Unlike most elections where the challenger can simply argue against all the bad things that have occurred and take on the role of an outsider upending the establishment or the status quo, the upcoming election for North Hempstead town supervisor pits two people who have records in the job. The contest is between Republican Jennifer DeSena, who currently holds the office of North Hempstead supervisor, and Jon Kaiman, who served for 10 years as supervisor.
How many times do we have to hear promises of fixing the Building Department, yet that is what DeSena, who actually is the incumbent, is promising. In fact, the only thing that DeSena has to show for her first term in office – as she constantly reminds us with a barrage of mailers and TV ads (where is that money coming from?) is tax cuts that had to be shaved back from her original proposal as being irresponsible. She is literally trying to buy the election.
As I recall, she also campaigned on ending “partisanship” on the Town Board (which had not existed before she came to the office), and “transparency” and “accountability,” which she again uses in her re-election literature, presumably to fill space because she has nothing else to offer. But her administration has been anything but.
She announced her plan to spend American Rescue Plan funds without any Town Board input, attacked Democrats directly whenever they did not go along with her, never invites Democratic Councilmembers to events, and doesn’t negotiate changes to legislation.
As for “transparency,” she refused to provide a letter rescinding the grant for Stepping Stones Lighthouse, asked the board to vote multiple times with incorrect or missing information, announced a sewer allocation without speaking to the water district, failed to deliver the report after her extensive “review” of the Building Department, failed to get Town Board approval before hiring a Republican mega donor to hold a hearing regarding her deputy supervisor.
Her lack of leadership skills is on view at every Town Board meeting and the fact that she has never actually initiated anything.
In contrast, as North Hempstead’s supervisor for five terms from 2004 to 2013, Kaiman proved himself to be a bold visionary and leader. Some ideas (like accessory housing, which really should be revisited) had to be withdrawn (again, as a responsible elected official), but at least he tried. And what he did accomplish was transformative for our town – Project Independence, which helped seniors stay in their homes and put North Hempstead on the top of “best places to live, retire” lists; 311 which changed how town government responds to residents; and protected greenspaces.
A man who has spent his entire career in public service (yes, that’s what elected government is supposed to be). After leaving as North Hempstead’s supervisor he became deputy executive of Suffolk County, helping County Executive Steve Bellone accomplish great things and overcome significant challenges like addressing COVID, improve local services, reduce costs for residents, and craft common-sense police reforms. And he completed a real master’s at Harvard’s School of Government. That’s how devoted he is to the mission of actually governing and public service. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Kaiman served as an adviser to the governor, not only to assess the storm’s toll but working to strengthen our coastlines.
All of this has only made him a much more experienced and talented candidate for town supervisor on top of the 10 years he served in North Hempstead.
In contrast, you have DeSena, who right out of the gate, has structured her campaign for re-election solely on bashing Kaiman and having not raised taxes (something that has little to do with her, but more to do with the influx of federal and state funding, her predecessors and the Democratic majority on the Town Council). That’s because she actually can’t point to any real accomplishment. Can you?
Her stunning lack of leadership is demonstrated at most town meetings. which have been widely mocked. I vacillate as to whether it is because she is incompetent or just lazy.
Her lack of commitment or even interest was revealed in her handling of the Stepping Stones Lighthouse. Three months into her term, she torpedoed a crucial bid to start the restoration process, saying “she needed to become better informed,” and then 18 months later said again that “she needed to become better informed.” That was two weeks before she told the Great Neck Historical Society they better find some other entity to be the steward of this historic landmark that is, and should be, so much a part of the Great Neck Peninsula’s heritage and identity.
I challenge anyone to come up with an accomplishment DeSena has made, initiated, proposed or envisioned that hasn’t been handed to her by the state (electric vehicle chargers, thanks former State Sen. Anna Kaplan; better Long Island Railroad Service, thanks Assemblywoman Gina Stillitti; prior administrations (thanks May Newburger, Jon Kaiman and Judi Bosworth); federal aid (thanks former Congressman Tom Suozzi); and the Democratic majority on the Town Council.
Her support of admitted conman and fraudster George Santos to be elected to Congress points to her lack of judgment and seriousness, and sheer opportunism as a convert to the Republican Party.
Our town, like every other, faces constant challenges, most notably, mitigating against climate change, sustainable economic development, developing affordable housing in a way that preserves the character of our communities (though change is inevitable and necessary) and preserving the financial strength of the town and its strong credit rating.
With Kaiman, we know he has made strides in all of these areas: When he was last North Hempstead’s supervisor, he demonstrated his interest in climate action to protect the environment and reduce our carbon footprint, creating the town’s first-ever “Green Fleet” of 20 hybrid and electric vehicles; has demonstrated support for Israel; support for women’s rights (DeSena evaded a vote to promote more access to women’s health clinics); housing (he also opposes Gov. Kathy Hochul’s state mandates, but I have no doubt he will come up with a better solution in keeping with our “suburban” character); support for veterans; fiscal responsibility (he served on NIFA and in every way has shown in-depth understanding of fiscal realities); expanding access to mental health.
I don’t have to wonder if these are just campaign promises because Kaiman already has a track record of bold accomplishments, and that when he says he sees his purpose in government in terms of making our lives, our communities, our neighborhoods better, these are not empty words.