Early in his inaugural speech, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano praised Rep. Steve Israel for fighting for veterans' rights, promised to make sure veterans don't go homeless or hungry, and asked veterans to stand and be applauded. An excellent start by the son of a veteran.
Still, soon afterward, veterans' advocates reacted negatively when Mangano replaced Edward Aulman as director of the county's Veterans Services Agency.
This is not to say that Mangano's rhetoric and his governance on veterans' issues are in conflict. In fact, his statement of support for veterans was unequivocal and persuasive. And he has an absolute right to name his own person to run the agency. But he should keep a couple of things in mind.
First, veterans' problems are huge. More than 130,000 of them are homeless in this country on any given night, and about 2,000 are homeless right here on Long Island. That's why Israel (D-Huntington) deserves credit for his role in the $421 million increase in the amount available for homeless vets in the new federal budget. Veterans with homes also have problems: much too long a wait for benefits processing.
Second, former County Executive Tom Suozzi and Aulman did a good job of elevating services to veterans. Now it's up to Mangano and his choice for Aulman's successor, Mathew Rufrano, to continue that trajectory of progress. As Mangano said in his speech, "This is the very least we can do." hN