In an otherwise tame event, sparks flew between county candidates in the 17th District race last week at the NAACP-sponsored Meet The Candidates Night forum in South Huntington.
Incumbent candidate Lou D'Amaro, D-Huntington Station, opened his time by summarizing to the audience at the his accomplishments which he said included no tax hikes during his six-year term in the Suffolk County Legislature.
Then the gloves came off.
"My name is Dennis Garetano and I am running against Lou and I think his six years in office have been failure," said Garetano, in the opening sentence of his self-introduction.
Quoting Martin Luther King, Garetano, a 52-year Huntington Station resident and former school board member, said diversity was his priority.
"Little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers," said Garetano."That's what we have in South Huntington and Huntington and that's what Huntington Station is all about."
With the first question regarding plans for the affordable housing, things really began to heat up as Democrats D'Amaro and 18th District candidate William Spencer drew fire from Garetano, a Republican.
Again, D'Amaro initially withdrew from attacking his opponent.
"On the county level, we are doing what we have to do when crafting our budgets to do to ensure that your general fund property tax is not going up because that goes directly to affordability and the cost of living in a home," said D'Amaro.
Garetano answered by stressing the need for lower tax rates and defending his voting record as a school board member — and the actions of other BOE members.
"Affordable housing begins with affordable taxes," said Garetano, who claimed to have never raised taxes while on the school board for nearly eight years. "I didn't, I actually put up budgets," he said.
Then, Garetano slammed D'Amaro and 18th District candidate William Spencer for attacking BOE members.
"Both of them have attacking school board members for raising taxes," said Garetano. "I think they should be ashamed of themselves for sending out mailers about raising taxes as a school board member."
Then, D'Amaro defended himself, ripping Garetano's record.
"I've been attacked both times my opponent has had the microphone here this evening," said D'Amaro. "The fact of the matter is when Mr. Garetano was on the school board, taxes went up 45 percent costing tax payers over $29 million."
"He was governing in the best of times," said D'Amaro. "We are governing in the most difficult times and we are holding the line on taxes because we are making tough decisions."
D'Amaro said nobody wants to deny children an education and he helped to create a list of 25 ways for schools to save money, which Garetano's school board president supported.
"So it can be done without impacting a child's education," said D'Amaro. "Mr. Garetano took the easy way out."
"Let's get into this," responded Garetano, but the two candidates never got the chance.
Garetano left the forum early for unspecified reasons.