Laura Curran to oppose legalized marijuana in Nassau
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Tuesday night she will oppose legalized recreational marijuana sales in Nassau if state legislation authorizing legal pot is approved.
"Let me say it again, no legalized recreational marijuana sales in Nassau County," Curran, a Democrat, said in a State of the County address at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum. "This is not the time."
Curran made the announcement in a roughly 50-minute speech that touched on her signature accomplishments during her first 14 months in office. They included a plan to revitalize the Nassau Hub area around the Coliseum, and a countywide reassessment of more than 400,000 properties after nearly a decade of frozen tax rolls.
Curran also announced plans for an Asian American Advisory Committee with a staff and budget.
Curran said if the state legalizes marijuana, she will ask the county Legislature to exercise its "opt out" clause in legislation proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in January. The option is available to counties and cities with more than 100,000 residents.
Many Nassau residents argued against legalization during a public hearing before the legislature in February. North Hempstead Town barred retail sales of marijuana, and Hempstead Town approved a one-year moratorium on recreational marijuana sales.
Curran in January had said the county "would have to take a very hard look at certain aspects" of the state's opt-out proposal. But she also called legalization a "regional issue," saying that if Nassau were to opt out "and our surrounding counties do not, we will still have people getting high and we would still have the public safety, the traffic issues that will bring,"
In her speech, Curran also unveiled her vision for Nassau as a new suburbia where people can “live, work and play." She said her agenda is aimed at "creating the housing, employment, and quality of life our residents want, need, and deserve."
The $1.5 billion Hub plan to redevelop 72 acres around the Coliseum is the centerpiece of the effort, Curran said.
"The Hub will turn from a symbol of inaction into a centerpiece for redevelopment — and become the single most defining landmark in Nassau County in the next decade," Curran said.
Curran also touted her property reassessment plan.
Owners who challenged their assessments continuously over the years, driving down their market values, are more likely to see tax increases, and many of them have raised concerns about the new system. Those who will see tax reductions did not grieve, or did not grieve as often.
"And yes, it’s been difficult," Curran said. "The machinery of government was broken under [former County Executive Edward] Mangano for nearly a decade. The leftover parts are rusty. We are doing what it takes to repair it, restart it and keep it running, so we don’t saddle future taxpayers with a broken system."
She said the effort has "been worth it — because we are moving to a more accurate assessment roll."
Curran said, "we are doing the right things for the right reasons, when for too long our leaders have been doing the wrong things for their own reasons."
But in rebuttal remarks, Legis. Laura Schaefer (R-Westbury) criticized Curran's handling of reassessment.
"We disagree with a process that is not transparent and fails to have answers ready to the obvious question: Why has my assessment changed?" Schaefer said.
"The current reassessment process has been difficult, to say the least, for the taxpayers of Nassau County," said Schaefer. "They have been forced to deal with a re-evaluation that is fraught with errors, missteps and a lack of transparency."
Curran also referred to the convictions of Mangano and his wife, Linda, on federal corruption charges last Friday.
"The Mangano conviction in federal court is embarrassing for this county," Curran said. "While I am personally sad for his family, I want all residents to be proud of where they live and the government, they pay for, with their tax dollars."
Curran also voiced support for the proposed arena at Belmont Park for the NHL New York Islanders.
"The proposed Belmont Park Redevelopment Project promises to deliver that, along with exciting hotel and retail opportunities. I thank Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development for their commitment to keeping the Islanders in Nassau County with a new arena at Belmont," Curran said.
Curran also spoke about negotiations with the county's major public employee unions, whose contracts expired at the end of 2017.
"We have begun negotiations with our unions, and my direction is clear — we expect to pay higher wages and we expect our employees to meet the standards of a traditional workweek and work year," said Curran. She said she had "every expectation that we can achieve responsible settlements right at the table."