Signaling a potential thaw in the icy chill of partisanship enveloping both Hempstead Town and Nassau County politics, first-term Hempstead Town Republican Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney is working on Democrat Laura Gillen’s and Democrat Laura Curran’s transitions teams.
“It’s a new day,” King Sweeney said of Gillen’s win for the Town of Hempstead Supervisor – the first in a century for a Democrat, and Laura Curran’s win for the County Executive seat, both Republican stronghold seats. King Sweeney said she is hopeful these new administrations can work in bi-partisan fashion and co-operation to help shape new economic opportunities for all in the town – and the county.
“I think 99% of the issues facing the town and the county are non-partisan and non-political,” she told Your NewsMag. She said a Republican street has no more potholes than a Democrat’s street.
“We need to move forward and together as political parties to ensure that there is economic development for all in the town and the county” to keep young couples and families from moving away. She added that such issues as the Hub have to be revisited and a “repositioning” of economic priorities has to be addressed so that children can stay and grow up in the Town of Hempstead.
She cited downtown Rockville Centre and Mineola as locations where new zoning has been used to strengthen the communities to offer young couples and families a chance to flourish and stay in the town and Long Island.
Laura Gillen told Your NewsMag “It was an easy decision to reach out to Erin King Sweeney, because she is a member of the Hempstead Town Board,” and because she shares similar visions on the work that needs to be done to get the town out of economic stagnation.
Hempstead Supervisor Elect Laura Gillen
“We agreed we need to revise our ethics, we need new economic development and we to need to fix our finances,” Gillen said. And, like Gillen, King Sweeney calls for an independent Inspector General for the town to oversee that all contracts with vendors remain transparent throughout the process.
“I hear the concerns of those that say an Inspector General’s power would be absolute, and not beholden to a supervisor, that it could affect many peoples’ lives,” said King Sweeney. But, she added, the IG’s role would provide a transparency that ensures a proper balance of incentives that will work for everyone, and not just a few.
King Sweeney strongly opposed Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino’s ethic revisions, calling him divisive and a “bully” when he tried to limit outside income as part of his ethics overhaul. It led to shouting matches at town board meetings, and to Republican Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman publicly endorsing Laura Gillen.
Gillen said she is appreciative of the support she has drawn from both Republican town board members, and hopes she can capitalize on that support to provide economic development opportunities for all town residents in the future through new zoning, resolution of illegal housing, increased building permit grants and new technological advancements, as examples.
As part of her counsel to Gillen’s transition team, King Sweeney resisted Supervisor Santino’s board actions to place long-time friends of his administration into positions within the new Gillen administration. King Sweeney believes there is no place in the 21st century for the 20th century “business as usual” approach of family-and-friends-first.
Instead, “we need to adjust expectations with fresh energies and visions, we have to work with the county, the state and the federal governments to ensure the town’s and Long Island’s place in the future.”
King Sweeney said also that Laura Curran reached out to her after the election to join her transition team. Having worked with Curran over the last three years on a number of issues, most recently to finalize a new downtown vision for Baldwin – for which Curran had to cross party lines in the Legislature as a legislator of the 5th Legislative District – King Sweeney called Curran “A class act.”
Nassau County Executive-elect Laura Curran
She said Curran’s bold move to buck her own party and reach across the aisle to Republicans to secure funding for the plan, which will provide much-needed economic development for her constituency, “was right for the people of her community.”
When asked to define her particular approach of Republicanism as liberal, moderate or conservative, King Sweeney said, matter-of-factly, “I’m a practical Republican.”
Legislator Steve Rhoads (19th LD), who worked most recently with King Sweeney on an Inter Municipal Agreement to build a children’s park in south Merrick – which Supervisor Santino tabled at town board meetings – was hopeful of King Sweeney’s work with Democratic leaders , “if it truly represents sincere efforts to reach across the aisle.”
He added it will be incumbent on all legislators to find common ground on which to work with new county executive Curran. “She is so pragmatic and smart, if she follows her instincts and independence,” the county could have a viable financial future ahead of it
Attorney Jeff Gold and lifelong Democrat who ran for the 19th Legislative District seat during the fall election campaign, calls King Sweeney a “first-rate public official” who has continued to grow in the role. “I have approached her on many community issues,” he says, which have all been resolved.