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Michael Miller


By Michael Miller
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Nassau County: Wild, Wild West Of Ethics

1. Wow. Low turnout. Who could have seen it coming?

2. Don’t underestimate voters. They are so, so much smarter than they used to be. Generations have grown up being disappointed when the toy in the cereal box didn’t look like it did on television. They see right through all the plastic postcards with the witty catch lines. If you don’t get your head around this, you don’t get your head around why Governor Christie may be the next President.

3. Good for County Executive Ed Mangano’s campaign. On November 1, they mailed a personalized-looking letter to Republicans, in a stamped envelope, hand-signed “Ed” (by someone). At least it was a try. Marketers are desperate to make everything seem personal, closer, sincere. Most Long Island campaigns, utterly misinterpreting an entire era, seem to crave making their candidates seem distant, manufactured, insincere.

4. Even social media is being used by local political campaigns and organizations mostly as one-way bulletin boards. Part of it is the inconceivability of releasing “control” to outside civilians, which is exactly what businesses successfully navigating “new media” have learned to do. Part of it is campaigns driven by “metrics” (statistics) and not about building relationships and connecting in a more meaningful way.

5. Back in June, a media placement company posted two available positions on a popular job site, an entry-level staffer and an intern, who wanted to learn about media buying by working on a Democratic campaign in Nassau County. No experience necessary. Think that campaign was the firm’s highest priority? Was the campaign provided with the latest creative, cutting-edge strategy?

6. So many political candidates and government officials are satisfied at seeing their pictures on the ‘puter thing. No clue that what they’re doing is dull, difficult and ineffective.

7. Nassau County’s online property database and its online assessment appeals system are important tools for thousands appealing their tax assessments. They are buggy and confusing to use. Neither tool has been updated or refined in any significant way since they were launched during the Bush Administration.

8. It’s been a while now since

either major party in Nassau County took a stand for higher standards.

9. On September 26, Democrats in the county legislature complained that Republicans had cut off their taxpayer-funded mailings. They made the same public argument that they made regarding the vulgar, highly partisan legislative redistricting. Instead of presenting a serious proposal for reform or a positive change in culture, here is what they said to the people of this county, over and over: “We didn’t get ours.”

10. On October 30, five days before Election Day, taxpayers received another mailing from their county government. This one featured the name of the county executive six times, with his photograph, in color, on each side. The mailing was ostensibly about a job fair at the Coliseum. The job fair was scheduled for the day before Election Day. For bonus points, the card twice says “Follow Ed Mangano on Facebook,” and the Ed Mangano page on that private site features lots of photos of banners that suggest we vote for him on Row B.

11. If this was Washington or Albany, he couldn’t do this. It isn’t allowed. In Nassau County, no standard is too low. No action is too partisan. There are no checks. We are Ethical Dodge City.

12. From consistent, reasonable standards comes trust, both between individual decision makers and between the public and their government.

13. It isn’t just some pleasant idea that you might see on a greeting card. It’s also good politics. More than that, it’s the only hope we have of fixing what is broken and maintaining the daily quality of life we’ve come to expect.

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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: