Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has
Oh, what a night it was. And by morning, County Executive Edward Mangano had just what he's wanted since the second year of his first term in office: the ability to run his county with minimum interference from a state control board.
Sure, the control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, passed a resolution that would let it, among other things, mandate cuts in the county budget should Nassau be unable to keep up with the cost of the wage freeze over the next four years.
That was a condition put forth behind the scenes by board members uneasy with Nassau's ability to get that job done.
But given the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo-majority-appointed board's actions thus far, it's a fairly safe bet that NIFA's new weapon stays in its holster.
Weeks before the vote, Cuomo's office had labeled agreements negotiated by the Mangano administration, four unions and Jon Kaiman, NIFA's chairman, as "fair and balanced."
That was before the deals had even come before the board. And Kaiman's participation in the process was unprecedented for a NIFA chairman. When was the last time state authority members and lawyers waited in a basement room of a hotel for seven-plus hours as lawyers traveled upstairs, and downstairs, ferrying paperwork between meeting rooms for the parties to agree on before signing?
Kaiman made the trip himself, a few times; as did Mangano, who was called Friday to the Uniondale Marriott after 9 p.m. At one point, as Kaiman walked by reporters and union members -- two of whose salaries had been frozen at $30,000 -- he mused aloud, "What is taking so long?"
Through the night, hotel staff, reporters and union members shared cellphone chargers, often asking variations of the same question out loud, too.
"It's like we want to be sure that the language says what we say it does," Kaiman said, at one point. "If one union disagrees, it has to be worked out and then each of the changes has to be run by all of the unions."
But even now, documents specifying changes that Kaiman, Mangano and union officials called purely technical -- but necessary before the board's votes near 2 a.m. yesterday -- have yet to be released for public consumption.
Which is why representatives for minority Democrats in the county legislature, along with some waiting union members, expressed concern about whether the changes were altering agreements already approved by lawmakers and union members.
Kaiman, asked that question repeatedly, too, said no.
To be clear, NIFA's wage freeze, which, in its first year, was requested by Mangano, should have been rescinded years ago. And, yes, Kaiman and union leadership are correct in asserting that Nassau should be made to meet its contractual obligations.
But as the night met morning, it remained uncertain as to exactly how Nassau would do just that. Kaiman mentioned the possibility that the county could raise fees. What fees?
And, earlier last week, Kaiman mentioned the possibility that Nassau could bring in a private manager to run the sewer system. What does that mean for workers, and for how much residents will pay?
Mangano, dapper in his Bethpage Black golf jacket, seemed to stay fresh as the evening wore on. How will Nassau handle its challenges?
"We have a plan, we always have a plan," Mangano said, somewhere around 2:20 a.m.
And then the county executive turned for a last trip up the stairs.