Democracy Inaction (or, The Demise Of The American Electorate)
On November 3rd last, the voters, here in Nassau County, at least, stayed home. And so it is that, through the perfect storm of taxpayer anger, incumbent angst, and electoral malaise, Ed Mangano, a 7-term Nassau County Legislator, becomes Nassau's next County Exec.
And there you were, thinking your vote wouldn't make a difference!
Hindsight being 20-20, and foresight best left to the psychics and political pundits, we will neither prognosticate nor pontificate on the pros and cons of Ed Mangano's destiny.
Suffice it to say, our fortunes (or misfortunes, if you view the glass as half empty), as Long Islanders, are tied to those of Mr. Mangano. We rise or fall with him -- and, heaven help us, with the equivalent of functional illiteracy known as the Nassau County Legislature.
And so, we wish Ed Mangano every success, that we may prosper and grow (smartly, of course) under his watch.
Still, we are compelled, by our passion for this community and its overtaxed and often shell-shocked inhabitants, to ask, just what does a Mangano administration have in store for us?
We garner scant insight from his campaign promises of more jobs (for whom?), to stop wasteful spending (or was that to waste it elsewhere?), to repeal the energy tax (saving the average homeowner a whopping $2.50 per month), and to freeze the assessment (throw in a freeze of tax levies and tax rates, while you're at it).
A platform built, at best, on a shaky foundation, if any base at all.
So, we turn to Ed Mangano's blog -- yes, Ed's a blogger, too (or has someone on payroll to blog and tweet for him) -- to see what can be gleaned.
To wit, Ed Mangano's "Four Points". [No relation to Woodrow Wilson, plus or minus a few points.]
From the Mangano blog:
The 4 Points of the Ed Mangano Campaign
Ed Mangano’s platform is simple: “If you want to have a county for you, for your children, that’s stable, that can deliver services properly, we have to fix [Nassau County] now.” To accomplish this, Ed Mangano has identified four basic failings in Nassau County government that need to be taken in hand and resolved.
First, Nassau County must curtail its wasteful spending. In the past eight years, the current county executive doubled the size of exempt patronage positions. These positions are highly paid, appointed, and unregulated by civil service exams, many receiving over $100,000 a year. But most disturbingly, 80 of these people do not even live in Nassau County. So not only are Nassau County residents deprived of the opportunity to work within their own government, but they are also deprived of the security of having policymakers subject to their own taxes and regulations. In addition, these politically motivated appointments are a drain on Nassau County’s resources. It’s a matter of basic math; Nassau County has a structural deficit of $150 million. Tom Suozzi spends $22 million a year with his new patronage positions; over eight years, that’s over $160 million. If County Executive Tom Suozzi had not crammed the county full of his political cronies, Nassau County would not be in its current fiscal mess.
Consequently, Ed Mangano is dedicated to shrinking Nassau County’s bloated patronage system. By eliminating a number of appointed positions within the County Executive’s Office, Ed Mangano will swiftly cut a large chunk out of Nassau County’s unnecessary expenses without reducing government services. This will translate into a greater amount of flexibility in combating Nassau County’s structural deficit. Moreover, Ed Mangano will discontinue Tom Suozzi’s ill-conceived policy of hiring non-residents to highly-paid county positions. Nassau County residents deserve policymakers who are subject to their own fees and taxes.
Second, Ed Mangano will freeze and fix Nassau County’s broken tax assessment system. As it stands today, the Property Tax Assessment System does not work. Houses are not being taxed at their fair market value. As a result, the County is being forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle tax challenges. Worse yet, the County has implemented a practice of bonding out these obligations rather than paying them through the operating budget, exacerbating the County’s already significant structural deficit. According to the report released by the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), the independent agency appointed by the New York State Legislature to oversee the county’s finances in 2001, “As a result of the County’s policy of borrowing to pay [tax assessment] claims, it is already carrying approximately $150.6 million in debt … solely related to its [tax assessment] program.” This constitutes almost 6% of the County’s total budget for its Major Funds.
Nassau County cannot become fiscally stable so long as this program remains as is. Nevertheless, County Executive Tom Suozzi has taken little action. He spends more time defending the tax assessment system than trying to fix it. His sole attempt saw an investment of $50 million in new technology and over 300 new employees to no effect. There is still the same $100 million loss. The county continues to throw good money after the bad. Conversely, the tax assessment system will be Ed Mangano’s first priority when elected. Ed Mangano will freeze all property tax assessments, set it, give people the benefit of their correction, and then work on fixing it when we’re not reassessing every year. By fixing the assessment system, everyone’s taxes will be lower and the cost of government will be reduced.
Third, Ed Mangano will end the unfair and regressive Home Energy Tax. In order to maintain a so-called “tax freeze,” Tom Suozzi, aided by the Democratic Majority, imposed a 2.5% Home Energy Tax on all residential home energy sources, including electricity, gas, oil, coal, propane, even firewood. According to the Nassau County Office of Legislative Budget Review, the Home Energy Tax is the equivalent of a 4.5% property tax increase, well above Suozzi’s own recommended property tax cap of 4%. In an act of sheer duplicity, the Suozzi political machine implemented the tax while simultaneously issuing a press release alleging that his budget did not raise property taxes. Ed Mangano calls the Home Energy Tax the worst type of regressive tax. It is inescapable. While families can choose to cut back on vacations and expensive dinners in tough times, everyone needs to heat their homes and turn on the lights. As the days grow colder and darker, residents will use more energy to heat and light their homes. This tax is going to hurt the most vulnerable members of our society: the poor and the elderly. It must be repealed.
Finally, Ed Mangano will create local jobs and opportunities. He will accomplish this in two ways: create a business-friendly environment for Nassau County’s small businesses and eliminate the divisionary tactics that frustrate large-scale revitalization projects, such as the Long Island Lighthouse. Currently, the county government has a disgraceful track record of hiring out-of-state contractors. They justify this decision by testifying that out-of-state companies are cheaper. This practice is unforgivable. The only reason why these companies are less expensive is because they don’t have to pay the burdensome taxes, imposed on them by this county. As such, Ed Mangano promises to abolish this system. He intends to start an Office of Local Opportunity in order to introduce greater competiveness in the bidding process between local companies. The office will teach Nassau County residents and businesses how to get government contracts, thereby strengthening the local job market and keeping our tax money here, in Nassau County. With an engaged local industry, more money will be raised through sales tax revenue, meaning lower property taxes for Nassau County residents.
In addition, Ed Mangano will bring in a new and effective leadership style that favors coalition building over the divisionary tactics that has polarized and stalled current large scale development projects. One of the biggest failings in the Suozzi administration is the preference for publicity over collaboration. The Lighthouse Project easily represents the largest and most promising enterprise on Long Island. Yet, despite its potential, the Nassau County Coliseum has sat idle. Suozzi, for all his huffing and puffing, has so politicized the project that he can no longer reconcile the needs of the Town with the wants of developer. He does not understand that success comes from compromise, not press conferences.
Ed Mangano, on the other hand, gets this. He comes from a strong background in economic revitalization, a background with certifiable results. When Ed Mangano took office in the Nassau County Legislature, the defense industry downsized. Over 20,000 jobs were lost at the Grumman’s Property in Bethpage. Experts said that it would take decades to redevelop. They were wrong. Ed Mangano, along with concerned residents and workers of every level of government, regardless of party, returned 15,000 jobs to that property and millions of dollars to the tax base. They didn’t need a camera or the big photo-op; they simply got the job done. Ed Mangano plans on committing that same drive to the Long Island Lighthouse Project and that same spirit of cooperation. He did it in Bethpage, and he’ll do it in Uniondale.
Same points -- Create jobs (patronage?); cut waste (come on, Ed. You can never have enough patronage); eliminate the energy tax; freeze the assessment -- but beyond that, no plan that we know of.
And so we ask, you, the community-minded (hereinafter referred to as "the afflicted"), and Ed (hereinafter referred to as "the anti-Suozzi"), what is the plan for Nassau's future? How do we "save Nassau"? And who will save us from our own government, let alone ourselves? [As in, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us!"]
While we at The Community Alliance take a brief holiday hiatus come December 24 (though, as we remind you often, the work of community never takes a holiday), we ask you to ponder Nassau's tomorrows, and to offer comment, both on the blog, and by writing us at email@example.com.
Your thoughts, suggestions, commentaries, and guest blogs are always welcome, as we work together, as allies in community, to build a better Long Island!
Happy holidays from all of us (okay, some of us. Would you believe, one of us?) at your hometown's quality of life watchdog, The Community Alliance.
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