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Candidates for County’s 10th Legislative District

Anton Newspapers asked Democratic incumbent Judi Bosworth and Republican challenger Elizabeth Berney to respond to the following questions

Judi Bosworth

How should the county solve its budget crisis? Should the police unions and the Civil Service Employees Association make contract concessions? Should county services be cut? Should there be a tax increase? Should the County eliminate its guarantee to refund other taxing districts’ (including school districts) share of property taxes paid in error due to County assessment errors?

Certain measures need to be taken to ease the budget crunch. Frivolous lawsuits and actions that result in litigation giving “connected” law firms millions of dollars in contracts must stop. This year alone, the County Attorney’s office has spent $5 million over budget. The unsuccessful lawsuit that was initiated to prevent NIFA, a state authority, from overseeing county finances, has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. The lawsuit that was successfully initiated to prevent redistricting also cost several million dollars. The county executive’s initiatives in the budget to force union concessions will unilaterally break contracts and result in litigation that will undoubtedly cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Add to that the over $2 million that was unnecessarily spent on the Aug. 1 Nassau County Coliseum referendum. This could have taken place on Election Day at no cost to the taxpayer. Other cost saving initiatives need to be considered. We should re-establish Smart Government Initiatives like eliminating take home vehicles, establishing back office efficiencies to streamline purchasing and right size county owned inventory. We need to look at restructuring government agencies. Agencies that duplicate services should be consolidated. We need to look for ways to increase tax revenue through initiatives like the International Gold Coast Film Festival. This festival initiated by the Great Neck Art Center, with great support from the Town of North Hempstead, brought many people from other areas into Nassau County to eat at our restaurants, stay at hotels, etc. These new tax dollars help us all.

The Civil Service Employees Association and the police unions have been making contract concession since 2008. It is important that all avenues of communication remain open so that the county executive continues to work with the unions to realize important concessions. Offers that have been made and rejected must be revisited. Reasonable union concessions need to be part of the solution.

We need to engage in serious discussion about what services our residents need and expect from county government. At this writing, budget hearings have not yet begun. I am concerned about the proposed cut of $3.6 million for social services. The true cut would have to be $5.4 million to take into account that 50 percent of this is reimbursed by the state and federal government. There is a proposed cut of 40 percent for the Department of Public Works. They are doing an admirable job with a skeletal crew. When streets need to be plowed and potholes need to be fixed, what will we say then?

There should not be a tax increase.

Has there been anything learned from Hurricane Irene as far as emergency management?

We have learned that LIPA is woefully unprepared to deal with electrical outages caused by storms and was unable to communicate with residents effectively. The lack of coordination and direction given to the LIPA crews was appalling. We were reliant on our local governments and emergency responders to step in. Our county, town and villages dealt with highways, streets, downed trees, flooding, and emergency shelters under trying and challenging circumstances. Hearings need to continue to see how Nassau County could be better served.

What changes are in store for the 6th Precinct?

At this writing the County Executive has not yet identified which two police precincts he intends to close. It appears that the continuation of the 6th Precinct as the full-time 24-hour police headquarters for our community is in jeopardy. When the possibility of local precinct re-organization was first proposed, I strongly opposed the notion that the 6th Precinct be closed or merged with the 2nd Precinct. Merging one precinct that starts at the NYC border with another precinct that ends at the Suffolk County line is unimaginable. The closing of our precinct would compromise our security and effect police response time. When officers are traveling distances to another precinct, they are not available to patrol our streets. Our local officers know our community and work closely with our town, villages and schools. Cuts need to be made, but not by closing our police precinct!

Elizabeth Berney

How should the county solve its budget crisis? Should the police unions and the Civil Service Employees Association make contract concessions? Should county services be cut? Should there be a tax increase? Should the County eliminate its guarantee to refund other taxing districts’ (including school districts) share of property taxes paid in error due to County assessment errors?

There should be no tax increases. Taxes are a huge hardship to people in our community. Nassau County residents are over-taxed, paying some of the highest taxes in the entire country; Democrats increased property taxes 42 percent during the Democrats’ decade of ruling the county (through 2009), and still ran up a deficit. Many people here are struggling financially. Local residents frequently tell me that they cannot afford their property tax bills. I am totally opposed to tax increases, and urge people to vote for me and the whole Republican ticket in order to stop increases in county taxes. (My Democratic opponent has a history of supporting tax increases and over-spending, even in difficult economic times. My Democratic opponent voted in 2009 for a 3.5 percent home energy tax, a $12 million fast food tax, and for a budget that included almost 16 percent of county tax increases (3.9 percent per year over 4 years). The new Republican majority in 2010 repealed these and other taxes. However, my Democratic opponent voted against repealing these taxes in 2010.)  

There needs to be a continuing multi-pronged effort to reduce spending and improve Nassau County’s economy. (Local economic improvements will increase private employment and bring in more sales tax revenue, without raising taxes on anyone. Sales tax revenue is the largest component of the county budget.) The new Republican county administration began this effort in 2010. I look forward to working together on this continuing effort. Everything needs to be on the table, and thoughtfully considered. We need to sit down with the unions, and cooperatively negotiate needed concessions. Nassau County pays $80 million for police and corrections personnel overtime, which can be addressed. Other areas to address include LIPA overcharges to the county (discovered through Comptroller George Maragos’ audits); careful inventorying of county equipment which seems to disappear; doing cost-benefit analyses of Nassau County Industrial Development Agency projects to assure that projects improve the local economy and employment (Maragos’ audit discovered that these analyses were not performed under the previous (Democratic) administration); combined government purchasing to achieve savings; open bidding; and careful contracting practices. Part of a legislator’s job is to review and approve county contracts. My extensive contracts negotiations experience will enable me to carefully review county contracts to make sure that they are beneficial to taxpayers.

Assessments: The county administration is currently working on moving the timetable for correcting assessment errors earlier, so that overpayments are not made to local taxing authorities to begin with. This is the best way to resolve the assessment errors refund problem.

Has there been anything learned from Hurricane Irene as far as emergency management?

County Executive Ed Mangano wisely ordered the mandatory evacuation of residents in low-lying coastal areas (including part of Kings Point). As we’ve seen from tragedies such as Katrina, such prompt mandatory action is crucial for averting disasters and loss of life. Mangano’s wise action should be repeated if we are faced with similar situations in the future.

The Long Island Power Authority (“LIPA”)’s communications with the public and coordination with local governments need to be drastically improved. Also, the power outages during Hurricane Irene were not an isolated event here; LIPA has the most frequent service interruptions in New York State. A 2005 analysis indicated that “selective undergrounding” of LIPA’s power lines could help limit frequent power outages, and we should discuss implementing this. In addition, better plans need to be made for calling in additional help to quickly restore power in crises situations.

Better communication to the public is needed regarding road closings, available exit routes, shelter locations, storm routes, food safety during a blackout, and other essential information. Radio and other means of communication (including the web for those with power or smart phones) should be utilized. Information also needs to be distributed regarding preparedness for nuclear, EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) and other potential terrorist attack scenarios.

Local neighborhood safety committees should also be established, to enhance communications, enable people to check on neighbors, and implement evacuations.

I agree with the Kings Point Civic Association’s excellent suggestion of holding “safety fairs” at which generators and other safety devices can be displayed and safety information can be disseminated. I’d also like to discuss with local groceries methods of assuring that more essentials are available when needed; currently, a “run on the store” empties out shelves before a storm.

I look forward to working on the above items and other steps to improve our community’s preparedness for all disasters, including terrorist attacks and weather emergencies.

What changes are in store for the 6th Precinct?

The most critical change is to make sure that local police obtain needed disaster and terrorism training.