Nassau County voters might have déjà vu when they visit the polls on Election Day. As they did four years ago, they will have a choice between Republican Ed Mangano and Democrat Tom Suozzi for county executive.
In their last election, which took weeks to settle, Mangano defeated the two-term incumbent Suozzi by fewer than 400 votes. Suozzi is seeking his old job back. On Sept. 10, Suozzi defeated challenger Adam Haber in a primary for the Democratic line in November’s election. Haber has since endorsed Suozzi.
Even before he was assured a spot on the ballot, Suozzi, 51, was in full attack-mode against Mangano, specifically criticizing the county executive’s financial policies. Last week, Mangano sat down with the Herald to discuss his record and his upcoming election with the man whose job he took four years ago.
“The only answer he ever had to a problem was to raise taxes, raise taxes, raise taxes, and to dream up new taxes,” Mangano said of Suozzi. “His only vision is to come up with new ways to tax residents rather than to come up with ways to address the issues.”
Mangano, also 51, noted that one of his first acts as county executive nearly four years ago was to repeal the home energy tax that was implemented during the Suozzi administration. Moreover, Mangano said he has not raised property taxes in the past four years.
The candidates have different views on the county’s debt. Suozzi says Mangano has raised it to historical levels. Mangano, citing financial statements released by the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, shows that county debt was $3 billion when Suozzi took office and $3.45 billion when Suozzi left office. The debt now is about $2.5 million less, the statements show.
Mangano touted his administration’s work to create jobs in the county. Nassau County, at 5.9 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has the lowest unemployment rate in the region, he noted.
“For the first time in a while, we have jobs returning to Nassau County,” Mangano said. “Our economic policies are working. We’re very proud that we are competing nationally to bring jobs here.”
He noted that many new jobs will be created through the redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum site in Uniondale. After the Coliseum is renovated and a sports and entertainment complex is built, remaining land would be used to create an industrial complex for high-tech and biotech companies.
Mangano said moving the operation of Nassau County bus service from the MTA to privately-owned Veolia Transportation has saved taxpayers $30 million per year. He also said his administration has invested in improving the county’s parks, and that has paid off with more visitors to the facilities.
Working on commercial assessments
There is still more work to do to fix the county’s assessment system, Mangano said. The residential portion is in good shape, he said, as corrections are made to the tax rolls before the county has to pay out refunds. Commercial refunds continue to pile up, but Mangano says he believes the county could soon be turning a corner to address that debt.
When he first took office in 2010, Mangano said he concentrated on improving the county’s emergency preparedness. That included doubling the capacity of the 911 systems. The efforts paid off during Hurricane Sandy, he said, and the county was recognized with an Achievement in Crisis Communications Award from the Long Island Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.
Since the storm, Mangano said the county has purchased portable traffic lights, and has worked with cell phone companies to improve their infrastructure.
Technology has also been a focus for Mangano. He discussed the Nassau Now application for smart phones, which allows residents to get the latest updates from the county, and report issues such as potholes. There is a new internal website allowing employees to share resources, and snowplows are now tracked by a GPS system.
Mangano said he stands behind the controversial decision to merge police precincts last year. He said it has achieved millions of dollars in savings by eliminating administrative positions. “Our administration focuses on delivering services efficiently and not in a duplicative manner,” Mangano said.
Since taking office, Mangano said, he has been disappointed by a lack of cooperation from the county Legislature, and feels the Democrats have taken an “obstructionist” approach. Mangano, of Bethpage, who served as a legislator for 14 years before being elected county executive, said he hopes the tide is turning. “We are beginning to see increased cooperation,” he said, “which is absolutely required to honor our residents’ faith in government and in the legislators they elect.”
Mangano said he has strong working relationships with many Democrats, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Charles Schumer and Congressman Steve Israel. Overall, Mangano said he enjoys the job of county executive and working to meet the challenges he is faced with every day.
While continuing to run the government will be his top priority during the campaign season, Mangano said he looks forward to discussing the issues with county residents.
He noted the unique situation of having two candidates for county executive who have done the job. “I think it makes it easier for the voters because there are records to compare,” he said. “That will certainly help them determine the truth.”
Mangano says voters elected him over Suozzi four years ago for a reason. “We have very distinct records,” he said, “and if you stick to the facts, the people have a very clear choice in November.”