LI’s political winners and losers in 2011 – By George J. Marlin
The following appears in the December 2-8, 2011 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Here’s my take on Long Island’s winners and losers for 2011.
Steve Bellone – He skated to an easy victory in Suffolk’s County executive race and restored Democratic hegemony. His challenges: to tame a rambunctious Legislature, to maintain the fiscally conservative budgetary practices of Steve Levy and to avoid turning Suffolk into a ward of the state like neighboring Nassau.
Tom Croci – He is one very lucky Republican pol. Croci narrowly beat a popular and competent incumbent and his party will control all the Islip town board seats. Thanks to Phil Nolan, a dedicated fiscal conservative, Croci will take over a town that has a triple A rating and the lowest taxes on Long Island.
Ed Walsh – The Suffolk County Conservative Party leader proved that his party still has the clout to provide the margin of victory in tightly contested elections. In the cross-endorsement negotiation over judicial nominations, Walsh outmaneuvered and publicly humiliated Nassau GOP boss Joe Mondello, who in a fit of rage smashed his hand.
Desmond Ryan – The executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island led the charge against the plan to borrow up to $400 million to build a new Nassau Coliseum, a minor league baseball park and to raise property taxes. Ryan convinced voters that a county on the financial brink could not afford the sweetheart deal Nassau County gave to Islanders hockey team owner Charles Wang.
Long Island taxpayers – Thanks to the efforts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, there will be a cap on increases in annual local property tax levies of no more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This will be a great relief to Long Island homeowners who pay the highest state and local taxes in the nation. The cap will force Long Island schools to watch every dollar and implement efficiencies to streamline bureaucracies.
Charles Wang – The owner of the attendance-challenged Islanders hockey team was rebuffed at the ballot box by angry voters opposed to “crony capitalism.” By a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent, voters told Wang they were not willing to pay $900 million in principal and interest over 30 years on a publicly financed plan to build a new Coliseum. The politically blind and media-deaf Wang wrangled a referendum held on the day the United States almost went broke. Great timing, Charles.
Richie Kessel – He resigned from the CEO’s job at the New York Power Authority not with a bang but with a whimper. Kessel still awaits the verdict of the New York inspector general’s investigation into his antics at NYPA and the Long Island Power Authority.
Jerry Wolkoff – A combination of Heartland’s ham-handed approach to development and the surprise defeat of Phil Nolan leave Wolkoff in the lurch. His utopian city in Islip seems farther away in the rearview mirror.
LIPA and National Grid – Their 13-year lucky streak ran out on Aug. 28 when Tropical Storm Irene hit Long Island. When 500,000 customers were cast into darkness, there was public outrage against LIPA and National Grid for not restoring power quickly. LIPA’s communication with its customers was horrid. Even LIPA’s chief operating officer conceded customer communication was poor. It took Cuomo’s strong intervention as recovery lagged to get LIPA and National Grid to shift into high gear to restore power.
Taubman Malls – This leading, national, upscale mall operator has been humbled for 10 years now by the intransigent Town of Oyster Bay supervisor, John Venditto. Despite spending tens of millions of dollars, Taubman is stuck on the sidelines watching as its flailing investment is kicked about by Simon Properties and the Americana in Manhasset.