If Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman intended to get a reaction during his first week in office, he succeeded.
But if he was counting on big support or applause for his attempt to allow school districts to override a state masking regulation, he didn’t get it from some local elected officials and education administrators.
The fallout from the executive order Blakeman signed Thursday continued to ripple through the state Friday.
During a news conference, Hochul doubled down on the dismissal of her authority, saying she had "the law of the state of New York behind me."
"Those who underestimate me do so at their own peril, including the county executive of Nassau County," Hochul said.
Ten State Senate and Assembly Democrats issued a statement calling it the "height of irresponsibility" to bypass the state regulation and demanded that Blakeman rescind the "clearly unlawful executive order."
The same demand came from Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association president Michael Kelly, who focused on Blakeman’s demand that all school boards take a vote within the month of January "to determine whether or not parents and children should be granted the constitutional right to reject mask mandates while in the classroom."
The association’s executive director, Lorraine Deller, told The Point Friday that the timing of Blakeman’s order was particularly problematic, given the snowstorm and the existing challenges associated with the pandemic, particularly in terms of staffing.
"For this to be dropped yesterday in the middle of this most stressful comeback time, it was inexplicable," Deller said.
The concern, Deller said, is that some parents and other members of the public would "take what happened yesterday by the county executive to heart," and think they had been given "carte blanche" to ignore the state mask mandate.
"All of that was a sideshow to the fact that he had absolutely no authority to dictate to boards of education," Deller added. "For us as an association, quite frankly, the bottom line is this was an unauthorized attempt to intrude into school board governance … The county has no more authority to dictate to schools than we have to dictate what they should be doing with their departments."
State Education Commissioner Betsy Rosa noted Thursday that schools were required to follow the mandate, and Hochul mentioned that the state had school funding levers at its disposal.
The issue also came up during a town hall Rep. Tom Suozzi held Thursday night as part of his gubernatorial campaign. Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) pointed a finger at Hochul, suggesting that she had to do a better job communicating with local officials.
"The job of a chief executive is to work together with other elected officials to sell an idea to the public," Suozzi said. "It doesn’t work if everybody is going off on their own way."
But Suozzi also said he didn’t think there was a way to "push any kind of mandate on people" because many wouldn’t follow it.
Nonetheless, Suozzi told The Point Friday that he thought Blakeman was wrong "in questioning the validity of mask wearing."
Blakeman doubled down Friday. While he noted in a statement to The Point that the county was providing free testing and vaccination, along with free KN95 masks for teachers and school staff, he also said he wanted to "return personal decision-making to families, and normalcy to students …"
"Everyone has lived under Gov. Hochul’s renewed mask mandate for nearly a month now (and just about a year and a half for children), yet we have the highest case loads ever," Blakeman said in the written statement.
Meanwhile, the county is encouraging residents north of Hempstead Turnpike to head to Eisenhower Park, and those south to go to Tobay Beach for free test distribution this weekend.
And sources told The Point that Blakeman, focused on how his executive order is being perceived, expects to visit a Nassau COVID-19 test distribution site over the weekend, perhaps for a little positive publicity.
Perhaps the only question is whether he’ll wear a mask.