Jason Abelove is challenging Don Clavin for Town of Hempstead supervisor.
Clavin was the town’s receiver of taxes for nearly two decades before defeating Laura Gillen to become supervisor in 2019. Abelove, an attorney, is running for office for the first time.
Ahead of Election Day on Nov. 2, the Herald asked the candidates questions about their goals and issues facing the community.
Herald: What would some of your top priorities be if elected?
Clavin: Tax relief is at the top of my priorities. I worked alongside a bipartisan Town Board to freeze taxes for 2021, and I have proposed a tax cut for 2022. On my first day in office, I slashed the supervisor’s staff spending by half, saving taxpayers $1 million annually. Keeping my word on improving roadways and facilities, I am dedicating $75 million to road repaving and infrastructure upgrades. In addition, I am spending $10 million on parks improvements, and look forward to implementing an array of enhancements to community parks across America’s largest township.
I am committed to providing tax relief, while providing top-notch services and doing more for residents. I will also continue to work with my colleagues on the board to lead our township during the pandemic. Using millions of dollars in federal CARES funds, we provided over 7,000 free Covid-19 vaccines, thousands of no-cost Covid-19 tests, personal protective equipment kits for businesses, millions of meals to residents in need, aid to front line entities, air filters for seniors and more. Modernizing town government continues to be a priority, as we took a step by creating an online portal for Building Department services, streamlining the application process.
Abelove: My top priorities are to lower taxes and bring equity to the delivery of town services. For too long, the town has wasted money on high salary patronage jobs, bloated budgets, expensive mailers and inflated no bid contracts to Republican donors. It’s time we relocated our budget away from sweetheart contracts for campaign contributors to critical services and road repair. When I eliminate wasteful spending, we will improve our downtowns while investing in our local infrastructure.
Herald: Many local businesses took a financial hit during the coronavirus pandemic and have suffered from staffing shortages. What more can be done to help local businesses?
Clavin: From the beginning of the pandemic, we worked to help business owners struggling to cope with the health and financial impacts of it. For example, I worked with the board to establish our region’s first outdoor dining initiative in the spring of 2020, which waived all permit fees and expedited the process for restaurant owners to establish or expand outdoor dining options. This initiative potentially saved restaurant owners thousands of dollars in permit fees and provided them with the opportunity to offer additional dining options for customers as they returned to restaurants following the Covid-19 shutdowns. Hundreds of restaurants are participating in the program, which we are extending through the fall of 2022.
We also assisted small businesses as they sought to reopen safely and successfully — through millions of dollars allocated in CARES funds, we distributed thousands of PPE kits to small businesses. I instituted an Economic Advisory Council, comprising a group of leaders in business, industries, higher education and community organizations to work on strategies to navigate businesses, residents and the local economy during the pandemic.
In addition, through a partnership with Northwell Health, we provided free Covid-19 testing for essential workers, an effort to support the dedicated employees who were working throughout the heights of the pandemic to provide essential services to residents. We recognize the importance of our downtowns for the success of local businesses and the economy. Through Operation Clean Sweep, we have crews making their way through downtowns across Hempstead to keep these areas clean and pristine. In addition, we are revitalizing downtowns with brick-paved walkways, Victorian streetlights and more. Finally, I have worked in support of mixed-used development and other smart growth priorities, and will continue to work to support initiatives, projects and programs that spur our local economy and support local businesses as they recover from the pandemic.
Abelove: The town received $133 million in federal CARES money, three-quarters of which was used for raises and promotions to political insiders, and renovating the supervisor’s bathroom in Town Hall. The town also promoted a $40 million stimulus plan, but did not fund the plan. We will use the CARES money to provide direct support to small businesses. We will streamline permitting, promote job fairs and lower taxes to make business thrive in the town. Small businesses are the cornerstone of our community, and we must do everything we can to ensure the success of our small businesses throughout our Covid-19 recovery. As a small business owner myself, I know the stress of making payroll every week. Under my administration, Hempstead will distribute the federal relief money following the Boost Nassau model.
Herald: What more can be done to provide tax relief to Town of Hempstead residents?
Clavin: Tax relief is my top priority as I froze town taxes for 2021, and I have proposed a tax cut for 2022. Slashing unnecessary spending has been my commitment since I entered office. I cut $1 million from the supervisor’s staff budget on my first day, and I eliminated “take-home cars” for top managers. I don’t drive a town car; I drive my personal car with over 200,000 miles on it. Our town’s fiscal strength under my administration has been recognized with credit rating upgrades from two top Wall Street credit agencies – Moody’s and Standard & Poors. I will continue to work hard to demonstrate the highest regard for taxpayers, while providing top-notch services, enhancing roadways and facility upgrades.
Abelove: The town has a $400 million budget and is not responsible for police or other first responder services. With this bloated budget, I truly believe that we can provide more services for less money. Taxes are high because of the number of political appointees making six-figure salaries, no bid contracts and waste such as $5 million in needless mailings and placing elected officials’ names on every town sign. Having the political will to end the waste, putting taxpayer’s priorities over the politicians and running the town with an eye toward service rather than re-election will save our residents millions of dollars.
Herald: Given the number of infrastructure issues within the town, how can necessary projects be completed while still keeping taxes low and keeping the work within the proposed budget?
Clavin: We have significantly increased our investment in capital improvements for roadways over the previous administration. Working with a bipartisan board, we are dedicating $75 million in capital funds for roadway and infrastructure improvements. In addition, I recently introduced the “pothole patrol,” an effort to expedite roadway repairs using state-of-the-art pothole repair vehicles and promoting a hotline for residents to report potholes in their neighborhood. Our efforts to improve town infrastructure is critical for the safety and quality of life of our residents, while still freezing town taxes for 2021 and cutting town taxes in 2022.
Abelove: Our town’s primary responsibility is local infrastructure, and as everyone can see, the current administration is failing. Our roads are crumbling before our eyes and the town is not being adequately cared for. The top priority should be infrastructure in every corner of the town, not just Republican strongholds. We will place our resources on infrastructure based upon need and place our focus on infrastructure issues over mailings, signage and photo opportunities. There is more than enough budgeted for the needed repairs. All we need is a change in leadership. When elected, I plan to trim the town’s bloated budget, while allocating additional resources to road paving.
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