County Legislator Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) and former State Assemblyman Lewis Yevoli (D-Old Bethpage) will go head-to-head Tuesday for the Democratic nomination in District 16 of the Nassau County Legislature.
District 16 includes Plainview, Old Bethpage, Jericho, Syosset, Woodbury, Hicksville, Old Westbury and Roslyn Heights. Drucker was elected last November in a special election after the death of longtime Nassau Legislator Judith Jacobs.
Yevoli screened with the Nassau Democratic leadership last year to run for the seat but the party chose Drucker, a Nassau Community College trustee.
Yevoli currently serves on Oyster Bay’s Zoning Board of Appeals and said he is coming out of retirement after 20 years to challenge incumbent Drucker because he and Jacobs were both close friends and political allies.
“I have to admit, my own ego kicks in, and I thought I would really enjoy being on the county Legislature,” Yevoli said. “I think they need an adult in the room, I think they need someone with experience, and I think they need someone who’s independent and not just march in step with the party.”
Yevoli spoke passionately about two main platform points: adding term limits for elected Nassau County officials and moving the property tax assessment process to the town governments.
“This nonsense of people thinking they inherit the job for the rest of their lives, that’s got to stop,” Yevoli said. “That leads to many of the problems we have. Let’s pick a number and at least have a term limit. Maybe we can get an agreement on that, and if I have to go along with the Republicans who are in the majority, that’s what I have to do. It’s part of being an elected official.”
Yevoli blames the county’s current property tax assessment system for the county’s large deficit problem. Newsday reported the county is expected to end the year with a deficit of more than $53 million.
“The county assesses the property, and they know the property is overassessed going in,” Yevoli said. “They collect the taxes, then they spend the money, but about 70 percent of the homeowners have been overassessed. The county has already spent the money, so now they have a deficit because they have to return some of the money. This system hasn’t worked for the last couple of decades, and putting bandages on it isn’t helping at all.”
Yevoli is running as an Independent Democrat after failing to secure the Democratic Party’s endorsement, partly, he said, because of his tumultuous relationship with Chairman Jay Jacobs.
“He’s a classic petty party boss and frankly I think he’s been a horrible leader to start with,” Yevoli said. “I’m not afraid of Jay Jacobs. I’ve taken on the party bosses before, and I’ve won, and I’m going to win this time.”
Drucker, who garnered a last-minute endorsement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo Sunday afternoon, said he was surprised when Yevoli threw his hat into the ring in May.
“Mr. Yevoli has immersed himself in the culture of Republican corruption in Oyster Bay,” Drucker said of his challenger. “To me, that is something that is very, very concerning, and it should be concerning to the residents of District 16. That compromised Democratic values coupled with the fact that he has not been relevant in the political landscape leaves me and I’m hoping the voters in my district to conclude that he’s really not a viable Democratic candidate to challenge me.”
Drucker said he has introduced a number of bills during his 10 months in office, including legislation to require Nassau County police officers to include all religious institutions and schools along their daily patrols.
“It shouldn’t just be the police’s response when a threat has been made or an incident occurs; I want it to be a regular, everyday patrol because my thinking is perception becomes reality, and when people attend religious functions or go to religious schools, there should be a presence there and with that presence comes security and comfort,” Drucker said.
Drucker also proposed what he called pay-to-play legislation, restricting the ability of individuals or companies donating to county candidates to bid for Nassau County contracts. Drucker said the county too often relies on third-party contracts instead of doing the work in house when possible.
“We on the Legislature are constantly asked to approve monies to be paid to these outside law firms that the county attorney’s office constantly refers out,” Drucker said. “They refer out just about any legal matter that comes their way. Their rationale is that if a case calls for special legal expertise, we’d be better served having experts do. It seems like they’re not capable of doing any cases. I don’t know what they handle.”
Drucker said he hopes to continue his time in office for a full term, filling the shoes of Jacobs.
“Since I was elected last November, I’ve continued with the legacy my predecessor Judy Jacobs started 20 years before, and that simply is to clean up the corruption in the county and try to eradicate this culture that is beholden to patronage jobs and cronyism and pay-to-play type of contracting,” Drucker said.