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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention.  President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd.  Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.

Michael Miller


By Michael Miller
Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages

In early 1946, a brouhaha erupted between the AFL and the CIO, the state’s rival federations of labor groups. Republican leaders in the state legislature endorsed the upstate-oriented AFL’s proposal that New York license and regulate barbers and cosmetologists. The downstate-oriented CIO, which had members who couldn’t document the required formal education, launched opposition so fierce and threatened political retaliation so severe that the legislation was considered dead. And then, as the 1946 session was drawing to a close and the CIO was concentrating on other things, the “barber and hairdresser bills” started moving through both houses, with almost total Republican support and Democratic opposition. Member of Assembly Genesta Strong, first-termer from Nassau County, dependable, safe and already expected to step aside, was asked to be the official sponsor of the cosmetologist licensing bill.

Governor Dewey’s signing of the bill cemented support for his re-election from the powerful AFL, which had been the whole point. To those in political inner circles, Mrs. Strong had proved herself a reliable team player whose dignity was useful in deflecting potential attack.

Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
Sustainable LI: Getting Good Things Done

Farmingdale-based Sustainable Long Island is hosting its eighth annual Sustainability Conference on Friday, April 4, at Carlyle on the Green, at Bethpage State Park.

The event will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and traditionally draws hundreds of people from all walks of life: government, business and not-for-profits. This year’s theme is “Accomplishing More Together.” Tickets are $75 per person, which includes the cost of lunch.

Nassau Voters Deserve Real Choices

For a long time, I cut County Executive Ed Mangano a lot of slack, partly because he was the first countywide elected official we’ve had in a long time who didn’t quickly begin jockeying for another office. There was something refreshing about that.

Mangano was largely left to wither by the Republicans until the last 20 days of the 2009 campaign. He was opposed by the Conservative Party. Only when State Senate district polling tipped off party leaders that there was a chance to embarrass the ambitious incumbent, Tom Suozzi, by holding him to a smaller-than-expected victory, did the G.O.P. invest modest financial support in the Mangano campaign. Mangano should have recognized that he was elected with little political debt, with freedom to act independently, to step outside the circle and mine the wealth of managerial talent that resides in this county, to make hard choices and appeals to reason.    

Instead, he immediately heaped praise on party leaders and allowed some partisans around him to practically run wild in the streets, even before he took the oath of office.

There would be no breathe of fresh air or break from hyper-partisanship. We have only escapes from reality.

Late last November, in the midst of a natural disaster, the County Executive mailed yet another taxpayer-funded brochure featuring a small child “thanking” him for not raising property taxes and for reforming the tax assessment system. On the same day it hit mailboxes, county legislators blocked Mangano’s request to borrow $165 million to pay commercial and property tax refunds, a practice which raises taxes in ultra-slow motion. This $100,000 mailing was answered in mailings by some legislative Democrats: “Under Democratic control, Nassau County had 10 straight years with a budget surplus…”

At what point will someone at the state level step in and issue guidelines about what partisan propaganda can be paid for with public money?

Now, former County Executive Suozzi has declared his candidacy for re-election. There are hard feelings among some Democrats left out on a limb or unexpectedly shut out. By the time you read this, the extent to which Suozzi will face opposition will be clearer.

We don’t yet know which Tom Suozzi is running.

When Suozzi reigns himself in, when he dials it down and shows some restraint, he can be very effective. Really the best in the county. But Suozzi was also not well-served by his party, which provided almost no oversight or boundaries, denying valuable opportunities to hone messages or practice subtle maneuvering. His campaign for Governor in 2006, to put it briefly, and kindly, was named the second-worst campaign in America by a national political blog.

People get worn down. Lessons were not learned. Three weeks before Election Day 2009, his county campaign materials had the theme, “Let’s Fix Albany.”

The 2009 results show that Suozzi’s problem was not merely low turnout among Democrats, or “Obama voters” or “self interest” or some of the other tortured explanations he or his supporters offered. There were Democrats in Democratic strongholds who wanted to rebuke Suozzi and did so by voting for the underdog, Mangano.

Three out of four Nassau County voters, including four out of five Democrats, did not feel that voting was worth their time in the 2009 county elections. If we are to have the same candidates again, we can’t just have another useless hissing match about who hates property taxes more. The people of Nassau County deserve big, meaningful choices. They deserve to be engaged, to be shown a way. If the last two county executives cannot do that, other choices may appear.