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47° Good Morning

In a surprise, a Nassau County legislator shows independence

Legis. Howard Kopel is seen at a meeting

Legis. Howard Kopel is seen at a meeting of the Nassau Legislature on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau Legis. Howard Kopel went against his fellow Nassau County Republicans this week, and he was right.

Kopel broke ranks in his role as a member of the county legislature’s Rules Committee Monday, picking away at a contract that would have paid financial adviser KPMG as much as $887,568 over the next two years to analyze the financial implications of a sewer system lease. Four of the seven committee members are Republicans, and the full legislature does not have to approve such deals.

In the end, the vote to table the contract and get more information was unanimous. But it’s likely that the other Republicans would have favored the deal had Kopel’s criticisms not signaled to them that he would kill it if it came to a vote.

The idea that the county could get as much as $1 billion in cash if it turns over decades of sewer-system revenue to a private investor has been greeted with skepticism for years, but Kopel has voted to OK similar exploratory proposals in the past. Kopel, who understands financial issues quite well, is expressing regret now for those past votes and cynicism about the idea. It deserves plenty of cynicism.

No investors would do that deal without building in profits, so it’s as if the county is borrowing money, but at a higher rate than it would pay normally. Management of the sewer system has already been privatized, albeit without the promised savings. Privatizing the revenue separately is an accounting trick, not a management strategy.

It’s good to see Kopel show diligence in such a good cause. It’s something the Nassau County Legislature could use more of. — The editorial board


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