Mangano, who is running for a second term, said that while his opponent spent 8 years “visioning,” he has actually been accomplishing tasks: Nassau currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state; thousands of jobs have been brought here and retained; the County had the highest sales tax growth in the state and four projects are underway to convert vacant office buildings, near train stations, into affordable housing units for young professionals.
In his opening statement, Mangano said that unlike Suozzi, he has not raised property taxes in 4 years, repealed the energy tax Suozzi implemented and stopped a planned 16.5 % tax hike.
“High taxes kill jobs,” Mangano told the crowd of business officials at the Long Island Association debate. “My cost-saving policies have been recognized by the State.”
He said he’s done this by reducing the size of government by 20% and eliminating millions of dollars in wasteful spending. He boasted about being the one to finally get a development deal for the dilapidated Nassau Coliseum and surrounding area – one that’s entirely privately financed; and he said the new arena, and nearby indoor ice skating rinks, new athletic fields, and the Cosmos’ Soccer Team Practice facility, together with other development eyed for the Coliseum’s vast parking lot, will become a world-class sports and entertainment district.
Other public-private partnerships Mangano entered into have saved the County millions of dollars more, he said – including those for bus service and inmate health care at the jail.
“An aggressive economic outreach plan kept Hain Celestial from moving its national headquarters to New Jersey and attracted several other business to relocate or expand here, creating more well-paying jobs and more sales tax revenue,” Mangano said. “And to further reduce the demand on social services, we’ve invested in job training and re-training.”
Suozzi opened by saying that “growth is the key to Nassau County’s future. We have to grow or die. It’s not sustainable this way.” He spent the rest of his allotted time, blaming Mangano for the increase in school taxes - blame he himself dispelled during his term. And he said he had a plan to make Nassau County “great again.” He failed to outline the actual plan, however.
Responding to a question about progress in storm preparation and recovery on the anniversary of Sandy, Mangano referenced two awards he’s won for his efforts before, during and after the storm – and the fact that on this same day, the National Weather Service declared Nassau as “Storm Ready” for the first time in its history. In contrast, the County received a grade of “F” in disaster preparedness – from a State Senate committee, under Suozzi.
Mangano also spoke about tapping little known grants to buy new equipment in preparation for another severe weather event.
“I’m very proud of our emergency management team and our first responders,” County Executive Mangano said. “We have emphasized preparedness, and other emergency management teams have traveled here from as far away as Paris, to see how a densely populated suburban county did this evacuation and recovery without loss of life. We protected homeowners then moved to recovery, and now we’re on to rebuilding.”
Mangano went to Washington, D.C. last year to help develop a comprehensive recovery plan and to fight for supplemental allocations for Nassau County. “The result was a $6.7 billion plan to restore and re-build smarter, stronger and better,” he said, lamenting that bureaucracy and read tape made it so that people are just this week –after a year has passed – receiving checks from the Federal and state governments.
“But it is beginning to move forward,” Mangano said. “Next, we needed to look at businesses and now we’re moving to infrastructure – wastewater treatment plants, bridges, bulkheads.”
He said all this was accomplished with relationships and the best communication ever. Before Sandy made landfall, Mangano put together teams of county, state, and federal workers to implement a hazard-mitigation plan.
Mangano said he was committed to building a stronger Nassau County - post Sandy.
Suozzi responded by saying there has not been enough, formalized follow-up plan since the re-building stage began. And, he named some environmental groups who endorsed him in this race.
In response to a question about NIFA, Suozzi - who was County Executive from 2002-2010 – said the control board is still necessary under the current administration.
Mangano countered by quoting a 2013 column by Newsday’s Joye Brown which confirmed what he’s been saying since the board took over. Basically, Brown writes that the board cut Suozzi significant slack during his years in office and that had they used the same, more stringent accounting rules with Suozzi, that they do now with Mangano, NIFA would have taken over long ago, during Suozzi’s term.
And Mangano said he had no plan to raise property taxes next year, if he is re-elected, either.
He said Suozzi’s tax increases were regressive, and led only to the highest unemployment rate and the lowest sales tax growth, in the region.
“We’re building a stronger economy, with more jobs and housing opportunities,” Mangano said. “150 small businesses have stayed, and grown, in Nassau just this year.”
Later, Mangano quoted a 2008 New York Post editorial that said Suozzi was seeking to hike Nassau’s tax levy - double the tax cap that he championed.
In response to Suozzi’s claim that the new HUB plan is not “ambitious enough,” Mangano said he and his team have put together the best public-private partnership in the nation, with Barclay’s Bruce Ratner and Nassau Events Center.
“We’re going to have a world class Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and entertainment district and we’ll get to shed every cost for the arena, for the next 42 years. We’ll no longer have to pay the utility, buy seats, a scoreboard, or pave the parking lot – 0 expenses, and $4.4 million, minimum, or 8% of the gross revenue, will come into the County each year. And that payment will increase after 5 years. The lease for the newly renovated Coliseum also saves the 2,000 full-time jobs there and maximizes the ability to redevelop the surrounding parking lot. Others have talked about doing a project at the HUB, we found a way to do it.
Suozzi responding by inferring that Ratner was the wrong choice for the redevelopment because he would not want to build a state-of-the-art arena that would compete with his new Barclays Center.
Suozzi also said he was not planning to run for “higher office” and just wanted to lead the County once again. In 2007, he ran an unsuccessful race for Governor and critics say he ignored Nassau for all those months.
In Mangano’s closing statement, he said that Nassau was on the right track, financially, and that “government doesn’t need any more of your (taxpayer) money.”