Viewpoint: Nassau County, North Hempstead town incumbents merit re-election

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Karen Rubin

Listening to the League of Women Voters’ Candidates Night (and thank goodness for the LWV!), I couldn’t help but think in my head of Bill Maher’s bit, “I don’t know it for a fact, I just know it’s true.”

That pretty much sums up the arguments of challengers for North Hempstead and Nassau County office this cycle, though incumbent Dina De Giorgio, Republican, had a novel argument against her Democratic opponent, Mariann Dalimonte: “Don’t vote against me to send a message to Washington D.C., they don’t care.”

Republican David Yaudoon Chiang, challenging Democrat Veronica Lurvey, dismissed the town’s Triple-A bond rating (the highest any municipality can have, which lowers interest rates and low “fiscal stress” rating (1.7 versus 72 for Nassau County, which remains under NIFA control), insisting his background in finance (he’s been a stay-at-home father for 9 years) “uniquely” qualifies him to go through the budget to eliminate waste and increase efficiencies.

What always strikes me about that argument is that they never offer any example beyond a hypothetical waste in the budget. Nothing prevents him from reviewing the budget now or attending the town’s meetings, to provide an actual example where he might make cuts.

Candidates take it as an indictment that young people are moving away – blaming the high cost of living – but the reality is, young people aren’t so much moving away as going off to college, perhaps grad school, and moving where they are recruited to jobs.

But if “fleeing” is an indictment against governance, in fact, just the opposite is true in North Hempstead and Nassau County: the population is going up not down, though residents repeatedly oppose development that will bring more people, especially young people. Young people might not be returning after college, but immigrants are moving in – as always.

The challengers had nothing to say about any of this. Instead, they hurl dog whistles and catchphrases that could be any campaign at any time. Can anyone name a time when people were not upset about high taxes?

To me, the measure of a candidate’s worthiness is their command of specifics: the incumbents, especially North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Councilmembers Peter Zuckerman and Veronica Lurvey, County Legislators Ellen Birnbaum, Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, Richard Nicolello had it, their challengers were armed with platitudes and promises.

The league is applauded for giving a forum for third party candidates, so we got to hear the position of the Libertarian candidate, Blay Tarnoff, challenging Democrat Delia DeRiggi-Whitton.

Asked what can be done to protect poor families from being evicted by landlords seeking to gentrify their property to get higher rents, Tarnoff said the answer is “make the black community wealthy. People who are wealthy can fend for themselves, can take control, defend themselves, help themselves, help others.

If you give more power, more money, more control over your lives, you will make your lives better but those things [ie rent control] insult the economy, tax the economy. The economy is where everything comes from, it’s the sun, it’s where all value comes from, it’s where everyone gets what they need to survive. You cannot help the economy by taxing it anymore you can create a wind-up doll that winds itself when it runs down, it’s physics, perpetual motion.”

Were it up to Tarnoff, there would be no anti-discrimination in housing or jobs or wages, no Clean Air or Clean Water Acts, no minimum wage, airplane manufacturers unleashing planes they know have a safety flaw. “I am comfortable,” was his response to no minimum wage. “Everyone wants clean water,” was his response to no need for pollution regulations. “I believe in property rights,” was his response to landlords emptying buildings of rent-controlled tenants. I am sure he will say caveat emptor (buyer beware) for unsafe airplanes and cars. Indeed, the example he uses is that on an airplane, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

If anything, Tarnoff made the case for good government, which means electing the best individuals.

The challengers have not presented a strong case to replace the incumbents.

Just attacking with the suggestion that they can do better is not sufficient. Our county legislators, Ellen Birnbaum and Delia Deriggi-Whitton have represented us well – with intelligence, commitment and values – and Richard Nicolello, as the Republican Presiding Officer, has brought down the level of vicious, weaponized partisanship, though admittedly, he is dealing with the divided government of Democrat, Laura Curren, as county executive.

Our town has been ably led by Judi Bosworth as a supervisor, managing to balance fiscal conservatism with the delivery of services.

It says a lot that North Hempstead has been ranked as among the best places to live and to retire. The chronic complaint about the Building Department has been improving – Bosworth offered statistics – but we should also be mindful that real estate developers and landlords and property owners are not always the good guys.

The collapse of a building under construction in New Orleans’ historic district is a sober reminder that building codes, inspections and regulations are there for a reason.

Charles Berman has been an excellent Receiver of Taxes, providing service and respect to residents. He does not set the taxes or the assessment. The town’s share of our tax bill is only 4 percent, as Berman noted.

The county and the town can be a catalyst to sustainable, beneficial economic development that takes into account the need to address climate change but nothing can happen without the villages. Just getting a Farmers Market in Great Neck has proved difficult.

Yes, as Green Party candidate Cassandra Lems said, there is much that localities can do to ameliorate climate change – building codes, purchasing electric vehicles, generating biodiesel fuel from cooking oils and food waste, requiring or incentivizing solar panels on commercial buildings.

Local elections are vitally important – these officials are the decision-makers closest to our everyday quality of life. The Libertarian makes the clearest case for why we need good government, and that means electing the best individuals.

Vote Judi Bosworth for North Hempstead supervisor, Charles Berman for receiver of taxes; Veronica Lurvey and Peter Zuckerman for Town Council; Ellen Birnbaum, Delia Deriggi-Whitton and Richard Nicolello for county Legislature.

Election Day is Nov. 5, but this is the first year that New York State is offering Early Voting, Oct. 26-Nov. 3. See https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/566/Board-of-Elections for locations and times.

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