Friday, March 03, 2006

What Was Tom Suozzi Thinking?

Suozzi Goes For Inexperience In Appointment Of County Parks Commish

In a move that has park advocates puzzled and community activists scratching their heads, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has announced the appointment of Mineola resident, Jose Lopez, to replace Doreen Banks as Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Museums. [SEE, Newsday, A New Parks Head Proposed.]

Lopez, who heads up the Physical Education Department at Great Neck South High School, concedes that he has absolutely no experience in the field.

"I have been a proponent of the parks and I actually use the facilities on a regular basis," Lopez told Newsday. "My main concern would be to increase revenue, participation and attendance at all the parks."

Suozzi could have at least tapped someone from the high school's Buildings & Grounds Department.

Hey, many of us at The Community Alliance are proponents of parks, too, and some of us actually use the facilities – including our local “passive” parks. Why, this blogger is even a card-carrying member of the Leisure Pass set (which, by the way, carries a photo of the cardholder, and not of the County Exec). And yet, not so much as a courtesy interview for the position of Parks Commish has been extended to anyone on our Board.

We like Tom Suozzi. We are impressed by his unfettered gumption and energized by his seemingly boundless enthusiasm. He did an amazing job as County Exec during his first term, and we think he'd be Long Island's best bet in the Governor's Mansion. [Who else but a Long Islander will give a damn about what's going down east of the New York City border?]

We don't begrudge Tom his power of appointment, nor would we suggest that, in the land of opportunity -- government or otherwise -- experience is everything. Sometimes those with the best ideas, along with the vision and moxie to implement them, come fresh out of the box.

This appointment, however, in a high profile post, in an era of hope that we might reclaim our ailing County parks, has us baffled. Next to the Town of Hempstead's appointment of Ray Lopez as Town Coordinator for the Empire Zone, the County Exec takes the cake in putting what appearances tell us is politics before parks.

We are pleased to see the ascension of Hispanic-Americans to positions of power in government (with the notable exception of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales), as we are delighted that the County Exec has selected a Nassau County resident to fill this critical and too long neglected bare spot in his cabinet.

That said, in minding our parks, experience -- be it in parks, advocacy, development or community building -- should be, if not a pre-requisite for appointment, then at least a major consideration.

We would like to think that the Nassau County Legislature, which will have the final up or down on the County Executive's nominee for Commissioner of Parks, will agree.

Meanwhile, Tom, as you woo them in Watertown, boast in Buffalo, and poll in Potsdam, as Newsday opined in a recent editorial, please, "Don't Forget About Us!"
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Read Newsday's Editorial, Parks Need A Pro
Follow-up: PE Teacher OKd To Head Parks Department

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