The special election for the Nassau County Legislature seat once held by Steve Rhoads comes Tuesday, Feb. 28, and if Democrats in the district have their way, it will be filled by Robert Miles.
The 30-year-old is originally from Elmont, but moved to Merrick when he was in elementary school. He graduated from Kennedy High School before attending Binghamton University, graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2014. He then returned home to attend law school at Hofstra University, graduating in 2017.
“Out of law school, I got hired by the Mangano administration to work for the county attorney’s office,” Miles said. “I was doing appeals and opinions, writing laws — and I was helping with assessment part-time. I’d like to think I have a background that’s very heavy on policy.”
Miles says his experience working with both Republicans and Democrats makes him a good fit for this elected position. He believes it gives him an advantage when it comes time to find solutions that are not necessarily Democratic or Republican — rather, just good government working on behalf of the people.
Property tax assessment is the type of bread-and-butter issue Miles has experience with in a bureaucratic capacity. Annual freezes became an issue under former County Executive Ed Mangano’s tenure. His successor, Laura Curran, briefly ended that until Covid-19 hit. Since then, Curran and her successor, Bruce Blakeman, have left such assessments frozen.
“The freeze during the pandemic made sense to me,” Miles said. “I think Laura was bold in trying to fix the system. But what we could have done better is communicate with the taxpayers and residents. I think what we should do is a cyclical reassessment every three years to keep the system up to date, so that we can avoid taxpayers feeling the need to grieve on a yearly basis.
“Assessment is supposed to be about equity, but there are different exemptions for that, and that’s a sticking point. It’s a complicated system, and it needs to be cleaned up.”
One of Miles’s biggest interests as he winds up this special election campaign focuses on both environmental and energy law. To further a pro-energy agenda, Miles would like to see a carbon neutrality bill, which he says Legislators Joshua Lafazan and Arnold Drucker are currently working on that would see Nassau take a big step toward reversing global warming by 2035.
“My district has been hit with flooding in extreme weather events, especially in the canals,” Miles said. “Homeowners in Nassau invest a ton of money in where they live — including property and schools taxes — and to consistently have this flooding issue is not fair to them.
“The state is trying to be aggressive in favor of the environment, and I’m fully supportive of that. We just have to be cost-effective when we do it.”
If elected, Miles would be younger than typical politicians at just 30. But his relative youth has something to do with why he chose to run, as Miles himself knows what it’s like trying to make it as a young person on Long Island.
“I see a lot of my friends trying to own homes in Nassau, and it’s a struggle,” he said. “Affordability is a struggle. In my capacity as an attorney, I’ve had to deal with a ton of residents who are shocked by the level of taxes after they moved here. So, I think a candidate who has witnessed these problems firsthand — and also has his own struggle with it — is important for the people.”
An issue that Blakeman and the Minority Caucus Miles wants to join recently sparred was gun control — although this is an issue that is more up to the state than the county. Blakeman said last fall he would enforce “safe zone legislation,” but hoped to see it deemed unconstitutional, while Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams praised the concept of gun-free areas.
“I think that New York state had set a very strong precedent in making sure that gun violence wouldn’t take hold of the state,” Miles said. “With the rise of extremism, antisemitism and racism, I think it’s important to have smart regulation. I support the Constitution and the Second Amendment, but there has to be smart regulation such as locking up the guns at night, and locking up the guns when children are around.”
Miles also praised ERPOs — extreme risk protection orders — also known as red flag laws, that would limit, if not outright prohibit, someone from buying a weapon if they are believed to be a threat to others or themselves.
But there are other county level laws Miles wants to focus on: namely red light cameras, which he sees as illegal. In fact, he wants to get rid of them entirely.
“Whether it’s through a separate legislative process or through the budget, those fees — including the tax map verification fee — are legally unsound,” Miles said. “I have a hard time seeing how these survive legal challenges.”
Miles doesn’t want to wait for legal challenges, however, because the tickets drivers are receiving are expensive and pile up fast.
And, according to Miles, it’s not as if the county doesn’t already have money. The county already has $250 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan, as well as a county surplus.
This makes some of these fines unnecessary.
Miles would also like to see more action taken to protect children from the fentanyl crisis, which includes putting testing strips in Narcan kits, which otherwise are used to help someone known to have suffered an opioid overdose. This idea has faced some scrutiny in the legislature, and Miles would be a vote in favor of this if elected.
“If the counterpoint was, ‘You’re putting out fentanyl testing strips to promote drug use,’ the response would be they’re already here,” Miles said. “We didn’t stop anything. We didn’t plug the flood. We have to work with what we have now.
“It’s not promoting anything. It’s a mitigation measure.”