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Michael Miller

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By Michael Miller
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We’re Owed Credibility From Elected Officials

At first glance, it’s just another unsolicited email from an elected official. Most do not contain anything worth reading to the last line. Many public officials are issued taxpayer-funded mobile devices now, and it’s possible they’ve never learned about “data charges” or how much they’re annoying voters using mobile devices.

As a legislative and political operative, many moons ago, I quickly understood that Lists Are Gold and assiduously collected, organized and cross-referenced all kinds. But I didn’t cull constituent files for propaganda purposes. An official has the privilege of proving worthiness through service. Every constituent request or complaint is a more effective opportunity to shine than any lame “reminder” mailing about how wonderful a job my principal is doing.

When I first saw the December email message from County Executive Ed Mangano, it was clear that there were only two sources for that particular personal email account and the name used in the salutation. He might have some deal going with the National Security Agency. More likely, his office is using the Assessment Review Commission database of property tax appeals. I’m not even sure why, but using that particular list for these purposes feels like another low point, another barrier down.

Scroll down one inch and there’s solid proof of another low point. “Mangano’s Economic Policies Result In Stronger Job Market,” headlines an article which states that an increase in quarterly sales tax returns and a lower unemployment rate are “clearly the result of County Executive Mangano’s economic and job creation policies.”

Oh, no he didn’t.

The federal government measures unemployment six different ways, but the media generally only report the “U3” rate, which doesn’t count millions of Americans without meaningful work. Many of those who recently lost unemployment benefits will become “discouraged” and uncounted workers, lowering the U3 rate even as fewer people are working. Other factors also mask the truest labor situation (the overwhelming majority of new jobs created in 2013 were part-time positions).

Putting all that aside, there’s nothing special about unemployment numbers here compared to the other downstate suburbs. As a statistical region, the Nassau-Suffolk unemployment rate went from 6.0 to 5.9 to 5.4 percent from September through November. The regional rate for Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties went from 6.1 to 5.9 to 5.4 percent. The rates fell at about the same amount throughout New York, except for several upstate counties in which the rates fell somewhat less. Pretty typical for holiday season (nationally, 471,000 low-wage retail jobs created this Christmastime).

Washington and Albany have turned away from proven stimulus strategies that smoothed out the lumps in our economy for a dozen Presidencies. The Federal Reserve Board’s multi-trillion dollar attempts to stimulate the economy have driven up asset prices for Wall Street banks and the financial services industry, but have not driven down unemployment. Even President Dudley of the New York Federal Reserve Bank said this last week: “We don’t understand fully how large-scale asset purchase programs work to ease financial market conditions.” Everyone in the world is just guessing, and there is no significant strategy to generate middle class jobs or lifestyles.

Does the county executive believe that his shaking hands at a job fair on the day before Election Day significantly affected the regional unemployment rate?

That would be evidence of seriously delusional thinking, the kind that could draw a Governor’s “Section 33” hearing to determine if he should be removed from office. I don’t think he really merits that. Not at this time.

I think that the County Executive and the people around him have forgotten, again, that what public officials say matters, and wasting critical time and public resources on thoughtless, throwaway propaganda isn’t effective or tolerated. Get real. Get Credible.

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