Archive for December 2020

Post-Trump GOP: Needs a Leader Like Sen. Robert ‘Mr. Republican’ Taft – By George J. Marlin

December 31, 2020

This article I wrote appeared on the web site on Thursday, December 31, 2020.

Business as usual for Hempstead GOP – By George J. Marlin

December 29, 2020

The following appeared on Monday, December 28, 2020 on The Island Now’s website:

In recent years, Nassau’s Republicans have suffered serious political setbacks.  Not only have they lost the county executive post, state Senate and Assembly seats, many of their political stars have been found guilty of various criminal offenses.

Have GOP leaders learned from electoral defeats and criminal misconduct?  I think not.

When longtime GOP boss Joe Mondello resigned, his successor, Joe Cairo, insisted on keeping his $198,000-a-year job as CEO of Nassau’s Off-Track Betting Corporation and his law practice.  He also accepted a salary as the Republican county leader.

The New York Post reported Cairo ignored fiscal watchdog warnings that “allowing people to simultaneously hold top positions in government and parties opens the doors to conflicts of interests and potential corruption.”

In other words, Republican Party business as usual.

Which brings me to GOP activities in the Town of Hempstead.

In 2017, Hempstead voters, tired of Republicans being more concerned with rewarding cronies and favored contractors, elected reform candidate Laura Gillen as their town supervisor.

The loser, incumbent Anthony Santino, was rewarded for failure by the GOP with a $160,000-a-year job at the County Board of Elections.  He was soon joined by current Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito.  In this patronage position, D’Esposito collects a taxpayer-funded, six-figure salary as an “administrative assistant,” plus the $71,000 he receives from taxpayers as councilman.

Before Santino departed, he and the Republican-controlled town board rammed through resolutions that prevented their lackeys from being fired and gave away about $2 million in raises and new hires.

For the next two years, vicious Republicans on the town board blocked most of Gillen’s reform efforts.  But, after releasing the shocking legal fees paid to GOP Chairman Mondello’s law firm, Gillen was able to shame the board into passing reform legislation that established procurement procedures for professional contracts.

Sadly, in a tightly contested 2019 election, the tenacious Gillen lost to Republican Don Clavin, a pol in good standing with GOP bosses.

And in 2020, it was back to Republican business as usual.

Four months after taking office, Clavin—during the height of the COVID pandemic that left thousands of his constituents unemployed—approved raises for political cronies and new hires.

In October, while state orders declared gatherings of more than 50 people a public health violation, Clavin hosted a political fund-raiser for over 200 contributors at a local beer garden.

At the December 8 board meeting, Republicans dismantled Gillen’s procurement reforms.  They also diverted approximately 53 percent of federal CARES funds, gifted to help address COVID hardships, to the town itself to plug budget gaps.

In response, Long Island office holders, including Congresswoman Kathleen Rice and County Executive Laura Curran, sent a letter to the U.S. Treasury requesting an investigation into how the Town of Hempstead spent $133 million in federal stimulus money.

The letter said: “The lack of transparency with regard to how CARES ACT funding is being spent by the town and the length of time it has taken the town to spend this money … necessitates an immediate investigation.”

Less than a week later, the U.S. Treasury Department agreed to investigate how Hempstead spent the money, particularly the $70 million allocated to payroll expenses.

Another example of business as usual:  On December 8, the Republican-controlled Hempstead board also gifted a brand new, 15-year, no bid contract to Dover Gourmet Corporation of Freeport to operate the town-owned Malibu Beach Club.

Republicans claimed the contract was gifted to settle a lawsuit between Dover and the town and was in the “best interests” of taxpayers to settle.

In that litigation, Dover asked the court to declare that a five-year extension of its 2009 contract entered without town board approval in 2019 was valid.  The town, in response, sought about $1 million in unpaid rent from Dover.  Republicans failed to explain how it came to conclude it was best to settle the case when the lawsuit was still in its very early stages and when Dover’s history of nonpayment was not in dispute.

There appears to be no real benefit to the town in this settlement.  While the arrears are to be paid off, the credits exceed the arrears payments, plus Dover pays no interest, no late fees and has until 2022 to pay off the arrears it has sat on for years.

Interestingly, a lawyer for Dover is none other than GOP boss Joe Cairo and Dover’s “consultant” is Cairo’s son.  Newsday has reported they have received more than “$1 million over 10 years for legal and project management work at Malibu.”

In addition, in August 2019 the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District subpoenaed the town for all records concerning the Dover corporation.

Other observations concerning the Malibu-Dover relationship:

  • The annual license fee under the 2009 contract was originally $400,000 per year but had increased to $560,000 by 2019. The new 15-year agreement fixes the annual license fee at $560,290 for the entire term, escalating only if cabana tenants’ rents are raised.
  • The original 2009 contract called for $10 million in improvements. There was no provision in that contract that gives Dover any right to offset payments owed to the town for extra capital improvements.  However, in the new Dover deal, the board gave it a $2.4 million credit for past improvements.  These will reduce its rent under the new deal to $400,000 per year—the original 2009 rate.

Yes, it looks like business as usual for Hempstead Republicans.

The question now is how long will overburdened taxpayers put up with these shenanigans.

Social Justice Ideology vs. the American Credo of Natural Rights – By George J. Marlin

December 19, 2020

This article I wrote appeared on the web site on Thursday, December 17, 2020.

Christmas books for political buffs – By George J. Marlin

December 17, 2020

The following appeared on Monday, December 14, 2020 on The Island Now’s website:

For people who give books as Christmas presents to political junkie friends, here are my 2020 gift book picks:

Last Subway: The Long Wait for the Next Train in New York City by Philip Mark Plotch

For readers interested in understanding New York’s sad transit history, this is the book to crack open. In readable prose, Plotch exposes politicians of every stripe who made great promises and failed to deliver on upgrading and expanding the region’s mass transportation system. Last Subway focuses on the greatest boondoggle of all: the Second Avenue subway extension. What was to be the “most modern futuristic subway in the world,” faced delays for decades, soaring cost overruns, and project cutbacks. The first three stations, finally completed in 2017 and opened to much fanfare by Gov. Cuomo, cost an astounding $4.6 billion. Plotch points out that the 1.5-mile subway line “cost more than four times as much as new subway lines in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Paris and Tokyo.”

The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Baker was one lucky guy. A friendship nurtured on the tennis courts of the Houston Country Club with George H.W. Bush catapulted him into the inner sanctum of Washington power centers. He would go on to manage five Republican presidential campaigns between 1976 and 1992, serve as Reagan’s chief of staff and Treasury secretary, and as Bush’s secretary of state. In 2000, he led the Florida recount legal team for George W. Bush.

Like other Texas political icons—Speaker Sam Rayburn and President Lyndon Johnson—Baker understood power and was not afraid to use it. He was ruthless in protecting his political turf and did not hesitate to throw friends and foes under the bus.

Baker was a political survivor, but an unlikeable one. He was an “avatar of pragmatism over purity and deal making over division, a lost art in today’s fractured nation.”

The Crisis of Liberalism: Prelude to Trump by Fred Siegel

Dr. Siegel, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a City Journal contributing editor, is the nation’s top social scientist. His 2014 work, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, is must reading for anyone interested in understanding our political milieu.

The Crisis of Liberalism, is a collection of Siegel’s most trenchant essays focusing on the 1960s liberal crack-up and the left’s growing disdain for America’s working-class.

“These essays,” the distinguished historian Vincent Cannato has observed, “are deeply relevant to understanding the turbulence and divisions that plague our nation today.”

The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts and Harrimans: A Story of Love and War by Catherine Grace Katz

This is a pleasant, behind the scenes, narrative of the famous Yalta conference in February 1945 that created the roadmap for the post-war world. While much has been written on the last Roosevelt-Churchill-Stalin meeting, this book is different. It centers on the three women—Anna Roosevelt, Sarah Churchill and Catherine Harriman, daughter of U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Averell Harriman—who accompanied their fathers. Daughters of Yalta describes how these politically astute women aided and protected their fathers during the grueling conference.

Trump’s Democrats by Jon A. Shields and Stephanie Muravchik

Since the late 1960s, working-class New Deal Democrats, feeling unwanted by their party’s elitist leadership, have been shifting their political allegiance to Republicans. This shift was most evident in 2016 when millions of rust-belt Democrats cast the votes that put Trump over the top in the Electoral College. While Trump lost in 2020, these “deplorables”—as Hillary Clinton called them — stuck with Trump.

In Trump’s Democrats, the authors, who spent time interviewing folks in small communities populated by white working-class citizens, explain why these voters have viewed Trump as the best president since John F. Kennedy. And they reveal that, unlike most cosmopolitan Democrats, their “primary political allegiances are to their town or country — not racial identity.”

Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man by George J. Marlin

Please pardon a bit of self-promotion: Readers interested in understanding why among all the 56 men who have served as New York governors, Mario Cuomo was the most complicated, endearing, brilliant, pugilistic, and exasperating, should pick up a copy of my new book.

Happy reading in 2021!

Book Review of George Marlin’s new book Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man – By John Gizzi

December 6, 2020

This book review of Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man by John Gizzi, appeared on the Newsmax web site on Saturday, December 5, 2020.