Nassau County Election 2013: What happened, and why we should care

Dan Bidikov, Aaron Brezel, Aaron Bialer, and Rachel Kogan, Dan Bidikov, Aaron Brezel, Aaron Bialer, and Rachel Kogan

Election day 2013 may have come and gone without notice.  As an odd year in the calendar, there were no presidential campaigns, no national debates, and no senate seats up for grabs.  That is not to say that there was not plenty of action at the local level.

In the waning hours of Nov. 5, the polls closed and the results were in; the incumbent Nassau County Executive, Republican Ed Mangano, had won a landslide victory over his Democratic opponent, Tom Suozzi.  With well over 275,000 citizens turning out, Mangano secured nearly 60 percent of the popular vote to Suozzi’s 40 percent.

The margin of victory for Mangano comes in stark contrast to the nail-biting race that took place four years earlier.  Mangano and Suozzi first squared off for the County executive seat in 2009; however, back then, Suozzi was trying to win the re-election and Mangano was a relatively unknown government official with 14 years of experience working out of Bethpage.  In a massive upset, Mangano eked out the win by a mere 386 votes.  Four years later, Mangano and Suozzi’s rematch became the most highly anticipated outcome of the day.

Before voters cast their ballots, they were treated to the spectacle that was the Mangano-Suozzi rivalry.  As soon as the campaigning season began, each candidate took the opportunity to attack the other  in a variety of media outlets.

In addition to the usual road sign ads seen lining Nassau County highways, both parties utilized TV and the internet to spread their message.  On occasion, the party tactics bordered on immaturity, highlighted by a picture of Suozzi in a Pinocchio outfit that surfaced on the internet.  At times it seemed that both candidates were more concerned with making the other look bad, than spreading their platform to the people. The focus on negativity rather than ideals was not lost on onlookers.

“Modern politics has become this game that’s based on mudslinging and finger pointing,” said senior Annie Kim.  “They focus on the opposition’s flaws because they want to draw attention away from the weaknesses of their own campaign.”

Others took a more pointed stance.

“Tom Suozzi is a fool and needs to understand that not everyone agreed with his positions,” said Carl Finkbeiner.  “He should be highlighting his own policies and not tearing other people down.”

In addition to Mangano’s victory, the Nassau County Republican Party won decisively in several other positions.  Maureen Connell and George Maragos maintained their seats as County Clerk and Comptroller respectively.

Democrat Kathleen Rice was, however, reelected as District Attorney.  In reality, there was little change in the political field of Nassau County.

Although the political parties did not see eye to eye on local issues, the parties both focused on economic matters.

Ed Mangano ran on a platform of spending cuts and tax reduction, promised to bring down the $378 million deficit.  Meanwhile, Tom Suozzi flaunted his ability to pull the county out of the terrible financial state that it was in before his term.  A major motive for these policies is to draw a younger demographic to the county.

Mangano’s main point was that high taxes are prohibitive to the younger public moving into Nassau County.  By freezing county property taxes and cutting other tax increases, he has made it a point to cut costs and reduce the cost of living.  A recipient of the State Local Government Efficiency Award, Mangano toted his ability to implement effective employment, increasing measures without increasing spending or taxes.

His focus is on creating private sector jobs, like in the case of the Hain Celestial Company.  The Company ended up establishing their headquarters in Nassau County instead of New Jersey because of Mangano’s tactics.  His quest for improvement in the private sector has also included improving local employment within the film and television industry, and the formerly Nassau-based Grumman property.  He cites the State Labor Department’s estimate that Nassau County leads the area in job growth and employment as a measure of his success.  Another significant Mangano plan has been to convert empty commercial office space into less expensive rental units for housing, with the idea that it will encourage a younger public to move into the county.

His plan was designed to counter Tom Suozzi’s strategy, which focused on public works.  His plan revolved around increasing the commercial property tax base to kick start his “New Suburbia Trailblazers” program.  The plan would have selected suffering communities to receive assistance that would develop infrastructure and high-tech industrial activity within them.

The relevance of their plans to student interests may be greater than most of the Schreiber population realizes. During the campaigning period, Suozzi repeatedly attacked Mangano, blaming him for the 19 percent school tax hike that occurred during his term. In response, Mangano retorted that the school tax increase was a result of the taxing assessment system already in place, not a result of his incompetency to balance a budget.

While the validity of their claims are still in question, it is clear that school taxes are a pressing matter that the student body should concern themselves with.

How well does the student body stay up to date with the local political processes that are so important to their educational futures?  In some cases, not at all.

 

Teaching Local Elections in the Classroom

 

Local elections undeniably affect students’ lives on a wide scale.  However, there exists a question as to whether students should be taught about Nassau County Elections.  This knowledge would interrupt class curricula, but may also be beneficial for students.

When polled, 77% of students said that they believed students should be taught more about local elections.  Of the other 23%, most believe that it is not important for students to acquire knowledge about the Nassau County Electives until they are able to vote.

“If students wanted to learn, they could learn.  Many students have the extra time needed, they just don’t care,” said senior Dustin Travis.

“I don’t pay attention to local elections.  I like to learn more about the big dogs,” said senior Joel Kagan.

Such students may be unaware of how local elections impact their lifestyles.

“It’s important to know what’s going on in the community and where your tax money is going,” said junior Kimberly Winter.  “When students get involved with the community, it is one of the signs of a healthy, positive community.”

“Students can be greatly influenced by the outcome of local elections and as such, should be given a basic education on the subject.  Education policies and programs are important issues in any local campaign,” said junior Wyndham Stopford.

“As members of a public school system, students are some of the first members of the community to be affected by any such policy changes.”

Teachers’ opinions on the topic vary greatly.  Many feel that certain issues would get in the way of proper teaching about the elections.

“I feel that as a department, we try our best to educate as well as possible given time constraints due to curriculum demands,” said social studies teacher Mr. Alex Sepulvida.  “Personally, I do current event articles in my Global classes,  and during election season, I encourage my students to stay updated.”

With constantly increasing educational standards as a result of the implementation of the Common Core, teachers struggle to teach additional information that is not intended to be covered in their curricula.

Issues may also result from biases that may arise when discussing current politics.

“I think it would be difficult to do because biases get in the way, though I feel it’s important for students to know about elections,” said math teacher Ms. Tina Gallagher.

“The political affiliation of the teacher discussing these elections can easily remain separate from the discussion,” said Stopford.

In past years, campaigning has been reserved for television and public rallies.  However, during the recent elections, candidates added YouTube advertisements to their list of campaign methods.  These local advertisements appeared in the beginning of many videos that students have watched.

“I think that local advertising on YouTube is a very smart way of campaigning, seeing that a lot of people today rely on technology,” said junior Akari Shimura.

The campaign advertisements have gained the attention of many students.  Many students who normally do not take the initiative to learn about current events in the community, watched these advertisements, despite the “skip ad” button on YouTube.

With the influx of biased political information, students were left to decipher their own thoughts, beliefs and political orientations.  To many students, this was a problem.

“I do not feel prepared to state my political position because the commercials mainly state the negatives of the opposing candidate,” said freshman Maria Kogan.  “Because I feel uninformed, I try to disregard them. But it’s upsetting because I would like to be more aware of what is happening in the community ”

Due to hectic school, work, or athletic schedules, many students find little time to look into political events.  Some teachers discuss current events in their classes.  However, many classes do not discuss current global, U.S. or local politics during class time.

“I think it would be an interesting topic to discuss in class,” said Kogan.  “ It would be very beneficial because I would feel more informed about the current events.”

Voting turnouts for local as well as national elections have been decreasing over the past decade.

Student lack-of participation and interest in politics has also become increasingly evident.  Some students believe that exposure to politics early on can help increase political involvement in adulthood.

“I think teachers should educate their students on election events to encourage students to engage in the political world of their own community and country,” said Shimura.  “If teachers educate students about different parties and values, then students will have the knowledge to formulate their own opinions and ideas for the future.”