Written by Matthew A. Piacentini Friday, 08 January 2010 00:00
The ticket that County Executive Edward P. Mangano rode to victory was the same one that Republican candidates used in Nassau County to regain a majority in the legislature this November – lower spending, fees and taxes.
Simple promises like the repeal of the home energy tax and more complicated financially oriented commitments like the overhaul of the assessment system spoke to voters’ economic woes. Now, as Peter Schmitt was sworn in as presiding officer and Republican legislators were sworn in as his majority, the clear message at their inauguration ceremony was: there will be cuts in county staff, decreases in county spending, cuts in county revenue (like $20-$40 million from the repealed energy tax) no tax increases and, most importantly, no cuts in services to county residents.
Mangano and his legislative counterparts ran on these promises and Monday, Jan. 4 at the Cradle of Aviation ceremony, they assured the large audience that they will deliver residents through these difficult times by doing “the same with less.”
“Our campaign platform was not hollow promises,” Schmitt said after Congressman Peter T. King swore him in. He assured the crowd and press that the change in government that morning was, “not a power shift,” as the media had interpreted it. Rather, “it is a continuum of services to county residents,” he said.
The “new mantra” under his leadership will be: “Can we afford it?” Schmitt said that as all families are asking this question right now, so too should their county government.
“It is not our money,” he said, promising that the legislators will be asking, “Can it be done cheaper? Can it done by someone else… or not at all?”
He said part of the new plan to make Nassau more inviting to people, rather than a place that is driving residents and businesses out with high fees and taxes, will be to consolidate with local governments where possible. The bottom line was a lower bottom line.
“We are presented with a unique opportunity and a grave responsibility to chart a new course for Nassau,” he said, promising, “tax and fee increases will not be part of the solution.”
Congressman King said that in these dire times with the grave mandate Schmitt described, voters should feel confident in his agenda.
“We need someone who is willing to stand up and do what needs to be done,” King said, “there is no one better than Peter Schmitt.” The congressman added that, “the issues confronting us transcend party lines,” encouraging the legislators to “come together.”
Schmitt did promise in his speech to treat the Democrats with respect and work with them toward the common good. Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove, is minority leader. She and her caucus were sworn in by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Yatauro highlighted the two priorities she sees for the governing body this year: financial stability and a review of the assessment process. She said her caucus is, “prepared to work hard to find the right answers,” and encouraged bi-partisanship saying, “Let us work together to do the people’s business.”
Yatauro recognized the contribution of former county executive Thomas R. Suozzi, noting several great accomplishments and then she welcomed his successor, Ed Mangano.
“He is a great man, we wish him well,” Yatauro said of Mangano. “We stand ready to assist,” working to “maintain all essential services.”
Of Yatauro, Comptroller DiNapoli said that she has proven herself as a great leader. “It is no surprise your colleagues chose you to be presiding officer and now to continue to lead,” he said.
Legislator Judith A. Jacobs, 16th LD was sworn in for her eighth term on the Nassau County Legislature. She was also sworn in by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
As a former presiding officer, Jacobs was troubled with Schmitt’s speech.
“I was extremely disturbed by the partisan tone of the incoming presiding officer’s speech,” said Jacobs. “As a former presiding officer for eight years, I would certainly hope that time will help him to understand that partisan rhetoric is not an attribute for a good leader. Hopefully he will learn that the rhetoric at the induction must quickly be changed to bipartisan action on behalf of all the constituents in Nassau County.”
“Secondly, the way the procedural first session of the new Legislative term proceeded left me disheartened and wondering whether Mr. Schmitt is thinking about “getting even” for the fact that he was not the majority the last ten years. We must work together and continue to make the tough decisions if we are to survive as a county. Hopefully, the impression he left after the session was concluded will ease quickly. Otherwise, it left me wondering if he is about to declare himself an emperor, rather than a presiding officer,” she concluded.
DiNapoli then welcomed Mangano, warning, “Don’t let the job change you. You’re a great person.”
Mangano said that he indeed felt very welcomed by the legislative body. He told the audience that he was looking forward to working with Presiding Officer Schmitt.
“He has always been a strong voice for Nassau County,” Mangano said.
The county executive also thanked Yatauro for her contribution as presiding officer and said he looked forward to working with her, asserting that bi-partisan efforts are especially needed in this grim period.
“If we don’t work together, building new bridges,” Mangano said, “we will have a tough time. I recognize that each of you has an obligation to your district,” he told the legislators, “but you also have a global obligation to the greater good.”
Also inducted earlier this week was retired Nassau County Police Officer and veteran Joseph Belesi of Farmingdale, who was sworn in for his first term as Nassau County Legislator representing the 14th district.
“I thank all the voters for giving me the opportunity to serve as Legislator and I am so proud to continue to represent my home District which includes, Farmingdale, South Farmingdale, Old Bethpage, and portions of North Wantagh, East Plainview, North Seaford, Levittown, North Massapequa and East Massapequa,” said Belesi.
Belesi will serve as chair of the Veterans and Senior Affairs Committee, vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee and as a member of the Minority Affairs Committee and the Economic & Community Development & Labor Committee.
-Denise Nash contributed to this article