Readers Write: A lesson from Providence

Recently, the government statistical arm, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, released GDP figures for individual counties.

These statistics were greeted with enthusiasm by the economic community to further parse data on employment, output, and wages, the things econ geeks love to do. They tell a relevant story for Nassau County residents.

Few realize it, but our county has more economic clout and population than some states. Let’s compare it to Rhode Island, for example: Rhode Island: GDP, $46.9 billion; Nassau: GDP, $84.4 billion; Rhode Island: population, 1.05 million; Nassau County: population, 1.4 million.

The governor of Rhode Island is one Gina Raimondo.

Remember this name, because this highly capable person could be your president one day. And she is qualified for the task. Rhode Island went through a hellish time during the Great Recession.

When Raimondo became state treasurer, she restructured the pension system, then only 48 percent funded, to reflect the economics we have now, not the one we had when health care expenditures were less than half of what they are today, and life expectancy was nearly a third shorter.

This took a forceful, if not ruthless hand, but one city, Central Falls, (pop. 20,000) had already filed for a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, and others were teetering on the precipice, ready to fall like dominoes unless someone stopped the bleeding.

The public service unions fought her reforms in court, which would have kept the state in perpetual crisis, and held them harmless while everyone else suffered, but she prevailed. She was later elected governor.

Today, the state is thriving, and thanks to reforms she put in place, she was able to execute a meaningful income tax cut for state residents, raised the minimum wage and expanded the EITC. This was transformational leadership.

Nassau faced and still faces, a similar dilemma to what Rhode Island had. However, we had NIFA imposed on us, which only served to protect Nassau’s perpetual state of insolvency. There is a reason for this: Quality of Leadership, Rhode Island (Wikipedia).

“Raimondo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in economics from Harvard University. She attended New College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (and) received her juris doctor degree from Yale Law in 1998.  

Following graduation from Yale, (she) served as a law clerk to federal Judge Kamba Wood for the Southern District of New York. Raimondo returned to Rhode Island in 2000 to co-found the state’s first venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital”

Quality of Leadership, Nassau County: (Official Bio)

“County Executive Curran began her career as a reporter at the NY Daily News and the NY Post. She specialized in in-depth features, often writing about Long Island. She was an adjunct professor of journalism at SUNY Purchase. She started in public service as a Trustee on the Baldwin Board of Education from 2011-2014, serving as president in her final year. She earned her B.A. in Liberal Arts at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Baldwin with her husband and their three daughters, Claire, Julie, and Molly.”

One leader took a state with half of the resources, practically on life support, and turned it around. Another isn’t even remotely capable of modifying a revenue stack whose structure was originated before Hitler invaded Poland. Know why?

Because in any organization, you’re only as good as your people. One leader was eminently qualified. The other lacks any semblance of credentials or ability.

And this studied lack of commitment to policy excellence extends to all of her cohorts. Look at any Long Island officeholders’ social media feed: They have absolutely no interest in policy whatsoever. Who do they follow? Only each other.

The entire political culture is incestuous.

Outside influence is not only shunned, for them it doesn’t even exist. There is a complete lack of intellectual curiosity when it comes to public policy, and that is why they simply go through the motions, getting their pictures taken handing out prom dresses and backpacks, paying visits to VFWs and firehouses, and doing nothing in the way of structuring the county to succeed.

Who’s responsible? Partially, we are. We accept it until something really outrageous happens, and suddenly there’s a line of people standing outside in frigid weather freaking out over re-assessment.

The other reason is our “leaders” aren’t chosen based on their accomplishments, training, or experience. They’re chosen for their docility and pliability to do as their told by the people who really run the county. And that ain’t us.

Donald Davret


About the author

The Island Now

Share this Article