New Hyde Park Republican Richard Nicolello, 59, is wrapping up his 12th term as a legislator and his first as presiding officer, a role that has garnered him a lot of praise from both Democrats and members of his own party. He's one of only two legislators who remain from the body's inception in 1996, and his experience and respectfulness generally serve him well.
The biggest change since Nicolello took the gavel is a willingness to let Democrats propose and pass bills, something that was rarely the practice under previous chamber leaders. That is a welcome evolution. But it's not surprising that Nicolello has quietly broken with tradition: He was one of the first Republican officials in the county to see that transit-oriented development, which brings increased density, is a necessity in some communities if the county is to remain vital and viable.
But Nicolello can do better. He has obstructed Democratic County Executive Laura Curran's attempts to fix an assessment system that was destroyed under a Republican county executive while Nicolello said nothing. He decries the fears that new assessments, some of which bring big hikes for people who have been underpaying, are creating in residents, but he has thus far blocked a five-year phase-in of those hikes that would best alleviate those fears.
Williston Park Democrat Mal Nathan, 56, is facing off against Nicolello for a third consecutive contest. The North Hempstead Town senior bay constable's devotion to public service is laudable, but he lacks concrete solutions for challenges bedeviling the county.
Nicolello says he's open to supporting term limits for legislators if they are accompanied by a doubling of terms to four years. A limit of 12 years for legislators serving in Suffolk County has done a lot to bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm into that chamber, and Nicollello should push for passage of a similar change in Nassau. He also needs to do everything possible to smooth the reassessment path and pass the five-year phase-in, because only that will alleviate his constituents' worst fears.
Newsday endorses Nicolello.