Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has Show More
Nassau lawmakers introduced a measure late Friday to boost their pay by more than $30,000 in 2018 — on the same day a state control board said it would again try to inject discipline into the county’s loose budgeting practices.
Which is, in essence, why Nassau has failed to get from under a state control board. For almost 16 years.
There’s a disconnect.
Between elected officials and their constituents.
Between boasting about fixing budget problems, while continuing to bolster the status quo.
Between reality and fantasy.
Let’s be clear: The last thing Nassau lawmakers, or any other elected official in the county, for that matter, merits is a pay raise.
OK, so lawmakers’ pay — for what are supposed to be part-time jobs — has been frozen for 20 years. But a jump from $39,500 to $75,000 for each of the 19 elected officials? That’s ridiculous.
Maybe if Nassau weren’t facing a multiyear budget hole — again. Maybe if elected officials worked to close that hole via more aggressive means, such as, say, by shedding some of those politically connected part-time golf attendants who earn more than their civil service colleagues. Or opening contracts to some real competitive bidding. Or cutting the cost of mailing out not-so-veiled political propaganda at public expense.
Or even being upfront and honest about failed initiatives such as, say, those school speed zone cameras, which never were intended for safety (even though there are schools where traffic most certainly should be slowed) but for money.
Remember those union contracts recently settled by Nassau? Some residents blame police and other unions for the extra cost — but labor didn’t give those increases to themselves. The People’s Representatives, on the other side of the table, had to sign off on them too.
And so, here we are.
With Nassau’s chief deputy county executive, Rob Walker, on Friday answering questions under a grant of testimonial immunity in federal court in Manhattan in the case of Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who, with his son Adam, is on trial on corruption-related charges stemming in part from allegations of favoritism in the handling of a county contract.
And then comes word, via Newsday reporters John Riley and Nicole Fuller, of a transcript of a sidebar conversation at the trial during which a lawyer for Skelos refers to County Executive Edward Mangano, “who your Honor knows,” he said, “asserted 5th Amendment privilege, and the government is not prepared to immunize.”
It’s important to note that neither Walker — who testified that his immunity agreement would not protect him from ongoing federal probes into county contracts going to political donors, and other matters — nor Mangano have been accused of wrongdoing.
Still, the trial and ongoing federal probes hardly foster confidence that the cash-strapped county is spending frugally.
Politics and favoritism lard up expenses.
And as for revenues, Nassau lawmakers already have OKd new fee increases that, experts say, probably will push the price of buying and selling property in Nassau to the highest in New York State.
That’s not governing.
That’s more disconnect.
A gap lawmakers and Nassau’s other elected officials should be bridging — before even considering gifting themselves higher pay.