North Hempstead District 6 candidates council member Mariann Dalimonte and her challenger Dave Franklin debated Thursday night about issues including housing and town board collaboration, with both candidates agreeing on issues but differing in approaches.
Dalimonte has served on the town’s board since being elected in 2019. She previously was the executive director of the Greater Port Washington Business Improvement District.
Franklin is the deputy commissioner for Nassau County Parks, Recreation and Museums, a role he has served in since March 2022. Franklin previously served as the Port Washington police commissioner for nine years.
“I have the experience in government, I have the experience in the community to get this done,” Franklin said.
Dalimonte and Franklin both said they are not career politicians. Dalimonte described herself as a “dedicated community activist,” with Franklin saying his passions lie in public service.
Dalimonte, a fourth-generation Port Washington resident, said she is running for re-election in order to continue helping strengthen the community for the next generation of Port families.
She said she originally ran for her seat in 2019 because of her love for the community and wants to continue serving for this same reason.
“I’m doing this for our community,” Dalimonte said. “I can’t state strongly enough that we need to have someone in office who truly cares and will advocate with us. I have given and will continue to give all my constituents a place to be heard because Town Hall needs to hear your voice.”
The two candidates debated at a forum held by The League of Women Voters Port Washington–Manhasset. The debate can be watched on the league’s YouTube channel a few days after the event and on NSTV Long Island’s YouTube Channel.
Dalimonte said her top issues are lowering the cost of living, defending the local environment and protecting the community’s quality of life. Her goals are to continue advocating for residents and passing legislation.
“It’s listening to your residents who have quality of life issues, and then trying to cast legislation for them to have a better quality of life,” Dalimonte said.
Franklin said his top issues include lowering tax rates to mitigate rising costs of living and alleviating town board tensions. He said his goals are to keep the budget in check and “keeping an eye on the taxpayers’ money.”
Both Franklin and Dalimonte said they opposed the state housing plan from Gov. Kathy Hochul, but expressed differences in the need for housing in the community.
Franklin disagreed with the “top-down authorization” in the governor’s plan to rezone communities, saying those are decisions to be made at the local level.
Dalimonte said the town is experiencing a housing crisis, but a community-centered decision needs to be made to address it. She suggested bringing in various community groups and organizations, such as local schools, police and community members, to figure out what would work for Port Washington.
“Because what is good for Port Washington might not be the same to our neighboring town,” Dalimonte said. “…Every community is different, and that is the most important thing.”
Franklin questioned whether the town needs more housing overall.
“At what point are we full,” Franklin said, citing issues of traffic. “…At some point you’re full.”
Franklin said that if more housing is needed to be implemented, it needs to be done “sensibly” and at the local level.
Dalimonte and Franklin shared concerns about the development of 145 West Shore Road, a seven-story development that would have more than 170 units.
Dalimonte, who has advocated for the environmental preservation and maintenance of Hempstead Harbor, said the development’s $18 million sewer project along the harbor would be an issue. She called the project absurd.
Franklin expanded on Dalimonte’s concerns, citing potential issues of traffic and crowding in the town and local schools.
When asked whether they could work with a supervisor of the opposite party, both candidates responded affirmatively.
Franklin said his motto is “people of politics,” saying that he would push any idea that is beneficial for the residents.
“There’s got to be compromises,” Franklin said. “ It can’t be one-sided, it can’t be left against right. It’s not right against left, it’s right against wrong. And if it’s right for the town, then it’s got to be implemented.”
Dalimonte acknowledged collaborative lapses between her and Supervisor Jennifer DeSena but said she has always intended to work alongside her. She said the collaboration works both ways.
“You have to also have someone in that position that wants to work with you,” Dalimonte said.
Franklin said that, if elected, he would want to focus on keeping the budget in check.
He brought up the example of DeSena’s 2022 budget, which he said had an 11% tax cut that was reduced to 5% by the board. Dalimonte refuted these claims, saying that DeSena’s original budget had a 2% tax increase but was changed after the fact due to negative responses.
”We worked as a board from the 2% tax hike to a tax cut of 5%,” Dalimonte said.
Dalimonte also addressed a question regarding the ethics complaint filed against her for her involvement in the town’s acquisition of Sunset Park as both a member of the town board and the Port Washington Business Improvement District.
The complaint, filed by Franklin, cites that she was making active negotiations in the town’s acquisition of the property owned by the Port Washington Water Pollution Control District.
The North Hempstead Board of Ethics unanimously determined there was no conflict of interest for Dalimonte.
Board of Ethics Chairman Joseph Sciame said Dalimonte’s role with the Business Improvement District, which she was appointed to by the town, is inextricably linked with her role as a council member and her predecessors – Fred Pollack and Dina DiGiorgio – also sat on the Business Improvement District, among other things.
Dalimonte said she recused herself during discussions, which she said the board of ethics said was not required.
“So I was going over and beyond what the ethics department even wanted,” Dalimonte said.
Franklin said he filed the report to ask a question, not to file a complaint, as there was uncertainty regarding the ethics of the matter.
Franklin said that if elected, he would push for ideas that are best for the town, not based on partisanship.
“This is not a popularity contest, though, we both have a lot of friends in town,” Franklin said. “This is about who’s going to do the best job for you.”
Dalimonte said that she votes based on research and is committed to transparency and accessibility. She said she would continue this with another term.
“We have made tremendous progress and now we need to continue and to protect that progress,” Dalimonte said.