Incumbent East Hampton Town Board member David Lys, and his challenger, Manny Vilar, are marked not by their differences but by their similarities.
Vilar, the head of the New York State Police Benevolent Association, “looks at things from 30,000 feet up,” he said. “The big picture.”
Lys is “looking at it from the ground floor, with boots on the ground,” he said.
The incumbent has a 20-year record of community service, including a long stint on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Vilar has 30-plus years on the police force in various capacities on his resume.
Neither Lys, a converted Republican running as a Democrat, nor Vilar, the GOP standard bearer, believes there is a place for national politics on the local level. Both are consensus builders.
Lys, in his one-year stint on the town board, has already shown he is willing to break with the Democratic Party supermajority on controversial issues. Like the newly elected Jeffrey Bragman, the town has, for perhaps the first time in modern history, Democratic town board members willing to buck the party bosses. “I am an open and transparent person,” Lys said.
A case in point: Vilar was one of the first politicians locally to question the need for the Deepwater offshore wind farm. Bragman and Lys also voiced concerns, though the other three members of the board, all Democratic, voted to allow Deepwater access.
Another example is the Cross Highway affair. The town board was set to grant an easement to a valuable piece of land to a connected property owner — who just so happens to be a major Democratic Party donor. Both Lys and Vilar agreed with David Buda, a town board gadfly who uncovered what appears to be a major discrepancy — the land belonged to the town and not to the property owner, Galaxy LLC.
“I think there was a lot of info that was mishandled or not fully vetted. There is a long history of that property,” Lys said.
“Scott Fithian brought me the highway book from 1914,” Lys added, noting the land in question was once part of the town highway system. “That was new information never given to us,” he said of the town board. “I don’t want to proceed further until ownership can be determined.”
Vilar said the town currently “doesn’t know who is getting paid by what” and the current town code allows for “a politically connected law firm” to do business. Vilar cast the deal in a shadowy light, pointing out the law firm for Galaxy was Twomey, Latham, Shea, and Kelley. Chris Kelley is the East Hampton Town Democratic Party boss who was influential in getting most of the current town board members elected. “Not to say there’s anything shady going on, but it does rise to the level of interest when all of a sudden you have sometime who’s very politically connected, with a law firm that’s very politically connected, that’s interested,” Vilar said. He suggested getting the New York State Joint Commission of Public Ethics involved.
“We do have a board of ethics, we also have the Freedom of Information Act Law, so to bring in another ethics committee, I think it’s unfair to say the board was influenced,” Lys countered.
Both men are shaped by family. Lys has four children and Vilar, six. Lys said he originally registered as a Republican, not because of political ideology but because “it’s what my father said to do. He checked off a box when applying for a driver’s license,” he recalled.
The board was recently approached by Latino advocates asking the town to codify a resolution not to aid and abet Immigration Control Officers who come to town looking for scofflaws who are wanted for aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle and similar offenses. Neither candidate is in favor.
Lys said the town police policy already in place “has a lot of similarities” and that Latino advocates may be guilty of creating “fear mongering” in the Latino community.
Vilar said his position is clear-cut, “considering I’m in the profession. To codify is the worst possible thing you can do. It doesn’t make a difference if you are Latino or not.” Vilar said the solution is an easy one: “Don’t be in violation of the law.”
East End towns have been lax in creating affordable housing opportunities. “You can’t stop looking,” Lys opined. One solution, he said, is “to create more affordable housing districts.”
Vilar said the town has to create more multi-family dwellings and affordable apartments but there must a cesspool upgrade to make it work.
Vilar was asked if, as a union head, he would overcompensate union workers if elected.
“Here’s the problem with employees in town government, they’re paid 30 percent less than surrounding towns. It’s crazy for anyone to think or report that we’re going to correct a 30-percent salary deficiency in one or two years. You need to evaluate every single job in the town of East Hampton,” Vilar said.
The candidates visited The Independent office at Suite 19 in the Red Horse complex on Friday, October 17. Editors Rick Murphy, Stephen J. Kotz, and Bridget LeRoy attended the meeting.