Some time ago, I wrote a piece about the current governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo.
Keep an eye on her, I said, because this is an accomplished person in politics who is going places. Magna cum laude in economics from Harvard. Rhodes scholar. Doctorate in Philosophy and MA from Oxford. Her career includes clerking for Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York and launching Rhode Island’s first venture capital fund, which wound up managing Rhode Island pensions, and has done a fine job of it.
In 2010, the state’s finances were floundering. As treasurer at that time, she restructured the pension system, which was only 48 percent funded, and slashed benefits. The civil service never forgave her. I don’t know why.
The Chapter 9 bankruptcies these small cities were facing would have allowed the pensions to be slashed anyway. But she brought the state back from the brink with extraordinary strength and courage.
When the economy was in recovery, she was elected governor. But when she took office in 2014, the state still had the highest unemployment rate in the nation.
In three years, the state’s U-3 rate matched the national rate, outpacing the performance of dozens of other states. Every year of her governance saw a tax cut passed. She came. She saw. She fixed.
President-Elect Biden nominated her to be the next secretary of Commerce. I have no doubt she will be extraordinary, and this could lead her ultimately to the presidency.
This is a focused, educated and accomplished public servant, with the background and discipline to manage her challenges.
I compared Rhode Island to Nassau County at that time because Nassau has a bigger population and an even bigger economy than Rhode Island. So why has Nassau failed while others have flourished?
This week I got a postcard from the county executive, gleefully announcing that it’s open season for tax challenges, so it’s time for all you homeowners to step right up and play Property Tax Bingo and see if you can win a prize.
Yes, friends, it’s time to climb into that hamster wheel again, maintaining a decades-long tradition of ineptitude. Because not only are we the only ones in the nation who have turned tax challenges into a blood sport, we’re downright smug about it. We like our penchant for self-destruction. We like adding unnecessary administrative burdens to keep certain people happy. It’s tradition.
In Nassau, no one gets the message: You’re not elected to take over a franchise, you’re here to structure things to be made to work, not perpetuate our failures and blithely blow them off as a fact of life. But because of the quality of leadership we get, Nassau remains structured to fail. And it will remain so, as long as the most craven and self-serving people are chosen to run for office.
Know what our leadership’s CV looks like? One term in that legendary deliberative body, the Nassau County Legislature.
Nassau should have filed Chapter 9 when it got into a sling. But NIFA got it off the hook, and that cemented the county’s status as one big protection racket. No other municipality in the nation was given this gift. They all faced the music. Here the band plays on. Forever.
So instead of rescuing Nassau from its incompetence, NIFA wound up perpetuating it. Funny how that works, right? You avoid the punishment, they keep committing the crime. You tax businesses out of the county, then they give your tax dollars to a privately held corporation to bribe them to stay here at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per job. The business owner lives in Lattingtown. You live in a co-op.
Structuring the county to be competitive in the first place? What are you? Stupid?
Well, maybe you are. I mean, everyone has their hair on fire over the curbing of their SALT deduction. You folks might want to entertain the thought that the system that puts you into stratospheric property taxes in the first place is the larger problem, not the deductibility, which only nets you 30 percent back anyway. Which is the bigger sum by far?
And so, here endeth the lesson. When you show competence and execute properly, you get to go to Washington. Where do Nassau’s leaders go?