The race for the Town of Hempstead’s 6th Councilmatic District pits Republican Dennis Dunne Sr., of Levittown, who was appointed to the post in June to replace Gary Hudes, against Democrat Sue Moller, of Merrick.
Before his appointment, Dunne was a Nassau County legislator in the 15th District. Moller has worked as a high school guidance counselor for 15 years and an executive board member for the Nassau Counselors’ Association.
The Herald asked both candidates a series of questions to get their views on the issues.
Herald: How will you help alleviate the opioid epidemic in the Town of Hempstead?
Dunne: I currently serve on the Levittown Community Action Committee and the East Meadow Smart Committee. We need to get the community involved to eliminate poor choices. We need to get the schools involved to make sure we have education as well as enforcement. If we pick out troubled places, we could bring them to the police. We must enforce the Social Host Law and educate adults too. It’s all about education, treatment and enforcement.
Moller: As a high school guidance counselor, I have witnessed firsthand what the drug crisis on Long Island has done to the families in our area. If elected, I would work to bring all stakeholders together from the schools, town and county to address this crucial issue. I feel that parents as well as children need to be educated on the dangers of opioid addiction. By working directly with the schools and the families is how you achieve that. Narcan training is great, and has saved a lot of lives, but that is reactive rather than preventive.
Herald: The town just passed an ethics reform package. Do you think it goes far enough? Why or why not?
Dunne: We’re the most transparent town in the state. If someone like Gary Hudes comes in, who owned a jewelry shop, just let the town know who your clients are and you can make all the money you want. When it comes to an independent inspector general, we fought against having one in the [Nassau County] Legislature because it would be unnecessary. My constituents could look at everything happening in the town online. We’re getting things done, what’s good for the town is being passed. There has been no corruption in the town brought to my attention. We’ve talked to Supervisor [Anthony] Santino, and he wants an honest and clean administration.
Moller: Definitely not. After being pushed by a political climate of residents who have had enough with waste, fraud, abuse and the high cost of public corruption, Supervisor Santino fell short on ethics reform. He has been at the town for two decades and proposed no ethics reform until this year. Then when he did, even Reclaim NY called him out on not including a proposal for an independent inspector general. This fix could restore public trust, provide integrity to a system that has lost public confidence most recently in all municipalities and possibly even save taxpayer funds. Unfortunately, instead of embracing reform, he trampled on it. He even fought his own Town Board members that are members of his very same party on having such a valuable officer. If elected, I promise to join Councilwoman Erin King-Sweeney and Councilman Blakeman and be the deciding vote that delivers the independent inspector general to Hempstead taxpayers.
Herald: How will you assist in protecting the town's wetlands?
Dunne: When I represented the Legislature in Wantagh and Seaford, I supported the Army Corps of Engineers working with the township to put in jetties to protect our barrier beaches and the wetlands from the storms. It’s a work in progress, but we are doing that. Any kind of projects that would protect our wetlands, I’m in favor of. I visited the homes of people living in Wantagh and Seaford after Sandy. Their houses were devastated. Their basements were filled to the brim. It is extremely important that we do everything that we could possibly do to prevent that in the future. I know that some houses on the South Shore have had to raise their houses. I wrote the Nassau County law that requires anyone who does mold abatement to have a license.
Moller: The town made some important inroads in preserving the wetlands by Lido Boulevard down by Point Lookout in our southern barrier island of the town back in 2005, but I think there needs to be more comprehensive and similar efforts made in other portions of the town where there are also some hidden gems of wetlands. I believe that we get more support from our residents on the importance of investing in preservation of our natural areas when we better connect and educate them in the process. Better enforcement of current laws in place and educating the public on why these laws are important are key. That marsh is pretty important to wildlife and our overall ecosystem as well as protecting us during a natural disaster. If elected, I would stop wasting money on mail that features politicians that only talk about themselves, and I would email digital, environmental-friendly newsletters that focus on ways we can all work together to keep our wetlands safe. I would also work to get more state and federal grants on wetland preservation so that the burden of preservation doesn't fall fully on our taxpayers.