For Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick, there was no better platform than Monday’s debate between the six candidates involved in next week’s village election to “educate” the more than 400 residents in attendance about the importance of experience in local government.
“(We wanted to) educate the people in what we have done and ask that they give us the opportunity to continue to serve and keep Kings Point, what I think, is the crown jewel of the North Shore,” Kalnick said.
That lesson was more than pertinent for the longtime Kings Point mayor’s opponent, Great Neck lawyer Mojgan Sasson, as well.
“If the only bad thing they can tell about me is that I don’t have experience, I’ll take it,” Sasson said. “I do have experience and the experience that I have is going to be the right kind of experience for what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Sasson and Kalnick sparred in a more than 90-minute debate at John F. Kennedy Elementary School’s auditorium, which was sponsored by the Great Neck League of Women Voters and the Kings Point Civic Association.
Also taking part in the debate were incumbent Village of Kings Point trustees Sheldon Kwiat and David Harounian, who faced off against KP Responsible Gov’t Party candidates Dr. David Schifter and Freydoun Elnekaveh.
The debate, which was moderated by League of Women Voters representative Pat Sympson, included a crowd of more than 400 residents, an e-mail from Kings Point Civic Association president Marsha Rotman confirmed.
“I’m very pleased with the way that it was handled,” Sasson said of the debate.
Voting in Great Neck’s lone contested election will take place on Tuesday from 12 until 9 p.m. at Kings Point Village Hall, which is located on 32 Steppingstone Lane.
“Kings Point is No. 1,” Sasson said. “There is no doubt about it. We are the best village ever. This is the place where people want to come to. This is the place that people love to dream about to move into.”
“We are all part of this village,” she added. “We are proud of this village.”
But, Kalnick said there is a reason behind Sasson’s high opinion of Kings Point.
“I appreciate Ms. Sasson’s statement, ‘Kings Point is No. 1,’” Kalnick said. “I would ask her, how did it get that way? Our board has been dedicated to the village for years and we will continue to be dedicated. We make sure that everything runs like a clock.”
Following the debate, Kalnick said the differences between the candidates in the village election had never been as pronounced.
“I think the debate clearly showed no experience, (versus the incumbents’) experience,” said Kalnick, who has served as Kings Point’s mayor for 30 years. “(Our opponents) had no clear-cut ideas as to how to improve Kings Point, which they said was a model.”
The debate began with the candidates making introductory statements before fielding a number of questions from local residents, which were previously submitted to the League of Women Voters by e-mail.
Participants in the debate were then afforded the opportunity to ask each other questions before making closing remarks.
“I think that (the debate) was fair,” Sasson said.
Candidates from the KP Responsible Gov’t Party questioned their opponents on the issues of their support of village government term limits in addition to what Sasson said was a 47 percent increase in Kings Point’s property tax rates since 2006.
“That brings the property value of Kings Point down,” Elnekaveh said. “Our job is to stop that (property tax) increase.”
Elnekaveh credited the KP Responsible Gov’t Party as creating the interest in the election.
“As you see for the first time in the life of Kings Point, so many people are participating in the election,” he said.
The KP Responsible Gov’t Party candidates also questioned their opponents on the issue of transparency in village government.
Sasson said that Kalnick and the village’s current board of trustees have not been forthcoming with information pertinent to Kings Point’s residents.
“We believe wholeheartedly that every citizen is entitled to know what is going on in their government and what is being decided on their behalf by the elected officials,” said Sasson, who pledged to keep residents informed through monthly newsletters and updates on the village’s Web site.
But Kalnick said that transparency has never been a problem during his tenure as mayor.
This year the village held a “meet the mayor” event in conjunction with the Kings Point Civic Association and held a series of public hearings on the recently passed budget for 2012-13.
“I’ll go to any group at any time, at any place, I’ll meet with you,” Kalnick said. “If you want to meet with me on a daily basis, that’s fine with me. Our Web site is up and running ... you will see everything on there.”
Instead, it was Kalnick who charged his opponents with being less than forthcoming with Kings Point’s residents about the source of their campaign’s funding.
Kalnick questioned Sasson over the “outsider” elements who he said have taken part in spreading false accusations about the village incumbent candidates.
Kings Point resident Curtis Katz’s involvement in the campaign was also brought into question by Kalnick.
“Documentation shows that the major source of your campaign’s funding has come from Curtis Katz, the leading financial supporter of Kings Point Chabad,” Kalnick said. “The bulk of donations to your campaign has come from employees ... of Curtis Katz. Your campaign has contracted for services from Kings Point Chabad professionals.”
Last summer, Sasson and Schifter challenged Kings Point incumbent Peter Aron and Ron Horowitz as part of a write-in campaign for election onto the village’s board of trustees.
Aron received 222 votes in last year’s election, while Horowitz garnered 226, to defeat Sasson’s 58 votes and Schifter’s 29. The controversial race had 130 write-in votes disqualified.
Following last year’s election, Katz told Blank Slate Media that he intended to contest the results in the Nassau County Supreme Court because of confusion surrounding the handling of write-in ballots.
Katz had also previously been critical of trustees for suing to stop Chabad of Great Neck from demolishing a local house to build a temple and school.
“How can you possibly deny any affiliation with Chabad when the evidence shows that you are clearly working in coordination with them?” Kalnick said.
Sasson denied Kalnick’s claims that the KP Responsible Gov’t Party has any affiliation with Chabad.
“I have no affiliation with Chabad and Chabad will have no influence over anything we do in the village,” Sasson said. “For myself, I can guarantee you that religious beliefs are personal beliefs.”
Kalnick, Kwiat and Harounian supported their efforts to keep the village’s spending in check, while keeping Kings Point’s services operating at a high level.
“The board of trustees and I would like to continue to work vigorously on your behalf to keep Kings Point one of the best places to live in the United States,” Kalnick said.
The trio of incumbents pledged to avoid cutting any of the village’s services, which was echoed by the candidates of the KP Responsible Gov’t Party.
“We have choices,” Sasson said. “Change is not something to be feared. Change is always good. Choice, and freedom of choice, is what everybody wants that we have. We should exercise it.”