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Candidates for 11th Legislative District

Anton Newspapers asked Democratic incumbent Wayne Wink and Republican challenger Eric Zausner to respond to the following questions.

Wayne Wink

1. How should the county solve its budget crisis? Should the police unions and the Civil Service Employees Association make contract concessions? Should county services be cut? Should there be a tax increase? Should the county eliminate its guarantee to refund other taxing districts’ (including school districts) share of property taxes paid in error due to county assessment errors?

Nassau County is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) has imposed a control period and is closely monitoring the county executive’s budget and fiscal practices. It is clear to me that County Executive Mangano’s proposed budget is not balanced and includes exaggerated revenues and expense savings that may never materialize. In the course of budget hearings the Legislature has held, the county executive has not released the details of his budget, applying lofty revenue projections and expense savings without any plan to achieve them. Even the county comptroller, who ran with County Executive Mangano, has identified over $280 million of unacceptably risky projections.

Solving the budget crisis will require hard work and sacrifice, including the continued cooperation of county employees, both union and non-union. The unions have come to the table in the past and given concessions, but more will be necessary in order to maintain the services our taxpayers expect and deserve. We must negotiate with them in a fair and lawful manner, mindful that failure to achieve real savings for the taxpayers cannot be an option. We all need to work together, since there is no single (or easy) answer to restore the fiscal integrity of Nassau County.

Raising taxes is not the answer when Mangano has chosen to engage in several frivolous and enormously expensive lawsuits, in addition to a $2.2 million dollar failed referendum. Wasteful spending and reckless litigation has added millions to our deficit. The time has come for all at the county to focus on doing the work of the people and getting our fiscal house in order.

Eliminating the County Guarantee without fixing the assessment system first has also been a serious mistake. Although the county executive and Republican majority claim the county will save money, they have simply shifted the costs of their assessment mistakes onto the towns, school districts and special districts, which will be forced to pass those additional costs onto the same taxpayers who have been paying all along. The only thing that has changed is who you pay. The Nassau County Comptroller just released a report which concluded that the new “reforms” the county has implemented have only created more inequity and confusion in the assessment system. This is deeply troubling. The assessment system is broken, and no matter who the administration passes the burden to, it doesn’t fix the problem.

2. Has there been anything learned from Hurricane Irene as far as emergency management?

I believe that several emergency management lessons should be learned from Hurricane Irene. Local authorities, notably the Port Washington Fire and Police Departments, the Port Washington/ Manhasset OEM, the Town of North Hempstead and the Red Cross worked tirelessly before, during and after the storm to ensure the safety of all who reside on the Port Washington peninsula. When I assisted at the Schreiber shelter during the storm, it was clear to me they worked together seamlessly to keep the 250-plus inhabitants of the shelter safe, comfortable and calm. Their efforts for all the residents should be commended and, wherever possible, replicated.

At one point during the storm, the county called for an evacuation of both the Port Washington and Great Neck peninsulas, representing nearly 80,000 people. Local officials, including the town, urged the county to reconsider, since only low-lying areas of the peninsulas were at significant risk during the storm. It is critical that we have greater coordination between all levels of government to ensure the safety of our citizens during natural disasters such as Irene.

3. What changes are in store for the 6th Precinct?

While the 2012 budget calls for the closing of two police precincts, the Mangano administration has not released any information concerning the closures. As the budget must be voted on by October 30, this is unacceptable. It is essential that we consider this budget with a full understanding of its implications, particularly with respect to public safety generally as well as the 6th precinct specifically. This is just the latest example of how the administration has failed to provide the facts that Nassau taxpayers demand and deserve.

Just last year, Mangano attempted to close the 6th precinct and combine it with the 2nd precinct in Woodbury, which would create a single precinct running from the Queens border to the Suffolk border, covering much of the county north of the Northern State Parkway. This could have had a tremendous impact on policing much of my district. Most of the questions I raised at that time went unanswered. They initially argued that such a move would not need legislative approval, a position that was completely unsupported by the county’s own laws. Sadly, a year later, these same questions remain unanswered. Additionally, Mangano plans to reduce or eliminate the Problem Oriented Policing (POP) detail, the Heroin Task Force, the Anti-Gang Unit, the Marine Bureau, the Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) detail and other dedicated policing units that will significantly impact public safety.

Biography
(Submitted by the candidate)

Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) is serving his second full term as county legislator for the 11th District after winning his seat in a special election held in March 2007. He represents the areas of Albertson, Baxter Estates, East Hills, Flower Hill, Garden City Park, Glenwood Landing, Herricks, Manorhaven, Plandome Manor, Port Washington, Port Washington North, Roslyn, Roslyn Estates, Roslyn Harbor, Roslyn Heights, and Searingtown.

Wayne previously served for more than five years as a Town of North Hempstead Councilman. Additionally, Wayne served as Legislative Aide and Chief of Staff to the late Barbara Johnson, who was the 11th District legislator from the inception of the Legislature until her death in April 2000. Wink also served as the deputy counsel to the County Legislature’s Democrats from 1997-1999.

As chair of the Committee on Aging, Wayne sponsored the “Silver Alert” Legislation. The program is designed much like the Amber Alert but is used to locate missing seniors and others suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive disorders. This legislation allows for the quick, multijurisdictional dissemination of information, increasing the chances of a safe return. Approximately 25,347 senior citizens in Nassau County are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. In an aging county, such as Nassau, it is critical that we have legislation in place to protect our seniors.

Wayne has worked to ensure that county government works as efficiently as possible. He sponsored legislation to change the county assessor from an elected position to a professional appointed position, improving the county’s assessment system and ensuring that taxpayers have accurate assessments of their homes. Additionally, Wayne is a strong supporter of “right-sizing” government, which eliminates duplicative services, while allowing the most appropriate county department to manage the job.

Wayne has been a member of many community organizations, including the Government Relations Advisory Board of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, the Board of Directors of Long Island Traditions, and was a founding member and first president of the Barbara Johnson Democratic Club. Wayne is also a member of the North Shore Elks Lodge No. 1458, BPOE and the Kiwanis Club of Manhasset and Port Washington. In addition, Wayne is a former member of the Board of Directors of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, past president of the Kiwanis Club of Port Washington, and served as vice president of the Port Washington North Civic Association.

Wayne serves as the ranking member of the Finance and the Government Services committees. He is a member of the Veterans and Senior Affairs Committee, the Public Safety Committee and the Budget Review Committee.

A graduate of Uniondale public schools, Wayne received a B.A. degree in Political Science from Hofstra University and a J.D. from St. John’s University Law School. Wayne specializes in real estate law and litigation, and is a former adjunct professor of political science at Hofstra, with a concentration in American political systems. He resides in Roslyn with his wife, Stacey and their daughter Jennifer.

Eric Zausner

1. How should the county solve its budget crisis? Should the police unions and the Civil Service Employees Association make contract concessions? Should county services be cut? Should there be a tax increase? Should the county eliminate its guarantee to refund other taxing districts’ (including school districts) share of property taxes paid in error due to county assessment errors?

I firmly believe that Nassau County cannot solve the budget shortfall on the backs of the taxpayers. We are the highest taxed county in the nation and our residents are screaming out for relief. Unlike my opponent who raised taxes multiple times on our district, I will look for unique outside the box solutions to solve the budget shortfall; with ideas like selling the naming rights to our largest county parks and the Nassau Coliseum; this plan will generate a $100 million annually for the county. I will also look to shift the County Assessment system to the townships, like the other 60 of the 62 counties in New York State. When the county took over performing assessments in 1948, Nassau looked quite different than it does today, and after years of growth and development Nassau is too big to have the county conduct the assessments and do them accurately. By letting the towns conduct assessments Nassau County will be relieved of a $100 million annual expense, furthermore this would eliminate any need for the county guarantee and our school districts would be saved any expense from an incorrect county assessment.

Those two actions alone will plug two-thirds of the total budget gap, now to fill the last $100 million, Nassau must look to cut spending and that needs to be done in a comprehensive way, looking at the services we provide along with the compensation packages we offer to the employees. I do support having Nassau employees pay a portion of their health insurance. Most government employees of New York City, Nassau Schools and even the NYPD pay a portion of their premiums. I think it is an unaffordable luxury to provide Nassau employees with health insurance at no cost. Nassau County pays 53 percent of an average employee’s salary for their benefit package, this is unsustainable. If all employees contributed to their health insurance it would save well over $50 million. We as government cannot be immune to the financial realties of the times we live in and need to start taking action today to help relieve the tax burden already placed on our residents.

2. Has there been anything learned from Hurricane Irene as far as emergency management?

As an employee of the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management, I was very involved with the county’s response to the hurricane even being out on the road serving the people of Nassau during the height of the storm. While there were some things that were done very well, other areas show us that we have room for improvement.

County Executive Mangano really deserves significant credit for making the wise choice of issuing mandatory evacuations. As we can all agree now, the areas that he evacuated were exactly the areas hardest hit, and because of his decisiveness there were no fatalities because of the storm in Nassau County. This is the best result from a terrible hurricane, Mangano deserves praise. Some other things that were done really well, was that government constantly communicated via News 12, print media and the radio to the public at all points throughout the storm what was going to happen and what residents should do to protect their families. The constant contact between all levels of government from villages to towns to cities was handled very well and every government agency was a partner in responding to the hurricane, which is one reason why Nassau recovered so quickly from the storm.

One of the projects that I specifically worked on was helping setup the first ever pet shelter in Nassau County, which was a huge success, enabling nearly 100 additional families to seek appropriate shelter and not worry that their beloved pets were going to be in harm’s way.

The biggest lessons learned was that government needs to revaluate which buildings to utilize as shelters especially ones that do not have generators. No Nassau resident should be forced to evacuate their homes to sit in a darkened hot building. By and large I feel that the response to Irene was handled very well due to the efforts of the county executive and OEM Commissioner Craig Craft and this can be seen as Nassau suffered no fatalities due to the storm, and recovered quickly from Irene’s effects.

3. What changes are in store for the 6th Precinct?

As a resident of Port Washington I am served by what I believe is one of the best police forces in the country. As legislator, I would like to find ways to work with the Nassau Police department to continue to improve public safety and institute new programs to keep the community safe from any potential terrorism.

I would like to build a satellite precinct within the boundaries of the 6th precinct to continue to improve our safety. I will work with communities’ leaders to build this satellite at no or little cost to the taxpayers, by utilizing available untapped grant monies.

Biography
(Submitted by the candidate)

Eric Zausner, a lifelong Port Washington resident, is the Republican challenger for Nassau County Legislator, 11th district. He has an outstanding record of community experience, and is the former secretary of the Port North Civic Association. Zausner has experience in both the private and public sectors. He managed multimillion dollar businesses, and cut costs while increasing profits. He is certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 17 areas of Homeland Security & Disaster Mitigation, and will earn his B.S. in Homeland Security in December 2011.

As Nassau County Legislator, Eric Zausner would work towards restoring suburbia. Standing with County Executive Mangano to make Nassau County government cost effective, Zausner believes that county government should be run like a business, paying as you go. He would fight to fix the broken assessment system, lower property taxes, and create high paying jobs through business tax credits. In addition, Zausner would work towards protecting open space for our children’s future, and he would develop ways to fix our crumbling parks without increasing taxes.