Though they differed in the fixes they proposed, the candidates mostly agreed on what Nassau County’s biggest problems are. They said many are struggling to afford the high cost of living, especially young and old people. They said taxes are too high, the county’s property assessment system needs overhaul, the county’s balance sheets need righting, the Bay Park and Cedar Creek sewage treatment plants need repair, communities need revitalization and development projects to boost the economy and promote sustainability, people need good local jobs, and government needs to be more transparent.
Denenberg said the county needs greater “truth in budgeting."
“You just heard that it would be a good thing to borrow for [property-tax] refunds,” Denenberg said, referring to a point Rhoads had made. “But that’s why NIFA [the Nassau Interim Finance Authority] took us over.”
Rhoads later countered that Denenberg’s claims to bipartisanship were hollow. He said that Denenberg, who was the only Democrat in the Legislature to support a Republican borrowing plan to fund repairs of the Bay Park plant, had not done enough to line up other Democratic votes.
“In 14 years as a legislator, you need to develop relationships with members of your own caucus so you can actually convince them on an issue of grave concern,” Rhoads said.
Clarke said Nassau’s greatest current problem was an insufficient number of middle-class jobs. “We need the 21st century equivalent of a Grumman,” Clarke said. “We need maybe some tech start-ups –– something good that can generate revenue, something more than retail. We can’t survive on retail.”
Kraus cautioned that young people leaving the area and the county’s burgeoning debt were putting Nassau on the path to becoming “the next Detroit.”
“All this bonding that’s going on right now does nothing for the future residents of this county,” Kraus said. “They can’t afford to pay the bill 20 years from now, 15 years from now, because we’re racking up the debt now … So ultimately we need to evaluate that assessment system and overhaul it drastically.”