On Friday, Jan. 12, County Executive Laura Curran had her first opportunity to describe her vision for Nassau before 1,000 people attending the Long Island Association breakfast.
Another public official given an opportunity to speak was New York Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who proceeded to give Curran unsolicited advice.
The Republican’s remarks were described by Newsday as a “stream of consciousness” that “might have left some in the audience confused.”
Frankly, I found several of his comments to be downright bizarre.
On the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, Flanagan said “NIFA needs to go away … has to go away. We need to allow people to properly govern and enter into collective bargaining agreements … Let the public speak every two or four years about the job you are doing.”
In case the senator has forgotten, let me restate what I’ve said many times before: Back in 2000, to help restore the county’s fiscal health, which had been suffering for years due to mismanagement and corruption, the Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved a home-rule message requesting Albany to create a slate oversight panel with the power to guide the county’s budget policies.
By asking for an independent public authority possessing budgetary oversight power, the Nassau legislators conceded they could not trust themselves to manage the county’s finances responsibly.
Responding to this request, then-Democrat Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli of Great Neck, and then-Republican Sen. Dean Skelos of Rockville Center, crafted NIFA legislation that was intended to fix Nassau’s financial mess and to protect taxpayers from future irresponsible political behavior.
This bipartisan bill, which then-Assemblyman John Flanagan voted for, was signed into law by Republican Gov. George Pataki on June 23, 2000.
Since 2000, NIFA has been a watchdog for the county’s long-suffering taxpayers.
When the former county executive, the indicted Ed Mangano, drove the county to the edge of insolvency in 2011, NIFA stepped in and declared a control period.
Despite constant roadblocks thrown in its path by Mangano —who thought he could borrow his way out of the crisis —NIFA imposed on the county credible fiscal and management reforms to help achieve a truly balanced budget.
And if County Executive Curran works with NIFA and negotiates fair contracts with municipal unions that are approved by NIFA, I expect the control period will end.
Another ludicrous comment Sen. Flanagan made to Curran, “Smartest thing you can do is listen to Richie Kessel.”
Actually, the dumbest thing Curran could do is listen to Richie Kessel!
Kessel is the poster child for political hacks. For decades he was New York’s leading political toady.
Fortunately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had the good sense in 2011 to bounce him as head of the New York Power Authority.
When Kessel ran LIPA during the Pataki years, it became a patronage mill.
Originally structured to have approximately 20 employees, under Kessel’s direction it swelled to 100 employees. It was a haven for the children, cousins and brothers-in-law of the politically connected.
Here’s an excerpt from an op-ed I wrote about Kessel for the New York Post in June 2008:
Under Kessel’s leadership, LIPA rate hikes made Long Island even less competitive compared to the rest of the nation and were a major factor in the near-final exodus of Long Island manufacturing jobs.
Kessel wasted millions of dollars on a boondoggle wind farm off Jones Beach – a project that hired one of his political patrons, Al D’Amato.
Meanwhile, LIPA ignored opportunities to pay down the crushing $6 billion debt from the Shoreham nuclear plant.
The state comptroller’s office reported that, on Kessel’s watch, LIPA ignored laws requiring bids for contracts over $5,000, and used customer money to pay a Republican lobbying organization $45,000 to conduct political polling.
He retained both Republican Kieran Mahoney and Democrat Patricia Lynch to represent the state authority in Albany at taxpayer expense.
County Executive Curran will better serve taxpayers by ignoring Sen. John Flanagan’s advice.
And Sen. Flanagan will better serve taxpayers and help the GOP maintain control of the Senate if he refrains from dispensing ridiculous tips to local officials and devote his energies to opposing Gov. Cuomo’s tax and spend policies.