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Source: North Shore Sun

Newly sworn in, Lesko meets with transition team

Group exploring solutions to top issues facing Brookhaven

BY PEGGY SPELLMAN HOEY
STAFF WRITER

Posted: April 11, 2009
Originally Published: April 10, 2009

Two days after being sworn in as Brookhaven Town supervisor, Mark Lesko met Thursday at Town Hall with his 16-member bipartisan transition team. Each member of the group was given an opportunity to voice their concerns for Brookhaven. The group then announced plans to develop solutions for issues facing the town, including the need to stimulate the economy, develop more employment and housing opportunities for young people, and tax-burden reduction strategies.

The group is chaired by former Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jim Morgo. Members include a wide range of community members, including politicians, civic activists, environmentalists, educators and clergy members. Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization president MaryAnn Johnston, Stony Brook University president Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, and Citizens for the Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito are all members of the group.

"It's a new day in Town Hall," Mr. Lesko told reporters following the 90-minute meeting. "It's started with bringing voices in from the outside."

Mr. Lesko, who was sworn in Tuesday afternoon, said one of the things he heard on the campaign trail is that some constituents believe Town Hall to be closed off to them. So, in choosing his transition team, he wanted it to represent a broad range of people who could serve as a voice for different factions of the community.

"I think this group represents [outside voices]," he said.

John Gallagher, a Republican who served as deputy county executive under Peter Fox Cohalan, told the group this week that he believes there is a need for property tax reduction in Brookhaven, according to Mr. Lesko. Mr. Gallagher said there is not only a need to cut town taxes, but also school taxes. He suggested that Mr. Lesko chair a group with representatives from the town's 21 school districts. He said one solution would be for schools to share services.

Mr. Lesko also said he'd like to go out directly into the community to hold townwide meetings and hear constituent concerns.

"We need to bring town government off of the hill and into the community," he said.

Ms. Esposito said the group spoke about Mr. Lesko's Green Haven Program, a multifaceted cleanup of toxic sites in Brookhaven; energy efficiency for residents; and sending a representative to the Carmans River Task Force, something that has not been done before.

"This is a river people are devoted to and love," she said.

Dr. Kenny said issues she raised during the meeting included bringing in more business from the high-tech, biomedical and advanced energy fields; and the need for a research and development park at Stony Brook, which could be used by the university and small businesses to develop products that will create business opportunities here.

"It's so people don't have to go west," Ms. Kenny said. "And young people, they want to be where the action is at."