Both candidates in the 11th Nassau County legislative district race are already jockeying for position as the most financially responsible candidate in the contest - they just are not sure who they will be representing.
Two-term incumbent Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) is squaring off against Republican Eric Zausner, a former businessman who now works for Nassau, as a state appellate court gets ready to hear a Democratic appeal on a Republican redistricting plan this week.
The 11th district as currently drawn runs north-south and is comprised of Albertson, Baxter Estates, East Hills, Flower Hill, Garden City Park, Glenwood Landing, Herricks, Manorhaven, Plandome Manor, Port Washington, Port Washington North, Roslyn, Roslyn Estates, Roslyn Harbor, Roslyn Heights, and Searingtown.
As redrawn under the Republican plan the district would run east-west with Port Washington and Garden City Park moved to the 10th legislative district currently represented by Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth, and Manhasset, Manhasset Hills, Lake Success and North Hills added to the district.
That boundary shift would change 60 percent of the voting population in the district, according to Wink.
Wink thinks the redistricting is ill advised and ill-timed.
"I'm certainly hoping that the district remains intact as the existing lines are. Going in and changing the lines now would cause an upheaval," said Wink, who is serving his second full term after winning his seat in a special election held in March 2007.
Wink previously served for more than five years as a Town of North Hempstead councilman. He served as legislative aide and chief of staff to the late Barbara Johnson, who was the 11th District legislator from the inception of the Legislature until her death in April 2000. Wink also served as the deputy counsel to the county legislature's Democrats from 1997-1999.
Zausner, a life-long resident of Port Washington who would lose him hometown in the redistricting, said he's assuming that the candidates are addressing a reformed district.
"To be very honest, I was dealt a new district and I've been going around to all the places where they might not know me. I can't imagine it affecting things that much," Zausner said.
Wink describes himself as "a strong supporter of right-sizing" government.
He takes credit for pushing to revamp the county tax assessment system, saying he has been an "advocate for making the assessment system more accessible to the public and providing for better and more transparent information to taxpayers with respect to the assessment systems."
Zausner espouses his own version of trimming government.
"Government has become bloated. We need to streamline a lot of the processes in Nassau County, whether it be purchasing or things of that nature," Zausner said.
Zausner touts his experience in the private sector at Christian Dior managing that company's $5 million in product sales at Bloomingdales and its flagship display at Saks Fifth Avenue, as a selling point for his candidacy.
"I know what works in the private sector. I have had to cut payroll while keeping services the same. I want to bring my business experience to government," Zausner said.
Zausner has been involved in county government over the past year, working in grants management for the Office of Emergency Management for the past few months after performing a similar function for the county housing authority in the intervening months since January.
Zausner points to the need for the county to attract private business for the sake of the region's financial well-being.
"We need to find ways to bring businesses back to Nassau County. We have to attract more companies," Zausner said. "A lot of it has to do with our taxes and the fact that we really don't have the opportunity to attract business."
Zausner sees the Nassau Coliseum as just such an opportunity and said the county should have encouraged private investors to make proposals, as the county executive's office is now doing, without considering a public financing solution.
"That's something we should have pursued in the first place. We need to find a public-private partnership," Zausner said.
Wink said the county needs to develop a clearer sense of just what the Nassau Coliseum site should be.
"I think we need to provide a better sense of planning and visioning for what we want on that site," Wink said.
Wink called the 77-acre coliseum site the "last bastion of real economic growth" the county has to improve its financial fortunes.
"It's my hope that out of this we can find the private development to fund our economic base without having to go back to the taxpayers," he said.
With Hofstra University establishing a medical school, Wink said he thinks bio-medical and technical businesses should be courted for the "new economy of Nassau County."
Both candidates concur that keeping the New York Islanders in Nassau County is a desirable goal.
Predictably, the candidates differ sharply on the issue of redistricting the county legislative districts, which remain unsettled even as candidates begin their campaigns.
Zausner said he thinks extraordinary times call for creative thinking. He points to his idea for an upgraded park system with corporate-sponsored events could raise funds needed to maintain and improve the county parks.
"We need to find creative ways of achieving the same goal without increasing taxes. That's the kind of creative solutions I'm talking about," Zausner said. "You've got to give the residents relief while continuing to give them the services they expect."
Wink cites the consolidation of the Hempstead Harbor Beach county and town recreation facility that he helped broker as an example of something he did to eliminate redundancy. The Town of North Hempstead is administering a facility that previously occupied staffs from both the town and the county.
"There are efficiencies in right-sizing government, to decide who should providing services, and let everyone else get out of the way," Wink said.
He said the Legislature should keep looking for similar cost-saving opportunities.
"We need to continue to see where we can be most efficient, who can provide those services and who will be the most efficient," Wink said. "We need to get the redundancy out of the service in government."
Wink sponsored legislation to establish the county "Silver Alert" program for residents suffering from Alzheimer's Disease who are missing, which is similar to the "Amber Alert" for missing children.
In his eight months working for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Zausner said he's seen much that can be improved, such as the six different offices that have to sign off on a purchase order being made with federal grant funds.
"In the private sector, if you had to wait 30 days to buy a piece of equipment, you'd be out of business right there," Zausner said.
Asked why he's running again, Wink said he loves a challenge, even in such challenging times.
"We are at a precipice," he said.
Reach reporter Richard Tedesco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204