Seventh state senatorial district candidates Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, R,I,C, - Mineola, and incumbent state Sen. Craig Johnson, D- Port Washington, squared off Monday afternoon in a News 12 debate in Woodbury moderated by Doug Geed.
Patch will be bringing you coverage of the debate over the course of five days, focusing on a different debate topic each day.
The issue of affordable housing was the first question asked in the second half of the debate, specifically how each of the candidates is tackling the problem of a lack of housing on Long Island.
Martins touted Mineola being recognized as "one of the premier smart growth communities," with an emphasis on transit oriented development and revitalizing the downtown area with a mix of affordable senior and next-generation housing. "With the brain drain on Long Island, we have to provide places where people can live affordably," Martins said, "and there's no better place than right in a downtown right near a train station."
Johnson touted state legislation implementing "smart growth principles" and reiterated his support of a property tax cap "to not only make that we bring people to Long Island but we keep people on Long Island." Johnson called Martins' support of a cap "inaccurate," citing an August 2010 interview Martins did with the Capital News. "So you can't say on the one hand that you support a property tax cap measure," Johnson said, "but in a newspaper article describe it in a particular fashion as a gimmick and a ruse."
Martins replied by describing Mineola's debt as being "a direct result of a self-imposed property tax cap and a practice from a prior administration of just borrowing for everything. You cannot allow people the opportunity to claim that they're going to keep taxes low on the one hand while pushing those expenses onto a credit card." Martins then challenged Johnson's record as voting against both a tax and spending cap a year ago, only voting for them "in the last week, going into an election year."
Johnson said he voted for the measures in 2007 and 2008 while "Republicans put it as a hostile amendment that would have unbalanced the budget in '09, voted for it twice in '10." Johnson also questioned Martins' tax record in Mineola, as well as a 61-percent pay raise and pension the Mayor voted himself. "Seven consecutive years of property tax increases, five of them would have blown the property tax (cap)," said Johnson.
"Percentages are a wonderful thing," Martins said, explaining that he received a $10,000 pay increase while other trustees received a $5,000 raise. "If you take all four members of my board in addition to myself and the stipends that we get for serving on the village board, they don't amount to the salary that the senator gets for his part-time, six-month gig up in Albany."
The seventh state senatorial district of New York includes Mineola, Port Washington, Great Neck, Roslyn, Westbury and Hicksville.