With seven weeks to go until it’s known who will be the next Suffolk County executive, the two candidates vying for the seat held their first public debate Thursday morning.
The event, hosted jointly by the Long Island Association and the Association for a Better Long Island at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, featured Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, the Republican candidate, discussing plans and trading barbs with Supervisor Steve Bellone, the Democratic hopeful. The Long Island Business News sponsored the debate.
The two candidates did little actual debating, although they made clear their positions on various issues – sometimes similar, although oftentimes far apart.
While Bellone preached about restructuring county government to do more with less and holding employees accountable, Carpenter said the county’s ranks had already been brought down to unhealthy levels.
“We are doing more with less, but there comes a time when it becomes doing less with less,” Carpenter said. “We’ve pared down county departments to the point that we are compromising the services we provide to our residents and business community. We have to make sure the resources are in place to handle the tasks that need to be accomplished.”
Neither candidate agreed with County Executive Steve Levy’s current budget proposal, which would possibly lay off 700 county employees.
Bellone cited the need for more of a focus on economic development, saying he would create a deputy county executive for economic development to drive business. Carpenter, on the other hand, cited too many regulations that the county has put in place as being detrimental to business and should be looked at prior to implementing.
Other than their positions on how to restructure county government, Bellone and Carpenter did not express too many dissenting views. Both cited the need for regionally significant projects, such as Heartland Square in Brentwood, and said government should stay out of the way of getting them built.
The entire debate lasted about an hour. The two promised to have at least one more debate prior to the election.