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Jack Martins, Laura Curran tangle at business group debate

Nassau County Executive candidates, Republican Jack Martins and

Nassau County Executive candidates, Republican Jack Martins and Democrat Laura Curran, debate hosted by the LIA at Crest Hollow country club on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 in Woodbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County executive candidates Jack Martins and Laura Curran squared off Thursday in a debate hosted by regional business leaders, tangling over red light cameras, ethics reform and fixing the county’s finances.

Curran, a Democratic county legislator from Baldwin, and Martins, a former Republican state senator from Old Westbury, found common ground on many issues.

They agreed on the need to increase funding to battle the MS-13 gang, fix the county’s property assessment system and reject $60 million in fees hikes in County Executive Edward Mangano’s proposed 2018 budget.

They said they support reopening the shuttered Sixth Police Precinct in Manhasset and the Eighth Precinct in Levittown.

They also backed a plan to pipe sewage from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant in Wantagh through an abandoned aqueduct running along Sunrise Highway. The treated wastewater would go into an outfall pipe to be discharged into the ocean.

But with 12 days remaining until the election, Martins and Curran also staked out opposing positions on restructuring county debt and contracting reform.

The debate in Woodbury was moderated by Long Island Association President Kevin Law and co-hosted by the Long Island Builders Institute, Long Island Contractors’ Association and the Association for a Better Long Island.

Throughout the debate, Curran returned to the central theme of her campaign — that Nassau must reform its ethics policies after the indictment of elected officials and leaders of both political parties.

“I’ve had a front-row seat to the corruption, mismanagement and to the dysfunction and frankly it’s incredibly frustrating,” Curran told a crowd of about 700 business leaders.

Mangano, a Republican who is fighting federal corruption charges, is not seeking re-election.

Martins focused on ending a control period imposed in 2011 by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board. He called it unfair, “to rely on unelected officials to make decisions for us.”

The candidates disagreed on whether to refinance $750 million in variable rate debt held by NIFA.

Curran said Nassau will not get rates as low as NIFA.

Martins disagreed. “You need to do your homework,” he said in one of the debate’s sharpest exchanges.

Martins criticized legislative Democrats for failing to support more than $100 million in capital borrowing. Democrats withheld their votes in an effort to force majority Republicans to agree to create an independent inspector general to investigate county contracts.

Curran, who broke ranks with Democrats last year to approve some capital borrowing, said she “will not give a blank check to this county right now if I am not 100 percent sure that money is going to be spent responsibly and appropriately.”

Curran and Martins criticized Nassau’s red light camera system for focusing on revenues. But they said they would keep the program at intersections where accidents have declined.

“We are getting nickeled and dimed each and every year,” Martins said. Curran said the cameras “should not be a money grab. Let’s go back to doing this about safety.”

County officials defend the camera program as focused on safety.

Green Party candidate Cassandra Lems also is on the ballot.

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