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OpinionEditorial

Nassau's taxpayer-paid fliers shouldn't get political

Nassau County Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow)

Nassau County Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) attends the Nassau County Budget Hearing in Mineola on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

There's nothing wrong with Nassau County spending taxpayer money on informational mailings. But when the public's pocket is raided to pay for political fliers supporting sitting officials, that takes the concept of junk mail to a whole new level.

Democrats on the county legislature want to ban all nonemergency mailings within 60 days of a primary or general election. And to really drive home the point of how most of these fliers are wasteful self-promotion, their bill would require all county mailings to disclose, in bold type, that they were paid for with taxpayer funds and how much each cost. Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) shouldn't be afraid to let that proposal come to a vote.

Mailbox madness is a real problem in Nassau. When elections draw near, it can become an epidemic. The legislature and executive combined spend more than $2 million annually on such communications. Although the state constitution prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes, former District Attorney Kathleen Rice declined to prosecute the worst violators in 2013, claiming laws weren't strong enough. That only encouraged some legislators to increase their government-paid mailings laced with political slogans.

County Executive Edward Mangano is no exception. In 2013, fliers delivered door to door by county employees mostly touted his political accomplishments, like holding the line on taxes.

It's easy to tell informational messages from political ones. The informational ones mostly let taxpayers know about services. Political messages include politicians' photos and tout their "accomplishments."

Nassau County needs a law that makes that distinction more important to politicians, by making it clearer to taxpayers.

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