All Things Political: Government keeps failing Long Islanders

All Things Political: Government keeps failing Long Islanders

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. The primary purpose of any democratic government is the safety and welfare of its constituents. Elected officials are supposed to work tirelessly to advocate for the best interests of the people and local elected officials for the residents in their districts. So why does our government keep failing us?

The first time I witnessed Long Island governments failing to protect us was late October 2012, right after the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. Nassau County, under the poor leadership of former (and currently disgraced) Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, had little structure in place to respond to the storm. Those who got hurt the worst from the chaotic emergency response were the poor and elderly, many of whom lived in mold- infested homes without access to utilities for weeks after the disaster. Unfortunately, Mangano was more concerned about lining his own pockets and those of his cronies than emergency storm management.

You’d have thought local elected officials would learn from this disaster to make sure our infrastructure could withstand another storm and to implement communication safeguards to update Long Islanders on what to expect. Sadly, they didn’t, as evidenced by the most recent debacle last July, after Tropical Storm Isaias. Long Island’s utility infrastructure crumbled during the wind-driven rain, and many residents, forced to work from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, were without power, cable and internet for weeks, some even longer than Hurricane Sandy.

Politicians expressed outrage and wanted answers how this could happen. Really, how could it not? I’m sure if another weather-related blast were to happen today, the electric and communication grid would badly fail again.

In mid-March 2020, it was clear COVID-19 was a dangerous reality as intensive care units at all area hospitals were overflowing with sick patients. Long Island’s health services were woefully short of the PPE needed to keep frontline health workers protected. Personally, I started a PPE drive using my disaster relief experience as a longtime volunteer and board member of the international disaster relief organization, All Hands and Hearts (AHAH).

I reached out to a plethora of Long Island school districts to donate their PPE to area hospitals. A few did right away. Most refused, however, and hid behind the law about donating public property. I also called several elected officials to get involved securing PPE, but most responded that it wasn’t in their jurisdiction. Even Nassau County balked for several precious days at creating a PPE drive calling for donations to funnel to area hospitals for reasons I still don’t understand.

As COVID-19 raged, there was no clear government policy to combat it. Ten months ago, President Trump preached the pandemic would go away by Easter 2020 and refused to wear a mask. The Trump administration also abdicated on creating a federal policy on wearing masks, and public gathering size was left up to the states. Here are the results from the Trump administration’s incompetence and chaos: roughly 400,000 dead, over 24 million infected and our economy in tatters.

Even now, with months to prepare, New York State has botched the vaccine rollout. New York City has a different process to vaccinate than the state, and now Nassau County has rolled out locations, too. Why hasn’t New York state led the way and coordinated all vaccine locations and protocol?

Listed COVID-19 vaccine contact phone numbers are rarely answered and have incredibly long hold times. Also, website slots for vaccinations fill up quicker than a Taylor Swift concert sells tickets. The government response to the chaos is eerily similar to what happened after Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Isaias. What will it take for elected officials to learn how to better handle a crisis?

All elected officials need to start creating proactive policies to protect their constituents in times of emergency. Reactive government crisis response always costs more to taxpayers in dollars and lives. The best time for proactive change to put future procedures in place to protect the public is now.

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