State and Local Watch March 19, 2012

Mangano’s Brave Move:  Bravo to the Nassau Executive for resisting the PBA’s scare tactics in removing administrative staff in the eight precincts scattered throughout the county.  Nassau has a slightly smaller population than Suffolk with one-third the land mass, yet has one more precinct. 

Teacher Evaluation Distraction:  Political capital is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted, but that is what happened with Governor Cuomo’s concentration on teacher performance.  Hundreds of hours were debated over this issue.  Sure, an easier method needs to be devised to get rid of problem teachers, but the overwhelming majority of our teachers are fine.  The most pressing problem is how to control school expenses.  I support the tax cap, but zero  mandate relief has accompanied it.  Let’s put some effort into that. 

Casino Dilemma:  Local Indian tribes have finally settled their differences and agreed to move forward with a singular consultant to pursueLong Island casinos – but did they wait too long?  The state legislature is on its way toward changing our state constitution on gambling, which, if approved by two separate legislative sessions, could open up the business to numerous private sectorcompetitors of the tribes. And by the way, it should have been no surprise that the Belmont proposal will be a heavy lift.  This is so for one reason – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is  a fierce advocate for New York City’s interest.  There is little chance he is going to allow Belmont to trip up New York City’s Aqueduct bid.  If you doubt his power, remember he singlehandedly vetoed the proposed Jets stadium on the West Side, a proposal abhorred by Silver’s downtown constituents. 

Redistricting Reversals: Suffolk Presiding Officer Bill Lindsay is reversing his prior support of an independent panel on the county level. It was no coincidence that the reversal came about only after the election results showed that he was still in the majority, and would thereby control the drawing of the lines. The same reversal occurred in Albany with the political parties reversed, despite Governor Cuomo’s push for the reform. It’s a shame.  Suffolk and the state could have led the way for the rest of the nation.

McMahon is No Extremist:  The Manhattan Institute’s E.J. McMahon recently criticized Governor Cuomo’s statement that he might relent on the need to establish a defined contribution pension system with a 401K type program instead of having a taxpayer-backstopped guaranteed benefit. Cuomo responded by calling McMahon an extremist. But why is it extreme to simply ask that new employees share the same type of pension system that almost everyone in theprivate sector utilizes – if they have a pension at all. McMahon is no extremist; he is one of the state’s foremost advocates for fiscal common sense. But then again, in the Albany bubble, that can seem extreme.

Federal Pandering and Overreaching:  What’s wrong with this picture? The federal government refuses to enforce our nation’s borders and then sues those frustrated states that try do deal with the collateral damage to their budgets. Now the Feds are suing states that simply want citizens to show ID at the polling place to control fraud. So let’s get this straight – it’s ok to ask for ID to buy things over the internet or to get on a plane, but not to ensure that you are who you say you are when voting? Go figure!

Time to End Outrageous Payouts:  Seeing retiring police officers receiving half a million dollars for unused sick and vacation time  has got to make the average taxpayer’s blood boil. These payouts are imbedded in the ridiculously anti taxpayer contracts that came about through the dreaded mandatory arbitration process. News flash to our state legislators: it is time to finally end mandatory arbitration andopen up these crazy contracts that are driving the counties off a financialcliff.  Put in place the system that exists for sheriffs and correction officers, where members receive unlimited sick time if verified by doctors, but ends the process of banking unused sick days for a windfall upon retirement.

Steve Levy served as Suffolk County executive from 2004-2011. He is president of Common SenseStrategies, a political, governmental and business consulting firm.