Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads faces a new challenger, Bellmore resident Jake Schuster, in the 19th District. The district includes Wantagh, Seaford, Bellmore, Merrick and Freeport.
The Herald asked the candidates a series of questions to get their stance on the issues.
Herald: What would you do at the legislative level to improve the livelihood for the younger population on Long Island and ensure that they keep a residence here?
Rhoads: Working with Civic Associations and Chambers of Commerce, we can find opportunities for transit-oriented development. The Village of Farmingdale provides an example in the transformation of its Main Street corridor to include apartment style housing geared towards young professionals in proximity to the LIRR with restaurants, a grocery store, dry cleaners, etc., within walking distance. This provides an opportunity for young people to transition to independent living while they save to enter the housing market. Job creation is another important goal. Both the pandemic and the continued erosion of public safety in NYC, has provided Long Island with an opportunity to entice companies providing high-tech, good paying jobs, to make the move. Working with our Nassau County IDA, we should be encouraging business development and providing opportunities for our young people to find sustainable jobs locally without having to move out of state. Unfortunately, the decision by the County Executive to utilize nearly $100 million CARES act funding to pay for County salaries rather than provide relief to businesses and residents impacted by the pandemic, puts us at a competitive disadvantage as nearly 1 in 6 small businesses already in Nassau County closed permanently during the pandemic. Nassau should also work with New York State to create a first-time home buyer tax credit for Nassau residents to help put home ownership in reach for our Kids. Better leadership and a comprehensive strategy for business development, job creation and housing opportunities will stem the tide of Nassau’s “brain drain”.
Schuster: We need the younger population to be more involved in our businesses, local government, and other. The younger generation is the future of our county and our district, and we need to reflect that. On the legislative level, we need to provide greater leadership opportunities for these young adults so that the decisions of the future are being made by those who will truly feel the impact of those decisions. We need their voices, opinions, and demands to be heard in every aspect of our community.
Herald: If elected/re-elected, how would you work to resolve the housing crisis in this district?
Rhoads: We must address the overall issue of assessment and taxes. While government cannot regulate the local housing market, we do have an obligation to make government spend less and make the process that determines your share of taxes as fair, accurate and transparent as possible. Often, it is not the price of a house, but the property and school tax burden on top of the mortgage, that makes home ownership unaffordable. I’ve joined my Republican colleagues in proposing a property tax cut of $120 million and fee cuts in excess of $100 million to help lessen the burden on residents and businesses
Laura Curran’s error-riddled reassessment has made a bad situation worse, shifting the tax burden to middle-class communities and away from higher-end properties on the north shore. In the 19th Legislative District, nearly 70% of homeowners saw school and property tax increases as a direct result of the County Executive’s botched reassessment. We have local homeowners seeing school and property tax increases of 20, 30, 40 – even as much as 200 percent, while multi-million-dollar homes are paying no taxes at all. Over 200,000 valuation errors were uncovered during the reassessment and County taxpayers have paid nearly $50 million in refunds in the past year alone due to additional errors that have since been discovered. Even worse, this is just Year 2 of the Curran phase-in, with 3 more years of increases to go. This reassessment must be scrapped, and a full, accurate and transparent reassessment must be conducted.
Schuster: There are more than enough resources to convert empty land and empty/abandoned buildings into affordable housing for those in need of it. By working with County and State leadership, we can demand greater funding and absolutely re-allocate funds from many different over-funded programs to better provide for those who are living outside of their means by necessity.
Herald: How do you plan to bring more businesses and revenue to the area post-Covid?
Rhoads: There’s an opportunity to attract businesses concerned about safety and looking to move to more affordable spaces to Nassau County and we should be using the tools at our disposal to take advantage of that. Enticing high-tech, sustainable jobs to Nassau expands opportunities for our workforce and increases economic activity for the local companies that service those new businesses. Further, we need to avoid the mistakes made by the County Executive in her use of CARES act funding, with the new Federal funding through ARPA. Nassau is slated to receive over $350 million in funds over the next two years. A portion of these funds must be used for job retraining for individuals that lost careers due to the pandemic and to support local businesses who are still struggling to recover from government-mandated shut downs. Empty storefronts are the result of the Administration’s failure to do so with the first round of Federal stimulus and we must act swiftly to reverse that trend.
Further, we must correct the Curran Administration’s mismanagement of the Department of Consumer Affairs. 800 businesses are waiting for new licenses and a staggering 5,000 renewal applications are pending. These businesses – and the families supported by them - have lost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential business while waiting nearly a year for permits that other municipalities process in weeks. That equates to hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity lost to the detriment of County taxpayers. That is simply unacceptable.
Schuster: There are so many things that our district can improve upon to drive new business into the area, but the most clear answer to me on how we can at least take an initial step in generating greater revenue would be the regulated and taxed sale of marijuana within our district. Many elected officials have stated that they will opt-out of such sales — this makes absolutely no sense. Whether we open up shop or not, it is legal and it will find its way into our district. The question now becomes whether we want the revenue generated from such sales, or do we want to hand this opportunity over to other districts or counties.
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