A Putnam Valley resident and small business owner has filed the necessary paperwork to form an exploratory committee regarding a potential run at the 90th Assembly District currently held by state Rep. Sandy Galef.
Dario Gristina, CEO of Genergy, a New York City-based energy and utilities monitoring and management firm, will most likely attempt his first run at public office come 2012. Despite a lack of firsthand experience, Gristina said he’s been highly involved in local politics for the past six years.
“I’ve been peripherally involved in politics since 2005, that’s when I joined the Putnam Valley GOP Committee and I’ve supported a number of politicians both personally and through some businesses of mine,” Gristina said. “And it’s been both sides of the isle, especially when it comes to local politics, it’s a matter of who you know and who you think can do the best job—it’s not so much ‘party line’ support for me.”
After some coaxing by state Assemblyman Dean Murray, who represents the 3rd District on Long Island, Gristina was inspired to consider a potential bid for the 90th District, which covers Philipstown, Kent, Putnam Valley, Peekskill, Cortlandt and Ossining, pending some redistricting that will occur next year. However, Gristina will take on any incumbent, Galef or not, regardless of how the districts reform in 2012.
“[Murray] said ‘differences can be made if more people like you and I are in the Assembly’ and for that reason he said ‘I would urge you to run and urge you to join us because we need people that have a no nonsense background that have not been career politicians and that have a good business mentality to really try to get things straightened out and what most believe are abuse on the local, state and even the federal level,’” Gristina said.
Though he said he has limited criticism of Albany, Gristina criticized the state’s property taxes.
“The facts are that from 1992 ‘til now, to the tune of maybe three times—anywhere between 8 and 12 percent per year, property taxes have risen and I think that’s unacceptable,” Gristina said. “I think there should have been efforts way before to curb these tax increases.”
Further, Gristina also showed disdain for the state-enacted property tax cap, which limits a municipality’s ability to raise its tax levy to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Rather than providing any substantial relief, the state has used the tax cap to deflect attention away from other mandates, like stormwater management or Medicaid.
“The reality is that most counties and cities will not be able to live within that 2 percent because of the mandates alone are increasing to the tune of 6, 8, 10 percent,” Gristina said. “So [the state] fixes one thing, but the other is left broken so it’s going to be a disaster.”
Gristina’s beliefs in taxation and governance coincide closely with his role as a small business owner. Five years after immigrating to the United States from Italy in 1981, Gristina and his family founded the energy-consulting firm. He explored an Internet venture in the ‘90s and has been awarded two U.S. patents in the field of energy monitoring and management.
When looking at the current economic environment in New York, Gristina said he believes entrepreneurs and established small business owners are too heavily regulated and restrictions stunt economic growth within the state.
“We need to do a better job retaining businesses—I know a lot of business that have moved out of the state because of taxes and regulations,” Gristina said. “I want to try get laws off the books because we have too many. We have stifled the environment for growth.”
Throughout the next few weeks, Gristina will be meeting with small business owners and community leaders to listen to their opinions on how to improve enterprise in New York State. According to him, this should help him make a concrete decision on whether or not he will run in 2012.
“I think that meeting with people that I’ve met so far has really put me in the mindset that I will most likely run,” Gristina said. “In the month of January, I should be able to ascertain whether or not this is something I’m going to dedicate myself fulltime.”