Kent Gears up for Early Election Season

The Journal News

February 5, 2001
Michael Risinit

KENT - Election Day may be nine months away, but Kent Town Board candidates are already jockeying for position.

Three Republican seats on the five-member board are up for grabs, including the supervisor's. After a year that saw the board at odds with one another and residents, Dennis Illuminati a longtime incumbent councilman, said he isn't running and Rich Quaglietta a two-time unsuccessful candidate, is stepping forward once again.

The names of at least a half dozen other challengers have been mentioned. In addition, Town Supervisor Annemarie Baisley and Town Board member Pat Madigan are seeking reelection to the board that features a 4-1 Republican majority.

"It seems to me that there's been an awful lot of divisiveness on that board," said Michael McDermott, a former planning board member and 15-year resident. "If history is any guide, (campaigning) starts out nice, but as Election Day draws closer, the gloves come off and it gets down and dirty."

The dissension has been evident at board meetings in this town of about 15,000, where some members occasionally yell at each other, argue with residents or dismiss suggestions with a wave of their hands.

Last year, the board ignored the majority of speakers at two public hearings who favored purchasing the Lake Carmel Jewish Center and those who supported filling a vacancy on the Lake Carmel Park Advisory Committee.

Two closed-door sessions concerning funding for Kent's long-awaited new Town Hall also raised residents' ire, who wanted the discussions to be held in public.

For Illuminate, who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines in 1997, this year will be his 16th and supposedly last as a town councilman.

"I'm not running for the council," the four-term incumbent said last week. "I'm leaving my options open though for other possibilities."

Illuminate, who called the supervisor a "pathological liar" at a board meeting last month, said he was frustrated.

"I've never come across a supervisor that just doesn't want to do anything," Illuminate said of Baisley. "She's making me nuts." Baisley, who plans to seek a third two-year term, said she didn't want to be negative in her comments.

"I feel that we're in some positive changes," said Baisley, a Republican.

But Quaglietta, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the board in 1997 and 1999, said he is running for more change.

"Promises of change, like open government, haven't developed," said Quaglietta, who has criticized the town's use of executive session privileges.

Quaglietta has said yes, as has Madigan, a Republican. But some people won't say no just yet such as Sal Tripi. Tripi served two terms as a councilman and two years ago unsuccessfully challenged Baisley for the supervisor's position.

"I think about (running) a lot," said Tripi - But I've got to tell you I'm honestly not sure yet"

Others considering entering Kent's political waters include Kathy Doherty, chairwoman of the Lake Carmel Park District, and Jeff Green, a local activist.

"I don't want to answer that question right now," Green said, when asked if he planned to run for town office this year "But, (the board) does have a political death wish. Every time you go to a town board meeting, they challenge the community to throw them out"

One example of that Green and others said, is the Lake Carmel Jewish Center, a former religious retreat the park district wanted to buy and use as a community center. After two public hearings and one residents' survey that all supported the purchase, the board voted 3-2 in November against buying the property. The majority expressed reservations about its cost and condition.

In response to residents' requests, though, the board last month approved holding a referendum on the matter. Park district property owners will vote Friday on the purchase.

Wilma Baker, a Kent resident, said a vote for the purchase might forecast November's outcome.

"Three of the members of the board gave them a really hard time on this," Baker said, referring to Illuminate, Madigan and Republican board member Christine Woolley. With a good majority, the referendum vote would send quite a message."

While some are using the words wacky or uncivilized to describe the election season that stretches ahead to Nov. 6, at least one resident isn't making any predictions.

"I would only hope whatever kind it is, they stay on the issues," said Putnam County Legislator Terry Intrary, R-Kent. "Whatever they do remains to be seen."


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005