Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
In the wake of the calamitous failure of federal government, we are increasingly dependent on the policies and programs that come from state and local government – everything from environmental and consumer protection to public health, education, safety and infrastructure. And that means we are more reliant than ever before on the competence, intelligence and yes compassion of those we elect to leadership, from our villages and school boards, to our towns and county. These are positions of tremendous responsibility and impact on the quality of our daily lives, and even future opportunities, which are more complicated and demanding than initially appears because inevitably they involve resolving demands of competing constituencies.
Judi Bosworth, seeking reelection for North Hempstead Supervisor, has been tested and come out with flying color as the supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead, responsible for 226,000 people (that is just about half the population of Wyoming) and a budget of $129 million.
“I don’t take the responsibility lightly,” Bosworth said at the League of Women Voters debate. “I’m running for a third term to continue progress – a more open, transparent government, making it easier to get information from the website about the budget, improved fiscal budgeting process.” An indication of solid management is that she can point to the town’s finances rated Triple A by Moody’s –the highest rating a municipality can get, raised up from Double A1 when she entered office. “Now we are Triple A – that didn’t just happen. It’s because of the fiscally conservative way we budget.”
Bosworth’s opponent is Stephen Nasta, whose sole experience to lead the North Hempstead is having headed a New York City Detectives Investigators Unit –that dealt with political corruption and drug dealing in the Bronx. “Two of my role models are Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani – they got the job done – if I’m elected, I will get the job done.” What job would that be, exactly? North Hempstead doesn’t have a police force (that is a county function) and doesn’t need the militarized policing of the Bronx – but what experience does he have with snow removal, street repaving, sanitation contracts, bonding for infrastructure, overseeing special districts budgets, zoning and real estate development proposals and working with local governments on revitalization projects?
North Hempstead is a complicated town,“ Bosworth reflected. “31 villages, where downtowns are, which control zoning. The town is involved in projects in Port Washington and the area around Carle Place. We are always looking to see what we can do to encourage development. Our building department is doing very well – having seminars to encourage people to open businesses in downtown.” Indeed, the town has pro-active entities, including a Business & Tourism Development Commission which works to inspire, incentivize and promote new businesses; Project Independence; recycling center, 311, an intermunicipal cooperation office.
Bosworth brings long-and-strong intimate knowledge of vital and complex issues, such as the ongoing effort to remediate drinking water from the plume of pollution that emanates from the former Sperry Rand (Lockheed Martin) site, going back to her years as Great Neck School Board president. When a truckload of dirt excavated from where Northwell Hospital is building showed contamination, the town immediately summoned the state DEC, which is responsible for oversight.
“We can’t be a shadow DEC but we let the people in the area – New Hyde Park and Great Neck – understand this was happening and what DEC would be doing. It’s important to be on top of things, to get the agencies responsible to do what they are supposed to.”
The pot-shots leveled against every incumbent Town official go back 10 or more years, but Bosworth has a record to prove her mettle. In North Hempstead, the target is the Building Department, but as Bosworth notes, even the Long Island Building Institute has lauded the substantial improvement.
“Now the Building Department in North Hempstead is running the way it should – honest, process and procedure and code. If someone is having difficulty getting a CFO it is most likely because they are not in compliance…We want anything built in the town to be code-compliant. That’s not just for the person living in the house, but neighbors –if there is something wrong with wiring, plumbing, some mishap, we don’t want anyone’s life in danger.” In 2016, the Building Department issued 5720 CFOs. There is “a changed culture. ..People are advocates, not adversaries.” She pointed to adding evening hours, mobile hours and town halls at libraries to inform people how to navigate the permit process.
To listen to Nasta, who has no platform, program or policy, he is only learning about what ails residents by walking around the town for the campaign. He would be a more credible candidate if he actually had any involvement or role in town governance before deciding he was the man to lead it.
Town Clerk Wayne Wink, Jr. is one of the most capable, smart, genuine people ever to serve in elected office. He could fulfill any function. He was brilliant when he was on the Town Council and then the Nassau County Legislature, and now a superbly competent Town Clerk who is responsible for managing vital records. Here, too, people don’t realize what goes into this function – least of all his challenger.
“When the town clerk’s office was brought into the town’s 311 system,” Wink said at the League debate, “we were asked to prepare frequently asked questions [FAQs] for all the various functions. We had to cut off at two dozen different sets of FAQs – that’s how extensive and how pervasive the town clerk’s office is in everyday function of government. The three single most important are dealing with most sensitive documents that make us who we are – birth, marriage, death records where we are a functionary not just of town law but state.” The town clerk’s office is also engaged in providing nontax revenue for the town – issuing film permits, taxi and tow truck licenses. A third area is transparency and making sure records are archival.
Every public official looks to do “more with less” and Wink has done that – his 2018 budget for the town clerk’s office is 10% less than four years ago. “We are doing more services, better, more efficiently, and more transparently than ever – our town clerk’s office is cheaper and better than ever.”
It is certainly a stamp of approval that in the last four years, Wink went from being a newbie town clerk to being unanimously elected president of the Nassau County Town Clerk Association (13 clerks) and elected by the town clerks from 932 towns from New York State, to serve as director of the state association, serving as an advocate on behalf of town clerks statewide in terms of legislation and policy consideration. “Yesterday, the New York State Department of Health wanted my opinion about genealogical research for old records.”
Wink’s opponent, David Redmond, though earnest about being elected to office (any office, it seems), doesn’t seem to know what a town Clerk’s responsibilities are (being the Freedom of Information Officer is not one of them), but says he will use his tech skills to bring the office into the 21st century. Apparently, he is behind the times.
Ellen Birnbaum for Nassau County Legislator, 10th District: Birnbaum has served for the past four years with an overriding sense of public service – and that is not just a slogan because she has been in the role for four years – but has been hamstrung by a Republican majority on the Legislature that, just as in Congress, shuts out Democrats from decision-making and rams things through. Birnbaum has advocated reopening the 6th Precinct (as does Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate for County Executive), and has worked to get the county to fulfill its responsibility in preserving the Saddle Rock Grist Mill.
Her opponent, David Adhami, seems to have a single answer for every problem: tax incentives, which would just happen to benefit his own family’s real estate development company. He doesn’t seem to understand a most basic principle: if you cut taxes for one entity, that money is made up from residential property owners, and property taxes are the most regressive of all, with the result that retirees who want to stay in the homes they had raised their families in are most aggrieved. As simple as that.
Jack Schnirman for Nassau County Comptroller. When I first realized that Schnirman was the manager of the city of Long Beach for six years, I was bowled over. Have you seen Long Beach lately? Especially after being devastated by Superstorm Sandy? That city has been utterly transformed for the better. Devastated by Superstorm Sandy, Schnirman presided over the rebuilding its iconic boardwalk in just one year, on time and under budget. A graduate of the Kennedy School of Government, he brings an impressive resume to this significant role, so essential to helping Nassau County finally get its fiscal house in order.
“I stepped in when the city was on brink of bankruptcy and turned it around put it back in the black, with nine straight favorable credit reviews,” he said. “As Nassau County Comptroller, I’ll lead the charge for a regional resiliency plan and residency audits that will protect our county’s critical infrastructure and ensure there are proper emergency personnel and resources in place for residents.”
Dean Bennett for County Clerk: A Long Island native who came to embrace public service from his father, a WWII vet, a teamster and a union leader, and his mother who was a nurse at the VA hospital in Northport. Bennett earned a Masters in Human Resources from Hofstra, and a BA in management and economics so he knows organization. He has county and state office experience, having served as Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Deputy Director of Minority Affairs under County Executive Tom Suozzi, and at the state level, as Executive Director of Minority and Women-Owned Business for the entire state.
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