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Election 2011: 15th Legislative District

Republican incumbent Dennis Dunne faces Democratic challenger Ethan Irwin.

Incumbent Republican Legis. Dennis Dunne faces a challenge for his seat from Democrat Ethan Irwin in Nassau County's 15th district.

The 15th district covers Levittown, Island Trees Wantagh and portions of Seaford.

Polls will be open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Click here to find your polling station.

Dennis Dunne

  • Hometown: Levittown
  • Years in office: 15

Dunne is a graduate of Division Avenue High School. He has undergraduate degrees from Nassau Community College and Hofstra and a graduate degree from CW Post. He served in Vietnam as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Served as the director of the Nassau County Veterans' Service Agency from 1985 until the time of his election to the Legislature in 1996.

Ethan Irwin

  • Hometown: Levittown

According to his campaign website bio, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and received a law degree from St. John's University. Originally from Fayetteville, Irwin has been in Levittown since 1997.

Patch asked each candidate several questions. Their answers (edited for space) appear below in alphabetical order:

Patch: What are the challenges facing your district?

Dunne: The heaviest burden that anyone has to carry right now is that we are the highest taxed county in the country.

We did not increase taxes last year. This year, there’s not a lot to eliminate, so what we did is we’re going to hold the line on taxes.

Holding the line on taxes is more difficult this year because of the added burden that the County is faced with. You add all of them up, that’s $310M dollars of a shortfall. We’re willing to address that without raising taxes, and we did it with the passed budget [Sunday night].

There’s too many people in my district that are hurting, that are out of work, that have not made their mortgage payments. I cannot add an extra burden to them and increase their taxes.

Irwin: Due to the mismanagement by past administrations, both Democrat and Republican, we are losing jobs, our young people are moving away, and our County budget is no longer sustainable.

If elected, I will work to transform our County with a four-part plan. First, I will work to regain control of our budget. Next, to stimulate the local economy, I will introduce tax incentives for our small businesses. Also, I will work to keep, attract, and create good paying jobs in Nassau. I believe the future of the American economy will rest in technology and science. So in an effort to make Nassau a thriving center for this future, we need to be on the cutting edge in these industries.

Finally, thanks to the current leadership, we’re facing the end of the County Guarantee. This is financially irresponsible and incredibly dangerous to every homeowner and school district in the county. The county can irresponsibly over-assess, then force the school boards to raise taxes, effectively passing off a tax increase on homeowners. As Legislator, it will be my responsibility to ensure the financial stability of our county with the continued implementation of the County Guarantee. 

Patch: Do you have any thoughts on what a redeveloped Nassau Coliseum hub should look like? Do the Islanders fit into your plans?

Dunne: The 77 acres at Mitchel Field is the last large parcel of developable land in Nassau County. To have a chance to develop it correctly - we want to do what's right. We don't want to have a hodge-podge of different things and say 'How come there was no planning done there?'

We need the jobs for construction and then the jobs after to maintain whatever it is they put there. It's a win-win-win. There is no loss. 

We don't want high-rise buildings because we're not Queens East. That's not what we're looking for. We're looking for smart development which will help Nassau County out in so many ways.

The Islanders being in Nassau County is needed for the revenue. Everything the Coliseum does helps the County with sales tax. If, in fact, the County Executive gets an agreement to put a Coliseum over at Elmont, and the casino and hotels, and maybe a minor league ballpark, that would be fine too. As long as we keep the Islanders.

Irwin: Yes, it should look like something that fits into and serves the community, but also helps to grow and stimulate the local economy.  Building a new Coliseum hub just for the sake of building is a poor idea. 

For decades we have been able to build our economy here in Nassau County by attracting businesses that compliment our exceptional educational institutions and our exceptionally skilled and educated labor force, and I think in that way Dean Rabinowitz's plan is commendable.  At the same time, I don't think that County and State governments should be in the business of subsidizing athletic facilities at the expense of the taxpayer. 

I think that if the Islanders need a new stadium they should be significantly invested financially in bringing that about.  While the Islander ownership shouldn't have to bear the entire burden of redeveloping the entire site, the burden of building the new facility should not be borne by the taxpayers.

Patch: What is your stance on whether the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh should be changed from being run by the county to either full privatization or a public-private partnership?

Dunne: When Ed Mangano took over, and when we took control of the Legislature, we went [into the plant] section by section and fixed it. We did tremendous work there.

One of the things the County Executive is looking at, he told us he's looking into selling the sewage treatment plant. I said I cannot vote for the selling of the plant. I just can't do it. He's now looking into a private-public partnership. It sounds nice, but you're going to have public hearings on it, the people in my district are going to have to be sold on it. I'm not just going to take your word for it. 

We don't want it to deteriorate after the millions of dollars we spent on it. We spent over $75 million on that already. I'm going to keep my fingers on the pulse of what's going on there before anything does happen. 

It might not happen. If the money comes in from sales tax, he'll abandon that altogether. It's not worth causing any kind of hardship. But he has to look at everything on the table, except for raising taxes.

Irwin: We must not sell our infrastructure for a one-shot infusion of cash. It's a bad decision because it would create a monopoly on our sewage system so our rates would only go up and accountability would be nonexistent.  

Just look at the example of Aqua NY. We already know that this will happen. We would be taking the cost of running the system out of our budget by privatizing it, but the costs to Nassau residents would skyrocket from the current $150 per household.

Editor's Note: Dunne and Irwin were also asked about their opinions on the empty buildings along Hempstead Turnpike. Their responses will run on Monday.

Phillip Franco November 05, 2011 at 06:10 AM
Hey, wait a second there, wasn't privatization of the entire sewer system in the county budget that was voted on and passed last Sunday night?
Kevin November 05, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Dennis, Why have public hearings? I was at the one about Re-Districting where 300+ people pacted the hearing . Not one was for the Re-Districting but the Republicans voted a few days later to Re-District. Why waste the people's time. I am a Republican. A REAL Republican. A Reagan Republican. I am so disappointed in my party in Nassau which has become a CLUB for a few , not a Party for the People. Republicans are allowing Strip Club owners to operate near our children and even voted to allow them to expand with the endorsement of the President of the Wantagh Republican Club president.. My party should take a look at itself.
Phillip Franco November 06, 2011 at 11:21 AM
I hope both men attend the peoples rally in front of Cedar Creek Park Today at 12:00pm that seeks to preserve and protect our Seaford-Wantagh community.

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