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From the desk of Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton: March 8, 2012

The Police Precinct Vote

I would like the county to be able to lower costs in every area of the budget… without hurting the taxpayers I was elected to represent.

The problem in the case of Mangano’s police precinct plan, however, is that the county executive has spent more energy convincing the public that this plan will work than he has spent on putting together a complete and clear plan for legislators to vote on.

The county executive has spent taxpayer money and used taxpayer resources to promote the idea that we were given a very simple, black and white choice. He worked hard to try to make taxpayers believe that the situation was: vote for the plan and it will save money - done deal; public safety will not be affected – done deal.

However, all 19 Nassau County legislators have a duty to know the details of every item before them for a vote, especially when the item could actually put people’s lives at risk.

Therefore, what you need to know is that there was too much I needed to know before I could vote YES. Even two legislators who supported the plan, Francis Becker and Denise Ford, posed serious questions to the new police commissioner at the Monday, March 5 hearing before we voted. The commissioner basically said they had to take the county executive on his word on crucial issues. Well, I have a responsibility to not take anyone at their word when I sit up on the dais and vote in the best interest of the people in the 18th Legislative District. (New York State also doesn’t take the word of the county executive. They put NIFA in charge.)

The police commissioner even admitted that - at the very moment he was standing before us testifying about the precinct plan - negotiations were going on between the county executive and the police that could affect details of the plan, while we were supposed to vote on that plan at the same time.

Legislator Norma Gonzalves even called the plan “a work in progress” as she voted to pass it. The commissioner called it a work in progress too. 

Among the things “in progress” are most of the nice sounding things that Mangano has assured residents in mailers and robocalls. A guaranty that the number of patrols on the street will remain the same, for instance, is not in writing. It is in the mailers, yes, but not in the item I had to vote on.

In fact, since this has passed, the county is now allowed to reduce the number of police on the street without Legislative approval. Yes, they have been saying coverage will not change on the street. But now it can go from 177 cars all the way down to about 100 patrol cars.

I regret that the county executive and his staff don’t respect the role of the Legislature enough to involve us in a real way with important plans. By not respecting the Legislature, the county executive is not showing respect for you, the people, or the government our founding fathers came up with to protect you. We are supposed to have checks and balances so no one person can make too big of a mistake that ends up hurting you.

Instead, you have a rubber stamp majority in the Legislature, who mindlessly give the green light to vague, unproven, changing plans from the executive branch. That is not how government is supposed to work in America. The executive is supposed to have to prove the worth of its plans to the legislative branch before it votes to approve those plans. That is not happening in Nassau.

I truly hope that the precinct plan put forth by Mangano, and rubber stamped by his majority legislators, does not hurt our residents. I also wish the county executive took the time to put together enough solid information so that we could have more than hope.