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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Battle for Mineola

It is hard to imagine an election season maneuver backfiring more than county Legislator Joseph Scannell’s (D-Baldwin) effort to tout the relocation of the Nassau County Police Department’s (NCPD) 1st precinct headquarters.

First announced this spring, Legislator Scannell, who is seeking re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, clearly thought October was the right time to remind his constituents that the precinct’s main office was staying in Baldwin, albeit leaving an aging building for a more modern facility. To commemorate the upcoming relocation, the county posted a municipal sign bearing Scannell’s name alongside county executive Thomas Suozzi’s atop the shopping center storefront where the NCPD is headed.

News 12 Long Island showed footage of the sign during one of its broadcasts last week but the reporter noted that not everyone in Baldwin was applauding the move. In fact, one resident appeared on-air to express safety concerns because the new NCPD site is close to Baldwin High School, with the reporter mentioning that most precinct headquarters periodically house suspected criminals.

One of those who not surprisingly voiced criticism about the new 1st precinct location to News 12 was Chris Browne of Rockville Centre, Scannell’s opponent in Nassau’s 5th legislative district (LD). Browne, the Republican nominee, secured the Conservative line by winning a primary last month against Scannell, the Conservative Party’s officially endorsed candidate. Scannell, who is also running with the Independence Party’s support, defeated Browne in 2007’s general election, although Browne is given a strong chance at unseating the incumbent this time around.

Legislator Scannell first won election to the Mineola-based county Legislature in 1999 and has remained a part of the Democrats’ 10-9 majority for the past decade. Despite his familiarity with the 5th LD, Scannell appeared genuinely surprised to hear there was controversy surrounding the precinct’s relocation during his News 12 interview.

Being in the same office for almost 10 years, however, can leave an elected official vulnerable to charges that they’re out of touch, especially when they’ve joined with their fellow Democrats to enact a 3.9 percent county property tax increase and a 2.5 percent county home energy tax during a severe economic downturn.

There are 19 county legislative seats up for grabs on Nov. 3 but the Legislature’s balance of power could change solely because of the outcome of the Scannell-Browne contest.

In other ways, 2009’s county election cycle resembles those of 2005 and 2007. Nassau’s Democrats always think they can oust GOP legislator John Ciotti (R-North Valley Stream) in the 3rd LD, and yet they never do. Meanwhile, the county’s Republicans convince themselves Legislator Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale) is vulnerable in the 14th LD, and usually fall just short in their efforts to defeat him. The GOP’s Joseph Belisi, who only lost to Mejias by a little more than 200 votes in 2007, is giving it another shot next month.

No matter what happens on Election Day, new faces are coming to Mineola in January 2010 because neither Legislator Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) nor Legislator Edward Mangano (R-Bethpage) will return to the county Legislature. Corbin lost a Democratic primary last month in the 2nd LD and Mangano is giving up his seat in the 17th LD to run for county executive.

Different subject: I’ve learned since writing last week’s column (‘Islanders’ New Look’) that Chris King has returned to the New York Islanders radio broadcast team. King is hosting the pre- and post-game segments as well as providing coverage between periods.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net