BY JOE KUHN
Residents from all around the county assembled last Thursday at the St. Francis Church in Bardonia for a Meet the Candidates Night, a chance for citizens to get to know the men and women running for public office this November. Current and aspiring members of the local government convened to answer questions from their constituents as well as introduce themselves to the public.
The first candidates to speak were those running for the office of town justice. Current Justice Scott Ugell and Clarkstown resident Aimee Pollak were present for the event, though Justice Craig Johns was unable to attend. Pollak introduced herself to the crowd as a lifelong Clarkstown resident and accomplished New York State attorney.
The first time Democratic candidate and Yale graduate assured the audience that she aspires to be “the kind of judge you can trust to make fair decisions” and that her campaign for office was born from a desire “to give back to Clarkstown.” Republican candidate Ugell kept his statement brief, explaining to the crowd that he was due on the bench in 30 minutes and quipping that he “[doesn’t] make people wait, especially when they’re in handcuffs.”
The one-time youngest justice in town history concluded his statement by reaffirming his desire to be proactive in helping the community and describing his eight terms in office as the “greatest joy I’ve ever had.”
Next to speak were the two candidates for town supervisor. Current supervisor and Republican candidate George Hoehmann began his remarks by stating that he was “proud of his record” and that he “believes it speaks for itself.” The lifetime West Nyack resident rattled off a list of accomplishments that included a 0% tax increase during his time in office, the first local tax cut since 1985, and a $4 million reduction in bonded debt.
Democrat candidate and former Chief of Police Mike Sullivan began his introduction by vowing to “cut through the political nonsense” and “return civility to politics.” The aspiring town supervisor also vowed to end corruption in local politics and spoke of a 10 percent tax cut that he would propose if elected.
The floor was then given to those candidates running for a seat on the town council. First to speak were those candidates who would represent the counties’ going forward. John Noto, the current representative, began his introduction by informing the audience that he was baptized at the very church where the meeting was taking place. Councilman Noto proudly echoed the accomplishments first mentioned by Supervisor Hoehmann, detailing how his term in the town council was marked by tax cuts and fiscal responsibility. Democrat candidate Patrick Carroll followed, introducing himself as Nanuet local and North Eastern Graduate who previously held a town board position while living in Long Island.
Carroll promised if elected to “look long and hard at the fiscal responsibilities of town government” and cited high taxes and over development as the two biggest issues facing Clarkstown. The candidates for Ward Three echoed similar concerns for the county during their respective introductions: for example, nurse administrator Adrienne Carey, who grew up in Ramapo, lamented that she’s “heartbroken and devastated to see what has happened [in Ramapo].”
The Republican candidate concluded with a promise to continue the fight against overdevelopment if elected.
Donald Franchino, president of the Nanuet Family Resource Center and noted local charitable fundraiser, remarked that “there’s not a candidate here who wants what happened in Ramapo to happen in Clarkstown,” after boasting to the crowd that he was “probably the oldest candidate [t]here.” Only one candidate for each of the remaining wards was present at the event: former NYC lieutenant firefighter Pete Bradley, a candidate for Ward Two, expressed his own concerns about overdevelopment and stressed the importance of “preserving the Rockland line.”
Councilman Frank Borelli [R] of Ward One proudly reflected on his 10 years in office, stating that during his career, the town council made great strides in “reducing taxes, reducing debt and enforcing zoning codes.” When addressing other candidates’ calls for tax reductions and stricter zoning regulation, the councilman asserted, “We’ve already done that.”
Following the candidates for town council were those in the running for the office of town clerk. Incumbent Justin Sweet [D] detailed the cost-cutting methods implemented during his term, which included eliminating a superfluous government department and modernizing the office to “make it a 21st century operation.” Republican Moria Balseca introduced herself as a 12-year county resident and active volunteer in the community, who had participated in the reconstruction of Highview Park and currently volunteers as a Girl Scout troop leader.
Last to speak were the candidates for Highway superintendent and Surrogate Court justice, and only one candidate for each office was present at the meeting. Current Highway Superintendent Frank DiZenzo spoke enthusiastically of his “33 years covering 45 miles of road,” and described his time in office as “the best experience of his life.” New York State attorney and lifelong Clarkstown resident Keith Cornell spoke of his time spent as a lawyer focused on estate planning.
Following the introductions, the candidates responded to questions posed by the audience. Supervisor Hoehmann was asked to elaborate on the stricter zoning enforcement measures implemented by the current administration. The town supervisor explained that the current council banned certain types of commercial developments in schools, hired two new safety inspectors, and drastically increased the number of court summons issued by the town zoning board.
Sullivan was asked how he plans to achieve his proposed 10 percent tax cut if victorious in the election. He detailed his plan point by point explaining that he would hire an economic development advisor for the county, make it easier for new business to get approval from the town government and finally settle the ongoing lawsuit with the Palisades Mall, allowing the mall owners to use the currently vacated space on the fourth floor to open new business allowing the town to collect up to $500,000 in new property taxes.
While offering different political opinions and perspectives on every issue, all the candidates present agreed on one thing: the importance of voting. Before adjourning for the night, each candidate was allowed a brief closing statement in which all agreed that participation in our democracy was imperative to maintaining it, regardless of who you support.