By Sophia A. Niarchos
OYSTER BAY, N.Y. – The Voutsinas family believes it is critical for the Greek-American community to support Alexander Sklavos in his run for Oyster Bay Town Supervisor. That’s why on September 19, led by their daughter Helen, an attorney for Nassau County and Sklavos’ campaign manager, they offered their home to the candidate for what was billed as a “Big Fat Greek Political Fundraiser.”
Expressing his disappointment that a greater number of Greek-Americans hadn’t responded to their invitation to attend, Gerasimos Voutsinas said, “What we are doing today isn’t for the Town of Oyster Bay; it’s for Mr. Sklavos because he is an ‘Ellinas.’ We have to support him because if he wins, we win; and if he loses, we lose.”
His daughter Helen added, “We need to come together as Greeks; it’s not a party thing, it’s a Greek thing.”
Attending the event in addition to Sklavos’ friends and supporters were several Democratic Party officeholders in Nassau County and Oyster Bay, including County Executive Thomas Suozzi, Oyster Bay Town Councilwoman Bonnie Eisler and County Receiver of Taxes James Stefanich, who are up for reelection, as well as State Assemblymen Michael Gianaris and David Seligman.
Eisler, with whom Sklavos would work along with the other five members of the Town Council, told Greek News she believed Sklavos would be a great supervisor because he is “not a part of the party machine.”
“He’s an outsider, not someone who has come through party ranks like Republicans, who are part of the party machine,” she said. “He will bring a fresh perspective, and it wouldn’t be business as usual in Oyster Bay. He’s bright, young and energetic and will really solve the problems we do have instead of sweeping them under the rug.”
Her views were echoed by Receiver of Taxes James Stefanich.
Sklavos’ biggest obstacle, Eisler added, would be getting the name recognition that John Venditto, the three-term incumbent, has an advantage over him on.
“Venditto has his name on every single sign going into and out of every community in the Town of Oyster Bay; he also has a propensity for putting out lots of mailings with his name on them especially just before election day to make sure people know him. The challenge for Alex will be getting his name out there and making sure the voters get his message.”
Despite the name recognition challenge, Sklavos believes that what he has learned about Oyster Bay’s position among similarly sized towns in Long Island and the state will help him win the seat.
“My research has shown me that in the Town of Oyster Bay, we pay the highest per capita taxes in all of New York State for towns of similar size. The six largest towns in the state are on Long Island. It costs the town taxpayers $393 dollars a head to run our town government, whereas in Brookhaven it costs half that. We’re 21% higher than North Hempstead, which I think is a fair comparison,” the Greek-American attorney told Greek News.
Sklavos pointed to patronage, mismanagement and abuse in the town’s government as the underlying reasons behind the high cost of living in the Town of Oyster Bay, a cost that leads many young people out of the area and away from their families because they can’t afford to live here.
“Our town salaries because of patronage and abuse have increased at twice the rate of inflation over the past six years, costing our taxpayers $8-9 million. The patronage in Oyster Bay is well known; there are too many people doing the same job, or doing too few jobs, or not doing their jobs at all.”
Sklavos juxtaposed the fairy-tale picture painted by the current supervisor – “my opponent says that everything is wonderful; we have the best parks, the best services and he wants everyone to feel comfortable – with the real situation that exists “right around the corner from town hall … a row of illegal housing that would boggle your mind and nothing’s being done about it.”
He also noted that unbeknownst to many town residents, Venditto “raised taxes last year when no one was looking in a year when the town budget was in the black.
“Our town has too many people paying too few taxes; the taxes we are paying are too high for services that other towns are getting for less money. It doesn’t make sense. To say ‘everything is just fine, aren’t you happy here, don’t we have great beaches.’ Yes we have great beaches in Oyster Bay; but the town didn’t create them – it just manages them.
“When one party has absolute control,” he said, “things get out of hand. We need balance; there are no checks and balances in Oyster Bay. [The majority] is on one side and they can, quite frankly, do whatever they please.”
Elektra Sklavos said of Alex, “If he says he’s going to do something, he does it; this is why he got into the race, the Democratic Party in the Town of Oyster Bay approached him.”
His father added, “Alex’s personality is such where he really could work well with anybody. He’s honest, forthright and he’s young enough where he could offer a lot for the town as opposed to what has happened in the town so far.”
In his address to the crowd, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who prides his administration on the reduction of patronage and waste in county government, said:
“What we say to a candidate like Alex is, ‘thank you.’ He is running because he wants to make things better in this town. Thank you, Alex, for committing yourself to a grueling schedule to try to change the culture of machine politics in Oyster Bay.”
State Assemblyman and candidate for State Attorney General Michael Gianaris also spoke highly of Sklavos and noted that he supports candidates for office only if he thinks “that the person in his or her own right is qualified for the position they seek.”
“We’re fortunate that in Alex we have someone who has been very accomplished in his few years on this earth, and we know he’s got a lot more in store for us and will make a wonderful town supervisor.” He said he expects the Democrats will continue their winning tradition in Nassau County by “winning for Alex Sklavos the Town Supervisor’s position here.”
In giving the candidate and all those present his blessing, Fr. George Stavropoulos of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Hicksville asked that “God guide and direct him, give him wisdom in hours of decision, make him a mature leader of all the people of our town. We pray that he will follow the steps of all great minds of ancient Greeks and serve democracy in this nation of ours, America.
He invoked the name of Aristotle, quoting him as saying, “If a man is interested in himself, he’s very small; if he’s interested in his family, he’s larger; if he’s interested in his community, he’s larger still. Alex is interested in his community in the town of Oyster Bay; let’s support him morally and financially.”
Contributions to the Alexander Sklavos campaign can be sent to: Sklavos for Supervisor, One Old Country Road, Suite 250, Carle Place, NY 11514