Archive for March 2010

Mangano cuts the fat from super-sized gov – By George J. Marlin

March 26, 2010

The following appears in the March 26, 2010 issue of the Long Island Business News:

On his 75th day in office, Nassau Executive Ed Mangano revealed to taxpayers, in his first State of the County address, the dire financial condition of the county government he inherited from Tom Suozzi.  Mangano characterized the county’s finances as “deeply troubled.”

The county executive was brutally honest and wisely quoted these words from Lincoln at the beginning of his presentation: “I am a firm believer in the people.  If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.  The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

Mangano has learned that in 2009 Suozzi – who was telling anyone who would listen that he planned to bid farewell to Nassau on January 1, 2011 because on that day he would be sworn in as New York’s governor or lieutenant governor or attorney general or comptroller – utilized fiscal smoke and mirror techniques, cut deals that will haunt taxpayers for years to come and buried plenty in the proverbial bottom desk drawer to get by in fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

Here are a few examples of what Mangano has so far discovered:

In fiscal 2009 Suozzi budgeted only $50 million for tax assessment errors. The actual payout was $114.5 million.

Suozzi buried $120 million of property tax increases in his four-year financial plan.  Suozzi’s assumption that a 2010 cigarette tax increase would yield $16 million in revenue was wrong.

Suozzi’s 2010 county sales tax revenue projection is expected to be off by $12.7 million.

Suozzi approved collective bargaining contracts that included $43 million in raises and back pay without a plan to pay for these reckless giveaways.

Thanks to Suozzi’s wishful thinking and miscalculations, a projected 2010 deficit must now be funded to the tune of $48.5 million.  Worse still, in 2011 (the year Suozzi planned to move to Albany) Nassau’s deficit could be more than $250 million – a staggering 10 percent of county tax revenue.

To deal with this mess, Mangano has developed for 2010 a $49 million Taxpayers Savings Plan.  The strategy rests on the plausible assumption that there are plenty of managerial positions in county government that can be eliminated.

Big government types, who are more concerned with empire building and process than achieving results, build layers of redundant management to enhance their personal power.  When I was executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, I identified 14 layers of management over the people who did the real work at the region’s airports, bridges and tunnels.

In an agency reorganization that held the line on toll and fare increases, seven layers of management were eliminated while improving services.

Ed Mangano is taking a similar approach.  To set an example, he has slashed the cost of his executive staff by $2 million.  Total staffing has been cut by $22 million and the headcount is expected to decline even further after a job-by-job review of Nassau’s 47 departments is completed.

The county executive also admitted that if Nassau is not to fall into the fiscal abyss, if it is to retain and grow jobs, the county’s broken assessment system must be fixed and a new four-year financial plan must be developed “based on our taxpayers’ limited resources to fund government.”  Mangano understands that county government must be right-sized “because the taxpayers can’t afford the government we have.”

Mangano has proposed an ambitious, sensible and necessary plan to clean up Suozzi’s mess.  Hopefully big government leeches, imperious political bosses and their lackeys don’t hamper its implementation.

What Catholics Are Thinking – By George J. Marlin

March 23, 2010

This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on March 23, 2010.

The Kessel NYPA Watch, March 22, 2010 – By George J. Marlin

March 22, 2010

Observers of Richie Kessel’s career know that he started as an inconsequential consumer gadfly and worked for the inconsequential Mark Green before leveraging himself into an inconsequential post for then Governor Mario Cuomo who Richie served as Chairman of the Consumer Protection Board.  Senior advisors to the Governor have in the past remarked that Kessel was one of their worst appointments.

On Long Island, Richie positioned himself for political advancement by opposing the Shoreham nuclear power plant and attacking never popular rate increases—how brave!—and making silly press statements on Sunday when a news-hungry press would lap up all that Richie dished out.

Interestingly, Kessel’s career was picked out of the dustbin of history following Governor Cuomo’s loss to George Pataki in 1994.  Richie enlisted his lobbyist friends and had Al D’Amato and political boss Joe Mondello carry his water.  Given their Long Island provenance they had Kessel installed at LIPA where he did incalculable damage to Long Island to support his ego-driven need to have his picture in Newsday and on News12.  When reform Governor Eliot Spitzer fired him early in 2007, Kessel once again went back to his base—Albany lobbyists and Republican political bosses—and had them pressure the unengaged and incompetent David Paterson to install him in an even bigger sinecure, as CEO of NYPA.

Richie now repays his political patrons by pushing the wind mill project in the Great Lakes which is unlikely to see the light of day, but will generate lots of work for politically connected lawyers like Pataki and lobbyists like D’Amato.

Kessel’s world has now come full circle. In order to repay his lobbyist base, Richie now proposes a massive industrialization of the Great Lakes that he surely would have opposed in his days as a young activist.  And just as Richie’s line of demagoguery worked in advancing his career, tomorrow’s young activists and future candidates for office oppose his billion dollar boondoggles.  As County after County and community after community comes out in opposition to the GLOW (Great Lakes Offshore Wind) project and fishermen and boaters and sailors oppose the project that will enrich lobbyists and other rent seekers all over the State, our Richie has morphed into the caricature he once opposed—a cynical insider dealing with the politically connected against the public interest.  Just ask businesses and consumers on Long Island paying the sky-high bills he left behind.

THE KESSEL COUNTDOWN: 285 DAYS UNTIL RICHIE KESSEL IS FIRED BY THE NEW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.

Wanted: Politicos willing to just say no – By George J. Marlin

March 14, 2010

The following appears in the March 12-18, 2010 issue of the Long Island Business News:

The past four years have been a political nightmare for New Yorkers because Gov. David Paterson and many other members of our political class have been shameless. To enrich themselves or their cronies, the abuse of power by politicians has reached epidemic proportions. There is no shortage of inductees to New York’s gallery of political rogues.

However, most of the scandals we have had to endure easily could have been avoided if only public officials had the audacity to “just say no” to their confreres.

If Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Chief of Staff Richard Baum and Director of Communications David Dopp had said no to Spitzer’s schemes we would have avoided the Troopergate scandal.

If state Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt and Press Secretary Marissa Shorenstein had said no to requests to tamper with a domestic abuse case involving a senior staffer, Paterson would have dodged allegations of obstruction of justice, perjury and ethics violations.

In my own backyard, Nassau County, if Joseph Belisi and his fellow Republican county legislators had said no to Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt’s 42 percent pay raise, they would have avoided enraging the public and creating doubts in the minds of overtaxed Nassau residents about whether they get the financial pain voters are suffering.

If those same legislators had refused to approve three Nassau OTB board members that Newsday reports “as having strong ties to [Joseph] Mondello,” they would not have to defend the controversial appointment of Joseph Cairo as president of the Off Track Betting agency.

The only profile in courage this year has been Peter Kaufmann, Paterson’s director of communications. When he resigned his post last week he said: “As a former officer in the U.S. Navy, integrity and commitment to public service are values I take seriously.… As recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue.” Fine words. It is refreshing to witness a public official who acts on the dictates of his conscience.

Sir Thomas More lost his head 475 years ago because he had the courage to say no to his king. While those who surrendered to Henry VIII’s lust for power have been long forgotten, Thomas More – who was canonized and named the patron saint of statesmen and politicians – is remembered because he proved it is possible for a person to hold a leadership role in government without surrendering his principles. That’s why Jonathan Swift depicted More as “a person of the greatest virtue the kingdom ever produced.”

Reflecting on the political machinations of his time, More observed, “When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” How true. Today our state and local governments are scandal ridden and experiencing financial crisis because so many public officials “forsake their private conscience” and refuse to say no to their political masters.

Worse yet, because so many politicos enter public life solely for the power, perks and pensions, when people promote an agenda based on principles these pols become paranoid, seeing conspiracies around every corner. Timorous political bosses find it incredible that there are activists in the public square who are not lobbyists or consultants and are not interested in a patronage job or government contract.

People all over the state who have had it with pols that view government as their private preserve, are joining the Tea Party movement. A recent poll reveals that 87 percent of Tea Party sympathizers intend to vote in the 2010 election. If they follow through in November, there will be a resounding no to politics as usual and many shocked Republican and Democratic hacks will be hitting the unemployment lines.

Understanding the Tea Party – By George J. Marlin

March 13, 2010

This article I wrote appeared on The Catholic Thing web site on March 11, 2010.

This insane fiscal cycle has to end – By George J. Marlin

March 11, 2010

This article I wrote appears in the New York Post on March 11, 2010.