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Today’s the deadline to qualify for this month’s debate, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang made it - the only non-white candidate who’ll be on stage. Plus, former Secretary Julián Castro questions the order of primary contests.

Funding for Key Long Island Services at Stake in Special Elections

December 11, 2007

Mineola, NY - Voters on New York's Long Island are turning out Tuesday in special elections on local services such as fire protection, water and sanitation, but they aren't expected to turn out in great numbers. That leaves the 150 special districts in the hands of party machines, a watchdog group warns, and that's bad for Long Islanders, who have a major financial stake in the election outcomes.

Laura Mallay with Residents for Efficient Special Districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties says a high voter turnout could send a message that people on Long Island want to take charge of those decisions, which matter to them financially.

"Special taxing districts determine how much money an individual household will pay in their special district taxes, and they set the budget."

Mallay says the districts are dominated by local "commissioners" that have previously been closely controlled by establishment party machines. The situation leaves special district budgets, which total $400 million a year, to be administered by local candidates, many of whom run unopposed.

"For the most part, unfortunately, many elected officials support the status quo within these special districts, because these 'special districts' have become strong voting blocs for local elections."

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi says he wants to consolidate the special districts and hold next year's special district elections on the traditional election day in early November.

Robert Knight/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NY