Inwood resident and Republican challenger Nathan Wein is facing off this season against Democratic Legislator Carrié Solages for the Nassau County 3rd Legislative District.
Solages, of Valley Stream, is seeking his fourth term in office, and we asked each candidate questions pertinent to their district. See where they stand on the issues.
Herald: The county’s property-tax reassessment has been an intense topic of political conversation. What is your view on the reassessment process?
Nathan Wein: This assessment process has been a debacle from the start. This reassessment was unique in that computers took the place of humans to do much of the work in order to cut down the time a reassessment takes. While we had great hope for this process, once [Laura] Curran was elected, things went downhill rapidly. Thousands of people were sent incorrect tax impact statements, identical homes on the same block were assessed differently, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted. As a lifelong Nassau resident and new homeowner, I am disturbed by how many mistakes were made and how poor taxpayer communication was. My opponent supported the reassessment and in doing so wreaked havoc on tens of thousands of homeowners. We deserve better!
Carrié Solages: Assessment is a complex issue that has been used too often for political grandstanding. This intense political conversation has led to a lack of trust in the assessment system, which is a problem for Nassau County and its residents.
After years of frozen assessments and almost automatic grievances granted under the Mangano administration, the system was broken and inaccurate, causing nearly 50 percent of the homeowners in Nassau to pay more than their fair share of taxes.
The working-class communities that I represent have paid more than their fair share. This is why that I advocated for a new and fair system under the new Curran administration. My job as a legislator is to advocate for my community. Under the new system, my district has had a ten-percent decrease comparatively in property-tax assessments. This was made possible by my advocacy, which was evidenced by a letter to this publication about this issue in March, 2018.
I believe County Executive Curran took an important first step this year in her county-wide reassessment. Unfortunately, errors, miscommunications, an understaffed Department of Assessment and political grandstanding have all occurred, continuing to lower the trust in the department.
I believe we need to work to restore the trust by increasing staff in the Department of Assessment, to ensure residents questions are answered; approving a five-year phase-in; reassessing every year to ensure the rolls are as accurate as possible as well as continuing to educate homeowners on the process.
Herald: We’ve had three teenagers killed on Dutch Broadway in Elmont since 2015, with crashes, deaths and serious injuries for years. How would you work to improve safety on the troubled street and surrounding streets, and how would you work across the aisle to get this done?
Wein: When I worked in KPMG I once pointed out a looming issue, but was told, “You shouldn’t create problems for us before they are problems.” It is exactly this thinking that is the issue. We cannot wait until more children get injured or killed before we take drastic action. This is the difference between being proactive and reactive. If we really care about the people that we represent we must anticipate their issues and solve them before they occur. We need to ensure that we are always ahead of the curve.
Because safety beats any other policy concerns, I plan to begin work on Dutch Broadway and other similar dangerous roads immediately after being elected. I will have two advantages over my opponent when it comes to doing this: First, I will be a member of the majority, and second, I actually get along with other people. Thus I would work hard both within my party and across party lines to ensure that we do whatever is necessary to make our streets safer.
I would talk with the police and traffic experts to understand exactly which roads are the most dangerous and what recommendations they have. We would track traffic injuries, fatalities, and minor accidents to determine when and where we need to act immediately. I would also reach out to every legislator and gather information on how they handled dangerous roads in their districts. The time for legislative cooperation is now, and that is something my opponent simply cannot do – working well with others to get things done.
Solages: Traffic safety on Dutch Broadway, and throughout the Elmont community, is one of my biggest concerns. There are several other dangerous roads in our district like in Valley Stream, Inwood and North Woodmere that may not have had fatalities but often had serious traffic accidents and speeding. My goal is to make all of our County roads safer. As for town roads, my goal is to advocate to that jurisdiction for more safety as well.
I have successfully secured funding through a bipartisan Nassau County capital plan, a comprehensive traffic safety study of Dutch Broadway and Elmont Road, which should be completed soon, and funding to make the necessary traffic-safety improvements, as decided by the study. Further, I have worked with the Department of Public Works, and the local community, to improve signage and make other traffic-safety improvements while the study was ongoing.
I have worked with the families of the children affected by these tragic events to improve our roads. For example, on Dutch Broadway and Elmont Road, there are at least six additional or new speed indicator signs that, through my leadership, were installed.
I have worked with the Police Department to increase patrols in these areas to ensure drivers are following the rules of the road. I also worked with the Town of Hempstead and New York state to create a “school safety zone” on Dutch Broadway for Elmont Memorial Junior Senior High School. I continue to work with the Town of Hempstead to improve traffic safety on town roads in the area.
Herald: Between Valley Stream and Elmont, there is a sizable and growing Muslim population. Some within the community have expressed fear of harassment, which has only increased since the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand in March. How would you ensure Muslims in the neighborhood feel safe and welcome within their communities and houses of worship?
Wein: When the tragic shootings in Pittsburgh and New Zealand took place, the Muslim and Jewish communities were there for each other, donating money and providing moral support. People often look to government to solve all their issues; however I am a strong proponent of community and the power we can bring to each other’s lives. Sure, we can increase police presence and make strong anti-discrimination laws, but that’s really only the first step. My vision is to take the separate communities that make up the third district and Nassau County, and show them that we are just one community. We need to be here for each other, communicate with each other, and most of all understand each other. While my opponent looks to increased taxes and government initiatives to achieve this, I will be working along with others to achieve change in our streets, on our sidewalks, and in our community.
We can never forget that more unites us than divides us. And we must make sure that our young people and children understand this – because they are our future.
Solages: I am very proud of the religious diversity found in my district, especially the growing Muslim population. I am an advocate for all communities. I am not just there to celebrate moments of achieve and joy, but I am also there to mourn and go through hard times with the people I represent. I have a positive relationship with the people that I represent. This is why I stood in front of the mosques after the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand. This is why I stood in front of the temple in our community after the massacre in Pittsburgh.
I have publicly condemned Islamophobia by speaking at local mosques and organized community events regarding our need to promote more understanding and dialogue among religious groups.
I have spoken regularly with the Nassau County Police Department regarding several concerns at Muslim events and houses of worship to ensure the safety of all residents. The police commissioner has increased marked and unmarked car patrols of our houses of worship.
I have also worked with several Muslim organizations, such as ICNA Relief, to make them part of events that I run in the community, to promote positive interactions among residents of all backgrounds. I also helped to create the Asian Affairs Agency in the County that delivers services to more communities.
As a leader, my job is to promote and support all communities.
Herald: As Nassau County’s fiscal woes continue, in your view what are areas where savings can be found?
Wein: We need to make sure every department is running efficiently and is motivated to cut costs. To that end, we will eliminate duplicative titles, make departments more goal-oriented, implement best practices strategy plans and have the commissioners cut costs by 5 percent in a way that doesn’t impact quality or services. There is also no reason our government cannot create policies that will encourage small and large business owners to open up here in Nassau. We can create a lower tax environment, better infrastructure, and work force housing in order to create new tax revenue without raising anyone’s existing rate.
We also need to get rid of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) within the next two years. Nassau County should not have a financial control board preventing us from being fiscally responsible. Just recently NIFA spent $125,000 of taxpayer money to hire a law firm that the Nassau County Legislature has rejected for being too expensive. NIFA is openly ignoring the will of the representatives of Nassau County residents and this is not only undemocratic, but un-American.
Solages: One major way that savings can be found is by preventing fraud and waste, particularly in outside contracts. I was proud to have advocated for the creation of a County’s Inspector General, whose job it is to review, investigate and research contracts to ensure the integrity of the procurement process.
It's not just about savings, its also about creating and supporting development that increases the opportunity for our county to gain more revenue. I have supported the development at the Hub, also known as the Nassau Coliseum. I have also supported the development at Belmont Race track on the condition that important safeguards regarding traffic, pollution, job creation and property tax implications be made to protect and benefit the local communities. I will continue to advocate for my community in order to protect it from any negative impact of this development. The County as a whole will benefit in terms of sales-tax revenue and other revenue as we continue to grow from a bedroom community of NYC to a major metropolitan suburban area.