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Opinion

Crunching the numbers

Democrat Max Rose at the College of Staten

Democrat Max Rose at the College of Staten Island's Williamson Theatre on Oct. 16, 2018. Credit: Staten Island Advance via AP/Bill Lyons

Daily Point

Wrong number

Want to call an elected official on Long Island about a problem? The Verizon Yellow Pages might give you the phone number of someone who has been in jail or is dead.

The government pages in the March 2019 Nassau County edition of the phone book will take you on a tiny-type trip back in time. They list Thomas Suozzi as county executive, even though he was voted out in 2009 after two terms (and is now in Congress). The Nassau County Legislature listings are a roster from way back in 2006. Three of the 19 members in the list – Judy Jacobs, Peter Schmitt and John Ciotti – have since died. Former Legislators Roger Corbin and David Denenberg have done prison time for various crimes. Edward Mangano is listed as the 17th District legislator, even though he served two terms as county executive from 2010-17 and now awaits sentencing for his own criminal convictions. However, five members on the list – Denise Ford, Kevan Abrahams, Vincent T. Muscarella, Richard J. Nicolello and Rose Walker – still serve on the legislature.

Newsday was alerted to the out-of-date listings by reader Richard Siegelman of Plainview, who wrote that he hopes the “fake news” listees are not still drawing salaries.

The Suffolk County government listings in Verizon’s Huntington-Smithtown and Brookhaven editions, published this past fall, aren’t 100 percent reliable, either. They correctly list the Suffolk County executive as Steven Bellone, but also list five people who no longer hold the title of county legislator: Jay Schneiderman, Kate Browning, Monica Martinez, Thomas Barraga and Louis D’Amaro. Fortunately, 11 of the 18 Suffolk seats are listed correctly. Unfortunately, the line for District 2 includes both Schneiderman and 2016 successor Bridget Fleming. District 12 has no name at all, and District 6’s legislator is listed as Kara Kahn instead of Kara Hahn.

David Weissmann, East Area public relations manager for Verizon Consumer Group, said in an email that Verizon provides phone listings to an outside publisher. He gave a link to dexpages.com, a website of phone book publisher DexYP of Texas. Asked who is responsible for the outdated listings, Weissmann replied that any questions should go to the publisher. A telephone message asking for comment was not returned by DexYP.

Meanwhile, Siegelman can only joke about it. “I haven't bothered to actually check the ‘United States’ listings in these same ‘Government Pages,’” he wrote, “but I wonder if our president is still listed as ‘George Washington.’”  

- Lawrence Striegel

Talking Point

The three amigos

There’s strength in numbers.

That seems to be the bet for three Democrats who represent an overlapping part of Brooklyn: Rep. Max Rose, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, and City Councilman Justin Brannan. The three plan to share a district office in Bay Ridge.

Three-way offices like this one aren’t particularly common in the city.

But the three Democrats might have reason to help each other and add to their district footprints. Rose and Gounardes defeated GOP incumbents in closely watched blue wave races in 2018, and Brannan won his seat in 2017.

It could have gone the other way in this moderate coastal swath of the borough. Gounardes and Brannan’s races were tight (margins of around 1,000 votes and under 800 votes, respectively). Rose shocked observers by winning his Trump-friendly Staten Island and Brooklyn district by more than 6 percent. The dynamics may be different in the 2020 presidential year. Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis, a strong GOP challenger with citywide name recognition, is fundraising.

From a public-service viewpoint, the Democrats’ joint office can help quickly funnel constituents to the right level of government, federal, state and city, making for happier campers. And happier campers might be more likely to stick with the new guys.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Cozying up

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion

Final Point

Congestion over congestion pricing

Deal or No Deal?

Perhaps New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy doesn’t know how to play that game when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is playing, too.

The surprisingly public disagreement between the two Democratic governors over congestion pricing entered its third day Friday, and it became clear that whatever Murphy thinks is a “conceptual understanding” between the two is not seen as a “deal” in Cuomo’s eyes. Quite a difference from Cuomo’s rather smooth relationship with Republican Chris Christie.   

Clearly, there’s a difference between Murphy’s “understanding” that the plan must be “fair to New Jersey” and an explicit “deal” on whether commuters using the bridge and tunnel crossings between NYC and New Jersey would be exempt from paying the congestion fee.

It all began on Wednesday, when Murphy said: “New Jersey commuters will be treated fairly at all Hudson River crossings, including the George Washington Bridge.”

Fairness sounds nice. But that doesn’t mean Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive Pat Foye wasn’t right to respond that “no agreement has been reached with New Jersey or anyone else on credits, exemptions or carveouts.” Foye actually said: “With all due respect to Governor Murphy, we have no idea what he is talking about.”

But on Thursday Murphy doubled down with talk of how his comments were ”based explicitly on principal to principal discussions with Gov. Cuomo.”

By Friday, Cuomo seemed to be defusing the situation, saying that all tolling decisions were in the MTA’s court. In a radio interview, he said the MTA still had to “work through” all of the decisions on who would be tolled, how much and when.

But he was definitive about one aspect. “There will be some double tolling,” Cuomo said. “Otherwise, you don’t accomplish anything because you don’t raise any revenue.”

While the timing may be coincidental, there’s now another layer to the bi-state brouhaha. Foye will join Reps. Max Rose, Jerrold Nadler, and Nydia Velazquez on Sunday to announce plans about federal legislation that would switch the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge back to two-way tolling. Currently, drivers pay $12.24 with EZ-Pass, or $19 by mail, but only when crossing into Staten Island, and pay nothing to cross into Brooklyn. The Verrazzano one-way toll is the only such toll in the nation that’s federally mandated, hence the need for legislation to change it.

The media advisory said the Sunday event will also highlight “transportation investments for Staten Island and South Brooklyn.” Those investments likely could come from the MTA’s capital plan, which will be funded, in part, from congestion pricing.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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