Editorial: Laura Curran for county executive

The Island Now

Based on their résumés, former Republican state Sen. Jack Martins would seem to have a clear edge over Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran in the race for Nassau County executive.

Martins, a Republican lawyer from Old Westbury, served as mayor of Mineola from 2003 to 2010 during which time he is credited with helping right the village’s finances and continuing a master plan that is changing the face of the downtown business district.

As a state senator in a district that included all of North Hempstead and parts of Hempstead and Oyster Bay from 2011 to 2016, Martins worked well with local and state officials of both parties to address the needs of residents.

Curran has a much shorter résumé in government.

A Democrat who had worked as a reporter for the New York Post and New York Daily News, Curran served on the Baldwin Board of Education from 2011 to 2014, the last year as its president, grappling to maintain a strong education at a time of tightening budget constraints.

Since 2014, Curran has served the Nassau County Legislature’s 5th District, which includes most of Baldwin, all of South Hempstead, a major portion of Freeport, and parts of Rockville Centre, Merrick and Oceanside.

This allowed her to get well acquainted with the ways of the county and offer several sensible proposals to aid veterans and eliminate “zombie houses,” but as a member of the minority not much in the way of accomplishments.

But Martins’ edge in experience is outweighed by what he says and what he has done about the most critical issues confronting Nassau County, starting with corruption.

Martins, who is running on a pledge of “honest government,” joined other Republican leaders in calling for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s resignation the day after his indictment for political corruption last year — at a time when there was much talk about Martins running for Mangano’s office.

But when state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was indicted in May 2015 on political corruption charges, in part related to a county contract, Martins was perhaps his fellow Republican’s most vocal supporter. He blocked a motion to remove Skelos from power and signed a letter the next day saying “I don’t think he let anyone down.”

This is hardly the kind of leader Nassau County needs.

Adding to those concerns are Martins’ proposals to address the culture of corruption that pervades the county.

His call to take taxpayer-funded pensions away from public officials convicted of public corruption is a sensible one.

But Martins, like the Republican majority in the county Legislature, resists the appointment of an independent inspector general with subpoena power to oversee county contracts.

Martins, like his fellow Republicans in the Legislature, points instead to the appointment of a commissioner of investigations by the county executive and approved by the Legislature to safeguard the contract process.

Forgive us, but we have seen this movie before.

The idea that an employee appointed by the county executive can be counted on to oversee contracts supported by the county executive, overseen by members of his own party who have failed repeatedly to provide oversight in the past, is simply not good enough.

Curran supports an independent inspector general.

Unlike Martins, she also favors the appointment of an independent commission to redraw district lines following the 2020 census — a necessary step to ensure fair elections and sensible legislative districts. 

Martins supports the status quo, which in 2013 allowed Republicans in the county Legislature to rig county elections by creating 12 districts in which registered Republicans hold an advantage and seven in which registered Democrats held the advantage — in a county in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans.

The next county executive should believe in fair elections.

Curran also calls for the appointment of a certified assessor to perform reassessments at least every three years to replace the ridiculously unfair, expensive and senseless assessment system.

This is much preferable to Martins’ call to turn the responsibility of assessments over to the towns. The towns have shown no interest in this or even in the case of Oyster Bay the capacity to handle the responsibility.

Martins has also talked about bold plans to improve the county’s economy, but when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to spend $1.5 billion to eliminate a bottleneck in Long Island’s rail transportation between Floral Park and Hicksville with a third track, then Sen. Martins called the plan dead on arrival.

Curran has demonstrated the good sense and smarts to not make the same kind of mistake.

We are also concerned by Martins’ at times divisive language, echoing that of President Donald Trump, regarding immigrants and MS-13, going so far as to call unions and progressive groups seeking a more balanced approach “radical special interest groups.”  We don’t believe it has a place in Nassau County.

Martins served residents of Mineola and his state Senate district well, but appears unwilling to break from his party and do what is necessary to eliminate the well-earned cloud of distrust that sits over the county.

Curran may have a longer learning curve, but we believe she makes up for her relative lack of experience with smarts and a sensible approach to the issues not tied to the status quo.

We endorse Laura Curran for county executive.