The Congers and Valley Cottage civic associations hosted a
Candidates Forum for those running for Rockland County executive and several
positions in Clarkstown town government. More than 100 people attended the
90-minute program, which began with opening remarks from candidates, questions
from the audience and closing statements.
The county executive candidates were selected to speak first. Republican candidate Ed Day said even if someone has wonderful ideas they need the skill sets to deliver and implement them. The New City resident and county legislator spoke about his background in law enforcement and in the private sector and situations where he demonstrated leadership.
Democratic candidate David Fried talked about how his service as a county legislator and as a judge taught him to make decisions.
“I think we need aggressive leadership,” said Fried, who lives in Spring Valley.
He said the county executive cannot remain isolated in an office.
Conservative Party challenger Thomas Sullivan said he has been a county resident for 50 years and has lived in Nanuet for 13 years. He has run for public office previously. When he lived in Orangetown, he ran for town supervisor.
A New City resident asked the three hopefuls what plans they had to deal with the county’s $128 million budget deficit.
Days said he would institute zero based budgeting, identify and eliminate all patronage jobs, cut 10 percent of the county’s non union jobs to get the budget under control. He said synergies are needed for the county and the towns and villages to work together.
Fried said if elected he would reduce his salary by 20 percent, evaluate every administrative post in county government and would work to decrease the number of legislators.
Sullivan said the situation has worsened because the legislature and county executive do not agree on anything.
Steven Levine of Congers asked the candidates what they saw as the county’s biggest problem.
Sullivan said it was the lack of cooperation between the towns and county government. Fried said the county must learn to solve its own financial problems and not pass the costs onto the towns. Day said the county’s finances were the major issue and innovative solutions were needed such as a border protection zone where tax rates are set with consideration to neighboring tax rates. He added that Rockland’s self image needs improvement and positive aspects of living in the county should be promoted.
Both Fried and Day took criticized each other for past legislative votes on county budgets and salary increases.
In closing, the candidates spoke about strong leadership and the county’s future.
“You need real leadership that will put ideas forward on how to make our expenses smaller and how to increase our revenues without digging into your pockets,” said Fried. “The answer to that is aggressive economic development.”
Day read from one of his endorsements that said he had lead in a crisis, which is what Rockland is now facing.
Sullivan urged people to vote.
“Voter apathy is the biggest enemy of this county,” he said.