Curran has shovels ready if Schumer has dollars
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran paid a virtual visit to Newsday’s editorial board Thursday, and spent more than an hour updating us on everything from the COVID-19 vaccination effort and new plans for the Nassau Hub, to the contract the PBA membership recently rejected and the county’s policing reform plan that must be sent to the state by April 1.
During our conversation, news broke that Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman won’t be seeking reelection. While Curran didn’t seem surprised by the news, she noted that "the top of the ticket drives the ticket," and said she was looking forward to campaigning, even though she doesn’t yet know who her opponent will be.
Here’s some of what we learned:
- The county is prepared to scale up its vaccination efforts as soon as it gets an increase in supply and an OK from the state. But right now, it’s only getting 2,800 doses a week. County officials are attempting to focus specific days on specific sub-categories, like police officers or school employees. The county is limited in who it can vaccinate by the state, so those 65 and older cannot, as of now, take advantage of county sites. And although there’s no residency requirement for county sites, the vast majority of those being vaccinated at Nassau Community College and the Yes We Can Community Center either live or work in Nassau County, Curran said.
- Curran is hoping for $583 million in federal stimulus money for 12 "shovel ready" infrastructure projects that she said would create 3,300 construction jobs. At the top of the list: the Bay Park Conveyance Project, which would connect the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to an ocean outflow pipe at Cedar Creek. Curran said such a project alone would create 2,400 jobs, and noted that with or without federal money, the county is going ahead with the effort, in which the state is a partner. Among the other projects on the county’s list: a new family/matrimonial courthouse, rehab work on the Bayville Bridge and improving streetscaping in downtown Baldwin.
- Curran ran promising to get the county’s tax roll and assessment process back on track, and in her first three years she made some tough political moves to do so. The county hired an accredited assessor, developed a new roll and passed a five-year plan to fairly rebalance the amounts property owners pay without imposing increases so large and immediate they caused bedlam. Now, though, it feels like 2013 all over again, with assessor David Moog having resigned, the roll again frozen, Curran says, because of wildly fluctuating values, and thousands of errors in overbilling veterans and clergy. Thursday Curran said this is just a hiccup, one year, and she fully expects to hire an accredited assessor soon and unfreeze the roll next year.
- Curran is pushing for the end of the county’s control period, and the end to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. If that were to happen, Curran said, county officials would maintain fiscal discipline on their own. "I think we’re grown-ups," Curran said. "I’ve made the case [to the state] and will continue to." And Curran’s plan wants to make any future control periods harder to enact, too. She wants state legislation that would change the law governing NIFA that would make a vote of the State Legislature the trigger for a new control period, rather than the current trigger of a declaration by the NIFA board that a control period is being enacted because the county budget deficit exceeds 1% of the budget.
- In the wake of George Floyd’s killing at police hands this summer, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order demanding a reform plan from every municipality that runs a police department, to be finalized and passed by April 1. The county is continuing to refine its policing reform plan, which Curran said was formulated after 120 meetings with the public, and hopes to have a draft ready for public comment by the end of next week. That’s a bit later than originally intended, but Curran says the county has slowed down a bit because it wants to take a look at a proposal called "The People’s Plan," the writing of which is being spearheaded by attorney Frederick Brewington. Brewington and other local activists who had been working with the county were infuriated when Nassau’s first draft was presented to the county legislature last month without their group being able to first see and comment on it.
- On another issue that has divided Curran and activists, the county executive continues to argue that negotiations on police contracts are not the venue for adopting or discussing police reform. Curran argues that these contracts are, at their root, about when officers come to work and how they are paid, and policies that address fair and unbiased policing have no place in such negotiations. As for the contract that the PBA just voted down, Curran says she is waiting for them to come back to the table.
- In the ongoing saga of the Nassau Hub, Curran said she’s hopeful the full legislature will approve key amendments to the Nassau Coliseum lease and to the development plan agreement that provides some rent relief and extends the timetable of when development needs to take place at the site to six months after arenas are allowed to operate at full capacity. Curran is also hoping for action from Hempstead officials on the site’s conceptual master plan. Although she noted there likely will be tweaks to the plan, she said the "overall footprint will be the same." She deflected a question about whether the existing Coliseum should be demolished, saying there was "huge interest" in both the building and the property. Said Curran: "As far as I’m concerned, [development at the Hub] can’t happen fast enough. I’m very eager to get shovels in the ground."
GOP pollsters autopsy Trump's campaign
The big takeaway from the revelations in Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio’s post-election autopsy is how much COVID-19 factored into the former president’s loss.
The 27-page exit poll analysis, obtained by Politico earlier this week, finds that coronavirus "was the most important issue" for voters in 10 key target states, including ones that flipped to Joe Biden like Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan. Other takeaways were the popularity of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci and the perception that Biden would deal with the virus more competently.
This isn’t a surprising take from Fabrizio, who wrote a lengthy mid-campaign memo last summer arguing for Trump to focus on dealing with the pandemic — a suggestion the former president rejected.
There was a different focus from longtime Long Island GOP pollster John McLaughlin, who also worked for Trump and also did a post-election analysis that he and his brother, Jim, published in Newsmax in November.
Their take was based on their own exit polling, which found that voters’ assessment of Trump’s personality was more of a vote determinant than his overall job approval.
"[T]he key appears to be if you liked Trump you voted for him," they wrote. "If you disliked him, you voted for Biden — even though you may like the job that Trump is doing."
McLaughlin, who has done extensive GOP work in New York as well as nationally, included some data on COVID-19, including the indication that the majority of voters thought Biden would do a better job dealing with the coronavirus. But his Newsmax analysis also points to different rationales for his loss, including that "Fortunately for Joe Biden almost three in ten voters, 27% of all voters, were not aware of the alleged corruption charges against Joe Biden." That focus on Biden’s negatives perhaps explains the last-minute attempts by Rudy Giuliani and others to push unsubstantiated stories about his son, Hunter Biden.
The analysis also spends some time critiquing a favorite GOP punching bag, throat-clearing before the analysis itself: "the anti-Trump, liberal, mainstream media."
Certainly prognosticators and strategists on the left and right will continue to debate the importance of the pandemic in the election. On Long Island, CD1 Democratic candidate Nancy Goroff’s polling showed that a top concern for voters was Trump’s poor handling of COVID-19 and that they trusted Biden and Democrats more to combat it. Trump did win the district but he performed worse than GOP incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin and worse than in 2016 in Suffolk, a suburban swing county. A little bit of ammunition for both pollsters.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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