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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Candidate's latest target: Pols' public branding

Dean Hart, a Democratic candidate for Nassau County Legislature who has already protested “pay to play” by standing outside a political club’s golf fundraiser and pledged to hire his own forensic accountant to examine records in an ongoing corruption probe, on Wednesday rolled out his latest unusual campaign tactic.

He posed in front a staple of Long Island government: an elected official’s prominently displayed name on a publicly funded item.

Hart, a Glen Head optometrist, issued a news release that demanded local politicians “provide a receipt to taxpayers” for the cost of placing their names on municipal builidings and road signs, at parks entrances and on a multitude of other items.

“If you didn’t know it was the year 2015, you might think our local elected officials were Roman emperors, erecting giant, costly monuments as reminders to the rest of us of who they are,” Hart said in a statement.

He said town and county tax bills should contain a separate line with “the price of constructing, transporting, erecting and eventually taking down politician’s signs.”

“If the taxpayers knew how much of their hard earned money was being wasted on pumping up our elected officials egos, we would have either more money for essential services, or less self-serving politicians in office,” Hart said.

Hart’s release contained a photo of him, grinning, while standing next to a sign at the Town of Oyster Bay’s Long Island Rail Road parking garage in Hicksville, with Town Supervisor John Venditto’s name emblazoned in large letters under the town seal.

While the example was of Venditto, a Republican, politicians of both parties for years have adopted the practice. Newsday last year detailed the many items that they splash their names on, including traffic cones, garbage cans and even golf pencils.

Officials have defended the practice as needed to let residents know who is in charge, and as costing next-to-nothing, since they say most names are on removable decals or boards. But the story, at the time, prompted one town supervisor, Republican Edward Romaine of Brookhaven, to remove his name from all town park signs, replacing it with an informational phone number.

“If you need to put your name on signs to have people know you, you're doing something wrong,” Romaine said then.


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