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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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‘Kaiman 2017’ Gets Cuomo’s Endorsement

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s appointment of Jon Kaiman as the Nassau Interim Finance Authority’s (NIFA) chairman marked the unofficial launch of Kaiman’s 2017 bid for Nassau County executive.

How else to explain the timing of the governor’s announcement (Sept. 19)? It came only nine days after former County Executive Tom Suozzi won a convincing victory over Roslyn school board member Adam Haber in a contested Democratic primary for Nassau County executive. Suozzi made an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2006; so Cuomo, looking down the road, has reason to believe Suozzi might make another run for governor in 2018. Cuomo could be seeking a third term that same year.

The NIFA-related news also came a few days before Kaiman, a Great Neck resident who considered running for county executive in 2013 before declining to do so, stepped down as North Hempstead town supervisor to take a full-job position in the Cuomo administration. Kaiman is the governor’s special advisor for Long Island Storm Recovery, an appointment tied to the launch this summer of the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program, a post-Sandy rebuilding initiative.

So, to recap, Suozzi wins the Democratic primary, and Cuomo then elevates Kaiman to a position that, no matter the outcome of the Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election for county executive, gives Kaiman outsized influence over Nassau County government as chair of the seven-member NIFA board of directors. Five of the seven NIFA board members, none of whom are paid, are now Cuomo appointees because on the same day the governor tapped Kaiman for the chairman’s position, he also named Paul Annunziato, a first vice president and financial advisor for Morgan Stanley who resides in Mill Neck, and Lester Petracca, president of Triangle Equities and a Manhasset resident, as NIFA directors.

To be sure, Albany’s renewed interest in Nassau’s fiscal affairs—NIFA was created in 2000 — might have been sparked by a condescending statement NIFA issued on Sept. 9. To sample the missive’s tone, check out the first two sentences:

“The Board and staff of NIFA have yet to receive a copy of the proposed agreement with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) despite its apparent approval by the office of the County Executive and its submission by the leadership of the PBA to their board of governors. However, given recent reports, we believe that all the parties involved must be aware — or reminded — of certain major preconditions that must be met in any attempt to fashion an agreement.”

The NIFA statement then lists other things about which the county’s decision-makers must either be aware of, or reminded of. Take that, County Executive Ed Mangano and Nassau PBA president James Carver!

Before NIFA issued its Sept. 9 manifesto about a rumored accord between the Mangano administration and the PBA, someone in the NIFA inner circle should have been aware of, or reminded of, the governor’s ability to fill vacancies and otherwise rock a NIFA director’s world at a moment’s notice, especially if a director’s term has expired. Alas, who could have envisioned that blasting County Executive Mangano, a Republican, would meet with disapproval in the governor’s office? The answer: savvy people who know Democratic office holders don’t always wish prospective Democratic rivals electoral success.

The Mangano administration may still face tough scrutiny from the newly-constituted NIFA board so that NIFA retains credibility with the general public and Newsday’s editorial board, a major shareholder in Suozzi, Inc., since the stock was first offered to the county’s voters in 2001.

The county executive’s 2014 budget proposal, as well as the county executive’s multi-year spending plan, must first win approval from NIFA, and NIFA will likely offer a spirited critique of Nassau’s current fiscal condition. The view here, however, is that Mangano will not be on the receiving end of any future NIFA broadsides akin to the one sent his way on Sept. 9.

The 2013 Cuomo-Kaiman alliance could of course meet the same fate as the partnership years ago between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Both the mayor and the speaker were riding high in 2009, and yet New York City’s voters wanted both of them off the public stage in 2013.

Kaiman 2017 has set sail, but who knows how many Nassau voters will want to jump on board his county executive campaign four years from now? In the short term, however, Cuomo, Kaiman and Mangano share a common goal: making a Suozzi comeback more difficult.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net