(Editor’s Note: Since Stanley Greenberg is on vacation this week, in this issue we present an encore of a column that originally ran on Jan. 28, 2005.) The winter of 1948 prepared me for the future. The snowfall that winter was 24 inches and the East Bronx that I lived in came to a definite standstill. Life to me, a 14-year-old, was a series of basketball and stickball games with a little bit of junior high school thrown in. The snow was interfering with my athletic career.
Ed Mangano has been in office over one year now.
Under his leadership, the County’s bond rating has been downgraded for the first time in over a decade. Overtime is through the roof. He has handed out millions in political patronage jobs and legal fees. He has failed to develop a comprehensive plan to address the effects of the nation’s worst economic crisis on Nassau County’s budget, and each week we are learning of a new breakdown in one of the County’s many departments.
I knew Nassau County’s finances were bad but I never knew how bad until I became County Executive in January 2010.
I soon learned I had inherited from Tom Suozzi a 2010 budget with a $133 million deficit, that spending was wasteful and out of control, that Suozzi had given the public employee unions extravagant labor contracts, that these contracts prevented the county from laying off employees – even in difficult economic times, that borrowing was commonplace – driving the county further and further into debt each year, and that – while the 2010 budget was bad – Suozzi’s spending and union giveaways would drive future budgets even deeper into debt.
About 10 years ago, my son Gregg told me about a book by Mordecai Richler, the Montreal-Canadian author, that I should read. It was about a Montreal, Jewish curmudgeon (like me) who was a fictionalized antihero in the novel. I read the book and it was all I expected. Great!
The hero, Barney Panofsky, is setting the world straight on his own version of his life. Barney was married three times, and his humorous depictions of each wife were more than hilarious. Barney is a regular guy and a fanatical hockey fan (very Canadian) who roots for the Montreal Canadiens. He is a cigar-smoking whiskey drinker and he abhors phony people. Barney is not an easy guy to get along with, but his criticisms of acquaintances are right on target.
As Lorraine and I stood shivering at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning on the Hicksville LIRR platform, we readied ourselves for our daunting task.
We were on our way to the 10th Annual New York Times Arts and Leisure Weekend. The Times building at 242 West 41st Street was our final destination. We traveled to see Will Shortz, the world’s famed “puzzle master.”
I believe the citizens of Nassau County should know that under the Suozzi Administration they elected to close down the Cedar Creek Process Control Lab in Seaford, which tests sewage and sludge daily for both Bay Park and Cedar Creek Sewage plants.
I would like to thank our residents, businesses and the employees of Nassau County for their patience and cooperation during last week’s blizzard. With the storm dumping over 16 inches of snow in our community, County employees mobilized early the morning after Christmas Day to deal with its cleanup. Crews were instructed to plow lanes adequate for travel in both directions. First priorities for snow removal included major thorough fares and access to emergency services. In all, over 100 County employees were involved in clearing roadways and dropping over 2,880 pounds of salt on our roadways. When those County roadways were cleared, snow plowing operations were sent to assist towns and villages who requested such help with residential streets.
On a recent holiday trip to New York City with my beautiful wife Lorraine, we were confronted by a few problems, which we overcame by sheer fortitude.
Let me explain.
We took the Long Island Rail Road because we saw on TV that the streets had not completely recovered from the most recent devastating snow and windstorm. We were going to visit my son Gregg, who lives on 83rd Street near Park Avenue.
My friend, Ralph Kolodny, professor emeritus at Boston University School of Social Work, commented on the brutality of the schoolyard in children’s lives. He said, “We tend to forget the pain that normally characterizes interaction among children. Oddly enough,” he added, “the work of the imaginative journalist or novelist often provides a more accurate picture.”
For example, in Ray Bradbury‘s short story “The Playground,” Charles Underhill, a widower, tried to protect his son from the terror of the schoolyard. Underhill wondered how childhood could be considered the best time of life, when it was the “most terrible, most merciless era, the barbaric time when there were no police to protect you, only parents preoccupied with themselves and their taller world.”
At year’s end we all get introspective and philosophical!
Resolutions and persistent statements are flying all over the place and directly into our lives. Most will be forgotten and misplaced sometime in January, but their value is unmistakable.
Maya Angelou, the poet and author, was interviewed on her 70th birthday by Oprah. Her humble and honest statements registered with me, and so I pass them on to you. After all, the name of this column is “Over 60 and Getting Younger.”
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