Since my article about Ed Mangano was published in last week’s edition of the 5TJT, I have spoken with prominent community members who enthusiastically endorse Tom Suozzi for Nassau County Executive. I have been apprised of Mr. Suozzi’s many accomplishments during his tenure as county executive as well as his exciting vision for the future. I therefore decided to write this article in order to present readers with an accurate portrayal of Tom Suozzi, whose experience and past performance may make him deserving of your vote next Tuesday.
“During Hurricane Sandy, the single most devastating event in our community’s history, we had no one to turn to,” recalls Heshy Blachorsky of Woodmere. “There was no one to call for help. There was no police presence. Not during the days and not during the nights. Nights when we slept in cold, dark, unsecured houses for days on end.”
He adds, “Back in 2005, when we incurred a terrible stretch of rain, many homes in Woodmere were completely flooded out. Back then, Tom Suozzi was the county executive. We called him and he came. He toured the neighborhood. He toured houses. We know we can rely on him. He has come through in the past.”
Jewish community leaders across the Five Towns greatly appreciate how he has always been responsive to our needs. That is precisely why so many have endorsed him, including Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Joe Lieberman, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, and Dr. Asher Mansdorf, member and former president of the local school board.
Suozzi has received the endorsements of almost every Long Island and metropolitan newspaper, highlighted by Newsday and The New York Times.
For the second consecutive year, school taxes have skyrocketed. Property taxes are continuing to rise. Tom Suozzi attributes the increase in property taxes to “the worst system in the nation.”
According to Mr. Suozzi, contrary to what we were led to believe, a “reduction in our assessment” did not mean a “reduction in our taxes.” It ended up as the opposite. It resulted directly in the increase of our property taxes.
School-tax rates have gone up an average of almost 20% over the past two years—well over the state-mandated tax cap.
In the Bethpage School District, where Ed Mangano lives, taxes have gone up an additional 10% above what the school district had planned. Mangano’s property taxes on his own house have increased by almost $3,000 since 2011.
Last May, voters passed school budgets with tax increases of less than 2%, complying with the new state law capping school taxes. Lorraine Deller, executive director of the School Boards Association, has spoken out strongly as to who is at fault here. “School districts are only accountable for no more than a 2.9% increase.” Every maneuver that has brought about the increases in school taxes “are due to the county’s assessment practices,” she said.
In order to “balance the County’s budget,” Ed Mangano “borrowed $2 billion, maxed-out our credit cards, and mortgaged the future of this county,” Mr. Suozzi explained. “Nassau’s long-term debt has increased dramatically under Mangano and now stands at a record $3.5 billion. We now have the highest debt of any of the 62 counties in the state and the highest in our history. Ed Mangano’s inability to balance the budget led directly to another New York State takeover by NIFA. In just his first year in office, Ed Mangano lost control of the County he was elected to serve.”
Suozzi added, “Mangano’s poor fiscal management has resulted in three consecutive credit rating downgrades, costing taxpayers millions of dollars in increased interest rates.” The latest NIFA report warns that the “2013 county budget will once again end in a deficit and that the budget gap will surge to $225 million over the next four years if things are not fixed.” It seems clear that if this trend continues, Nassau County is looking at a financial implosion of historic proportions.
Last Wednesday night, the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority issued a statement saying that Nassau County’s new 2014 budget has failed taxpayers “blatantly and without remorse or explanation.”
Even Nassau’s Republican Comptroller and Mangano’s running mate George Maragos criticized the budget by saying, among other things, that it “improperly allocates funds for property-tax refunds”
In analyzing the county executive’s race, Newsday said, “Mangano seems incapable of presenting a budget that doesn’t need smoke and mirrors to balance.”
That’s why many believe it may be time for a change in Mineola. Tom Suozzi has the experience and the commitment to finish the job he started. In 2001, when Nassau County voters elected Tom Suozzi to take over from Republican County Executive Tom Gulotta, Nassau’s government was in dire straits: debt, deficits, patronage, mismanagement, finances one step above junk-bond status, and a control board in place to control the finances. Nassau was labeled the worst-run county in America.
Tom Suozzi ran for county executive to bring real leadership to Nassau County and fix its finances—and he showed he was up to the challenge. In his tenure as Nassau’s chief executive, he turned the county’s finances around. He was hailed by Governing Magazine as “the man who spearheaded Nassau’s remarkable turnaround from the brink of financial disaster.”
Under Suozzi’s watch, Nassau experienced 13 straight credit-rating upgrades (more than any other American state, county, town, or municipality in the same period), eight straight balanced budgets with eight verified surpluses, spending kept below the rate of inflation every year, and an 11% cut in the county workforce (over 1,000 jobs) without a single layoff.
Tom Suozzi also innovated and modernized Nassau County government. He updated decades-old equipment and the county’s data systems, identified 76 storerooms throughout the county and surplused the obsolete equipment, renovated the Executive and Legislative Building, reduced county take-home vehicles, created a central IT department, saved $1 billion on smart government initiatives, signed a prevailing-wage bill into law, and created lasting, affordable labor contracts.
Next, Suozzi targeted property taxes. In 2004, Suozzi founded FixAlbany.com, a statewide campaign to link the dysfunction of New York State government to local property taxes. In Nassau he reduced the county share of total household tax obligation from 22.7% to 16.4%—making it more affordable for Nassau families to live here. In 2008, Governors Spitzer and Paterson appointed Suozzi to serve as Chairman of the NYS Commission on Property Tax Relief, and Suozzi was the original proponent of New York State’s property-tax cap that Governor Cuomo signed into law.
Suozzi has also presented a new vision for Nassau’s future: downtown revitalization, smart growth development, and green initiatives would transform Nassau into the ideal suburbia for us and for the next generation. Suozzi was never satisfied with “how have we done this in the past”; he has always striven to make Nassau better for the future.
Suozzi is now running for Nassau County Executive because he knows Nassau families cannot afford another four years of reckless borrowing, bond downgrades, and a broken assessment system that is costing the county millions. Suozzi is the leader we need to turn Nassau around and provide a vision for the future.
There are other reasons to support Tom Suozzi. He understands and cares about the issues we care about. He understands our values and responds to them. He’s accessible and he listens. From anti-bias campaigns, to speaking out on behalf of Israel, Tom Suozzi has always stood up for our community.
“This election goes beyond Republicans and Democrats. This is an election where the individual we choose will directly impact our lives,” says Heshy Blachorsky. “He will be the one to turn to when we need something, anything. We have an opportunity to bring Tom Suozzi back. He is a personal friend of many in our community. Many names that we are all familiar with are toting Tom as the candidate to elect.” v