Archive for the ‘Blank Slate Media’ category

Consequences of the shutdown – By George J. Marlin

May 19, 2020

The following appeared on May 18, 2020 on The Island Now’s website:

Every New Yorker is enduring the social, economic and fiscal consequences of the government-ordered shutdown.

The hardest hit—seniors.

Some 80 percent of the victims of the coronavirus have been over the age of 60. And 5,500 have died in New York nursing homes thanks to stupid decisions by the governor and his Health Department officials.

In recent years, I have come to learn a lot about nursing home facilities. In March, hours after the lockdown began, my 90-year-old mother died in a nursing home—but not of the virus.

The last time I saw my 93-year-old father in that same nursing home was when I told him his wife of 70 years had passed away.

Thankfully, as I’m writing this essay, he is in good health.

Anyone who has visited loved ones in a nursing home, as I have, quickly learns that even a mild head cold can spread quickly from resident to resident.

So, in this pandemic, for the governor to order on March 25 that senior residences must accept elderly who were COVID-positive was maddening.

The fact that Gov. Cuomo refuses to take responsibility for his actions compounds his negligence.

Heads should roll in the state Health Department and hopefully voters will remember Cuomo’s screw-up and punish him at the ballot box if he seeks a fourth term in 2022.

As for the economic impact: 36 million people have applied for unemployment benefits and 23 percent of those lucky enough to have a job have taken pay cuts.

In New York, jobless filings have hit 1.9 million. E.J. McMahon, of the Empire Center for Public Policy, has determined that the claims “represent about 21 percent of the state workforce.” He added, “This is well beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

Compared to a year ago, unemployment claims on Long Island have jumped 1,535 percent.

In households where total income is under $40,000, unemployment is at 40 percent.

In April, retail sales were down 16.4%. The largest monthly drop in recorded history.

Since February sales in clothing stores have been down 89 percent; in electronic and appliance stores, down 65 percent; and food services and drinking establishment sales, down 50 percent.

To get out of the house last week, my wife and I drove out to Port Jefferson in Suffolk County. This popular destination spot was a ghost town.

It struck me that many of those closed shops will probably never reopen. The Long Island retail store vacancy rate, which was about 18 percent before the pandemic, will soar even higher.

This means many working-class folks who were laid off will not return to work. In addition, owners of commercial real estate with no income will default on mortgage payments.

Foreclosures will drive down real estate values, which, in turn, means property tax revenues will decline.

And fewer shops mean less sales tax revenue.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has reported that in April local sales tax collections, statewide dropped 24.4 percent vs. April 2019. In Nassau County, there was a 26.1 percent decline of $24 million.

What does this fiscal crisis mean to taxpayers? First and foremost, Nassau residents will probably be burdened with paying off a lot more county debt. A provision buried in Cuomo’s state budget permits the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to issue hundreds of millions of bonded debt to fund the county government’s operating deficit.

Property taxes could also go up.

But what about government layoffs before sticking it to civilians?

Too many elected officials are saying they will have to cut essential services—cops, firemen, first responders—if there is not an infusion of cash from the feds, the state or from taxpayers.

This practice, Bob McManus of The Manhattan Institute has observed, “gives cover to politicians eager to move on to the next step—the protection of entrenched interests by expressing deep dismay, and then raising taxes.”

Yes, before picking the pockets of the general public, political hacks buried in the bureaucracies of local governments should be canned.

And as McManus also suggested, to make ends meet, how about bringing “public employee fringe benefit costs in line with the public sector” or reducing spending to “cost-of-living adjusted national norms” or reducing public pension benefits and corralling Medicaid costs?

As so many people are struggling to hang on, there should be no protected political class. Simple fairness demands a level playing field.

Cuomo: Ignoring L.I.’s infrastructure? – By George J. Marlin

January 4, 2020

The following appeared on December 30, 2019 on The Island Now’s website:

Right before Christmas, Governor Andrew Cuomo handed out $760 million in so-called capital grants and state tax credits throughout New York. One goodie he doled out to the tune of $3.5 million was for the construction of a hip-hop museum in the Bronx.

When grappling with his first budget in 2011, Cuomo condemned “Members Items”— pork awarded by legislative leaders to members who behaved themselves and towed the party line during the legislative session — as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

After being praised by editorials and the good government crowd for eliminating this abuse, Cuomo turned around and established his own pork machine via Regional Economic Development Councils.

Since 2011, Cuomo has handed out over $6.2 billion of goodies to local businesses and communities. And anyone who thinks the grants are not politically connected should get their heads examined.

A report released in December by the Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog, questioned the selection process: “…the implementation of REDC has shortcomings. Many of the projects are unrelated to regional or state economic development strategies. Projects tied to strategies are dispersed among industries and areas within each region such that no single strategy garners the sustained, intensive investment necessary to spur lasting economic growth. Finally, REDC activity is opaque, with inadequate follow-up reporting on each project and inconsistent of regional performance.”

While tossing around money for dubious projects throughout Long Island, the governor appears to be ignoring the Island’s crumbling infrastructure.

An analysis recently made public by the Long Island Contractor’s Association revealed that of the 379 miles of roads analyzed, “82 percent were rated to be in ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ condition.”

One hundred and forty-seven miles of pavement tested were rated in “poor” condition; and 164.4 miles were rated in “fair” condition. A mere 1 percent were rated “excellent.”

What is most interesting about the finding of the independent study, performed by Advance Testing Company, is that the worst sections of highways examined were segments of roads controlled by the state: Meadowbrook State Parkway, New York State Route 109, Northern State Parkway, and Southern State Parkway.

One does not need to be an engineer to know that for Long Islanders, safe roads are essential. That’s because Nassau and Suffolk residents own over 2.3 million automobiles. That number of vehicles exceeds the total in New York City’s five boroughs.

Lawrence Levy, Dean of Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies, put it this way: “Suburbia is reliant on the automobile to move people and trucks to move goods. It is unthinkable to allow our roads to deteriorate to the point where they not only impede economic progress but possibly pose a safety hazard. America’s oldest suburb cannot let its infrastructure age prematurely and expect to remain viable.”

At a Dec. 6 hearing of the state Assembly Committee on Transportation, Marc Herbst, executive director of LICA, pointed out that “Simply put, there are not enough funds allocated to address [road infrastructure] needs.”

He went on to say “The interstate highway system and most state highways were built over 50 years ago and we should prepare for most to reach the completion of their life cycles simultaneously. It is imperative for our government leaders to identify funding sources to responsibly address the tremendous needs in the next spending plan.”

Herbst, a former assemblyman and ordained minister, called on the Legislature to fund our crumbling infrastructure “with an amendment in each legalized sports betting, legalized marijuana and prostitution decriminalization bills” which are projected to generate $375 million annually.

Instead of pandering to special interests with pork subsidies, it’s time for the governor and the Legislature to abandon such follies and to focus on the needs of every citizen — safe roads and highways.

Nassau’s 2019 Political Winners and Losers – By George J. Marlin

December 9, 2019

The following appeared on December 2, 2019 on The Island Now’s website:

Here’s my take on the political winners and losers in this year’s game of Nassau politics.

WINNERS

Madeline Singas: Having kept her promise to be a professional prosecutor above the political fray, she was easily re-elected receiving 65 percent of votes cast. After I broke ranks with the Nassau Conservative Party four years ago and endorsed Singas over the unqualified Republican Kate Murray, I was castigated by many party members.

However, in 2019, Conservative leaders realized I was right and endorsed Singas for a second full term in office.

Peter King: The retiring congressman has served the nation and Long Island with distinction for 27 years in the House of Representatives. He played a major role in the 1998 peace negotiations between the Irish government and the I.R.A.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, he fought tirelessly to enhance the nation’s security and to bring aid to New York to help recovery efforts. Sen. Chuck Schumer got it right when he said that King “stood head and shoulders above everyone else” as a “principled” legislator who “fiercely loved America, Long Island, and his Irish heritage and served them all.”

Sadly, Schumer was condemned by his party’s lunatic fringe for daring to be civil and saying he would miss King and “value[d] his friendship.”

Judi Bosworth: The North Hempstead Supervisor was easily re-elected to a fourth term. During her tenure, she has maintained the township’s triple-A financial ratings and has proved that hard work and a civil demeanor pays off.

Laura Gillen: She is a winner even though she lost her bid for a second term as Hempstead’s supervisor. Gillen fearlessly exposed the institutional incompetence and cronyism of 100 years of Republican rule. Republican hacks on the town board, however, blocked her efforts to implement much needed municipal reforms. Taxpayers will be sorry they restored GOP rule.

LOSERS

Ed Mangano: Indicted in October 2016, the former Republican County Executive was convicted on March 8, 2019 of conspiracy to commit bribery, honest service, wire fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In October, he was barred from practicing law. Mangano is expected to be sentenced to jail in December.

Rob Walker: The former Republican First Deputy County Executive pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice on May 29, 2019. He admitted to a federal judge: “I knowingly and unfortunately … met with an informant working with the government and I asked him not to disclose the $5,000 he gave me.” Taxpayers are fortunate to be rid of this pretentious, dishonest light-weight.

Jon Venditto: The former Republican Supervisor of Oyster Bay, pleaded guilty on July 26, 2019 to state corruption charges.

Edward Ambrosino: The former Republican Hempstead Town legislator and former special counsel to Ed Mangano, pleaded guilty of tax evasion in April 2019. He was ordered to pay $275,000 in back taxes, $370,000 in legal penalties, and $700,000 to his former law firm. In November, Ambrosino was sentenced to six months in a federal prison.

Nassau’s Democratic state senators: They naively supported the MTA’s congestion pricing plan, a financial ruse to pick the pockets of many struggling taxpayers.

They were bought off with the pledge that their suburban rail system would receive billions from the projected “congestion pricing” borrowing to fund capital projects. They were chumps. The LIRR will be getting that much and more from the existing MTA capital projects plan.

Jack Schnirman: The Democratic Nassau County Comptroller, who has boasted he understands public finance and accounting, did not grasp that he was overpaid $52,980 in a separation payment when he left his Long Beach City Manager post in December 2017. While Schnirman paid back the money, it is hard to take him seriously as our fiscal watchdog.

Jay Jacobs: As the only political party leader appointed to the State’s Public Campaign Financing Commission, he looks like the governor’s patsy. Most Albany wags believe he was instructed to settle a Cuomo score by devising regulations that ensure the Working Families Party will go out of business after the next gubernatorial election.

Keep fusion voting in New York State – By George J. Marlin

October 22, 2019

The following appeared on October 21, 2019 on The Island Now’s website:

Unlike most other states in the nation, New York has given official status to “third” parties for over a century.

What’s more, the state’s election laws allow those parties to “cross-endorse” candidates (a/k/a Fusion voting) of the Republican and Democratic Parties, meaning that two or more parties can nominate the same candidate and that the votes cast on each of those lines are added together.

New York’s rules permit any individual who can obtain at least 20,000 valid signatures of registered voters with any party affiliation to establish an independent party. If in a subsequent gubernatorial election that independent party’s candidate receives at least 50,000 votes, the party is officially recognized and automatically receives a spot on the ballot in every election for the next four years.

In the 20th century, New York third parties began to gain status during the Depression years. The American Labor Party (ALP) was founded with the approval of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Roosevelt believed he would pick up votes on this line of extreme left-wingers, socialists, and progressive Republicans who could not bring themselves to vote on the line of the corrupt “Tammany Hall controlled” Democratic Party.

After the Communists took over the ALP in 1954, labor union leaders pulled out and founded the New York State Liberal Party.

Then, in 1962, to counter the Liberal Party and to oppose the rise of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s liberal Republicanism, J. Daniel Mahoney and Kiernan O’Doherty, with the blessing of William F. Buckley Jr., founded the New York State Conservative Party.

Over the years, both parties provided the margin of victory for candidates they endorsed, as well as the margin of defeat for major party candidates who shunned them.

For instance, in 1961, the Liberal Party provided the margin of victory for John F. Kennedy. He outpolled Nixon by 384,000 votes thanks to the 406,176 votes he received on the Liberal Party line.

Similarly, in 1994, George Pataki beat Gov. Mario Cuomo by about 200,000 votes due to the 328,000 votes cast for him on the Conservative Party Line.

In 2006, the Liberal Party went out of business when its gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Cuomo, failed to receive the minimum 50,000 votes.

In its stead, the Working Families Party (WFP) is now the voice of the far left’s political agenda. Its voting power is second only to the Conservative Party.

Oddly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who accepted the WFP nomination in his 2006 race for state Attorney General and his three races for governor, and in 2014 created his own minor party, the Women’s Equality Party, is now opposed to cross-endorsements.

Most political wags believe the governor is driven solely by spite because the WFP tortured him politically in 2014 and 2018 by first promoting candidates against him and later making him beg for the endorsements.

To eliminate fusion voting, Cuomo has established another commission, stacked with political cronies. The commission, the New York Times has written, “must write a report with its proposed changes by Dec. 1. Those proposals would become law unless they are modified by state lawmakers within 20 days.”

Fortunately, for all New Yorkers, Conservative Party and WFP leaders have each filed suits to stop the governor’s crass political move.

Conservative Party State Chairman Gerard Kassar, rightfully pointed out that the governor’s sham commission is “attempting to shut down political dissent.”

“Fusion voting,” Kassar said, “permits candidates to run on more than one ballot line, allowing voters to cast nuanced votes by supporting chosen candidates on ballot lines with which they most ideologically agree.”

As a member of the Conservative Party, its 1993 N.Y. City mayoral candidate, and the author of “Fighting the Good Fight: A History of the N.Y. Conservative Party,” I am certainly biased in this matter.

Hence, I’m pleased the Conservative Party and WFP are fighting to stop Cuomo’s end-run around the state constitutionally held-up practice of fusion voting.

It is my hope they prevail because voters need minor parties to register their anger and frustration at major party pols who stand for nothing more than maintaining power for its own sake.

The Minimum Wage Myth – By George J. Marlin

August 28, 2019

This column I wrote appeared on Monday, August 26, 2019, in Long Island Now and in Blank Slate Media newspapers.