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Lively Debate at Candidates’ Forum

Last major event before March 20 BOE elections

The incumbents touted their achievements, while the challengers said the Village of East Hills board of trustees needs more independent members. Those were among the themes at Monday night’s candidate forum at the Bryant Library, as over 70 residents came out in the cold weather for the last major event before the March 20 election.

Sponsored by The Civic Association of East Hills, the evening featured incumbents Clara Pomerantz and Manny Zuckerman of the Unity Party, plus challengers Matthew Weiss and Mitchell Winn, both running on separate lines.

Issues discussed ranged from taxes to roads to budget constraints to the state of the Park at East Hills.

Pointing to the AAI rating given to the village by Moody’s, a rating they claimed has been given to only seven municipalities in the state, the Unity Party candidates claimed that the village has been in good hands. Zuckerman and Ms. Pomerantz also pointed to the zero percent tax increase and the continued success of The Park at East Hills as proof that East Hills is becoming a desirable destination for young couples on the North Shore.

Even over taxes, there were some disagreements. Matthew Weiss claimed that his recent campaign for mayor had “brought democracy” to the village, getting, in the process, more people involved in local elections, a campaign that resulted in more website information on village activities and the recent budget that saw a zero percent tax increase. Zuckerman responded that the zero percent increase was an idea that came up in a meeting with the superintendent of the Roslyn schools, one that took place a few years before Weiss’s candidacy. Zuckerman also noted that East Hills, unlike numerous villages on Long Island, has not opted out of the 2 percent property tax cap state law, as the village believes they can maintain any tax increases below that level, while Weiss countered that the zero tax increase should be maintained in future budgets.

And so the tone was set, as the challengers looked for what advantages they could find as well as sticking to their theme of more transparent government.

Both Zuckerman and Ms. Pomerantz denied that village government is conducted in secrecy, pointing to debates over road repairs. Zuckerman added that disagreements among board members exist, but that the BOT likes to “come to a consensus” on any issue, all for the “betterment of the village.” All throughout the evening, Winn claimed he would bring a pair of “independent eyes” to the board, at one point angrily saying that the village doesn’t need to be a “Soviet Republic of East Hills” and that board meetings shouldn’t be “union meetings.”

On spending issues, there was more disagreement among the candidates, with the incumbents touting a $4 million surplus and the challengers claiming that the surplus was closer to $2 million. There was also the matter of the Parks and Recreation budget, which the incumbents said was only $40,000 in actual spending, even though it was budgeted for $65,000 and the challengers claiming that $65,000 had been spent.

Both Zuckerman and Ms. Pomerantz said the village would continue to employ creative ways of raising revenue to keep village expenses under control, pointing to certain grants, sponsorships, and constructive relationships with governmental officials, including State Senator Jack Martins.

The challengers both claimed that much could still be done to reduce expenditures in village budgets. Weiss pointed to public relations costs in mailing out newsletters to local residents, plus the hiring of what he called an “expensive” law firm to deal with such matters as making government documents available to citizens. Winn predicted that a coming inflation problem would make it difficult for the village to remain within the 2 percent property tax cap. He, too, called for reduced expenditures, as another disagreement arose over the cost of a generator, one that Zuckerman said would assist residents in case of another hurricane as the big one that occurred in the summer of 2011.

On The Park at East Hills, incumbents and challengers alike all praised that facility’s success and the positive attention it had brought to the village. All agreed that renters in the village should use the park, with Winn noting that the forum was the first time he had heard of the issue, using it as an example for more public debate. Zuckerman, Ms. Pomerantz, and Weiss all agreed that outside residents should not be able to use the park, while Winn floated the idea of charging outsiders $25,000 in membership fees as a way of raising revenue.

The candidates, finally, also listed positive attributes that they could bring to local government. All of them said they had the proper experience either in business or in village government to keep village finances solvent.

Weiss continued to tout his mayoral campaign, claiming, again, that his campaign fliers helped to bring about the end of years of tax increases.

Winn also reiterated that he would bring independence to the BOT.

Ms. Pomerantz noted her work with the village’s Green Day and her commitment to the environment and to children’s events in the village.

Zuckerman said that enhancing village security and safety had been a major goal of his time on the board.

Next week’s issue of The Roslyn News will feature profiles on all the candidates.

The election will take place Tuesday, March 20, with voting from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Village Theatre, 209 Harbor Hill Rd.