The fate of Proposition 2 in Suffolk County still is not clear. After Election Day, “yes” votes easily outnumbered “no” votes on the proposal to divert funds from a sewer fund to help the county budget, and the margin expanded after mail-in votes were counted, with the proposal seeming to pass, 348,357 to 301,407.
So what’s the problem?
Paul Sabatino says Prop 2 failed. The former deputy county executive and municipal law maven, who represented the Pine Barrens Society in successful legal actions against the county that set the table for Prop 2, cites New York Municipal Home Rule Law, particularly a passage that reads that such a proposition passes only when it is “approved by the affirmative vote of a majority of the qualified electors …”
Sabatino says the total number of qualified electors who voted in the 2020 election was 774,811, and that the 348,357 votes fell short of the 387,407 needed for approval. The culprit: About 125,000 people who did not vote on Prop 2.
Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper emailed Sabatino’s argument to county legislators Monday afternoon, ahead of a vote Tuesday on a series of resolutions allowing the county comptroller to make budget transfers included in the budget, one of which is Prop 2.
Late Monday afternoon, Presiding Officer Robert Calarco told The Point the legislature would still take the vote despite Sabatino’s opinion.
“He’s not always right,” Calarco said, chuckling. “I’m sure they could file their papers and we’ll be in court and we’ll see what the courts decide. But at the end of the day, on certain issues, you have to let the voters have a say.”
As a point of comparison, Calarco said two similar votes of approval on propositions related to the water quality act that created the sewer fund in 2004 and 2007 would have failed under Sabatino’s argument.
Sabatino represented the Pine Barrens Society in legal actions that resulted in a court judgment that the county repay $29.4 million taken from the sewer fund in 2011 to balance the budget and a settlement in 2014 that let Suffolk borrow $171 million from the sewer fund to be repaid through 2029. Proposition 2 basically asked that the county not have to repay what’s left on those sums and instead use it for the budget.
Sabatino calls the people who did not vote on Prop 2 “abstentions,” while conceding that some of them – a “small portion,” he said – might simply have not turned the ballot over to side 2 where the propositions were placed.
“An abstention is a vote,” Sabatino said. “When the person skips over, it’s an abstention.”
And Sabatino and the Pine Barrens Society are still making their original arguments that the proposition was deceptive and an illegal attempt to overturn a court decision and a settlement agreement.
All of which means that in Suffolk, sometimes it’s not over even when it really, truly, absolutely, positively seems to be over.
By Michael Dobie, Newsday
Check out the original publication of the article here