Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday night that the county is ready to emerge soon from a 20-year period of financial oversight by a state panel.
Curran spoke at a candidate meet and greet sponsored by the Lakeville Estates Civic Association in New Hyde Park at the Clinton G. Martin Park Community Room for those running for county executive, comptroller and North Hempstead Town Board in the 5th District. The event was moderated by Steven Blank, editor and publisher of Blank Slate Media.
While Curran, a Democrat who is seeking re-election, took ample time to answer questions on Nassau County finances and redistricting and on village issues, her Republican opponent, Bruce Blakeman, did not attend.
In 2020, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which oversees the county’s finances, assisted the county in balancing its budget, when tax revenues were depleted, by refinancing bonds. Curran said that after 20 years of supervision, the outlook looks promising to finally become independent without fears of deficits in the future.
“I am confident in continuing our fiscal discipline to get out of the control period with NIFA in the coming months,” Curran said. “I think we’ve proven that we’re grown-ups, that we can handle our budget and don’t need this watchdog.”
The incumbent cited her campaign promise to “rein in our budget” and said the county ended both 2019 and 2020 with a surplus. She said the county’s fiscal responsibility will allow a tax cut totaling $150 million over the next four years.
In regard to redistricting, which occurs every 10 years when the U.S. census is released, Curran said she believes districts should be cohesive and not meander.
Asked about her ability to veto any map that appears to be gerrymandered, the Baldwin resident said it is too early to make that decision.
“I don’t know what they’re going to come up with so I just feel it would be premature to say because there are so many hypotheticals,” Curran said.
Two candidates are running for comptroller, Ryan Cronin, a Democrat, and Elaine Phillips, a Republican. Phillips, a former mayor of Flower Hill and former state senator, did not attend.
Cronin said he would focus on remaining independent and nonpartisan, including his appointments.
“I’m running as a Democrat and I’ve already committed that the person who’s getting the top job in my office is going to be a Republican,” Cronin said. “I want residents to understand we are the taxpayer watchdog in the comptroller’s office, and they need to understand this is not a partisan operation.”
The Garden City resident also cited his personal experiences when explaining his qualifications for the position and said the role is not as in tune with county finances as it may seem. Priorities for Cronin include modernizing Nassau’s technology for operations and making sure contracting payments are more efficient.
“The comptroller has no oversight over any of the public money that’s invested,” Cronin said. “What they do is find fraud, where contractors in the county breach their contracts or where the county’s money is being wasted, which is what I’ve done in my career as a business attorney.”
Another forum was between candidates for Town Board in the 5th District, which includes North New Hyde Park, Garden City Park and Floral Park, among other municipalities. It is currently represented by retiring Councilwoman Lee Seeman.
Running for the seat are Peter Fishkind, a Democrat, and David Adhami, a Republican.
Both men are practicing attorneys who grew up in the town and have remained while starting their careers. The candidates each have a focus on making town operations smoother and expediting them for constituents and businesses.
Fishkind, a Roslyn Heights native, said he wants to increase accessibility and present himself to residents as a councilman who is both reliable and available to solve issues.
Adhami, from Great Neck, said he aims to hold governments accountable the same way he expects constituents to hold him, something he said he has ample experience doing in his professional life.
The candidates largely disagreed over their stance on marijuana. Neither candidate, if elected, would have a vote in the town’s decision to allow retail marijuana before the Dec. 31 deadline. Adhami said he would vote against opting in to the retail sale of cannabis in the town, saying he was concerned that it was targeted to minors. He suggested that Fishkind was dodging the question.
Fishkind responded that he has been to every Town Board meeting regarding cannabis and has not come to a conclusion.
“My position is that we don’t have an opportunity to vote on this,” Fishkind said. “I’m still learning about the issue and I’m going to meetings to do so.”
Tuesday night was the second “Meet the Candidates Night” hosted by the Lakeville Estates Civic Association. On Oct. 5, candidates for Town of North Hempstead supervisor, clerk and Town Board in the 3rd District spoke to residents.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article was published. It has since been edited and updated.