In Stack, NIFA had a true statesman – By George J. Marlin

The following appears in the September 27-October 3, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:

After Gov. George Pataki signed into law legislation creating the Nassau Interim Finance Authority in 2000, he appointed Ronald Stack as an initial member of NIFA’s Board of Directors. Two years later, Pataki named Stack NIFA’s chairman, a post in which he served with distinction under four governors until he stepped down Sept. 17.

Governors relied on Stack to help restore Nassau’s fiscal health because he was uniquely qualified to carry out that task.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Stack served as Gov. Hugh Carey’s deputy chief of staff. During his tenure, he was present at the creation of the New York City Emergency Financial Control Board, the first of its kind.

In 1975, thanks to budgetary gimmicks, phantom revenues and capitalizing of expenses, NYC expenditures totaled $12.8 billion and revenues $10.9 billion. Fifty-six percent of locally raised taxes were appropriated for debt service, pension and Social Security payments. In addition, short-term debt, which in 1965 was $536 million (10 percent of total debt) ballooned to $4.5 billion (36 percent of total debt). With 1976 short-term debt needs projected at $7 billion, the financial markets closed their doors to New York City.

To keep the city operating and to avoid bankruptcy, Carey, with the help of Stack and other key members of his administration, developed legislation that created the EFCB, which was granted the power to monitor the city’s spending and to impose fiscal constraints.

The control board forced the city to reform itself, and to this day it has produced operating budgets annually balanced under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

After Carey left office in 1983, Stack began a new career in the municipal finance industry. He went on to become head of the Public Finance Department of Lehman Brothers and today is the managing director in charge of the Northeast region for Wells Fargo.

Stack has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts in his field and has received numerous industry awards. He has served as a financial adviser to NYC and the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and California, and many of their agencies.

He also had the distinction of serving as chairman of the Municipal Securities Rule Making Board, which formulates the rules regulating the municipal securities market including taxable and tax-exempt bonds and notes issued by states, local governments, school districts, government agencies and authorities.

I first met Stack when I was executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. We worked together in 1996 to develop the plans to finance a new International Arrivals Building at JFK Airport.

At that time, the $1.2 billion deal was the largest public/private partnership in the nation. Working with Stack, I found him to be a true professional with a first-rate mind and impeccable standards.

During the past 3½ years, I have had the privilege to serve with Stack on the NIFA board. Once again, I found him to be a man of honor with sound judgment. Thanks to his municipal expertise, he was a strong and fair guiding hand in tackling Nassau’s fiscal problems.

As NIFA chairman, Stack established collegial unity among board members who came from all walks of political life. The votes to impose a control period on the county and a wage freeze requested by Nassau’s county executive were unanimous due to Stack’s reasoned and measured arguments.

In his work “Politics,” Aristotle described three qualities required of a statesman: an affection for the established rules of order, abilities wholly equal to the business of one’s office and the qualities of virtue and justice.

Ron Stack is the poster boy for Aristotle’s statesman.

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