Brackett challenged by Kurz in race for Port Washington Water District commissioner

Robert Pelaez
Port Washington Water District Commissioner David Brackett is running for re-election against challenger Brandon Kurz. (Photo from the Island Now archives)

This article has been updated with comments from the League of Women Voters Port Washington-Manhasset. Regina Goutevenier, president of the League of Women of Port Washington-Manhasset, had a letter published on The Island Now’s website on Dec. 3, fully addressing Kurz’s concerns. Judy Temkin-Jacobson, the league’s Voter Services chair also addressed Kurz’s concerns directly. Dec. 7. The updated quotes were mistakenly omitted from the article when it was first published.

Port Washington Water District Commissioner David Brackett is running for re-election against lifelong resident Brandon Kurz.

Brackett, who has been a member of the district’s Board of Commissioners since 1992, stressed the importance of keeping pollutants and harmful chemicals out of residential water and maintaining transparency with the community ahead of the Dec. 14 election.

“It is not hyperbole, this is the most challenging time our water district has ever faced,” Brackett wrote. “Contaminants like 1,4 dioxane, PFOA & PFOS have no place in our water.”

Brackett became involved with Port’s water district when he grew concerned about the Port Washington landfill, also known as the Town of North Hempstead L-4 landfill, contaminating a well owned by the water district.  He and some other residents of the village formed a group called Citizens Concerned About the Landfill.

After getting involved with another group centered on a proposed incinerator site for the Town of North Hempstead, a friend of Brackett told him that he was not seeking re-election and suggested that he run in his place. Brackett has sat on the board ever since.

Kurz, whose family has been a part of the Port Washington community since the 1800s, is the executive director of Port Washington Youth Activities and a board member of PWGreen, a nonprofit volunteer organization aimed at preserving the environment throughout the peninsula to be used for youth education.

Kurz, whose father, Donald, is on the Board of Commissioners for the Port Washington Water Pollution Control District, said testing for pollutants more frequently and educating the public on ways to conserve water will be his main priorities, if elected as commissioner.

“We have pollutants in our water that need to be addressed,” Kurz said in a phone interview. “I believe that it’s taking too long for it to be addressed and we have to be more urgent.”

Brackett said the district is in the midst of a $40 million project to use two forms of treatment, carbon exchange and advanced oxidation, on multiple wells throughout the district to combat pollutants.

“If re-elected, I will ensure this plan is implemented with no disruptions or delays, to mitigate dry cleaner spills, oil leaks, increases in nitrates, and other threats to our water, just as I have in the past,” he said.

Kurz touted his social media and community engagement skills, saying they will serve the community well by educating residents on how to conserve water. PWGreen, he said, has programs with Guggenheim Elementary School but thinks the water district can take those learning sessions and use an online platform to get the message across more effectively.

“The more that we can educate our younger kids and get the message of conservation out on social media to older generations, the better informed people will be,” Kurz said. “That’s just the beginning of being more transparent.”

Kurz, who is also the owner of Arena Sports in Port Washington, said he plans to create designs and logos promoting conservation to be featured on social media and apparel if elected.

Brackett touted the efforts he has made to ensure an open dialogue with residents that allowed the district to gain a better knowledge of community needs so that various programs and initiatives could be introduced.

“I lead public meetings to ensure a transparent dialogue with the community, which led to successful rebate programs, pharmaceutical take-back days, and public education events,” Brackett wrote.

The two candidates were scheduled to meet in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset last week, but Kurz said he declined to participate, claiming one of the league’s members had been lobbying for Brackett and said the member is “angling to become water commissioner herself.”

According to its website, the League of Women Voters is “nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public.”

Regina Goutevenier, president of the Port Washington-Manhasset branch, addressed Kurz’s claims of the league not being a nonpartisan organization in a letter to Blank Slate Media.

“While the League is nonpartisan, that does not mean that our members are nonpartisan or apolitical,” Goutevenier said. “The league encourages members to be political and join in the political process. They cannot, however, do that in the name of the League or represent the league.”

Judith Temkin-Jacobson, the voter services char for the Port Washington-Manhasset branch, said everyone involved in the scheduled forum had no stake in the election and did not reside in the district.

“When a candidate withdraws from a League of Women Voters forum, it is both a declaration that he has no answers to those questions and an admission that he does not respect the voters whose support he seeks,” Brackett wrote.

Kurz said he hopes voters will cast their support for a candidate who is “willing to roll up their sleeves” and serve the community effectively.

“It makes a lot of sense for me to take on this position and to commit to it, be passionate about it, and be determined to succeed in it,” he said. “This community deserves a roll-up-your-sleeves, can-do, young guy that cares about the community.”

Brackett touted his longstanding experience as a commissioner and said the topic of water conservation and preservation is a communitywide one he looks forward to continuing.

“Remember that life begins with water and water conservation begins with you,” he wrote. “Let us all commit to be partners in water conservation. A vote for David Brackett is a vote to ensure clean, safe drinking water both now and in the future.”

The election will take place on Dec. 14 from noon to 9 p.m. at the Polish American Citizens Association, 5 Pulaski Place. The winner will be elected to a three-year term beginning on Jan. 1.

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