LI politics’ winners and losers in 2014 – By George J. Marlin

Posted December 9, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the December 5-11, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Here’s my take on those who gained and those who lost ground in this year’s game of Long Island politics.

WINNERS

Tom DiNapoli: The state comptroller from Great Neck is this year’s biggest winner. Re-elected with 60 percent of the vote, he topped Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vote total by 180,000. In the unlikely event Cuomo seeks a third term, he may have to rely on DiNapoli’s coattails to get over the electoral finish line.

Lee Zeldin: He had the guts to give up a safe state Senate seat to take on Tim Bishop, who easily beat him in their first faceoff in 2008. Zeldin proved his mettle in the Republican primary, handily fending off challenger George Demos, a political ne’er-do-well whose family spent a fortune on his campaign. In the fall, Zeldin ran an impressive campaign against the ethically challenged incumbent and shocked political wags when he won by 16 percentage points. Expect Zeldin to be a rising star in the GOP.

Kathleen Rice: Despite a lackluster campaign, the Nassau DA managed to squeak by on Election Day, winning her race in the 4th Congressional District with 52 percent of the vote. She’s fortunate her Republican opponent was a political knucklehead.

Dean Skelos: Thanks to Cuomo sitting on the sideline, the GOP picked up just enough seats to make Skelos majority leader of the state Senate. But will he blow it again and condemn the GOP to permanent minority status? He will, if he supports a Democratic-lite agenda and continues to be Cuomo’s political knave.

John M. Kennedy Jr.: Shunned by most of Suffolk’s political establishment, Kennedy was elected county comptroller solely on the Republican line with 53 percent of the vote. As fiscal watchdog, he’ll give the county executive plenty of heartburn – and might be the guy to take down Bellone in the next election.

LOSERS

Bruce Blakeman: His loss in the 4th Congressional District qualifies him as the Harold Stassen of the New York Republican Party. The voters have rejected him for state comptroller in 1998, for county legislator in 1999, for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and in November for the U.S. House of Representatives. Hopefully, Nassau’s top political narcissist has finally realized the voters are not enamored of him.

Jon Kaiman: The NIFA chairman’s boast that the deal he negotiated to lift the Nassau public employee wage freeze was cost-neutral was, as predicted, wrong. It will cost taxpayers an extra $70 million a year. Kaiman, the governor’s top political lackey on Long Island, has turned NIFA from a fiscal watchdog to a lapdog.

Ed Mangano: The Nassau County executive’s lies about the county’s fiscal condition have caught up with him. His 2015 budget, which he promised would be GAAP-balanced, is out of whack to the tune of $210 million. In the out years, projected deficits are $259 million in 2016, $295 million in 2017 and $325 million in 2018. Re-elected a year ago on the platform that he didn’t raise taxes, Mangano was exposed this year as the fiscal emperor with no clothes when he raised taxes for next year by 3.2 percent. Mangano should spend less time playing poker at Oheka Castle and more time reading Municipal Finance 101 textbooks.

David Denenberg: That Denenberg thought he could be elected to the state Senate when his former law partners were about to file a lawsuit accusing him of defrauding a client of more than $2 million (and of forging the signatures of two judges on court orders) is beyond my comprehension. He’s either incredibly delusional or dumb or both.

Ed Walsh: The Suffolk Conservative Party chairman is being investigated by the FBI over allegations he collected his salary as a county Corrections Department lieutenant for hours he didn’t work. His boss, the county sheriff, is attempting to fire him. For the sake of the Conservative Party, which was founded on the notion that principles matter more than financial gain, Walsh should resign.

Cuomo: The winner who actually lost – By George J. Marlin

Posted December 1, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the November 21-27, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Despite a national Republican tsunami in 2010, Democrat Andrew Cuomo was elected governor with a whopping 63 percent of the vote.

Armed with that mandate and with the White House in his sights, Cuomo initially governed from the center and began to fix the fiscal mess created by his three immediate predecessors, Govs. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.

But this approach to governing did not last. By the end of his first term, he managed to infuriate plenty of voters.

On the one hand, his anti-fracking, anti-gun, anti-traditional-marriage stands – not to mention his tax increases – energized opposition among suburban blue-collar conservatives and upstate rural Republicans. On the other, the angst he caused in New York’s bluest quarters forced the extremist Working Families Party to publicly condemn him, to make him beg for their nomination and to agree to expend his treasure and time on electing a Democratic state Senate.

Also, Cuomo’s overall attitude didn’t help. His contempt for retail politics and his micromanaging and bullying alienated most of New York’s political establishment.

Despite these woes, to keep his White House hopes alive (just in case Hillary doesn’t run, or she somehow falters), Cuomo’s main goal this fall was to best the 65 percent his father earned in his 1986 second-term victory.

To achieve that end, Cuomo’s campaign spent millions on negative advertising falsely portraying his Republican opponent, West-chester County Executive Rob Astorino, as a felon. The campaign also limited Cuomo appearances to small, totally controlled, invitation-only events, and discarded those promises made to the Working Families Party.

This approach backfired. Cuomo was re-elected with only 53 percent of the vote, receiving 1 million fewer votes than he did in 2010. It was the lowest count for a Democratic victor since Franklin Roosevelt in 1930, when the state had 12 million people (it has 19 million today).

Upstate, Cuomo carried 13 counties, down from 37 in 2010. On Long Island, his margin in Nassau County was down 8 percentage points, for a total of 52.5 percent. As for Suffolk County, four years ago he garnered 58 percent, this time 47.5 percent.

Most interestingly, Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli – whom Cuomo tried to knock off the party ticket in 2010 – humiliated the governor by leading the statewide ticket with 2.104 million votes. DiNapoli was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote and topped Cuomo’s total by 180,000.

Cuomo’s strategy depressed the Democratic turnout and helped Republicans pick up three Congressional seats (25 percent of their national gains) and secure outright control of the state Senate. And Astorino, who ran a respectable campaign on a shoestring budget of $4.8 million, received 41 percent, the highest GOP total for governor in 12 years.

After analyzing the results, The New York Times rightly proclaimed on Nov. 5: “Cuomo wins a second term, but his aura of invincibility is gone.”

The next four years will not be happy ones for our governor. Vengeful Democrats, led by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and labor union bosses, will be plotting comebacks and counting the days until the Cuomo era ends. Republicans will strive to build on their gains and will block Cuomo’s leftist agenda at every turn.

There are two things you can bank on. First, there will be no third term for Cuomo, who is smart enough to know that in his weakened position, he’ll face a serious primary challenger in 2018. He also knows, from his father’s experiences, that third terms are not fun.

Second, Cuomo will devote most of his time to settling scores. He’s a man who never forgets or forgives a slight. He mastered the role of hatchet man during daddy Mario’s 12 years in office, and doesn’t fear utilizing those skills.

Expect plenty of gubernatorial theater in the next four years, but few accomplishments. Cuomo’s second term will resemble many gubernatorial third terms – marking time and lackluster at best.

Paying a high price for the woeful MTA – By George J. Marlin

Posted November 16, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the November 7-13, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

For most New Yorkers, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is an enigma. At best, they see the MTA as a maze of poorly managed transportation agencies that stick them with the tab for fiscal and operational incompetence.

Created by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1968, the MTA consolidated, under one state-controlled oversight board, three ailing commuter systems: Long Island Rail Road, the New York City Transit Authority and Metro-North Railroad, plus the prosperous Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

The key component of the Rockefeller initiative was the TBTA, because its toll-collecting facilities were generating significant annual surpluses. Instead of lowering tolls to reduce the burden on commuters, the surplus money was allocated to cover the operating deficits of the other MTA transit operations. This arrangement, the political class proclaimed at the time, would be the panacea for all mass-transit ills.

Alas, it was not to be. Misuse of capital-project funds, public-employee union pandering and fiscal slight-of-hand not only sucked up the TBTA surplus, but forced toll and fare increases time and again.

Gov. George Pataki, for instance, inflicted great harm on the MTA when he recklessly refinanced MTA debt in 2002. He approved $12 billion of restructuring that produced limited short-term savings and extended debt due to be paid off between 2015 and 2032. E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for New York State Policy wrote at the time that Pataki’s actions “weakened the agency’s infrastructure budget for a generation.”

In 2009-2010, the MTA had to borrow to meet its payroll and deferred pension payments to the tune of $125 million. To stem the hemorrhaging, Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature further picked the pockets of taxpayers by imposing a “regional payroll tax.”

Pandering to unions has resulted in a majority of the MTA’s 68,000 employees making more than $100,000 a year. In 2013, the average pay of MTA police was $125,000. The Empire Center reports that among non-police operating subsidiaries, LIRR employees were the MTA’s highest-paid workers, earning an average of $84,000, with 28 percent of railroad employees receiving more than $100,000 – including 166 who more than doubled their base pay with overtime and other extras. And these figures don’t include the 7.5-percent retro pay included in the giveaway election-year contract deal Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut with LIRR unions.

To add to the MTA’s woes, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli reported in October that “significant challenges remain, in particular, closing the unprecedented funding gap in its proposed five-year capital program.”

The DiNapoli Report revealed:

  • Cuomo’s labor agreements will cost $1.5 billion more than originally budgeted.
  • Non-pension, unfunded retirement and post-employment benefits (i.e., healthcare insurance) at the end of 2012 totaled $19.9 billion.
  • Capital-program bonded debt is expected to reach $39 billion by 2018, more than double the 2003 level.
  • Overtime is projected to hit $801 million in 2014, 30 percent higher than four years ago.
  • The 2015-2019 capital projects plan, which totals $32.1 billion, has a funding gap of $15.2 billion.

These dismal findings explain why the MTA raised tolls and fares between 2007 and 2013 by 29 percent, more than twice the inflation rate.

While it’s projected that tolls and fares will go up another 4 percent in 2015 and 2017, that may not be enough if the MTA proceeds with its $32 billion building plan. Closing the capital program’s funding gap through borrowing “would put added pressure on fares and tolls,” DiNapoli concluded, noting every $1 billion borrowed increases debt service by an amount comparable to a 1-percent increase in fares and tolls.

Not a pretty picture. And commuters and taxpayers will, as always, be shelling out more of their hard-earned dollars to pay for the fiscal follies of inept and shortsighted pols.

It’s time for career hack Kaiman to move on – By George J. Marlin

Posted October 28, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the October 24-30, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Nassau County is a fiscal disaster. Its financial condition is as awful as it was when the state intervened in 2000 to bail out hapless County Executive Tom Gulotta.

You will recall that to head off bankruptcy, the Nassau Legislature unanimously approved a message requesting Albany to create the Nassau Interim Finance Authority with broad oversight powers.

In return for the state’s permission to fund operating deficits with $1.311 billion of borrowed money, the county was to walk down the path of fiscal virtue and to fix its broken property-assessment system.

That promise was not kept, and on January 28, 2011, NIFA was compelled to impose a control period.

To stem the financial hemorrhaging, NIFA approved in December 2011 a long-range recovery plan. The county pledged to achieve a GAAP-balanced budget by fiscal year 2015 and NIFA agreed to permit the county to borrow up to $449 million to help Nassau get through the transition.

Last month, the county issued its proposed budget for fiscal 2015 – and it’s nowhere near GAAP balanced. In fact, the multiyear financial plan projects deficits as far as the eye can see.

Assuming approval of the maximum permitted property-tax increase, NIFA analysts project a GAAP deficit of $210 million. And in the out-years they project deficits of $259 million in 2016, $295 million in 2017 and $325 million in 2018, with no plan to balance.

Who is to blame for this mess? NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman.

After you appointed Kaiman to the board in 2013, he announced he would personally negotiate with the county and the unions a cost-neutral deal to lift the wage freeze. Ignoring warnings of several board members that NIFA should not be in a position of negotiating and then judging union deals, he boasted that as a one-time township district traffic court judge, he successfully negotiated many settlements.

Contrary to his claim, the deal Kaiman persuaded the NIFA board to approve was not cost-neutral. Every objective analysis that predicted the union agreement will cost up to $70 million more a year than it will save is proving true.

Thanks to Kaiman, who turned NIFA from a watchdog to a lapdog, taxpayers will be stuck paying hundreds of millions more deficit-funding debt dollars over the next 30 years.

Let’s face it, Kaiman has been nothing more than a career political hack. After being a Mark Green disciple, he lost races for Hempstead Village board, Nassau County Legislature and Nassau district attorney. In 1999, he managed to get elected to a minor post, North Hempstead Township District judge, but quit after two years to take a town patronage job. He was subsequently elected town supervisor.

However, after 10 years as supervisor, Democrats were grateful when he announced in 2013 he would not seek another term, because they believed he’d lose.

During his tenure, Kaiman – a vulgar and intemperate man – managed to offend scores of constituents. On one occasion, he publicly berated a Catholic priest for referring to Jesus Christ at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. He made headlines when he purportedly got into an altercation at a Jets game and when he managed to aggravate music legend Art Garfunkel at a concert, with his cell phone.

In addition to screwing up at NIFA, Kaiman is floundering in the $150,000-a-year job you gave him to coordinate state support for Hurricane Sandy recovery on Long Island. Newsday recently disclosed Sandy spending is in shambles, with disappointed and enraged homeowners holding the bag two years after the storm.

Governor, if the voters reelect you in November, your first priority should be to clean out the dead wood in your administration. And the first name on the list of people who need to go should be Jon Kaiman.

‘All Things Possible’ – Cuomo’s Tome on Self-Interest – Book review by George J. Marlin

Posted October 23, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed, Newsmax

My book review of All Things Possible by Governor Andrew Cuomo, appears on the Newsmax.com web site October 23, 2014.

Don’t be fooled by Cuomo’s Smart Schools – By George J. Marlin

Posted October 14, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the October 10-16, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

It’s very unusual for proponents of an important statewide ballot referendum to be silent during an election campaign season, but that’s precisely the case this year concerning the so-called “Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 Proposal No. 3.”

Not familiar with it? I’m not surprised. In his January State of the State address, to entice New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his extreme leftist allies to ditch their plan to increase NYC’s income tax to pay for universal pre-K, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the bond act, but little has been said about it since.

To bring you up to speed, here’s the official ballot text that will appear in your voting booth on Nov. 4:

The Smart Schools Act of 2014, as set forth in Section One of Part B of Chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space, to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 be approved? Yes or No.

Why has there been so little talk about this bond referendum? Because supporters are afraid if voters focus on it, a majority will realize it’s a $2 billion dollar boondoggle and vote it down.

This proposal doesn’t make much sense. Taxpayers are being asked to pay principal and interest on debt well beyond the life of iPads, laptops and other computer and technology equipment. E.J. McMahon, president of the fiscal-watchdog Empire Center, agrees: “Cuomo seems to rely on an arbitrary number and would pay for technology that will be outdated and useless before the state’s indebtedness is even paid off.”

Comparing the issuance of such long-term debt to borrowing for a vacation, Citizen’s Budget Commission Vice President Elizabeth Lynam said, “It’s OK to borrow money to purchase a house, and you pay that over 30 years because the house is going to last 30 years. It’s not OK to borrow typically in your personal life for a vacation, because that’s a short-term benefit and you’re going to pay it back for many years to come.”

The technology and construction programs included in the Smart School Act are generally funded by the state’s operating budget via annual school aid. By not using this normal process, the Empire Center has observed “the state will have to grow its debt and incur interest payments that make the expenditures more costly.”

Also, the funding of projects with bond proceeds frees up dollars in the state budget to fund more goodies on the never-ending wish lists of the state-wide teachers unions.

While the national cost of education averages about $10,000 per student annually, spending in New York averages $20,000 per student. On Long Island, it’s projected to hit $26,000 per student this academic year. For all that spending, the results are not impressive; New York student proficiency levels are below the national average, and it’s unlikely spending another $2 billion on dubious projects will improve student performance.

Back in the early 1800s, New York State went on a spending spree. But the 1837 depression brought it to a halt, as the state found itself on the brink of insolvency when canals and railroads built with bonded debt defaulted. To address this crisis, a constitutional convention was convened in 1846, and new measures were adopted permitting debt to be incurred only if approval was obtained in a voter referendum.

In modern times, New Yorkers have used this constitutional power wisely, rejecting most bond acts. This year, state voters have another opportunity to do just that – and to show Cuomo they’re too smart to fall for the Smart Act.

Wither LI’s Conservative parties – By George J. Marlin

Posted September 29, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the September 26-October 2, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

After writing this biweekly LIBN column for more than five years, I presume readers know that fiscally, economically and culturally, I’m a small “c” conservative. But I’m also a member of the New York Conservative Party, which I suppose makes me a large “C” as well.

Back in 1965, when I was 13, I handed out fliers on Brooklyn street corners for William F. Buckley Jr., founder of the modern conservative movement. At the time, he was the Conservative Party’s NYC mayoral candidate, running against the very liberal John Vliet Lindsay.

In 1993, I followed in Buckley’s footsteps and ran for mayor on the Conservative line against Mayor David Dinkins and the candidate of the Republican and Liberal parties, Rudy Giuliani. To help celebrate the party’s 40th anniversary in 2002, I even wrote a book: “Fighting the Good Fight: A History of the New York Conservative Party” (St. Augustine’s Press).

The Conservative Party was founded in 1962 to serve ideals first. Throughout its history, the party has been the guardian of working-class New Yorkers – men and women who subscribe to the belief that to be a good citizen, it’s essential to love family, country, neighborhood and God, and just as important to respect an ethic of hard work.

Thanks to the dedication of the party’s founders and many of its leaders, who eschewed personal gain, Ronald Reagan said, “The Conservative Party has established itself as a pre-eminent force in New York politics and an important part of our political history.”

This brings me to the present state of the Conservative Party on Long Island. Right now, Suffolk County Chairman Ed Walsh is being investigated by the FBI over allegations that he collected his salary as a county Corrections Department lieutenant for hours he did not work; the county sheriff is attempting to fire him. According to records disclosed in Newsday, Walsh collected more than $250,000 in salary and overtime from the sheriff’s office in 2013 and another $60,000 from the Suffolk Conservative Party.

Longtime local party activist Michael O’Donohoe said the allegations have “tainted” the Conservative line and he fears that members dedicated to its principles will “abandon the county party if it’s known for bloated salaries and political connections.”

For the good of the party, Mr. Walsh should have stepped down as chairman, at least until the investigation is over. But no, that was asking too much – and sadly, his rubber-stamp county committee elected him to another two-year term Sept. 17.

As for the Nassau County Conservative Party, its leader, Danny Donovan, claims he champions traditional cultural beliefs, and says candidates seeking the party’s nomination must be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. That standard, however, didn’t apply in the 4th Congressional District this year.

Instead of choosing Republican Frank Scaturro, a true conservative intellect and dedicated activist, the party nominated pro-abortion Bruce Blakeman to oppose Democrat Kathleen Rice.

Blakeman, one of GOP boss Joe Mondello’s favorite political hacks, not only lacks intellectual depth but has proven to be an inept candidate. In 1998, he was creamed by Carl McCall in the race for state comptroller. One year later, voters booted him out of the county legislature for supporting a 9-percent property-tax increase. And in 2010, he never got to the starting gate to run against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, soundly rejected by both the Republican and Conservative parties.

Unlike Nassau County Conservative Party leaders, I won’t abandon my principles – and therefore, I won’t vote for Bruce Blakeman. Instead, I’ll write in Frank Scaturro for Congress in the 4th C.D. on Election Day. I urge all right-minded Conservatives to do the same.

If the Conservative Party is to endure, its time for the rank-and-file to send a strong message to Long Island leaders: Principles matter more than patronage, financial gain and political cronyism.


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