By Emily Cummins, Assistant News Editor
The League of Women Voters of Nassau County sponsored the Candidate Debate for Nassau County Executive on Tuesday, October 28 in the University's Student Center Theater.
The League distributed a non-partisan voters guide for the 2009 candidates, and asked the audience to submit questions for the candidates to respond to. The candidates include incumbent Thomas Suozzi (D), Ed Mangano (R) and Steven Hansen (C).
The debate format included a three-minute introduction by each candidate, two minutes for audience questions, one-minute questions in the lightening round and a three-minute conclusion.
Suozzi outlined his plan if he were to be re-elected and said that property taxes, school taxes, public safety and a 90/10 solution were of utmost concern to him. On top of that he stressed how he has turned Nassau County around during his eight years in office and will continue to do well because he loves his job.
Mangano, who is presently a Nassau County Legislator, wants new solutions for this county. He believes that a new direction will help turn around the economy, just as he turned around the economy of his district. He believes that stopping wasteful spending, stopping excessive taxing, fixing the tax assessment and creating jobs are of top priority.
Hansen, a Deputy County Attorney for ten years, conveyed that the Conservative Party stands for life. He stated that he does not want people to struggle along, but rather thrive. He believes that this is Nassau County's opportunity to say "enough" and bring back traditional values.
The Moderator, Lisa Scott of the Suffolk County League of Women Voters, preceded with questions. The candidates were asked about their opinion on issues important to Nassau County voters.
In response to "What are you doing for affordable housing for recent college graduates," Mangano said that, "We must get the property tax situation under control." He elaborated that sanity needs to be brought back to taxation and that by decreasing taxing less indebting to future generations would occur.
Hansen said that, "in the last eight years my property taxes have almost doubled…but it is worth making that investment." He also said that he believes that affordable housing is not something the government should be involved with.
Suozzi believes that although property taxes are high, school taxes are higher and have recently gone up 46 percent. He also proposed the idea of creating cool downtowns which would be an environment that would welcome young people and make living here more appealing than living in the nearby city.
The candidates were then asked about their opinion of the Lighthouse Project. Hansen said, "The question of overdevelopment is a big concern when it comes to green-lighting the project, however some aspects of the project itself are good."
Suozzi used this as an opportunity to explain his concept of the 90/10 Solution. "90 percent of the county has to stay the same [aesthetically] while 10 percent needs to be re-imagined," he said. This would include cleaning up poverty, creating cool down towns, and the Lighthouse Project. He believes this would make Nassau County a destination spot.
Mangano thinks the project is very exciting, "but the process needs to be followed." He believes that important questions need to be asked such as what are the impacts on the community, and the environmental and traffic concerns. "I feel as if Hempstead will benefit from this," he said.
The lights then suddenly went out in the Student Center Theater and Mangano yelled out "Oh no! It's the Home Energy Tax!" Ironically that was the topic of the next question. The tax calls for an additional 2.5 percent on the purchase of all residential home energy sources including LIPA electric usage, oil, natural gas, coal, propane and firewood.
Mangano exclaimed, "This is wrong! I have a plan to eliminate it." He said that people cannot presently afford their heating, and he wants to make that a thing of the past. While Suozzi, who imposed the tax, argued, "We are all against taxes, but we have to balance the budget. Want to get rid of it? Where are you going to get the 39 million dollars of revenue to replace it?" Hansen added, "The government only sees as objects to be taxed."
The audience seemed very split on their opinions of the candidates.
"He [Mangano] has the tax payers of Nassau County's full attention with doing away with the energy tax and because of that he will win," said Jerry Coppola.
While Maria Gregg said "I liked the improvement in the black community for crime that he contributed. He is amazing" referring to the incumbent Suozzi.