In the two years since Republican Donald X. Clavin Jr. became Hempstead Town supervisor, things have been a lot quieter around town hall than they were over the previous four.
The single terms of Clavin’s predecessors — Democrat Laura Gillen and, before her, Republican Anthony Santino — involved constant accusations and battles both within and between political parties, some justified and some not, leaving too little energy for nuts-and-bolts governance and the needs of residents.
Clavin, 52, from Garden City, exudes a trademark geniality. That’s great when it means services are being provided efficiently, and they often are in Hempstead. But it’s a liability when it means the town’s thorniest challenges — like poverty, inequity of services, clubby letting of vendor contracts, and endless delays in the redevelopment of the Nassau Hub in Uniondale — get too little attention.
The Building Department is a fine example. Clavin has modernized and improved the office, making more services available online and cutting down on pointless roadblocks. But it's also an office rocked by the political problems in the town. Former department deputy commissioner John Novello pleaded guilty to felony charges after stealing $60,000 from the Cedarhurst Republican Committee for which he was executive leader, and seeking a loan under false pretenses. He'd been reassigned, then took a leave of absence as his case advanced. He should have been fired.
Democrat Jason L. Abelove, 51, is an attorney from Garden City. He says he’s running to prioritize lower taxes, but has no particularly solid idea for how to do that. He’s right to decry the unequal quality of infrastructure between the town’s poorest and wealthiest communities. But Clavin’s retort that much of the disparity is because villages, Nassau County and the state control the assets is accurate.
Abelove’s best argument against Clavin is that Hempstead, the only town in the nation to receive direct federal CARES Act funding, should have done more to help small businesses that suffered, and used less to fund reserves and salaries. He’s right, and Clavin also could have helped the Hempstead school district provide students the computers and broadband they desperately needed during COVID-19.
Clavin is doing a good job managing a tough town. To do a great job making it a better town, he must upend the political coziness and be willing to make unpopular choices. Taking a strong role in protecting the 110,000 town residents paying outrageous fees to New York American Water, via municipalization, is crucial. Also key: pushing for town approvals as soon as Hub plans are ready, so groundbreaking can occur as soon as possible next year.
Newsday endorses Clavin.
ENDORSEMENTS ARE DETERMINED solely by the Newsday editorial board, a team of opinion journalists focused on issues of public policy and governance. Newsday’s news division has no role in this process.