Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine.

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine. Credit: Barry Sloan

Daily Point

Is Romaine looking in Old Westbury for a police commissioner?

Crime and public safety proved a winning theme for Republican Ed Romaine in last month’s election for Suffolk County executive. As he puts together his new administration, Romaine is nearing some key decisions about who will oversee the police department and related law-enforcement issues.

One of the initial decisions is to designate a deputy county executive for public safety, The Point has learned. The idea isn’t an original one — there have been others in Suffolk and Nassau governments. But such a deputy post can be a hot seat for a whole slew of controversial issues — such as upcoming police contract negotiations, relations with minority communities, and the recent increase in hate-crime incidents.

The job can also bolster law-enforcement bona fides for future political races. In 2017, Suffolk Police Commissioner Tim Sini, then running for district attorney, got into a kerfuffle when he claimed on his campaign website that he had the job of deputy county executive for public safety under incumbent Steve Bellone. Records showed his actual job title was a much lower grade as an assistant. Nevertheless, Sini won the district attorney race that year.

Mostly, the new deputy for Romaine will keep an eye on the police department itself, keeping his boss away from any trouble. For years, Suffolk has suffered through numerous police scandals. The most notorious recent example involved Jimmy Burke, appointed by Bellone to the number-two position as chief of police. Eventually, Burke and former Suffolk DA Tom Spota were convicted of malfeasance by federal authorities.

Meanwhile, several names have been bandied around for the open position of new police commissioner. Bellone’s current commissioner, Rodney Harrison, has already announced he’s leaving at the end of the year. Insiders insist that Romaine will be conducting an open national search, but Romaine has already indicated a preference for a local candidate familiar with the Suffolk department.

Old Westbury Village Police Chief Stuart Cameron is a leading...

Old Westbury Village Police Chief Stuart Cameron is a leading candidate for Suffolk County police commissioner. Credit: Jeff Bachner

In the selection process for a new commissioner, current Old Westbury Village Police Chief Stuart Cameron, who worked for many years in the Suffolk department as a top cop, appears to be the favorite son. While in Suffolk, Cameron was praised for his data-driven approach to fighting crime and managed to keep his reputation intact during a time of department turmoil with Burke. Cameron has already indicated an interest and is a favorite of the politically powerful Suffolk PBA, which was a big backer of Romaine in November’s election.

“He did a great job,” said newly installed PBA president Lou Civello about Cameron’s previous tenure in Suffolk. “He’d be perfect for the job,” Civello told The Point. He quickly added that the PBA isn’t endorsing any candidate for commissioner. Civello’s PBA predecessor, Noel DiGerolamo, is on Romaine’s formal transition team.

— Thomas Maier

Pencil Point

The debate

Credit: The Boston Globe/Christopher Weyant

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Final Point

A Mack attack on congestion pricing

As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board overwhelmingly voted to move congestion pricing forward on Wednesday, dissent came from just one corner of the room.

Raising both hands, as if he hoped his vote would count twice, Nassau County representative David Mack was the sole “no” vote.

“I cannot vote for it, I’m sorry to say,” Mack said during a discussion at Wednesday’s board meeting. “And I would like to support it because the MTA needs the help. There’s no doubt about it. But maybe there’s other ways — tolls, federal government, other subsidies, other taxes. But I wouldn’t want to hurt lower Manhattan.”

In lengthy, wide-ranging remarks, Mack noted that beyond his concern for Nassau County residents, he worried about Suffolk — and about “added congestion” on the Upper East Side. He highlighted concerns over enforcement, the impact on for-hire vehicles, and the notion that some residents are leaving the region.

“The outer boroughs, the outer counties that want to come to the museum, visit their kids, have dinner. Well, I’ll have to change my dinner. I’m going to come in at 9 o’clock. Ridiculous,” Mack said.

Mack, who incorrectly cited a $24 toll “to go in to see a son or daughter” (the toll will be $15 for passenger cars and $24 for some trucks), also directed his comments to MTA chair Janno Lieber, with whom he’s had a contentious relationship for years.

“Janno, you’re very well aware of the office market in Manhattan. The vacancy rate is going up, not down. Am I correct?” Mack asked.

“Yeah, but the real estate community supports congestion pricing …” Lieber responded.

“Yeah, I know but I’m looking at it … By the way, I have no business in Manhattan so I have no ax to grind here. I’m just looking out for my fellow Americans,” Mack concluded.

Mack chairs the MTA’s Bridges and Tunnels committee, which will play a role in carrying out congestion pricing, and Lieber was asked after the MTA meeting whether the committee needs a new chair given Mack’s opposition.

“No,” Lieber responded. “In fairness, David Mack … obviously disagrees with this. He’s been very clear and he represents an elected official who’s on record disagreeing,” Lieber said. “He’s been very professional in how he’s been dealing with us through the process.”

A spokesman for Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who appointed Mack, said Blakeman did not direct Mack on how to vote Wednesday.

“Quite the contrary. David Mack from Day One has been a zealous opponent of congestion pricing,” Blakeman spokesman Chris Boyle told The Point, adding that Blakeman supports Mack’s perspective.

Suffolk County board member Sammy Chu, like the rest of the board, voted in favor of moving congestion pricing into the next phase. Speaking before Mack during the meeting, Chu emphasized how congestion has grown in recent years.

“Hoping that congestion will alleviate itself is not a policy,” Chu said. “Hoping that emergency management vehicles will find ways to move around congestion quickly to aid people is not a policy. Hoping that climate change is going to solve itself is not a policy.”

The MTA vote, which Lieber called a “major milestone,” kicks off a process known as the State Administrative Procedure Act, or SAPA, which will include public comment and public hearings. Some aspects of the congestion plan may still change; Lieber noted, for instance, that the MTA is taking a look at school buses that transport students as a potential exemption. After that concludes, the MTA board will have to vote again, likely early next spring.

Whether Mack doubles down on his dissent when the next vote comes around remains to be seen.

— Randi F. Marshall

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