Tuesday, September 20, 2005
The Land Of Photo Opportunity
Where A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words ~ And A Thousand Votes
The South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside puts out a full color 12-page newsletter - Healthy Outlook - on a regular basis. Inside, stories on breakthroughs in Cancer research and dialysis treatment, updates on the hospital's Renaissance Project, and the requisite pitch for donations.
Embedded in these pages can also be found the perfunctory photographs of physicians, hospital directors and trustees, and noteworthy contributors to the cause of healing community, as the South Nassau newsletter professes, "one patient at at time."
As we glanced through the first few pages of the September, 2005 issue, making mental note of the photos of South Nassau's President and CEO, diverse volunteers, Congressman Peter King (presenting a commemorative plaque), and a cadre of community leaders, the thought crossed our minds - "wouldn't it be funny if there was a photo of Kate Murray in here?"
And all at once, there we were, on page 10 (talk about getting buried), Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, center stage with the folks from Citibank, the Roosevelt School District, and South Nassau Hospital, touting free seminars on financial and physical fitness. [No doubt, Fitch Ratings - the Bond folks - are offering aerobics, further evidence of our robust financial status in the township. Query as to whether Kate Murray's brother, a Physical Conditioner with Town Parks, is offering tips on the physical fitness end? Why not?]
We had to chuckle. Not that there's anything wrong with offering free seminars - although one has to wonder how many times "the Town of Hempstead has the highest bond ratings in the Country" was mentioned - but this constant barrage of photos, as if to say, "I'm everywhere. Vote for me" (in this instance, standing in front of a sign that reads DREAM MAKERS, as if to send the subliminal message of "not only am I everywhere, but I can make your dreams come true") is, by any measure, over the top. Thank God Ms. Murray didn't try to take this photo - or to offer a lecture on financial and physical fitness - at the Franklin Square Public Library!
The whole scenario as it plays out - photos, Bond ratings, promises of no tax increases and all - is reminiscent of an earlier era (or should we say error), when Bond ratings soared, taxes were frozen every year, and those charged with watching the pot were instead out taking photographs. [Just how much do the photographers at Hempstead Town Hall draw in salary, anyway? Judging from their demanding schedules, the photogs are the ones who should be earning $125,000 a year!]
While the collective memory is short -- very short -- it doesn't take much of a stretch to bring to mind the days of Tom Gulotta. Budgets balanced through incessant borrowing and constant juggling (hey, the rates were just soooooo good, we couldn't help ourselves), without tax increase to cover the escalating tab. Life was grand, and Tom Gulotta - Joe Mondello's poster boy at the County - had the smile on his face to prove it. A smile that could be seen everywhere, thanks to the ever-present camera at the ready. Ribbon-cutting? Smile. Store opening? Smile. Tax freeze? Smile. Smoke and mirrors? Smile.
Those "in the know" understood what was going on. The rest of us, too, eventually figured out what was happening - and not a moment too soon. Borrow. Spend. Never increase taxes. They'll love you on Main Street. Nero fiddled as the County burned. The GOP Chairman pulling the strings. "Just get out there in front of the cameras, Tom. Leave the driving to us?"
Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same - or get that much worse. The Town Hallers hang on, proclaiming, "We're not the County." Great Bond ratings. Borrow. Spend. A freeze on all taxes. Sound familiar? "Just get out there in front of the cameras, Kate!" And we leave the driving to whom?
Yes, the photo op. Place that face. Make note of that smile. Remember the name. True, you'll be paying the price later -- as will your great grandchildren. What the heck. We'll be long gone by then!
Make the connection? What they say is so -- those who do not learn from the lessons (and the mistakes) of history are doomed to repeat them. "Okay. On the count of three ---SMILE!"
NEXT UP: Harvey Levinson's Income Tax versus Kate Murray's Property Tax, and why Tom Suozzi and the Nassau County Democrats raised taxes 1,765,432 percent last year alone. Stay tuned...