County execs have representatives to pick
As Long Island reels from a momentous Election Day, there will be plenty of jobs to fill and find, and many tasks to complete in the coming weeks.
But by early next year, county executives in both Nassau and Suffolk will have one more item to add to their to-do lists.
Each will have to pick a nominee to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, a position that’s unpaid and often held in addition to whatever day job the member may hold.
It’s rare that both Long Island MTA board seats open up at the same time – and this time, it’s due to a confluence of election timing and a new gig.
In Suffolk County, current MTA board member Kevin Law has said he plans to resign that position once he is confirmed as the new chairman of Empire State Development early next year, leaving Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone with the chance to make a new pick. In Nassau, because the term of board members picked by county executives coincides with the county executives’ terms, board member David Mack will mark the end of his term when Nassau County Executive Laura Curran ends hers.
Assuming Nassau Republican Bruce Blakeman’s election lead holds, he’ll be the one making Nassau’s appointment early next year.
In each case, the county executive is tasked with choosing three potential nominees. Then Gov. Kathy Hochul would officially choose one of them, although the county executive often will give the governor a heads-up on his or her top pick. Ultimately, the choice has to be confirmed by the State Senate.
As huge Long Island Rail Road projects like East Side Access and Third Track head toward their finish lines, it’ll be particularly important for the county executives to pick quickly, and wisely.
That leads to one question: Who?
It’s possible, observers told The Point, that assuming Blakeman becomes county executive, he’d renominate real estate executive Mack. After all, Mack has been a significant political player, donor and philanthropist on the Island, most recently helping to fund Nassau’s David S. Mack Center for Training and Intelligence in Garden City for police training.
But during Mack’s tenure on the MTA board, he has rarely spoken at board meetings and has not played a significant public role in key local transit issues.
If not Mack, Long Island observers pointed to other potential Nassau picks who could serve as more vocal advocates, while still being politically palatable to a Blakeman administration.
Among the most-often cited: former Republican State Sen. Chuck Fuschillo, who once chaired the Senate’s transportation committee, where he was instrumental in making the Long Island Rail Road’s double track a reality. Fuschillo now heads the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
And Fuschillo -- reached by The Point as he was commuting home to Merrick on the Long Island Rail Road -- didn’t reject the idea.
"I would entertain it, but it’s at the discretion of the county executive," Fuschillo said.
Other Nassau suggestions included former State Sen. Jack Martins, former Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, and Long Island Regional Planning Council Chairman John Cameron, who runs Cameron Engineering & Associates. Northwell Health’s Jeffrey Kraut; Nancy Rauch Douzinas with the Rauch Foundation; Luis Vazquez with the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Port Washington advocate Jennifer Rimmer, formerly with the New York City Economic Development Corp.; attorney Laureen Harris; developer Peter Florey; and Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies executive dean Lawrence Levy, a former Newsday columnist, also made various shortlists in The Point’s conversations with multiple regional observers.
For Suffolk County, some watchers suggested Bellone take another look at previous MTA board member Mitch Pally, who heads the Long Island Builders Institute. But if Bellone wants to go in a new direction, toward the top of every Suffolk list was Dave Kapell, former Greenport mayor, who played a key role in approving the Long Island Rail Road’s Third Track project. Among other Suffolk names discussed: Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black; political consultant Resi Cooper; Tracey Edwards, the Long Island regional director of the NAACP; Gil Anderson, the former Suffolk Department of Public Works commissioner; Edgewise Energy chief executive Sammy Chu; Long Island Association chief executive Matt Cohen; Marc Herbst, with the Long Island Contractors Association; Suffolk planning director Sarah Lansdale; venture capitalist Dave Calone and former County Executive Patrick Halpin.
With all those names in the mix, neither seat figures to be left empty for long.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Provocative answers to ballot questions
Next year’s House, Senate, state legislative and governor races will test the power and organization of New York State’s dominant Democrats. If tallies on Tuesday’s five statewide proposals can be considered any indication, party leaders and operatives on Long Island and beyond might note warning lights on their dashboards: Better registration numbers than Republicans don’t necessarily speak for themselves.
Gerard Kassar, chairman of the state Conservative Party, gets a victory lap after a successful $3 million effort to defeat three of the proposed constitutional amendments, which had been voted onto the ballot by the Democratic-controlled State Legislature.
Kassar told The Point on Friday that he is considering voluntarily releasing data on contributions to the party’s housekeeping account to fund the relevant ads and lawn signs earlier than its Jan. 15 disclosure date, to satisfy a swell of postelection news-media curiosity.
The state GOP also opposed the three ballot measures that lost. Notably, the results weren’t just a blanket, thoughtless "No!" to proposals. They showed deliberate selection by those who took part:
Proposal 1, which would have changed still-untested procedures on independent redistricting, failed by an election-night margin of 1,517,296 votes to 1,201,555.
But then voters who flipped over their ballots to weigh in on proposals approved Proposal 2, which adds clean air and water as a right; that passed by a resounding 1,903,627 to 859,002.
Then the majority returned to "No."
Proposal 3, which would have removed the requirement that persons must register to vote at least 10 days before an election, failed 1,606,939 to 1,179,169, by these unofficial tallies. So did Proposal 4, allowing voters to file absentee ballots without explanation, 1,567,670 to 1,208,149.
But leading conservatives did support Proposal 5, which put cases involving less than $50,000 in the jurisdiction of civil courts rather than state Supreme Court. And that succeeded 1,675,009 to 989,343.
Thus Nassau County and state Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs saw a statewide setback in addition to sweeping Republican victories across Long Island on Tuesday. If there was a strategic effort on his side of the political divide to canvass statewide voters on these touted constitutional changes, nobody could seem to point to one.
"There was no initiative that we were asked to do by anybody to begin a campaign or undertake the financing of or the running of the campaign on these issues," Jacobs admitted in the aftermath on Wednesday. "Maybe, in that sense, the ball was dropped, but I will tell you that is not something that came to my attention."
And yet this clearly got lots of attention elsewhere, especially after the results came in.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons
In the news
Welcome to this week’s news quiz, based on events that took place this week. As usual, provide the answer for each clue, one letter per blank. The first letter of each answer, taken in order, spells out something that more than 100 countries at the climate change conference in Scotland pledged to end by 2030. Answers will appear in Monday’s edition of The Point.
_ _ _ _ _ _ Hindus around the world began celebrating this festival of lights on Thursday.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Iconic Long Island baking family that made the largest donation in the 108-year history of South Shore University Hospital.
_ _ _ _ The number in millions of people who have died worldwide from COVID-19.
_ _ _ The number in thousands of nuclear warheads the Pentagon said China might have by 2030.
_ _ _ _ Strategy board game with armies attempting to conquer the world that was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ East African nation that declared a national state of emergency as rebel forces moved closer to the capital.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ New Yorkers can now get paid family leave to take care of this category of people, thanks to legislation Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ This measurement of the U.S. economy hit an all-time high as American exports fell sharply and imports increased.
_ _ _ _ Rental car company whose stock doubled after its third-quarter profits easily beat expectations.
_ _ _ _ _ The number of proposed constitutional amendments on Tuesday’s ballot that were defeated.
_ _ _ _ _ Long Island town that opened its first new animal shelter in 57 years.
_ _ _ _ _ _ Energy company that announced plans to hire dozens of Long Islanders to work as technicians servicing the offshore wind turbines it will build in the coming years.
_ _ _. _ _ _ _ State whose law limiting the ability of people to carry guns outside their homes was argued in a case before the Supreme Court.
— Michael Dobie @mwdobie