Jennifer DeSena, the Republican candidate for North Hempstead supervisor, said she wants to fix issues in the Building Department before prospective businesses look somewhere else.
At a virtual forum Tuesday night hosted by the League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset, she said, “The reputation of the Building Department is so bad that architects don’t want to work here and new businesses avoid us.”
The candidates who spoke at the forum, which was livestreamed on YouTube, included two running for town clerk: Ragini Srivasatava, a Republican, and Councilwoman Viviana Russell, a Democrat. For the town council’s 5th District, Republican David Adhami and Democratic candidate Peter Fishkind also spoke.
Also speaking were County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger in the 11th District, Meagan McCarty. And DeSena shared the floor with her opponent for town supervisor, Town Clerk Wayne Wink, a Democrat.
In the contest for clerk, Srivastava and Russell each shared opinions and views on how to make the clerk’s office more efficient, accessible and fiscally responsible.
Srivastava, a small-business owner, suggested cross-training employees for versatility and expanding office hours for working families.
Russell said she believes the clerk’s office is operating in a very comfortable position but can always be expanded. Russell said that the clerk’s office plays a big role in people’s lives whether it be for birth certificates, marriage licenses or death certificates.
She suggested expanding the office’s functions to offer EZPass services, since the closest office is in Queens.
The candidates running for the Town Board in the 5th District, two local lawyers, spoke next. Fishkind, a Democrat, and Adhami, a Republican, each called for improving the town’s customer service.
Fishkind said that a lot of the issues discussed are not partisan. “These are not Democrat or Republican issues, they’re more so ‘who’s gonna be there for you’ type issues,” he said.
Adhami said that it would be good for the Town Board to avoid homogeneity. As it stands, the board, which consists of six council members and one supervisor, has a Democratic majority of six to one.
“I would bring a different point of view, along with my life experiences in order to fight for all of the constituents,” Adhami said.
In the race for County Legislature in the 11th District, McCarty, a first-time candidate who has previously worked as a legislative aide in North Hempstead and the state Senate, said she believes she offers a fresh perspective.
Her opponent, DeRiggi-Whitton, said she believes if re-elected she can oversee a number of projects she has worked on that are “just about to get started” including improvements on Manorhaven Boulevard.
“It turned out to be close to a six million dollar project that I was able to get the funding for,” De-Riggi Whitton said. “I love Manorhaven. I think it has such potential, and would love to help by giving it a facelift and improving both traffic and walkability.”
One of McCarty’s more pressing issues for the county is the number of “for rent” signs on main street in multiple business districts. She says she has spoken to town leaders that are in a more comfortable spot right now in order to think of methods and ideas to revitalize the businesses that have been struggling since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
In the town supervisor race, DeSena spoke about her ability to build coalitions to upgrade town operations, specifically the Building Department and said as an outsider without a political “war chest,” she could be trusted to enforce accountability.
“I have seen and heard the frustration among residents and businesses,” DeSena said.
Wink said that in his role as clerk, he had no jurisdiction or influence over the Building Department. As part of a five-point plan, he has called for improving the department by reallocating funds or possibly improving staff in order to reach his second point, helping local businesses.
“The town as we all know is one of the great places to live, work, raise a family and retire,” Wink said. “That is not to say that we are in a perfect municipality. We have improvements that need to be made.”
Recordings of the forum can be found on the League’s YouTube channel.