Nassau County Politics: A Promising New Face in Local Politics

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From the classroom to the courtroom to a candidate for Nassau County’s 19th District Legislator; Steve Rhoads got his first taste of politics when he was thirteen years old. Hoping to gain five extra credit points on his social studies grade and impress his homeroom teacher he decided to volunteer for her husband, state assemblyman Fred Perolla.

After volunteering in seventh grade, Rhoads found a future in local politics. He worked under Perolla for four more sessions in the state assembly in Albany before returning to Long Island to become a local committee person. Today he is running for Nassau County Legislator of the 19th district which runs from Freeport to Seaford, using many of the same techniques he learned from Perolla’s campaign.

“I made the decision to run, to be perfectly honest, because I am tired of seeing all the gridlock,” said Rhoads.

“I am tired of seeing all the Democrats refuse to work with Republicans, Republicans refuse to work with Democrats. People who are part of the middle, who are the ones that are paying the taxes, really need their government to work for them.”

Dave Denenberg has had control over the 19th district of Nassau County for the past 14 years and has easily become a household name. Rhoads, the underdog in the election, has had the difficult task of not only introducing his policies but enforcing his credibility as a politician.

“He doesn’t have the experience,” said Claudia Borecky, the Public Relations Manager for Dave Denenberg.

“You need to work with government, and in government, to understand people’s needs, the community’s needs, your constituent’s needs.”

Rhoads may not have 14 years as a legislator to tote on his resume, but he is not unfamiliar with holding leadership roles in the community. Rhoads was the former Deputy Bureau Chief of the Nassau County Attorney’s Bureau of Tort and Civil Rights Litigation. He currently practices law for Grey and Grey L. L. P. and is responsible for the firm’s Long Island personal injury matters.

Rhoads was also captain of the Wantagh Volunteer Fire Department  for five years, where he has served since 1992.

20 year old James Holman, a fellow Volunteer Firefighter for Nassau County and four year employee for Grey and Grey L.L.P. describes working with Rhoads as an enjoyable and learning experience.

“I believe that Steve’s friendship with myself and the other clerks in the office has opened his eyes to the problems us young people will face in the future,” said Holman.

“Housing in Nassau County is extremely expensive and the prospect of buying a house in the future for young people looks quite dim.”

Lowering property taxes is just one of the policies Rhoads would like to implement if he receives Election this Tuesday night. His primary goal is to ease the burden on taxpayers by controlling county spending, reducing the size of government, and using industrial development agencies to bring business into Nassau County so that the economy can be expanded and jobs created.

“I think what gives me an advantage over Denenberg is I am trying to apply common sense solutions to a very real problem for homeowners,” said Rhoads.

“Which is that between taxes, in every level of government, between increased expenses, it is getting very hard for them to be able to stay here in Nassau County. What’s the point of having one of the nicest counties in the world to live in if nobody can afford to stay here.”

The 19th district of Nassau County covers the towns of North Bellmore, Bellmore, Merrick, and parts of Freeport. Joan Brady, 55, has been a resident of the area of Freeport that runs under the 19th district for over 10 years. Her biggest problem with her district is the high taxes.

“God Almighty, the taxes are just so high! The school taxes, the real estate taxes, it just doesn’t stop. When will it be easier for the middle class?” said Brady.

“14 years is just too long of a time, for Denenberg. I think it’s time to get some new blood in the political scene.”

Whether or not Rhoads wins the 19th District Nassau County Legislative Race or not, he will continue to serve Nassau County like he has for over the past twenty years.

“I have a career I am perfectly happy with, I didn’t intend to run this year, “said Rhoads. “But I am because I’m frustrated with what I see and I’m trying to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem,” concluded Rhoads.

Global Frackdown Comes To Long Island

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200 events, 20 countries, one mission: to ban fracking. October 19th marked the second annual Global Frackdown, a day dedicated to rallying against the production of LNG, liquified natural gas. Over 100 Long Island citizens gathered on Long Beach boardwalk to take part in the global event.

The objective of the Frackdown was to educate local citizens about the effects of fracking and the projected construction of the Port Ambrose Offshore LNG Terminal.  Protesters pushed for signatures petitioning Governor Cuomo to terminate the proposal of a natural gas terminal that would be located 19 miles off shore.

Nassau County Legislator, Dave Denenberg commenced the rally with a speech on climate. As an environmental lawyer Denenberg believes there is firm evidence that global warming is in direct correlation with fracking.

“Fracking is a menace to our local environment and all of us, while the benefit is huge profit for only a select few,” said Dedenberg. “Fracking is not our answer.”

Dedenberg is currently in his seventh term representing the 19th district of Nassau County. He, and other local government members, have been working together to put a halt to this type of energy production and transition to “greener” technologies such as wind and solar power.

“I think Dave Denenberg got it exactly right,” said Adrienne Esposito the Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment who also spoke at the rally. “He said we can no longer rely on foreign fossil fuels, and we have to rely more on renewable energies. And that is in fact what Long Islanders are asking for.”

Denenberg was not the only New York politician to speak at the Frackdown. Harvey Weisenberg, New York State Assemblyman for the past 25 years, expressed why he votes in opposition to fracking.

“We are not going to take a chance to diminish the health and safety of our people by having people making dollars on a practice that might be detrimental,” said Weisenberg.

Weisenberg said it would take a significant amount of evidence to make him change his mind on fracking when he it comes to his action on the Legislative floor.

The Global Frackdown event was hosted by Food & Water Watch, a non-governmental organization and consumer rights group based in Washington D.C. Volunteers and representatives from this watchdog group had a strong presence at the event and voiced their concerns for what they believe fracking does to the environment.

“Fracking is exactly what is causing the climate change,” said Bill Coddington a two year volunteer for Food & Water Watch. “That’s what causes storms that we experience.”

Other volunteers from Food & Water Watch recently went to Dimock, Pennsylvania, the core state for fracking, to gain research on the effects. A bus of forty anti-fracking activists spent nine hours in the town observing the condition of the environment.

“We toured farms that were no longer farms, people had no homes, or clean water.” said Neil Leiberman a Health and Physical Education Teacher in Brooklyn New York for the past 18 years. “We all observed a dead cow laying on it’s side. This was the result of fracking.”

No scientific reports have been made from this excursion, but many activists used their observations as talking points for anti-fracking conversations at the rally.

Eric Weltman, Senior Organizer for Food and Water Watch, who organized the protests believed the Global Frackdown was a success.

“It was a powerful expression of Long Islander’s opposition to fracking and to the proposed LNG facility,” said Weltman. “It sent a loud and clear message to Governor Cuomo to stand up to the oil and gas industry and protect New York’s health, communities, and environment.”

Whether or not action will be taken to ban fracking in New York as a result of the Global Frackdown protests  is unknown. Governor Cuomo is set to make his decision in regards to the construction of the Port Ambrose Offshore LNG Terminal before the 2014 election. Until then, anti-fracking activists will continue to voice their opposition in the upcoming months.

19th District Legislator Elections: A Breakdown of the Issues

If you are a citizen of the 19th district of Nassau County chances are you know the platforms of executive candidates Edward Mangano and Tom Suozzi; but do you know the policies of your legislative candidates Steve Rhoads and Dave Denenberg?

“I would vote if I knew the person I was voting for was going to do something beneficial for me” said Nassau County resident of over a decade, Joan Brady. “I don’t know where either candidate stands on county issues.”

The legislative elections for the 19th district of Nassau County had three profile county problems: recovering from Hurricane Sandy, consolidating of police precincts in Nassau, and controlling the county budget. Before casting your ballot on November 5th, make sure to see where each candidate stands on the issues.

The Issue: Hurricane Sandy

The 19th district of Nassau County which encompasses Merrick, Seaford, Bellmore, North Bellmore, and Freeport were hit heavily last year during Hurricane Sandy. In Seaford, one in five houses are still damaged and many families throughout the entire district are still recovering from the damages.

Dave Denenberg Solution: The current incumbent held over thirty workshops to help Hurricane Sandy victims in addition to numerous county official meetings to discuss the reconstruction. He proposes a Hurricane Sandy bill which forces insurance companies to pay the storm victims within 30 days or give a “good faith reason” why they cannot supply the money. The filer of the claim can respond to that and the 30 days starts again. If still not paid, the filer can bring the insurance company to court with a Private Right of Action.

“Thirty to 60 days should be more than enough time” said Denenberg “Responses need to be quicker and bureaucracy cannot move this slowly.”

Steve Rhoads Solution: The challenger believes there should be more volunteer efforts to help those affected by the storm. Rhoads, a previous fire captain of the Wantagh Volunteer Fire Department, was out with the fire department during the hurricane. Resources such as money and food were coming in, but were not being delivered efficiently to those in need. In regards to the proposed Hurricane Sandy bill, Rhoads believes it only sounds good on paper. He says it will not work because the county does not have the ability to regulate what banks and insurance companies do. Instead he proposes the county work with federal and state officials who have the ability to process these claims faster.

“The bill only victimized Hurricane Sandy victims a second time because it gave them hope in an area where really there was no hope to be found.”

The Issue: Consolidation of Police Precincts in Nassau The original plan called for eight precincts of Nassau County to be consolidated into four to better utilise and organize the police staff. The closed precincts would then be converted into “community policing centers.” The plan is now being reconsidered on the South Shore after the Seventh Precinct building was flooded during Superstorm Sandy.

Dave Denenberg Solution: Denenberg has been a strong opposer of the consolidation of police precincts since the plan was initiated. The consolidation would increase costs as well as eliminate special patrols such as the bureau of special operations and the emergency task force. Wants to remove consolidation in 1st and 7th precincts.

“We pay a lot in taxes and we deserve good services. that starts with public safety.”

Steve Rhoads Solution: Stands with the administration for trying something new in regards to the police. He believes now that it has been partially implemented it is time to see if any readjustments or redirecting of the plan needs to happen. Pushes for both Republicans and Democrats to participate in the process of utilizing the police resources and staff they have in place.  Rhoads believes the main issue of public safety right now is the growing drug and gang problem within Nassau County.

“I hope to fight to be able to have the resources to be able to curb that drug and gang problem.”

Dave Denenberg Solution: Wants to remove any backdoor tax increases implemented by the county executive such as sewer taxes, passing of the county assessment refunds unto schools and fire districts. Says the county executive wants to sell the sewage plant for an 800 million dollar budget fix but Denenberg wants 700 million invested in the plants. This will to projects such as pollution control devices which will ultimately balance the budget.  Want to keep taxes down by developing the downtown area. Right now he is working with the mayor of Freeport to open a high tech center.

“Eleven out the 13 years that I’ve been on legislature, the county portion of your taxes have not gone up. The county portion of your property tax went from 25 percent in 2000 to less that 16 percent right now.”
Steve Rhoads Solution: Proposes a review of every level of government to see that taxpayer money is being used as little as possible. Also believes municipal contracts such as medical benefits and pensions need to be adjusted.  Rhoads claims that Nassau County makes more money off of sales tax revenue than it does property tax.

“We need to find ways to encourage business development and economic activity so that we can increase the sales tax revenue we receive not by raising taxes but by just having more activity.”