With Freeprot Village elections less than a month away, the Herald sent out two questions to the three mayoral candidates, incumbent Robert Kennedy and challengers Carmen Piñeyro and Thelma Lambert-Watkins.
Herald: Freeport has been one of the hardest hit communities by the pandemic. What can you do as mayor to help the village recover and thrive again?
Kennedy: First and foremost, we must continue to provide PPE to our residence and provide Covid-19 testing when necessary. Residents need to shop in our brick and mortar stores and help these businesses stay afloat. I will continue to provide PPE to any and all residents and businesses. If unable to pick-up, we will deliver to your home.
I have personally been working hand in hand with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice to provide much needed financial assistance to our businesses that were negatively affected by Covid-19. I am, and will continue to be, in touch with the Freeport Chamber of Commerce providing Covid-19 assistance and PPE as requested.
I have also contacted the Nassau County Executive and Governor Cuomo’s office and asked if the Freeport Recreation Center could be considered for a vaccination distribution center, as both indoors and outdoors can be made available.
Piñeyro: Communication is the key to success as such as the next mayor of Freeport, I’ll work extra hard to make sure all residents are informed about trends, available resources not only from the village but also from county, state and federal governments as well as any private entities that are assisting in the process. I’m ready to engage our local business to find ways to get through Covid.
As a small business owner, I understand how difficult it is to balance budgets and keep business afloat. Hence, I’m a strong proponent of the creation of a Small Business Assistance Center in our village that will not only assist businesses to get up and running and navigate government but will also streamline permitting processes to minimize the bureaucracy and help small businesses thrive in our village.
Lambert-Watkins: First and foremost, I would take action to slow the spread of the virus by enforcing mask wearing mandates, requiring telework where possible, working with our local restaurants and bars to shift to delivery service only and imposing limits on the size of public gatherings. As mayor, I would ensure that the village streamlines permit processes to allow retailers and restaurants to use outdoor spaces as we work toward economic recovery. I would also partner with nonprofit organizations to provide residents with access to assistance for food and housing as a result of Covid-19. Additionally, I would guarantee that the Freeport community, regardless of their immigration status, is aware of resources available to them for Covid-19 screenings and vaccinations.
Herald: While residents enjoyed yet another year of a 0 percent property tax increase, it also means the village has to come up with ways to save money. What are some revenue opportunities that you would explore as mayor and what costs could be cut?
Kennedy: As stated eight years ago when I was first elected to Mayor, this administration must implement two policies, increase “non-tax revenues” and “hold the line on spending”.
We must continue to expand our economic development and also scrutinize all purchasing requirements and pricing.
For the past eight years I have increased the non-taxable revenues by approximately $6 million and maintained a structured budget.
In fact, we increased our reserves from $1.5 million to $24 million while reducing our debt from $160 million to $90 million.
The financial stability of Freeport has gained us two upgrades by Moodys, which allows us to refinance outstanding debt at a lower rate, saving taxpayers money for the future years.
I have provided additional services such as our LPR system, 25 additional police officers, reduced crime by 54 percent, and have provided our hard working village employees, firefighters and police with state of the art equipment to safely perform their duties.
Piñeyro: Budgeting is a process that involves not only the mayor, but also every member on the board.
I’m proud of the fiscal record I’ve worked the last 12 years as trustee and pledge to continue working on a fiscally responsible manner including all my colleagues on the board.
I’d start by conducting a thorough and comprehensive audit that will examine the government procurement process as well as contracts. It is evident that the current administration has been doling out contracts to politically connected henchmen who go on social media to try to intimidate political opponents and commit libel funded by taxpayers. Enough of grifting! That’s government waste at its worst.
We can save hundreds of thousands of dollars just by eliminating corruption and waste!
Lambert-Watkins: In order to increase revenue in our village, it is necessary to return the approximately 400 homes impacted by Superstorm Sandy that are still abandoned to the tax rolls at its full property value. Prior to the pandemic, the Village of Freeport was listed as one of the villages with the highest amount of debt in the state, see Office of New York State Comptroller’s Debt Trends, November 2019. As mayor, I believe it is imperative that we pay the Village Freeport’s outstanding debt so we can provide economic relief to residents such as reducing the property taxes.
The residents of the Village of Freeport rely on the services provided by the village. At this time, it is difficult to determine what, if any, costs can be cut.