughters who attend (Here's what he said about his girl: "It’s fun. Next year we’ll have four teenagers. It’s been great. We’re very lucky.")
- Member of the Putnam County Italian-American Club
P: Would this be the first time you've held public office?
P: Why are you running (which major issues are you looking to tackle?)?
PM: A few of the reasons why I’m running: I’ve always been interested in politics. My grandfather was Putnam County district attorney, my uncle was a district attoney, and my mother was the first assistant Putnam County executive [under Dave Bruen], as well as serving 18 years as a legislator. So I’ve always been aware of government, county government, and I’ve always had an interest in it. And I think now I’ve gotten to the point in my career and my family life where I can dedicate some time to it and I’d really like to be able to make this a better place for everyone.
Another reason I’m real interested is, I did serve on the [Putnam County] Energy Commission, and I was very disappointed in what we were able to accomplish there. Basically we weren’t able to accomplish anything .I think there were a lot of politics involved ... it never got off the ground and they disbanded the group. So I’d like to reinstitute some of the ideas we had … where the county had access to grant money and energy efficiency audits, and they just didn’t utilize them at all. So I was very disappointed with the performance of the county government at that point. I don’t think we need to reinstitute the group, I just think we need to follow through with the ideas, and assign task leaders within existing county personnel.
The biggest example is over the past several years, the county’s had two energy audits, and in each case they didn’t follow through on any of the tasks recommended by the auditor. It’s very simple, and in a lot of cases, it’s as simple as changing out light bulbs, so for little to no money there can be some savings, but really nobody was steering the ship and I was very disappointed in that. So, that’s not the biggest issue, but that’s what propelled me to get involved.
I think the biggest issue facing the county is the push-down from state governments in terms of mandates that used to be funded by the state and now have to be funded by the county. So I think unfortunately there are going to have to be some cuts made to be able to fund all these programs. I don’t have any today that I want to cut per say, I just think there are going to have to be tough decisions made over the next several years. Between the tax cap and the mandates, there’s not the revenue there to support all the programs. We are going to have to be very judicious in what we implement going forward.
... With the Independence primary coming up, one important thing to me is I’m not accepting any funding, any donations from political parties, from developers, from corporations. So I’m going to try and be independent-minded. It’s private and personal [funding]. I’m really going to run it on a very tight budget. Probably in the neighborhood of $5,000, so I expect to be outspent pretty significantly.
I think one of the concerns I have, in particular is, it’s been eight Republicans, to one Democrat for many years, and I think in a lot of cases the legislators are told how to vote. And I think a good example is the recent occupancy tax. It came up for vote in front of the full legislature and it passed 6 to 2, and [Putnam County Executive] MaryEllen [Odell] vetoed it and then three people changed their vote. The only way I can explain that is they either didn’t do the research up front and decided against it, or, when the county executive vetoed it, they were told to change their vote to fall in.
It’s not so much the issue itself, it’s the fact that they changed their votes that concerns me. At a 6 to 2 they had the majority to override the veto. I just want people to know that a party chairman is not going to call me to change my vote. I’m going to do what I think is right for my constituents.
P: Are you in favor of the 2-percent property tax cap?
PM: I was not in support of the tax cap because there are going to be certain situations where not exceeding the tax cap is going to cause issues.
P: What's your take on the Crossroads 312 proposal? Do you support it, as laid out by the applicant?
PM: I think they need to go back and complete the environmental studies as required. It seems like they really didn’t quite hit all the necessary steps. I think that the primary focus of mine will be to fill existing storefronts before we push into new development, so I’m not necessarily a major proponent of the Crossroads development.
P: What's your stance on term limits for Putnam legislators?
PM: I’m for term limits for the county legislature. I think [12 years] is sufficient. I just think it’s to the point where you get enough name recognition and you’re going to win regardless and I think it’s important to give people a new option.
P: What's your take on sharing county sales tax revenue with towns and villages?
PM: I like it in one format, in which if there are excess funds generated over what the county projects, then they’re shared with the towns. I don’t think the towns should get the shared funding right off the bat. I think the county needs to cover their costs first, and then any excess.
P: What's your take on the emergency response efforts by local municipalities (namely Brewster and Southeast, as well as the County) over the past year (Irene, the October storm, etc). Did it suffice? If not, what needs to change?
PM: I think on the local level we did a good job. Like I said, I’ve lived here my whole life, and I haven’t experienced too many situations like that so I think they’re going to become more common, and we just have to improve our readiness. But I think the town and county did a good job.
P: What's your take on the possibility of a veterans cemetery in Southeast? , and although there has not been much news on it since, it was a controversial topic. Are you in support of it?
PM: I’d have to investigate more. My initial thought was that it was done for political reasons, so I have to investigate whether it’s really the right thing to do going forward.
Editor's note: Patch asked each candidate the same questions. Some chose to respond via email, while others opted for in-person interviews. None of the responses were restricted by format or word count.
Stay with Patch today and tomorrow for profiles on the rest of the legislature candidates. And be sure to for more information on all the races that affect folks in Brewster and Southeast.