I’m occasionally asked a puzzling question by some people in political circles. What, they ask, do people in the Five Towns want from us in government. I respond, of course, that Five Towns residents want the very same things that everyone else, in every other neighborhood, wants and needs. They want their public officials to provide, above all, safety for their families. They want good schools, clean streets, good roads and an efficient, well-run government that keeps taxes as low as possible.
With these imperatives in mind, let’s review some of what I’ve been working on in the County Legislature, and hope to advance in the future.
Nassau is blessed to be perhaps the safest large metropolitan area in the country. This didn’t happen by accident. Our Police Department is staffed by dedicated officers and headed by Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who many of you may have seen at local gatherings. Pat has been extraordinarily responsive through successive administrations and is, by far, the best leader the police have had in my 36 years of living here.
In our area, we are protected by the men and women of the 4th Precinct, led by Inspector Vincent Boden. While crime can always be lower, I believe that our police leaders are doing a great job, and I am proud to support them.
Crowded roads are a huge local problem. It is far too often difficult and time-consuming to traverse our main east-west streets of Broadway, Central Avenue and West Broadway. They were laid out many years ago, when no one envisioned the current population of the area, or how many cars each family would have, and it’s almost impossible to expand these roads. Accordingly, it is my goal to work within the several levels of government — village, town and county — to try to ensure that the roads are well maintained and that development is intelligent, not unduly burdening our limited infrastructure.
Although much of it is not actually in Nassau County, State Route 878 — the Nassau Expressway — is a huge problem for all of us, producing monumental traffic jams, and creating pollution and safety issues when first responders can’t get through when they’re needed. The roadway is our main evacuation route, and is woefully inadequate in the event of a major weather or other event. Although 878 is a state road, be on the lookout for more from me as I work to persuade Albany to be responsive to our reasonable needs. I will need support from all of you on this critical issue!
Finally, I’m proud to report that I have never voted for a tax increase. Of the real estate taxes that we all pay, the largest component, by far, is school district taxes. County taxes make up a relatively small portion of our overall real estate taxes — about 17 percent. I’m pleased to report that Nassau County, which was in terrible financial shape when I began my service in January 2010, is now in excellent condition, with a surplus recorded in each of the last several years, under the leadership of County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
This is just an introductory overview of some important issues that we face. I thank the Herald for making this space available to me, and I hope to periodically report to you on local goings-on.
In the meantime, I want to hear your opinions, and about your needs, regardless of which level of government is involved. If your problem doesn’t involve the county, my office will work to get you the relief you need from the correct level of government. I can be reached at email@example.com, and at (516) 571-6207.
Howard Kopel represents Nassau County’s 7th Legislative District and is the Legislature’s presiding officer.