Curran assesses her progress
Fresh off a news conference to assure Nassau taxpayers that the county assessor’s office won’t make any more unforced errors during the property-assessment overhaul, County Executive Laura Curran and Assessor David Moog visited the editorial board Thursday afternoon.
Curran said she doesn’t expect problems getting Albany to approve a 5-year phase-in of property assessment increases, which would soften the blow for those whose tax bills are going up starting with the 2020-2021 levy. Curran also hopes that the 57 community meetings she is doing this year, three in each legislative district, don’t “turn into scream-a-thons” even though she seems resigned to that happening.
While the assessment overhaul is turning into a painful process, Curran was more forthcoming about that than her strategy for upcoming negotiations with the county’s public unions. She declined to say whether she would sit down first with the CSEA or the PBA, or to even set a timetable for when negotiations would start. “The ball is in their court, no one has called,” she said
Curran said that although she has six months to appeal the PBA’s win in the first round of the legal fight over longevity pay that awarded the union $10 million paid over two years, she hopes to settle the issue in collective bargaining.
But her messaging about the negotiations was clear.
She plans to tie her two biggest challenges together. “Three-quarters of our property tax receipts go to police salary and fringe [benefits],” she said. Curran stressed that the highly paid Nassau County police “work the equivalent of 11 months a year.” And that’s before vacation and other paid leave, she noted.
With Curran were the newest members of her management team including two new deputy county executives, Ray Orlando for finance and Mike Santeramo for government operations, as well as Communications Director Christine Geed.
Maybe all of these knotty issues will get better with time, like the Nassau Hub, no longer an unsolvable puzzle. Evlyn Tsimis, the county’s economic development head, and Helena Williams, the chief deputy, predicted smooth sailing for the proposal by Scott Rechler and Brett Yormark. Williams said breaking ground would take place in 24 months. “I keep telling them, make that a quick 24 months,” she said.
The money race for NYC public advocate -- often a launching pad for higher office -- is being led by former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Bronx Assemb. Michael Blake, and Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, all Democrats.
Mark-Viverito and Williams have citywide name recognition (Williams only represents parts of Brooklyn but ran a competitive race for lieutenant governor), but Blake has raised the most in new private funds: just over $300,000, which Blake’s campaign says will amount to nearly a million, given public matching funds.
According to campaign filings this week, about $125,000 of that cache comes from outside NYC -- unsurprising given that Blake is vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
His donors include bold-faced national names: impeachment philanthropist Tom Steyer; Shaun Donovan, former Obama and Bloomberg official; DNC chair Tom Perez; members of the Tisch family; and Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, tapped by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to run the state party.
Then there was actor Ethan Hawke.
It’s a heady crowd for a special election for a soap-box office with limited power. But the past two occupants have gone on to mayor and state attorney general. The 23 people who filed disclosure reports for the office have reached far and wide for cash, and even smaller fundraisers are reaching prominent folks.
See Nomiki Konst, a Bernie Sanders-aligned activist and organizer who landed donations from actresses Susan Sarandon and Rosario Dawson, and musician Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
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Shellfish reasons for cleanup
As Suffolk County approaches Tuesday’s public referendums in which residents in parts of Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven towns will vote on a sewer expansion that would see nearly 7,000 properties get connected, Newsday’s editorial board went back into its archives and unearthed a piece titled “About Sewers.”
The editorial declared that “the shellfish industry in Nassau has a chance to come back” but only if the county literally cleaned up its act.
“Meadowmere, Mott Basin and Hook Creek have all been rated as ‘bad’ by the county health department,” the board wrote. “The contamination which stems from them must be controlled before the industry responsible for founding some of Nassau’s largest fortunes can be resumed.”
The editorial was published on Jan. 3, 1945. The board went on to note problems with overused village sewage systems and cited polluted Jamaica Bay as “an example of the damages an uncontrolled sewage disposal system can wreak.”
But it was the words that followed that provide the best context for the vote next week on Suffolk’s $388 million sewer expansion project.
“Suffolk County can look at what happened to Jamaica Bay and then reflect on the consequences, should it be forced to give up one of its largest industries because it did not guard against contamination of its shoreline waters.”
We know now that it did not guard well enough against contamination, and that it did give up most of its shellfishing industry, and now it’s holding a vote that seeks to heed the warning delivered 74 years ago.