Zapson, an attorney, has nearly 15 years of political experience, including a decade on the Long Beach City Council. Ford has become known recently for her work as a community activist in Long Beach, but her 25 years as a New York Telephone Co. technician were dominated by her service as a union shop steward, a position to which she was elected by her co-workers.
While Ford is running on the Republican line, both candidates are registered Democrats, and both have been supporters of County Executive Tom Suozzi dating back to his 2001 primary battle with Tom DiNapoli. Zapson believes the county is moving in the right direction, recovering from years of Republican mismanagement. Ford feels the tax increases of the last two years are coming dangerously close to forcing many residents out of Nassau County.
While we do believe that the Democrat-led government in Mineola has put the county on the right track, we believe Ford is a woman who will help keep it on that track and, at the same time, be an excellent representative of her constituents in the Fourth District.
Two years ago, this paper strongly endorsed Tom Suozzi and his plan for taking Nassau County back from the brink of fiscal disaster. Consequently, our support extended to legislators who would help push Suozzis plans forward, as Zapson has done. We continue to believe in Suozzi and fear what a switch of the currently tenuous 10-9 advantage would do in a very partisan Legislature. However, we do not believe Denise Ford would be an obstacle to programs the county executive seeks to move forward. While Zapson broke from the Long Beach Democratic leadership and supported Suozzi in the 2001 primary, Ford was at the forefront of grass-roots efforts to gain a foothold for Suozzi in Long Beach.
It is fair to question whether Ford will march to the beat of the Republican leadership that recruited her to run on its ticket, but we do not think she will block Democratic initiatives for partisan reasons. While she speaks out against the tax increases of the last two years, she also makes no apologies for her support of Suozzi in 2001 and her continued confidence that Suozzi is doing what he believes is best for Nassau County. We believe Ford will also do what she believes is right, regardless of party politics.
Also at issue in this race is how well the victor will represent the interests of his or her constituents. On more than one occasion since his 1999 election, the Herald has taken issue with Zapsons legal representation of developers seeking variances to build in Long Beach from the citys Zoning Board of Appeals, most notably when he did so just eight months after stepping down as president of the Long Beach City Council.
At a minimum, Zapsons actions seemed to violate the spirit of Long Beachs conflict-of-interest law. We continue to be troubled by his role as attorney for local developers in the face of opposition by residents residents who are also his constituents. Zapson has said that he is a supporter of smart growth.Ó As an example, he points to the construction of condominium units on the former site of Long Beachs only marina, claiming this was a good move for Long Beach. Yet one of the former zoning commissioners who OKd that development now a Long Beach city councilman has publicly stated that not only does he feel his vote to approve the project was a mistake, his stomach turnsÓ each time he drives past the still-unfinished buildings.
Not every development Zapson has been involved in incites such negative feelings, but we cannot approve of Zapsons continued involvement in such projects as an attorney for the developers.
Even though these zoning matters do not conflict directly with his job as county legislator, we feel it smacks of cronyism for an elected official and Democratic party insider like Zapson regularly to appear before the Democratic-controlled city's Zoning Appeals Board on behalf of anyone especially clients whose interests conflict with the perceived interests of large numbers of his constituents.
The perception is that Zapson will play either side of the fence for a price. This erodes his credibility and regularly leads city residents to question his motives and allegiances.
Yes, he is entitled to make a living. But if he is merely practicing his profession as opposed to selling his political influence, why must he make his living representing developers whose interests often conflict with those of the people he was elected to represent?
We do not believe that Denise Ford would ever involve herself in such a real or perceived conflict of interest. She has spent most of her adult life representing the interests of those who elected her. Whether as a union shop steward or as president of her neighborhood association, she knows what it means to be accountable to the concerns of constituents. We believe she will do this for all residents of the Fourth District, across the barrier island and throughout Island Park and Oceanside. She says she will be open and accessible, and will do what is right for her constituents and what is necessary to keep Nassau County moving forward. We hope voters will give her that opportunity.