Written by Denise Nash Friday, 16 October 2009 00:00Incumbent Republican Steve Labriola is facing challenger Democrat John Capobianco in the race for Town of Oyster Bay Clerk. Both candidates were asked the same questions regarding their campaign to compile the following profiles. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
John Capobianco, a resident of Farmingdale who is running on the Democratic party line for the position of Town of Oyster Bay Clerk, is a self-employed bonsai artist, martial artist and tennis instructor.
Capobianco graduated from Farmingdale High School and went directly into the business world. Starting as a market research interviewer, he was recognized for his unique talents, became a shift supervisor and the Computer Operations Manager for MKTG, Inc.
While working for MKTG, Inc. he maintained his tennis teaching and supervision duties for the Farmingdale Youth Council, for a total of 20 years. He is now the bonsai artist and instructor at Suburban Bonsai in Dix Hills, curator of the bonsai collection at the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden in Mill Neck, and bonsai instructor at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
He turned his passion for horticulture into service to the art of bonsai, serving as president of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York, Inc. for 10 years, and has been serving as president of the Long Island Chrysanthemum Society since 1999. He is finishing his first term as a director of the National Chrysanthemum Society, Inc.
After seeing the problems with school taxes in Farmingdale and what that was doing to his widowed father’s quality of life, he became active in the Farmingdale School District, serving on the Howitt Middle School Traffic Safety Committee, eventually running for a seat of the Farmingdale Board of Education, which he was elected to in 2008 for a three-year term. He is starting his second year of service, and is serving on the Lobby Committee and the Special Education Committee.
Also recognizing the housing dilemma in the Town of Oyster Bay, he became active with the Concerned Citizens Association of Farmingdale, which led to his involvement with the Discover Farmingdale Project. He is now a founding member of the Greater Farmingdale Community Land Trust, Inc. This not-for-profit organization will be looking to create affordable housing situations for the younger people in the Town of Oyster Bay, as well as seniors and working class families.
His involvement in these projects led to his being asked by Mayor George (Butch) Starkie to serve on the Village of Farmingdale Downtown Revitalization Committee. This committee is actively working with Legislator Dave Mejias and County Executive Tom Suozzi on the Cool Downtowns Initiative. The village has received a grant to study the economic, infrastructure and zoning issues in the village as they craft a Master Plan to revitalize the downtown area, which has been languishing since the opening of the Sunrise Mall in the 1970s.
According to Capobianco, the responsibilities of the town clerk include maintaining all Town records and recording vital statistics. The office also issues licenses and permits including shellfish, peddlers, parking, secondhand dealers, waste removal, hunting, fishing and dog, as well as birth certificates, marriage licenses and death transcripts.
Capobianco said he is the better candidate for the position as he has no allegiance to anything other than the truth and to anyone other that the residents of the Town of Oyster Bay. “As a school board trustee I am acutely aware of the role of state law in local government,” he said. “I will make sure that the clerk’s office upholds the NYS Freedom of Information Law.”
If elected, his plans include responding to FOIL requests correctly and in a timely manner. He also hopes to bring his MIS experience from the private sector to help update and modernize the clerk’s office.
When asked his thoughts on the clerk position becoming an appointed position rather than elected one, he said, “Looking at the situation now, I would say that the position should be apolitical. A civil service appointment makes sense to me right now. This would take the political stalling out of the office.”
Capobianco stressed that residents should vote for him because he is beholden to no one. “Information will flow freely and timely. I am running to be a public servant, not a political slave,” he concluded.
Incumbent Town Clerk Steve Labriola was elected Oyster Bay Town Clerk in 2003. Prior to his service in town government, he was a member of the New York State Assembly, representing the 12th Assembly District for seven years. He is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.
Prior to holding public office, Labriola served as director of Operations for the Town of Oyster Bay. As a member of the budget committee, he computerized operations and improved systems, procedures and equipment that resulted in increased operating efficiency, he said.
The responsibilities of the town clerk, according to Labriola, are “mostly enumerated in New York State Law however; I have additional responsibilities that are in local Oyster Bay code,” he said. “The Town Clerk has many hats. I am the Commissioner of Licensing, the Secretary to the Town Board, the Filing Officer, the Freedom of Information officer, the Registrar of Vital Statistics and the Marriage Officer, Custodian of all records, books and papers and Records Management Officer, in addition to preserving and archiving historic and working documents in both electronic and microfilm formats. I also actively lecture students about state and local government.”
Labriola is also a member of the Long Island Housing Partnership Task force on Foreclosure Prevention and the New York Conference of Italian-American State Legislators and was recently appointed as an Advisory Board Member of Broadlawn Manor, a facility which provides skilled nursing, sub-acute services and rehabilitation, dedicated Alzheimer’s disease/dementia related services, adult day services and an adult home with an Alzheimer’s specialty. He has worked extensively with the volunteer fire departments, police, youth and senior programs in the district, as well as the Nassau Country Traffic Safety Board.
Labriola considers himself the best candidate for the position because he said he has the knowledge and experience to do the job correctly. “My years of experience place me in a unique position to benefit the Township in many ways,” he said.
“I have a working relationship with every elected official that touches our town and institutional knowledge of New York State and local politics in order to get things done. I have helped thousands of residents in my years in public service and have impacted many citizens in order to help with their problems with bureaucracy or to solve problems in the community.”
When asked his thoughts on the clerk position becoming an appointed position rather than elected one, he said, “Anyone that supports the concept of an appointed Town Clerk does not truly understand the functions of the office. It is imperative that the Town Clerk remain an elected position as it is part of the checks and balances built into the town form of government,” he said. “The Office of the Town Clerk promotes transparency in government. As the official record keeper it is the duty of the Town Clerk to keep accurate minutes and records of all public hearings and all votes anytime there is a meeting of Town Board Members constituting a quorum. These records should not be subject to review by the Town Board or the Chief Executive. The Town Clerk should remain accountable to the people by an oath of office as opposed to being appointed. An elected Town Clerk falls under the jurisdiction of Public Officers Law wherein there are specific statutory proceedings for the removal of public officials in very limited circumstances. If appointed, the Town Clerk could be removed at any time for any reason by a majority of the Town Board. In addition there is zero fiscal savings for the municipality.”
Labriola said he has always taken an active role in local civic, fraternal and small business groups. He is a member of the Order of Sons of Italy in America, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Pythias, Kiwanis Club, Crown Village Civic Association and has been involved as a Big Brother of Nassau County Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
If elected, Labriola said his goal is to do “do more with less. My intention is to maximize efficiencies wherever they may be,” he said. “I intend to cut any non-essential expenses in my office and to make the best use of the revenues that we generate. My goal is to help business and job creation by continuing to update the town code dealing with commercial businesses my office regulates. This will result in a more business-friendly environment and better compliance.”
Labriola currently resides in Massapequa with his wife and children.