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Poll: LIers want single day for special district voting

The poll showed Long Islanders support holding elections

The poll showed Long Islanders support holding elections on a single day each year for special districts that provide water, fire protection, sanitation, libraries, parks and other local services. Photo Credit: Newsday / Ken Sawchuk

More than 8 in 10 Long Islanders support holding elections on a single day each year for special districts that provide water, fire protection, sanitation, libraries, parks and other local services, according to a new poll.

Eighty-four percent of local voters participating in a survey for the Long Island Association business group said they were strongly in favor or somewhat in favor of same-day voting for all special districts.

Twelve percent were opposed and the remainder didn’t know or refused to answer in the poll, which was released yesterday.

The special districts proposal garnered the most support among more than a dozen topics that 703 registered voters were asked about in December by the Siena College Research Institute.

Other proposals supported by at least 7 in 10 Long Islanders were construction of wind farms if they are at least 10 miles offshore, making permanent the 2 percent property tax cap and electrifying the Long Island Rail Road to Port Jefferson, Riverhead and Patchogue.

The proposals facing the strongest opposition — with more than 6 in 10 voters opposed — were merging Nassau and Suffolk counties into one county, and Long Island seceding from New York State.

The LIA, the region’s largest business group, floated the idea of one Long Island county in 2011, and state lawmakers routinely introduce bills to have the Island leave the state.

Lois Nelson, a survey respondent and public-school teacher for 31 years, said scheduling the special district votes for one day per year could increase turnout.

“It cuts down on confusion,” said Nelson, 61, of Northport. “I think there is a tremendous amount of confusion and in that confusion people wind up not voting.”

Same-day voting for special districts must be approved by the State Legislature. The idea was endorsed by the Riverhead Town Board three years ago and by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007.

All school district elections are on a single day as are all fire district elections.

Nelson also said she supports having more apartments in downtowns, though she prefers that old buildings be adapted to new uses instead of new construction.

“I’m a great believer in reusing what’s already there,” she said, “I want something that fits into the community.”

In the poll, building affordable housing in downtowns was favored 66 percent to 29 percent.

Such support, given the Island’s history of “not-in-my-backyard” opposition to construction projects, is encouraging to some leaders.

LIA president and chief executive Kevin Law said, “Long Islanders are becoming receptive to multifamily housing in our downtowns. . . . They realize that if they downsize from their current home, they don’t have many places to go. The same is true for their children and grandchildren,” he said.

However, many local voters do not embrace other controversial proposals such as consolidating school districts to save money.

Combining school districts was opposed, 51 percent to 41 percent.

Law said, “When it comes to the schools, even though they are the primary driver of property taxes, Long Islanders . . . aren’t prepared to join or consolidate with someone else.”

Carl Cosmo Daddino, who took the poll and is on disability from the Hempstead Town Highway Department, is opposed to merging school districts.

“I like it the way it is because every area is different,” he said.

Daddino, 63, of Franklin Square, also said he is opposed to combining Nassau and Suffolk into one Long Island county because “there’s a whole different way of doing things in Suffolk than in Nassau.”

In the survey, merging the two counties was opposed, 71 percent to 24 percent.

Siena pollster Don Levy said local voters see the two-county system “as something that’s permanent and don’t see the immediate benefit” of a merger. “They also don’t want to secede from New York State. . . . They are very reluctant to give up their identity as being a New Yorker.”

The Special LIA-Siena College Long Island Voters Poll was conducted on Dec. 8 and Dec. 11-14. It was paid for by the LIA and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

HOT TOPICS

Percentage of LI voters in favor:

Same-day elections for special districts, 84%

Windfarms at least 10 miles offshore, 76%

Make the property-tax cap permanent, 73%

Electrify the LIRR to Port Jefferson, Riverhead and Patchogue, 70%

Fund schools with personal income taxes instead of property taxes, 68%

Build affordable apartments in downtowns, 66%

Bring the New York Islanders back to Nassau Coliseum, 65%

Add a fee to water bills to pay for clean water programs, 64%

Build a bridge to Connecticut, 60%

Dig a tunnel to Westchester County, 46%

Consolidate school districts on Long Island, 41%

Have Long Island secede from New York State, 29%

Merge Nassau and Suffolk counties into one county, 24%

SOURCE: Special LIA-Siena College Long Island Voters Poll

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