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Jun 12, 2012 7:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Urban Makes First Bid For Westhampton Beach Village Board

Jun 13, 2012 1:42 PM

Though he retired only last year, Ralph Urban did not spend too much time relaxing before deciding to make his first run for public office. The longtime Westhampton Beach resident—he has lived in the village since 1963—said he is seeking one of two open Village Board seats on Friday, June 15, because he wants to give back to the community that he loves.

A retired music teacher who worked in the Montauk School District for 37 years, Mr. Urban, 63, is running under the Lightning Party banner and, if successful on Friday, will be part of the board majority for at least the next year. Having never run for public office before, Mr. Urban said he is excited to learn about the process. He emphasized that he wants to serve as a way to thank his neighbors and local volunteers.

“I have lived here for all of these years and it is a wonderful community,” he said. “I have been served well by ambulances, the fire department, the police department and the community, but I have never had time to give back. Now that I am retired, I have the time to do so and I want to do so.”

As part of his campaign, Mr. Urban is stressing the importance of an open government in Westhampton Beach. He said one of his goals, if elected, will involve improving communication between the board and the village’s various departments.

“I think the main issue we have in this village is communication within the government,” he said. “I have been talking to some of the community members and they feel that the government is sometimes more of an antagonist rather then a helping hand. I would like to fix that. I know it can be a long-term project.”

Mr. Urban said his nearly four decades of experience working in the Montauk School District has been an excellent training ground for public office. Aside from teaching music, he served for 10 years as president of the Montauk Teachers Association and spent 12 years as the union’s chief contractual negotiator.

Mr. Urban said his experience negotiating contracts has taught him the art of listening and deducing what is the best option for all parties involved. “You have to listen to a lot of people and you have to listen carefully,” he said. “To the best of your ability, you have to look for things that will benefit everyone mutually.”

Pointing to his previous experience, Mr. Urban said he is familiar with the new state cap on the tax levy, which places limits how much villages can collect in new taxes each year. School districts, he explained, are very good at trimming budgets, something he is used to and prepared for on the village level.

In regard to the tax cap, Mr. Urban said he mostly supports it because it controls spending and keeps taxes low. He was quick to add that increasing pension and health care costs could make staying under the cap a challenge down the road.

“It is a very difficult thing when you have prices for other things going up but the cap remains the same,” Mr. Urban said. “In order to maintain services, it has been very difficult, and the village was able to do it this time around, but I don’t know how long that can expect to be maintained.

“I wouldn’t say that I am against the cap,” he continued. “I am against taxes increasing at an unreasonable rate, and to make a one size fits all law statewide—that is a difficult thing.”

If elected, Mr. Urban said he would like to work with the Westhampton Beach Board of Education to bring more opportunities to students. Specifically, he would like to have more programs in which police go into the schools and interact with students.

One project that Mr. Urban would like to see pursued, assuming that village residents are behind it, is the creation of a sewer district. While he acknowledges that the project will be expensive and will cost taxpayers money, Mr. Urban said the village has to begin investigating the feasibility of such a project to protect the area’s already damaged bays.

“Yes, it is very expensive, but I think a sewage system of some sort will be necessary to protect the bays and the environment,” he said. “It has to be done carefully and over a long period of time.”

Mr. Urban added that he supports programs that help promote local bays, and said he is very excited about the recently approved oyster festival to be held at the Village Marina in October. “I think that is a great idea,” he said.

In response to the proposed creation of an Jewish religious boundary, called an eruv, that would encompass all of Westhampton Beach and parts of Quogue Village and Westhampton, Mr. Urban said he is against the proposal. He said that such a boundary can adversely affect the diversity of the community.

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