County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum and her Republican challenger, David Adhami, both framed themselves as independent representatives in separate interviews with Blank Slate Media, emphasizing their work in the public and private sectors.
Birnbaum, a second-term county legislator for the 10th District, said her experience in the Office of Intermunicipal Coordination, county Legislature and various other government jobs makes her the most qualified to serve the district.
“I believe my government experience, first at the Town of North Hempstead, and then my four years as a legislator, have provided me with a background to serve the public,” Birnbaum said in an interview.
Adhami, a litigation attorney and small-business owner, said his experience as a lawyer has allowed him to understand how to be fiscally responsible, and fight against wrongdoing and the unintended consequences of laws.
“I’ll do what’s right for the taxpayers,” Adhami said in an interview. “I’ve done it before.”
The 10th District includes the Great Neck peninsula, Manhasset Hills, the Village of North Hills, and parts of Albertson, Garden City Park, Herricks, Manhasset, North New Hyde Park and Searingtown.
Birnbaum said that she and the Democrats have to “hold the line” at every little expenditure possible to fix the budget. She also said that she believes in more fully staffing various departments, like building and public works, to do more in-house work and reduce the use of contractors.
“The budget doesn’t balance,” Birnbaum said.
Adhami said that he sought to hold the line on taxes and that as someone who comes from a family of small-business owners, he can budget appropriately and spot bad contracts when he sees them.
“If it’s not something that’s good for the county or my constituents, I won’t vote for it,” Adhami said.
In regards to the appointment of an independent inspector general to oversee contract procurement, Adhami said he “wouldn’t necessarily go with all of the district attorney’s recommendations” when it comes to fixing the contract procurement process.
Birnbaum, by contrast, expressed support for the idea of an independent inspector general. She is co-sponsoring a Democratic anti-corruption “super bill” calling for an independent inspector general’s office and other measures.
Both Birnbaum and Adhami said there should be property reassessments every three years or so.
“You have neighbors paying vastly different amounts and we’re going to have to straighten that out,” Adhami said.
Birnbaum said the assessment system “is broken” and there needs to be a qualified assessor, rather than an acting one that “hasn’t met the basic requirements.”
She added that while three years is her baseline for reassessments, she believes they should be done every year if the capabilities exist.
Both candidates also expressed support for term limits. Adhami suggested a limit of approximately 12 years.
Birnbaum said that there should be an independent commission to redraw the county’s legislative districts to ensure proper representation.
Adhami questioned the idea, saying that people are “free to vote any way they want” and that there currently is “one person, one vote” in Nassau County.
But, he said he would want more details before coming to a final decision.
“If it’s something that’s viable and doesn’t add more bureaucracy or red tape, I’d be in favor of it,” Adhami said.
Both candidates also raised heroin and opioid addiction as an issue and said that more needs to be done. Each expressed support for funding more treatment facilities and other programs.
“Putting them in jail doesn’t really help,” Adhami said, referring to his own cases with opioid addicts. “And it’s a long road to recovery.”
Birnbaum said that education is also an important part of fighting the “rampant” issue.
“It’s a problem,” Birnbaum said. “But it’s not spoken about.”
Birnbaum and Adhami also expressed support for re-opening the Nassau County Police Department’s 6th Precinct to help people feel safer.
“One of the bigger things is there is no police presence in Great Neck over the high holidays,” Adhami said, “and there used to be.”
Birnbaum said that if re-elected, restoring the Sixth Precinct would be something she hopes to accomplish in the first hundred days.
“My priority first is to see the 6th Precinct re-opened,” Birnbaum said. “That affects my district greatly.”