By Eden Laikin
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano delivered his seventh State of the County Address this week, highlighting Nassau’s mujltiple successes over the past year, including: having the lowest unemployment rate in the State; adding more than 25,000 jobs to the County; revealing a decrease in the County’s percentage of a homeowner’s property tax bill ; touting more than 3,500 new rental apartments built, Countywide; and suggesting publicly that we end the shame and stigma that surround heroin addiction.
For these and other first-of-its-kind initiatives in 2015, County Executive Mangano’s annual speech was hailed as – historic. He opened the address -which was held at Nassau’s Museum of American Armor – by emphatically stating that Nassau’s economy is growing stronger.
“Our quality of life continues to be enhanced and our county’s finances are being strengthened,” he told the 400 plus people gathered for the speech. “Working together, our economic development team has created jobs and built a stronger Nassau. No more are we fighting the exodus of jobs, but rather, we are effectively competing – and in fact attracting – employers back to Nassau.” And local companies, he said, were staying in the County, expanding operations here and retaining jobs.
“The Property Tax Cap is working, more money is staying in the wallets of residents than entering government coffers, and new housing opportunities are becoming readily available near transit centers, providing millennials with options to stay on Long Island,” County Executive Mangano said. “Transformation of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and surrounding property is underway. We have much to be proud of, and much more to accomplish.”
Mangano began the speech as he often does, by recognizing all veterans and active duty military in the audience. “On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for your service and dedication to these United States of America,” he said, then added that the museum plays a crucial role in paying honor and respect to American G.I.’s. “All while serving as a permanent living classroom for a new generation of Americans who are learning to appreciate the battlefield sacrifices made on their behalf. Those sacrifices have taken place since the birth of our nation, and continue to occur today.”
The MOAA – located on the grounds of Old Bethpage Village Restoration – was privately funded by an investment from philanthropist Lawrence Kadish – and continues to operate with the charitable support of Stop & Shop Supermarkets, Polimeni International, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, and PSEG.
Next, came County Executive Mangano recognition of several Nassau police officers, medics, communication operators, volunteer firefighters, a few brave citizens, and a 4-legged member of the Canine unit – for saving lives in heroic acts of bravery.
He went on to speak about Nassau’s preparedness for a terror threat or active shooter incident, saying the Nassau County Police Department takes any threats “very seriously” and that every citizen can assist in prevention by remaining ever vigilant.
“Every American can help in protecting our homeland in 2016,” Mangano said, and he encouraged social media users to report suspicious activity seen online by via Text-A-Tip – the Nassau Crime Stoppers application, available in the app store for your smartphone and tablet devices.
But he assured those gathered that there is no known threat to Nassau County, at the present time. But rather, an overall concern due to our large population and proximity to New York City. The Nassau County Police Department has conducted Anti-Terror Police Training Exercises, and purchased high-powered rifles ready for use in response to any active shooter or terror situation. Mangano commended “the dedicated men and women” of the Department for their “commitment to protecting us here at home.”
The County Executive said significant resources have been invested in the Police Department toward keeping our neighborhoods safe – including intelligence-led policing models, license plate readers; the Shot Spotter system and the Gun Buy-Back Program. As a result, he said, crime is down by 25% since 2010 and shootings are down by 24%.
Policing is also involved in the County’s “War on Drugs.” Mangano said “we’re fighting back” with the District Attorney, Police Department, Department of Human Services and community partners, to combat the growing heroin and prescription drug epidemic that took the lives of at least 181 residents last year. He gave examples of Nassau’s innovative lifesaving initiatives which include overdose prevention, and groundbreaking treatment. He mentioned the police department’s drug awareness programs in schools, countywide; prevention & education events coordinated by staff members’ on the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force; and, Nassau’s first-ever Heroin Educational Summit which was attended last month, by more than 640 residents and professionals – including 18 school districts and two universities. At the Summit, Mangano and County Executive Bellone announced the creation of a joint Heroin (Law enforcement) Task Force – combining both County’s Narcotics officers, working together, to track down the sources of fatal heroin overdoses. “We are aggressively hunting down drug dealers to remove them from our streets,” he said.
Mangano thanked each legislator who has co-hosted an Overdose Prevention and Drug Abuse Awareness Seminar and commended the Plainedge School Superintendent for training all District employees. In all, Nassau officials have trained 6,200 citizens – including school nurses and administrators – to administer the overdose reversal agent known as Narcan. These training sessions alone have saved the lives of at least 26 residents – that we know of.
“Together, we are overcoming the stigma of drug abuse and helping families acknowledge that…the only shame in addiction…is not seeking help,” Mangano said.
Last February, Nassau County began offering new help, and hope, by launching a breakthrough substance abuse treatment program called, “A Shot at Life.” The program combines counseling with monthly injections of Vivitrol, a medication that caps the Opiate receptors in the brain, cutting the cravings and blocking the euphoric effects of the drugs. In July, Fr. Ralph Sommer of St. Bernard’s Church in Levittown partnered with County officials to form the first (and only) Vivtrol Support Group at the Parish school.
“Together, programs such as these are saving the lives of sons, daughters, husbands and wives,” the County Executive said. “We are truly helping combat the heroin crisis, keeping families whole and becoming a national model for tackling the drug crisis. That is why the States of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado and Florida have contacted Nassau County for guidance. While there is much more work to do, I thank all those who have worked hard to combat the heroin epidemic.”
At least eight Nassau residents, now drug free and on Vivitrol, attended the speech with family members, and friends, in support of the County’s lifesaving programs.
Switching gears from substance abuse to the economy, Mangano broke down a current homeowners’ tax bill, by saying that while schools made up 67% of your tax bill in 2009, they now on average make up 71% in 2016. County government on average made up 19% of your total tax bill in 2009. It only makes up 16% of your total tax bill in 2016.
Mangano said the County is able to collect less taxes because: he froze County property taxes for 5 years; cut $330 million in wasteful spending; reduced the workforce by over 1,776 positions; cut energy costs; reduced the number of vehicles in the fleet and eliminated thousands of copy machines and phone lines.
Other accomplishments that strengthened Nassau’s finances include: Public-private partnerships that utilize private sector non-taxpayer dollars to create public improvements and continue public programs – including Nassau’s bus system, and sewage treatment plant operations. Settling labor contracts and setting forth a financial plan that eliminates borrowing for tax refunds which has plagued County finances over the last two decades, is also credited with strengthening the local economy.
“By tightening our belt and working together with NIFA and the Legislature in a bi-partisan manner, we doubled Nassau’s reserves to $120 million and reduced the cost of government by more than any other municipality,” Mangano remarked.
“Through` various reforms, we have reduced this debt accumulated, from $100 million a year to $60 million, and are on path to have zero in 2018,” Mangano said, adding that the County has also begun paying CSEA termination compensation from operating funds. Despite increasing costs related to employee health insurance and pension costs, and a 13% rise in the Consumer Price Index, Nassau County government spends millions less today than it did 6 years ago.
Mangano said he just signed two Executive Orders – requiring registration and disclosures by lobbyists, contractors and consultants – to enhance transparency in the lengthy County contracting system. He also formed an independent panel of experts to review Nassau County’s procurement process.
“Under my administration there is now a procurement system that has historic levels of transparency, oversight, and checks and balances,” he said.
When addressing the century-long debate on public campaign finance reform, Mangano pointed to President Theodore Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address in 1907, that said: “The need for collecting large campaign funds would vanish if Congress provided an appropriation for proper and legitimate expenses of each great national parties.”
And he went on to mention successful examples of courting companies to move their headquarters to Nassau and create jobs for residents or to stay and expand their workforce here: Display Technologies; New York Vanity; K&B Trading; Hain Celestial; R-Best Produce; NY Community Bank; Publishers Clearing House; Dealertrack Technologies; and Genadyne Biotechnologies,
Mangano said the growing Film and Television industry in Nassau benefitted the local economy by $530 million over the past two years, and that cyber security and technology are also fast emerging here. Last year, the Mangano administration assisted Winthrop University Hospital in building new lab space in Mineola and welcomed Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine, as part of Nassau’s burgeoning health care industry. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has made a $140 million private investment in the overall HUB redevelopment. And, most recently, Nassau County and New York State entered discussions with the Feinstein Institute to establish a Bioelectronics research and development center at the Hub.
In the 60-minute speech, County Executive Mangano touted the private investment that will finally transform the outdated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum into a world-class sports-entertainment destination. “Where past projects have floundered for decades. we have construction underway with $260 million in private investment, which also eliminates over $2 million in annual expenses the County had been paying for utilities, parking lot repairs and capital expenditures at the arena. The new Coliseum will retain its history of honoring County veterans, while sharing revenue with taxpayers, employing 2,700 people and providing $10 billion in economic activity to our economy, Mangano said, adding that he’s asked the State for another $225 million for Phase I infrastructure and transit improvements to transform the Hub. These would include green parking structures, acres of parkland; a Bus Rapid Transit system and academia centers. “Nassau”s Hub should, and can, provide real year-round economic activity, improve our quality of life and create a job-generating economic engine for millennials and generations to come,” Mangano said.
In closing, Mangano spoke about the need to clean up our environment, with its “significant contamination.” He renewed a call for state and federal funding of an Ocean Outfall Pipe at the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant to stop treated sewage from being dumped in our western bays. And he spoke about other infrastructure improvements beginning this year, such as a new Family Court building, a new Crime Lab and Police Training Academy, new cabanas at Nickerson Beach, a first-of-its-kind field for children with disabilities in Eisenhower Park, new athletic fields, sewer systems in parts of the north shore, County roadway and bridge repairs, park improvements, and streetscaping projects.
“Unlike other parts of the nation where partisan differences have created governmental gridlock, we can and do respect each other’s political differences with the understanding that we serve a common purpose – the people’s business,” Mangano said. “I am honored to be your County Executive. May God Bless you, Nassau County, the State of New York and these United States of America.”
Those honored by the County Executive include:
Police Medic Supervisor Scott Dipino, Police Medics Robert Freeman and Steven Doucette,
Police Inspector Kenneth Lehr, Police Officers Jeffrey Shaikah & Patner K-9 Jake; James Schurlein; Luis Ascenso; Jason Dennington; Evan Marro; Peter Duvenhurst; John Ripp; Joseph Clougher; Patrick Rail; David Tate; Michael Valela; John Carney; James V. Sarnataro, James R. Sarnataro, Justin Wocel.
Police Communication Operators Nancy Stanley, Carol Naldony, Loretta Pierson, Roseanna Lauro, Christopher Brandimarte.
Residents Karen Winter, Sean Killian
Retired-Police Officer Ken Krug;
Mall Security Officer Marcello Espinosa,
Firefighters & Fire Officials: Chiefs James Neubert, Great Neck; Michael Farrone, Manhasset; Brian Waterson, Port Washington; Frank DeBobes, Bethpage; Michael Rutt, North Bellmore; Assistant Chief John Castles, and Ex-Rockville Centre Chief John Busching.
Pastor Ralph Sommer, St Bernard’s Parish