Friday, January 11, 2008

Taking On The Mount Everest Of The Empire State

Tom Suozzi Gets A Commission To Climb New York's Highest Mountain

As property taxes in New York State -- particularly in Nassau County -- reach new heights, a political climber who sometimes stumbles on the ice and often throws caution to the wind [that would be Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, in case you wondered], has been given the nod by Governor Eliot Spitzer to tackle the mount that threatens to all but avalanche New York's taxpayers.

As the world pays final respects to Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Everest, a new adventurer -- nowhere near as modest as Sir Ed, but standing just as tall -- sets off on a trek no less daunting, and, given the bear traps that the opposition has already set before him, only slightly less treacherous.

Taming the out of control property tax presents a formidable hill to climb for even the most daring and sure-footed among us. Curbing the reckless and wasteful spending; riding roughshod over the multitude of school districts and special taxing districts; taking on the special interests and the madness of the monied elite, let alone the legislatively dysfunctional, in Albany. No easy task. That which is worth doing, and worthy of our pioneering spirit, seldom is.

There are those who say it can't be done, and others -- including yesterday's equivalent of a rotting yak carcass, the well-aged State/Nassau GOP Chair, Joe Mondello (who almost singlehandedly sucked the life-blood out of this county) -- who say that Suozzi isn't the man to do it.

To this, we reply, "It must be done, and Tom Suozzi is just the man to do it!"

Just as there is no Republican or Democratic way to collect garbage (only to tax for it), rescuing New York from where it remains stranded atop the property tax summit should not -- must not -- be further mired in partisanship and political naysaying.

And those who got us into this property tax mess, whether in Albany or Old Westbury, should heed the call to find practical solutions, and join the Suozzi climb. Either that, or don your oxygen masks, head back to the base camp, and get the heck out of the way.

Unlike the unassuming Sir Edmund, Tom Suozzi doesn't set off to climb mountains simply because they are there. No, he climbs them to set himself on top. Humility has never been Tom's strong suit, and, no doubt, the flag he'd plant should he reach the peak will boast a big TRS on it.

That said, the legacy of a Suozzi Summit atop Mount Property Tax would most certainly enure to the benefit of every New York homeowner, and anyone who has ever had to write a check to the Receiver of Taxes.

In the hallowed footsteps of Mallory, Amundsen, and Hillary, Tom Suozzi sets off, spirits high, hopes undashed, to be not the first to try to hurdle the property tax -- that which so many before him have hiked -- but the first to reach that pinnacle of reform so desperately needed in the land of burgeoning tax burdens.

As Tom Suozzi notches his pick axe into that mountainside, it behooves every one of us -- Democrat, Republican, and Independent alike -- to not only cheer him on, but to tow the lines and climb to the mountaintop with him.

Ever upward, Tom Suozzi. Excelsior!
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New task gives Suozzi a chance to show his mettle

In just a few words, Gov. Eliot Spitzer yesterday put his 2006 Democratic primary rival for governor, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, back in the statewide spotlight.

Suozzi's appointment to head a commission to study local property tax relief - announced by Spitzer in his State of the State speech in Albany - will give him another chance to make his mark outside his home base of Nassau County.

But it will also present another risk of failure, observers said."It's a new lease on life for Suozzi," said Arthur Kremer, a former Democratic Assemblyman from Long Beach. "He could make a name for himself, or it could fizzle."

Local Republicans gave a political jeer to the move, noting that Suozzi presides over a county with some of the highest property taxes in the state, and that an alliance with Spitzer could be short-lived.

"The governor gets along with people differently on a day-to-day basis," Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said. "Not long ago, the governor thought [Comptroller Thomas] DiNapoli was unfit, and now he thinks he's wonderful. So, we'll see."

The chairman of both the state and county GOP, Joseph Mondello, said that putting any Democrat in charge of property tax relief "is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank."

Patrick Halpin, a Democrat and former Suffolk County executive, called the appointment "redemption" for Suozzi, but said he faces a tough task. Halpin should know: He served one term before losing to Republican Robert F. Gaffney in 1991 in an election in which property taxes were a major issue.

"In order to do this right, you're going to have to upset some very powerful special interests," Halpin said. "Tom will do that. This will be called 'The Suozzi Commission' one day, and a lot of people who never heard of him will get to know his name."

Kremer summed up the sudden change in Suozzi's status, saying, "Three years ago, he couldn't get a seat in the balcony in Albany. Today he was sitting on the floor, in the front row with the governor."

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

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