Written by Wendy Kreitzman Saturday, 19 October 2013 00:00
As Election Day draws closer and the Town of North Hempstead will soon have a new supervisor, several pressing issues have surfaced. With Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth seeking the office as a Democrat and Town Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio running on the Republican ticket, three major points stand out: transparency in government, problems with the town’s building department and the question of what the town does for the villages.
All along both candidates have emphasized a real need for transparency in government. Discussing the issue with Bosworth, she reiterated the need for a very open government, with town board meetings streamed live on the Internet, as well as eventually televising them on public access channels. She also spoke of making better use of the town’s website, with pertinent news regarding village boards.
DeGiorgio said that “one of the cornerstones of my campaign for councilwoman was creating a more transparent, open and accessible government.” Today she feels “even more strongly … after serving as councilwoman for two years.”
She has long spoke about televising town board meetings and believes that work sessions should be held in advance of each meeting.
Walking through several communities within the town, this issue, though high on the list of priorities for the candidates, does not seem to be worrying constituents. One Port Washington man found town mailings a great help, informing him about all sorts of entertainment and “some pretty wonderful parks and pools.” Several people mentioned the local newspapers as a great way to keep abreast of town news and events for all to read.
And that turns to the second questions: What does the town do for the villages? Carole Goodman, a Great Neck resident, agreed that “for the town taxes we pay” residents may choose from “so many cultural events … concerts and shows … so much out there.” Many residents find these plentiful offerings a great “bang for the buck,” whether they live in villages or in the unincorporated areas.
Bosworth stressed not only the wealth of cultural activities open to all town residents, but also the cooperation and communication between the town and villages. The town provides a whole host of services for residents, and provides much infrastructure work for villages at reduced costs. They also provide the town’s Reverse 311 system (and new emergency management initiative) as well as assistance during emergencies. Bosworth said all of this inter-municipal progress “needs to be continued and expanded.” She noted her strong relationships with local mayors.
DeGiorgio said “several village mayors” told her of a “disconnect” between village government and the town. As supervisor, she would “work hard to bridge this gap, but always respect the autonomy of village government.” DeGiorgio’s response: “I will ask, I will do my homework and I will make decisions on what I believe is right … I will meet regularly with village mayors to find out how the town can help them.”
Strong responses came forth from the public at the mention of the town’s building department. “Impossible … slow, takes months for answers … you can’t do anything, can’t get a permit, you just wait and wait.” And although the “scandals” of several years ago are long gone, and town officials have over and over again spoken of changes and better response time, the complaints remain loud and strong. A walk around any of the town communities will easily produce the problems once the subject is broached.
Bosworth told the The Westbury Times that “this simply needs to change.” She said: “A number of positive steps have been accomplished in recent years (accountability, training, systems, software, computers, personnel, etc.), but much of that is unseen to the public and has not addressed the essential goal of ensuring that the department is truly consumer friendly.” Bosworth is intent on bringing the building department “to the point where it is functioning as an advocate for residents and taxpayers, and not an adversary … it is essential that we move the department to a higher level of service and efficiency, for the benefit of our residents and business people.” She is “committed” to these improvements and has a plan in place already.
DeGiorgio told the The Westbury Times that “fixing the building department begins with listening … the solutions require hard work, attention to detail, close management and supervision and better communication.” She said this will take a lot more than a simple plan, and having spoken with a member of the building department and with a commissioner and staff members, DeGiorgio spoke with homeowners and suggests: a formal pre-screen meeting, same day review of applications, scanning all documents to prevent loss and to eventually allow the public to access thei4r building department records online. And she would “create a “fast track board to approve simple variances such as fences, sheds and
HVAC units without requiring homeowners to hire expensive consultants.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.