Suozzi’s new role: that of helpless victim – By George J. Marlin

The following appears in the November 20-26, 2009 issue of the Long Island Business News:

As Ed Mangano’s recount lead widens in the Nassau County executive race, incumbent Tom Suozzi has been busy spinning that his electoral demise is not his fault but rather that of angry, misinformed voters who punished him for taxes and policies that were not under his purview. “I’ve pretty much been a leader of the property tax revolt,” he told the Times, “and now I’m maybe a victim of it.”

To promote his “I am a victim” strategy, Suozzi in a post-election Newsday op-ed called for Nassau schools, which are currently run by 56 independent elected school district boards, to be controlled by the county executive. Suozzi’s rationale: Since he gets flack for onerous school taxes, he might as well have oversight responsibility just like New York City Mayor Bloomberg.

Suozzi’s “Hail Mary pass” proposal, tailored to address his electoral shortcomings, is deeply flawed and his comparison to Mayor Bloomberg and New York City is absurd.

When Michael Bloomberg took office in January 2002 he inherited a failing school system that was controlled by a seven-member Board of Education of which only two were his appointees. There was also a top-heavy educational bureaucracy that was not only riddled with corruption and cronyism but had failed to set or monitor performance standards.

And yet, the mayor had no choice but to fund this floundering system out of his operating budget. In other words, while the mayor had the responsibility to annually come up with billions of dollars to pay education bills, he did not have the corresponding oversight rights to determine if the money was being spent properly or wisely. Even Albany potentates, who are generally under the thumb of teachers’ unions, realized this was unjust and agreed to give Bloomberg mayoral control.

Nassau County’s executive, on the other hand, has never had any responsibilities over education. Unlike New York City, the county does not spend a dime on schools; hence it has no valid claim for control.

There are other flaws in Suozzi’s plan. Since each school district has its own budget, teachers’ contracts and bonded debt, in addition to receiving Albany’s blessings to get a final OK, district taxpayers would have to vote for unification; bondholders would have to approve debt consolidation covenants; and teachers would have to agree to replace individual contracts with a countywide one. The chances of all this happening: zero.

Citizens are very protective of their school districts. They are not going to give up their say on how their taxes will be spent on their neighborhood schools to some county bureaucrat. Bondholders, particularly those who hold highly rated school district debt, are not going to exchange their bonds for lower-rated county ones. As for teachers, they would rather negotiate with the devil they know.

Suozzi’s plan, like his political career, is about himself. His favorite word, the personal pronoun “I,” was used 18 times in his Nov. 8 Newsday op-ed. If he was so passionate about school consolidation plans, why didn’t he put out a thoughtful position paper during the campaign rather than days after his statewide ambitions evaporated as he sat on $2 million saved for his next statewide campaign? Suozzi must be mature enough to realize that Nassau voters punished him not because of school taxes, but because he was an absentee landlord who has conjured small-bore, short-term tricks to paper over the county’s fiscal and economic woes. The voters sent a message that they want a full-time county executive, not a part-timer in search of another office.

When all the votes are counted, if Suozzi goes down, he’ll be a victim all right – a victim of his narcissism.

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3 Comments on “Suozzi’s new role: that of helpless victim – By George J. Marlin”

  1. SmallBizGuy Says:

    This Suozzi campaigned like Obama and governed like Gulotta. He has left this County a mess.

  2. 3rdGradeTeacher Says:

    Mr. Suozzi after 8 eight years in office has lost and out of the blue decides that he would have won if he had control of our public schools. What an egomaniacial hypocrite. If he really believed this, why didn’t he propose this 6 months or 6 years ago? The County has no experience running schools and no culture of education. The things the County does run are expensive and mediocre at best. Send Mr. Suozzi back to Glen Cove.

  3. Nassau Taxpayer Says:

    Excellent piece. I live and work in Nassau and run a small business from my home. Do we really want the people who run Nassau County to run our schools? The idea is laughable. I read LIBN but couldnt find this piece on their website. Good work.


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