Considering all that Laura Gillen has accomplished and the many obstacles she had to overcome in her first term as Hempstead Town supervisor, she deserves two more years at the helm.
Gillen offers a stronger vision and plan than her opponents, Republican Donald Clavin and Libertarian Diane Madden, and should be rewarded with another term.
In November 2017, voters entrusted Gillen by making her the first Democratic supervisor in the town in more than a century, and she has done considerable good with that trust while working to overcome a Republican majority that has often put its party ahead of its constituents’ best interests.
Though much of the board’s resistance stems from Gillen’s decision to sue former Supervisor Anthony Santino — whom she defeated two years ago — and the rest of the Republican-led board, it also has to do with partisan politics. After Santino lost the election, he approved nearly 200 transfers, raises and promotions and granted the town’s unions a no-layoff clause, giving Gillen no choice but to sue. Clavin, asked by the Herald editorial board if he objected to Santino’s actions, and if he would have done the same in his position, dodged the questions and did not condemn the measure, which was troubling.
Despite heavy opposition from the town board, Gillen made great strides in her first term. She increased transparency by uploading all contracts onto the town website — they were previously tucked away in filing cabinets in Town Hall — and taking other steps to bring the town into the digital age. She succeeded in pushing for ethics reform that reduced conflicts of interest and nepotism, enacting a law to require bidding on all professional-service contracts of more than $10,000 and limiting town-funded political mailers.
In addition, Gillen should be commended for starting a pothole tracking system, for which records are kept online about roads that have been fixed. To date, more than 77,000 repairs have been made. She also drafted a $59 million capital plan to fix roads, and has reduced staff to ensure that the town runs efficiently while not overburdening taxpayers.
Though Clavin ran an efficient office over his 18 years as tax receiver, he offered few solutions for the issues that the town faces. He balked at bringing in an independent auditor to examine the Building Department, saying an audit could be done in-house, even though the department has functioned poorly in the seven years since Hurricane Sandy.
Gillen has tried several times to improve the department by bringing in an outsider to examine its inefficiencies and streamline operations, but has been met with resistance by the board. Despite the frustration, she has remained steadfast in her goal of overhauling the department. Clavin also claimed that Gillen was against cutting taxes, even though she has suggested tax cuts in each of her budgets, including a 1.7 percent reduction in her $438 million proposal for 2020. He also has spent much of his campaign taking aim at County Executive Laura Curran’s reassessment system, which would be outside his jurisdiction if he were elected. We should also note that he was quiet about reassessment when Republican Ed Mangano was the county executive, presiding over a broken system.
Clavin was correct, however, in questioning Gillen’s judgment of character after she hired James LaCarruba as her chief of staff. He may have received improper payouts when twice leaving jobs in the City of Long Beach. However, Clavin was mum about the issues surrounding politically connected businessmen and their recent dealings with the town, and the $1.1 million paid over 10 years to Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo and his son for work related to the Malibu Club.
Gillen has been undeterred in her attempts to fix the many issues facing the town and to counter a longtime culture of corruption. For this reason and more, the Herald endorses Gillen for town supervisor.