By Nakeem Grant
The campaign tour of Sen. Jack Martins, who is running for county executive, arrived at Glen Cove’s Knights of Columbus hall on Monday night.
For an hour and half, Martins shared his political agenda with about 50 people in a town hall format. Accompanied by former Chief Deputy Comptroller Steve Labriola, who is running for county comptroller, and County Clerk Maureen O’Connell, who is running for re-election, Martins was eager to discuss with residents why he would be good for Nassau County.
“With everything that’s going on in the city, it’s very important to have a friend in the county,” Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello said. “Maureen has helped me out on numerous occasions, Steve has helped me through the comptroller’s office, and Jack has counseled me on many different issues. This is a group that really cares.”
One of the first questions residents asked was how Martins would handle the heroin and opioid epidemic. He said he would support local facilities to treat people who overdose.
“If we understand that we’ve had nearly 400 people die in Nassau County alone over the last two years from drug overdose,” he said, “maybe we’d also understand that we have to make an investment in our local community to make sure we have treatment options here.”
Part of the problem, he explained, is that the existing treatment centers release patients too soon. “There are 37 states that have mandatory confinement after overdoses, but not New York,” he said. “If we do it here in Nassau County, Suffolk and Westchester will follow suit, and I guarantee that within a year, New York state will do it. Let’s be aggressive and let’s be bold.”
Labriola said he believed drug dealers should be prosecuted as if they are committing violent crimes. “We need our government to recognize that so that we can end this once and for all,” he said. “This issue has become such a tragedy.”
Another popular topic was the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which has overseen county finances since 2000. “The key and operative word is interim,” Labriola said. “It was supposed to be short-term and temporary. Seventeen years later they’re still overseeing the county. It’s time for us to move NIFA out and to stand up on our own. We can get there with Jack Martins’ leadership.”
“Just so you all know this, I don’t hate NIFA,” Martins said. “I just think that we’re good enough to get rid of them. They have served their purpose, and it’s time for them to go.”
But addressing concerns like this in a public forum, Martins added, is only the first step toward improving the county. “We have to have the ability to hold town hall meetings like this so that those discussions can take place,” he said. “Infrastructure investment, tax assessments, and how we deal with surface water and groundwater have to be addressed.”
Labriola said that with integrity and honesty, he and Martins can represent county residents for years to come. “We are at the crossroads to take Nassau County to the 21st century,” Labriola said. “We want to restore its financial health, improve our infrastructure for the future, create jobs and keep our neighborhoods safe. That’s what we’re supposed to do in government, instead of putting out fires every single day.”
“We run as Republicans and we run as Democrats, but after the election, when we win, we govern everyone,” Martins added. “I think we lose sight of the fact that although we have different opinions, we have to put the partisan stuff aside, we have to work together and we have to build a consensus around our ideas.”
Martins and Labriola also argued that their experience in politics puts them in a better position to improve the county than any other candidates. “We don’t require on-the-job training,” Labriola said. “This is no time for that. We can hit the ground running. We need a fresh start.”
“We are the fresh start,” Martins added.