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Ryan Cronin for Nassau County comptroller

Ryan Cronin, Democratic candidate for Nassau County comptroller

Ryan Cronin, Democratic candidate for Nassau County comptroller Credit: James Escher

Four years ago, Nassau County voters elected Jack Schnirman as county comptroller, hoping he would focus on ethics and independence, only to have him embroiled in scandal dating to his old job after he was found to have been overpaid by tens of thousands of dollars for leave time while Long Beach city manager.

Schnirman bowed out of a reelection bid, clearing the way for two challengers who are qualified for the job. But Ryan E. Cronin, a Democrat, is the one with the thoughtfulness, ideas and passion needed to be the county's fiscal watchdog.

Cronin, 40, a corporate attorney, ran for State Senate twice — losing both times to incumbent Kemp Hannon. In his bid for comptroller, Cronin has found a position for which he is suited and one to which he clearly has given much thought. And while he applauded his running mate, County Executive Laura Curran, he also rightly critiqued her for maintaining a significant structural gap between recurring revenues and expenses and for not doing enough to work with the Republican-controlled county legislature on issues like getting rid of "ridiculous" fees.

Cronin, a Garden City resident, also raised two key issues he said he'd watch as comptroller: Nassau's antiquated technology that won't be able to comply with coming accounting standards and the county's contracting and vendor payment processes. While not flashy, both are critical problems to address.

Republican Elaine R. Phillips, who previously served as mayor of Flower Hill and as a one-term state senator, also has the necessary experience, including a long career in finance. But Phillips, 61, had few new ideas for how to use the comptroller's powers, falling back on the idea of auditing the county's assessment efforts while admitting Nassau is "on our way to fixing it." Phillips also was too quick to suggest getting rid of the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority without acknowledging the consequences.

Cronin, a former Nassau University Medical Center board member, pledged to pay attention to NUMC, especially the hospital's footprint, services and mission — and its potential for failure. Cronin also said he would study whether county Industrial Development Agency tax breaks really created local jobs. He needs to follow through on those promises, while also serving as an independent watchdog. In addition, he should develop an online dashboard to provide taxpayers with a look at how much of the county's fiscal success might be due to federal stimulus funds. And he should continue to fight for county taxpayers on issues like absurd county fees.

Newsday endorses Cronin.

ENDORSEMENTS ARE DETERMINED solely by the Newsday editorial board, a team of opinion journalists focused on issues of public policy and governance. Newsday’s news division has no role in this process.