Newcomer takes on incumbent in District 18

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Two candidates are vying to represent the 18th District as Nassau County legislator. With Election Day rapidly approaching, we reached out to both.

Incumbent Republican Donald MacKenzie hopes residents will re-elect him to continue his fight against corruption and his efforts to pursue positive changes in the district.

Political newcomer Josh Lafazan, an Independence Party member, plans to apply his experiences serving the community to further effect change if he is elected.

The Guardian asked both candidates a few questions to assist voters when they go to the polls on Nov. 7.

Donald Mackenzie- Incumbent

Age: 47

Family: Married, two children

Lives in: Oyster Bay

Profession: Attorney for over 20 years, elected water commissioner of Oyster Bay Hamlet, former prosecutor

Party affiliations: Republican,

Conservative

Oyster Bay Guardian: There will be a new county executive after the election. If it were up to you, how would you improve the working relationship between the C.E. and the Legislature?

Donald Mackenzie: During my time in the Nassau County Legislature, the relationship with the county executive has not been as productive as it should have been. Many outside issues distracted the county executive from focusing on the job he was elected to do. This was one of the reasons I called for his resignation. Moreover, better communication between the county executive and the Legislature will be paramount with the incoming administration. I know both candidates for county executive and have worked with them in the past. I am supporting Jack Martins, who I believe is the better qualified candidate and has the experience, the vision and a plan to tackle the challenges faced by Nassau County.

OBG: Recognizing that some of the areas you represent have similar issues that need addressing, there are also different needs in each area. What do you think are the most important issues in each of the following areas: Hamlet of Oyster Bay, Bayville, East Norwich, the Brookvilles?

MacKenzie: I am fortunate to represent what I consider one of the most beautiful areas of Nassau County. The area has retained its beauty by resisting urbanization and development that would change the character of the area. Many local governments retain local control of zoning laws and decisions, which are strictly enforced to maintain the quality of life in those areas. Urbanization of these areas continues to be offered as a solution. Our downtowns need to have economic activity without destroying the nature of what we love most about this area. Affordable housing is not an idea that I would support for downtown areas of the North Shore. This is an idea advocated by my opponent.

OBG: The current Legislature tends to vote along party lines. What can be done to change that, if anything?

MacKenzie: Partisanship in the Legislature has led to gridlock when we face many challenges, including public works projects at the county level. It has caused both parties to vote against bonding for worthy projects. With the serious hurdles the county constantly faces, partisan politics needs to be put aside to continue the business of government. Further openness and transparency at the county level will keep voters informed so they can make informed choices and choose representatives that put their interests first.

OBG: What piece of legislation did you spearhead that was passed during your term?

MacKenzie: Interestingly, one piece of legislation I was able to advocate for as a water commissioner and support and vote on as a legislator was the Long Island Commission on Aquifer Protection. This legislation created LICAP, a bi-county entity formed to address both quality and quantity issues facing Long Island’s aquifer system, and to advocate for a coordinated, regional approach to groundwater resources management. In addition, we reinstituted the Water Resources Board to combat a plan by New York City to reactivate water wells bordering the county that could potentially adversely affect our water supply. I currently serve as a non-voting member of that body. Some of the best work that we have done has been in the area of ethics, transparency and anti-corruption laws.

OBG: Why should people vote for you?

MacKenzie: I will continue to support an agenda that emphasizes protecting taxpayers, public safety and economic development. The Republican majority in the Legislature has saved each homeowner thousands of dollars in taxes at the county level. Nassau County is the safest large county in America, with overall crime reduced by 25 percent. We have launched an aggressive plan focused on job creation, retention and attracting new business. This plan includes 100 percent privately financed redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum and the Hub. Also, Nassau County enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the region.

Furthermore, we have made additional savings through the downsizing of government, reducing the county workforce by over 2,000 workers and consolidating departments. We have passed laws to enhance the transparency and openness of county government, including new disclosure requirements for lobbyists, vendors and consultants.

OBG: There continue to be vacant stores in Oyster Bay and Bayville. What can you do in your capacity as legislator to bring businesses there?

MacKenzie: As a county official, I will continue to work with the local officials and stakeholders to support an economic climate where downtown areas can thrive and develop through private-sector growth. Our policies at the county level have been geared toward helping small businesses and downtowns in Nassau succeed. Fighting a higher tax burden on small business owners is one area where we have concentrated. This tax burden directly impacts small business owners, and we will continue to focus on keeping taxpayers first.

OBG: You worked on an anti-corruption law. How could you make it even tougher?

MacKenzie: Working together with many of the members of this Legislature, we have enacted numerous initiatives and signed into law reforms that have dramatically improved the information supporting county contracts. These initiatives include new disclosure requirements for lobbyists, vendors and consultants, including a requirement for detailed business histories from those that would do business with the county. Political campaign disclosures with accompanying affidavits are now required to ensure that contributions are not made with an expectation of a governmental benefit.

We’ve hired a procurement compliance director to ensure that all contract processes and procedures receive strict adherence. Recently the Legislature passed laws banning convicted felons from holding office and amended the county code of ethics to include, among other things, a politically diverse board of ethics, and requiring ethics training for county officers and employees. We will continue to look for further opportunities to increase transparency and openness of county government.

Josh Lafazan- Challenger

Age: 23

Family: Single

Lives in: Woodbury

Profession: Syosset School Board Trustee; Board of Directors, Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence and Nassau County Youth Board; volunteer firefighter

Party affiliations: Independent, endorsed by Democratic, Reform, Working Families, Women’s Equality

OBG: There will be a new county executive after the election. If it were up to you, how would you improve the working relationship between the C.E. and the Legislature?

Josh Lafazan: Partisan gridlock has limited the Legislature’s effectiveness. If the Legislature can focus on what is best for the citizens of Nassau County, regardless of party politics, then we can work as one group in concert with the C.E. Creating a culture of bipartisanship in the Legislature will be my primary focus, and should result in an excellent working relationship for all. Moreover, several tenets of my platform correspond with the priorities of both C.E. candidates. Laura Curran has spoken out about corruption in government, so if she is elected, we could work together to create an independent inspector general and ban corporate political contributions. Jack Martins has spoken out about the addiction crisis, so if he is elected, we could work together on creating a 24-hour assessment center and securing additional funds from Albany for prevention education.

OBG: Recognizing that some of the areas you hope to represent have similar issues that need addressing, there are also different needs in each area. What do you think are the most important issues in each of the following areas: Hamlet of Oyster Bay, Bayville, East Norwich, the Brookvilles?

Lafazan: Hamlet of Oyster Bay: Taxes. Residents in Oyster Bay are being crushed by the tax burden of local government and school district taxes. Finding ways to slow the rise of taxes will help make Oyster Bay more affordable over time.

Bayville: West Shore Road. The county should be ashamed of the glacial pace of this road repair, which is a lifeline for Bayville.

East Norwich: Property taxes. I’ve spoken to countless homeowners, and property taxes continue to soar, while services seem to decrease in quality. Residents say that property taxes are the main reason they are looking to sell their homes.

The Brookvilles: Infrastructure. I’ve spoken with village officials and community residents, and the conditions of the roads in the Brookvilles are a major area of concern. Roads owned and operated by the villages, such as Cowpath, Wenwood and Versailles, have been repaired. However, roads owned and operated by other municipalities continue to be neglected. Wheatley Road, which Nassau County is responsible for, and Route 107, which is a state road, are prime examples of repairs that need to be addressed.

OBG: The current Legislature tends to vote along party lines. What can be done to change that, if anything?

Lafazan: Partisan gridlock has paralyzed local government here in Nassau County, and does a disservice to the taxpayers.

OBG: What piece of legislation would be your first priority if you are elected?

Lafazan: Term limits. In Suffolk County, legislators have six two-year terms. The same should go for Nassau. I will propose legislation for term limits on Day One of my tenure as a legislator.

OBG: Why should people vote for you?

Lafazan: I fight for transparency every day on the Syosset school board. I believe Syosset is now one of the most transparent districts on Long Island. The budget process is now open to the entire community. I look forward to bringing a similar tenacity to the Nassau County Legislature in January.

OBG: There continue to be vacant stores in Oyster Bay and Bayville. What can you do in your capacity as legislator to bring businesses to Oyster Bay?

Lafazan: Small towns like these will benefit most when redevelopment is encouraged. New buildings, with rentals for young people, will revitalize these areas and bring activity to restaurants and shops in these towns. This will energize all commerce in the area, and spill over into many other types of businesses.

OBG: The Legislature worked on an anti-corruption law. How could you make it even tougher?

Lafazan: Saying the Legislature has tackled corruption is like saying the Giants are a good football team — it simply is not factual. We need real ethics reform in Nassau. In summary, I would call for term limits for elected officials, the creation of an independent inspector general, banning contributions from companies receiving government contracts, eliminating the use of taxpayer-funded mailers and full financial disclosure for all elected officials. This is true ethics reform.