However, under new legislative district lines passed into law, the Lawrence Republican's district has changed, as Inwood and parts of Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere and Hewlett, as well as Bay Park, were shifted into other districts (see map above, and/or find out what district you live in by clicking here). Most of Rockville Centre has joined the district.
See what Kopel and Democrat Daniels think are the biggest issues in the district as they answer our questionnaire.
Tell us about yourself (age, town, profession, family, etc.).
Kopel: I am 62 years old, and reside in Lawrence, together with my wife of almost 40 years. We have four terrific children who are all married, and (so far!) nine beautiful grandchildren. My wife and I are members of, and participants in, many local religious, community and charitable organizations. I’m an attorney operating a national title insurance company, Sutton Alliance, headquartered in Valley Stream that currently employs 50 Nassau County residents.
Daniels: My mom graduated from Hewlett High School and my dad graduated from Lawrence High School, before they married and bought a house in Lynbrook where I was raised. I grew up enjoying all of the charm the South Shore had to offer: boating, swimming, fishing, even riding the Merry-Go-Round at Nunley's. When it was time to raise my own children, I bought a house in East Rockaway less than a mile from where I grew up.
I graduated from Cornell University School with a Bachelors of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations and Brooklyn Law School with a Juris Doctor, and I have been a solo practicing attorney in Nassau for over 15 years representing children in need and families in crisis. I am a member of the Appellate Division Attorney for the Child Panel, S.P.L.A.S.H, Nassau County Bar Association, Women's Bar Association, and I have served on the Executive Board of the Five Towns Community Chest, chairing the Annual Fall Fair and acting as Advisor to the Community Chest Youth Board. I have 18 year old girl/boy twins, and an 11-year-old son.
Why are you running for this position?
Kopel: Serious times call for serious legislators, especially one who not only is committed to our neighbors’ continued Sandy recovery but also understands Nassau’s complex finances. My record shows how I’m committed to keeping the momentum going forward.
I’ve voted for and passed three consecutive No Tax Increase budgets that maintain and increase county services for every resident. Working with County Executive Ed Mangano, we’ve invested in and recouped millions of dollars for the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant — a facility that teetered on collapse after years of neglect, to see tremendous gains that were washed away by a nine foot wall of water with Sandy’s tidal flooding. But I will continue our bipartisan fight to repair the plant even as most members of the Legislative Democrat Minority continue to stonewall these needed upgrades.
Daniels: The residents of District 7 deserve a strong, independent advocate who will represent their interests, and help to restore Nassau County to the place we chose to call home. What was once the epitome of suburbia has become 'suburgatory.’ Our waterways are polluted, storefronts vacant, streets in disrepair, and people are still not home after Sandy.
I do not believe that we have had true leadership or progress during my opponent’s term of office. Mr. Kopel voted in favor of redistricting, tearing apart the Five Towns, Oceanside, East Rockaway, and Rockville Centre, voted for record borrowing, voted to consolidate the 5th police precinct with the 4th, and failed to implement to the repairs and upgrades to the Bay Park Sewer Treatment Plant that were approved and funded in 2007 in a Five Year Capital Plan. Mr. Kopel has voted straight party lines for four years regardless of the needs or wants of his constituents.
What qualifies you to serve in the position?
Kopel: My constituent services and follow-up to neighbors’ questions and concerns have been widely praised in the different communities’ I’m honored to represent. Additionally, my unique understanding of the county’s complex budget and finances are two additional qualities that qualify me for the job.
As Majority Whip of the Legislature and Vice Chairman of the Public Works Committee, I’ve also reprioritized our county infrastructure, bringing many improvements to the district. Thanks to my efforts, we have repaved Peninsula Boulevard, reconstructed Branch Boulevard and installed new sidewalks, pushed New York City to retime traffic signals on Rockaway Turnpike, gained turf field & parkland upgrades at Grant Park and invested in much-needed traffic studies along Long Beach Road from Rockville Centre to Oceanside, and at the Hewlett Triangle.
It’s my hope to focus my efforts on continuing to fix Nassau’s troubled property assessment system. I’ve drafted legislation being reviewed by counsel that has the promise of doing just that — to build on the work I’ve accomplished by freezing property assessments for four years.
Daniels: My family has been in the Five Towns since 1910, each generation raising their children here on the South Shore. I recently brought my twins to college, and I couldn't help but wonder if Nassau has anything to offer them to come back here for. I am not a politician. I am a mother, an attorney, a businesswoman, and a community activist who is vested in our neighborhoods and our County, and who wants to make Nassau a place where our children want to settle to raise their families someday, and can afford to do so.
Based upon my education and work experience, I can successfully work in a bi-partisan and collaborative fashion to represent the district and make progress for Nassau County without the politicking that resulted in the shutdown of the Federal Government.
What is your opinion of the most recent budget? Would you have done something differently with it?
Kopel: I’m glad the most recent budget is another No Tax Increase Budget — our fourth in a row. Leadership in governing is knowing how to provide the best possible services while minimally impacting residents. I’m committed to ensuring Nassau County does not return to the taxing and spending ways of the previous county executive. We must ensure common sense: living within our means, preserving and expanding government programs while not raising taxes. I’ve made good on that for four years in a row. I also wish to prioritize moving away from borrowing — not spending money you don’t have — other than for long-term capital improvements.
Daniels: The proposed $2.79 billion budget relies on borrowing, does not adequately provide for operating expenses, and cuts early childhood intervention and special education programs. The budget calls for $232 million in new borrowing for the property tax refund backlog, does not make any provision for police salary increases resulting from the settlement of a pending lawsuit, and only budgets $10 million for tax assessment refunds though the average payout is six times that amount.
NIFA took control of Nassau's finances in 2011 with the current administration's first proposed budget, and this budget does nothing to stabilize the County's finances or free Nassau of NIFA's control. We need to stop borrowing to cover operating expenses, maintain youth and social programs, and stop counting borrowed money as revenue while kicking the debt forward.
What is the biggest issue facing the district?
Kopel: Nassau County’s aging infrastructure and how it affects our neighbors & environment. The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant remains a top concern, as it has been since I took office in 2010. Thanks to my efforts and partnership with County Executive Mangano and Senior Councilman Anthony J. Santino, we allocated over $120 million to the plant prior to Sandy, upgrading plant operations as well as odor controls, reversing almost a decade of neglect. The plant was operating for the longest period of time without any DEC-reportable incidents until Sandy inundated the facility with a nine foot wall of water rendering it inoperable for days. We are seeking complete repair of the BPSTP and construction of an ocean outfall pipeline which is largely reimbursable by FEMA and the federal government.
Daniels: District 7 has become eclectic due to the redistricting, but the biggest issue for the district is the severe neglect of the Bay Park Sewer Plant and the need to immediately repair and upgrade it. In 2007, a five year capital improvement plan was funded, and repairs to the Bay Park Sewer Plant began in 2008 and continued in 2009, but when the Mangano/Kopel administration took over in 2010, repairs stopped while they tried to sell the plant.
The Plant leaked sewage in 2010, and suffered devastation from Hurricane Sandy, resulting in millions of gallons of sewage flooding people's homes for 44 days after the storm. We need to immediately fund the necessary repairs and upgrades to the Bay Park Plant and expedite the repairs.
What is the biggest issue facing the county?
Kopel: Property Taxes: it’s the driving force behind many of our problems. While Nassau County’s share is only a small portion — less than 1/5 — of a homeowner’s tax burden, it’s too often a driving factor, especially in a poor national economy. Too many of our younger neighbors and seniors are forced to move away because they can’t afford to buy or maintain a home here. Businesses don’t wish to move here and stores remain empty because real estate taxes are a barrier to entry. It will be a continued priority to reduce property owners’ tax burdens to keep our communities a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Daniels: The Bay Park Plant is a serious County issue since it services approximately 40% of Nassau County or 550,000 residents. In addition to the issues involving the Mangano/Kopel administration’s failure to implement the funded repairs and upgrades at the Plant, the biggest issue facing the County is that people are leaving and not coming back. We have 1/3 less 24-35 year olds than we did in 1990. This increases the burden on the current residents to pay the $924 million tax levy.
The average age on Long Island is 47 and expected to increase to 67 by the next census. We need to create fun, downtown communities near train stations, using Rockville Centre as a model, with apartments above storefronts and restaurants so that young professionals want to live here. We can benefit from the energy of young people and from expanding our tax base.
If you are elected, what is the one thing you’d like to see accomplished during your term?
Kopel: I would like to see both political parties come together to get work accomplished for our communities. We must work together to put Nassau County on an even more solid financial footing — this will enable us to eliminate the need for a state control board. I believe that some of the steps already taken, together with others that I propose, to eliminate excessive borrowings should take us most of the way there. I am also committed to continuing to fight New York State so they cut back on unfunded mandates and repeal laws that make it difficult for government to bargain effectively with many unions.
Daniels: The Bay Park Sewer Plant must be upgraded and repaired on an expedited schedule, and residents who have been displaced since Sandy need to get back home. I will work to help create a database of displaced people, and get information about where they are in insurance claims, and FEMA and NY Rising applications, to see what assistance or advocacy is necessary to get them home. I will also address the traffic issues in the Five Towns by having the lights on Rockaway Turnpike re-timed, and by holding public meetings regarding the recommendations made in a 2009 traffic study that was shelved by Mr. Kopel.
Would you like to add anything else?
Daniels: I have received the endorsements of Nassau Police Superior Officers Association, Nassau Detective's Association, Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Association, Fire Marshal Benevolent Association, LI Federation of Labor (AFL/CIO), Nassau Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Planned Parenthood of Nassau County.