Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Nassau County Is In A State Of Repair"

Or Is It, Disrepair?

"Repair" signifies that things -- like roads along Main Street, the infrastructure that is the foundation of our local economy, the tax base, long-eroding, the deficit -- are getting fixed.

Unfortunately, there is little, beyond the hollow rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, to indicate that Nassau County is on the road to recovery, let alone that the road is in the process of being repaved.

County Executive Ed Mangano is quick to point out the problems (and to blame most if not all of them on his predecessor), but falls short of offering real solutions. [Someone needs to clue us in on the numbers, too. If Mangano, as per his TV spot, turned a $133 million deficit into a surplus, how is it that we now have a $176 million deficit in Nassau County? We need more smoke to cover the mirrors here!]

The loyal opposition, meanwhile, is swift with its condemnation, telling us what we do not need -- a casino, for instance -- but offering little  more than homage to what we do need -- next-generation housing, among them -- without providing a roadmap (potholes sold seperately) showing how to get there.

State and Nassau County Democratic Chair, Jay Jacobs, calls Mangano's governance, "bumbling." With hindsight, it becomes all too clear that leadership during the Democrats' tenure wasn't all that much better.

So what's the problem and who's to blame? The old borrow and spend, hallmarks of both sides of the political spectrum, the stuff that county, town and school districts alike are made of, creating huge deficits and, ultimately, gargantuan paybacks, as in taxes, fees and rate hikes.

Who's to blame? Not Ed Mangano (he said so himself). Not Jay Jacobs. Not the Dems or the GOP. Heck, they've simply tried to give us, their constituents, exactly what we want. More of this. More of that. And then a bit of these and those to go along with them.

Never mind the cost. We'll worry about that later.

Well, folks, "later" is suddenly upon us. [Actually, it was upon us more than a decade ago, when Nassau County, in boom times, was at the brink of the financial precipice. We changed administrations, but every one of us wanted the good times to continue to roll.]

We can't blame the elected. After all, they are merely a reflection of our own sordid desires, and our unwillingness to pay the pipers for the tunes we demanded they play. And imperfect as they are in implementing our wishes, our representatives, bumbling and blithering, term after term, have given us what we have asked for -- sort of. A great colossus of government-induced spending for which there appears no end (nor cap) in sight.

Whom did we expect to bear the burden of paying for 56 separate school districts in Nassau County alone? What about those 200-plus special taxing districts, each emptying our wallets into their coffers? In a good economy -- make that a great economy -- Nassau floundered. And now, with markets wallowing, fiscal cupboards bare, NIFA barking at our heels, and inflation on the horizon? Exactly what did we expect?

Generation Next is fleeing. Seniors are struggling. The middle class is shrinking. The infrastructure -- much of it still mired, by the inertia of local government, in the 1950s -- is crumbling.

The mindset of the electorate here on Long Island? Apparently, doing nothing remains a viable option.

Perhaps Ed Mangano said it best (though not quite eloquently): "We're doing what the people are looking for..."

The cartoon character, Pogo, may not have been entirely off the mark when he said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!" Indeed, we have only ourselves to blame, really, for this awful mess we're in.
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From the cyberpages of

The Democratic Response:

Nassau Dem Chair Responds to State of the County

Nassau Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs offers the following response to the State of the County.

It was hard to watch County Executive Ed Mangano stand before every resident of Nassau County and twist the truth about the situation we're in.

Mangano campaigned on a promise to improve our county’s finances, but his tenure as county executive has been marked by incompetence and fiscal irresponsibility.

The economy is struggling. There’s no argument about that. Too many of our neighbors can’t find jobs. Too many of our kids are leaving Long Island to seek their fortunes elsewhere – and why should they stay here? Our county executive has done nothing to help our communities weather this storm.

Mangano and the Republican majority in the county legislature promised to fix our county’s broken property tax assessment system, which overcharges homeowners by a total of $100 million every year. Their idea of a fix, however, was to make schools responsible for providing refunds to homeowners who pay too much.

The recession has forced school districts across Nassau to cut programs, fire teachers and raise taxes. Now that Mangano has made them responsible for doling out property tax refunds, they will be forced to make more cuts and increase their share of your property tax bill.

I want to emphasize this point: Ed Mangano wants us to believe that his budget doesn’t raise taxes, but he isn't telling the truth.

Mangano has also levied a new tax on nonprofit organizations, although he insists the new tax is a “fee.” This new tax charges nonprofits like hospitals and universities for using the county’s sewer system. To pay it, these nonprofits will have to raise tuition rates and levy fees of their own. Whatever you call this new burden, it amounts to more money out of your pocket.

Mangano needs to be honest with the people of Nassau County. He hasn’t fixed our broken assessment system. He simply shifted the burden away from the county. He didn’t pass a no-tax budget. He is forcing other entities to charge you for the costs of his policies. Our county executive can't keep treating the county budget like a shell game.

Under Mangano’s bumbling tenure, the state has had to take over the county budget. Simply put, our current county executive isn’t up to the challenge of governing during these difficult times. We need leaders who will make smart cuts and pursue real reform of our county’s assessment system, rather than passing the cost of the problem onto our schools. We need leaders who will support smart growth.

We don’t need a casino. We don’t need the traffic it would bring. We need next-generation housing. We need places for our kids to move when they get their first jobs. We need places for young people to congregate and socialize and form the bonds that hold communities together. With well-designed neighborhoods come new residents, who pay taxes and help our county invest in its future. We need a place for a new generation of Long Islanders to settle and grow.

We’re all in this together. That’s why we have to be careful about the cuts and investments we make in hard times – and Ed Mangano isn’t thinking in anyone’s future but his own. That’s why he slashed funding to Long Island Bus. That’s why he is imposing a new tax on hospitals and colleges. That’s why he wants to build a casino instead of a neighborhood. These proposals all sound good the way he spins them, but underneath his rhetoric, they are bad policies that will leave Nassau worse off in the long run.

Jay Jacobs is the chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Committee as well as the New York State Democratic Committee.

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