Written by Matthew A. Piacentini Friday, 08 January 2010 00:00
Heralded as the salt of the earth, honored as David victorious over Goliath, and lauded as an honest working man, proud to have been a janitor who put himself through law school, Edward P. Mangano was sworn in as Nassau County Executive on New Year’s Day to a crowd of supporters and a stage full of dignitaries who called for this very different county leader to embody the start of a new era for Nassau.
Mangano chose his alma mater, Bethpage High School, for his inauguration ceremony and the auditorium was filled past capacity into overflow areas, despite the harsh winter weather.
This past November, in an environment of persisting economic turmoil, voters voiced their frustration over taxes and job worries across the entire United States, resulting in many surprising political upsets. Amidst this emotional wave of regime changes, Mangano’s Tax Revolt platform roused disgruntled taxpayers and allowed him to narrowly oust two-term executive Thomas R. Suozzi.
Running on simple promises like the repeal of a home energy tax that was recently instituted by Suozzi, Mangano spoke to the concerns of just enough struggling Long Island voters to find himself standing victorious at the podium in Bethpage Friday, actually signing into effect the repeal of that 2.5 percent sales tax on home energy sources like gas, propane and oil. His supporters responded with great applause as he executed this, his first act in office, making official the repeal bill that the Nassau County Legislature recently passed, and delivering on one promise right out of the gate.
The repeal will go into effect after the winter heating bill months, in June, he told reporters later. This will allow some time for the county to find a way to deal with the resulting budgetary shortfall, which he projected at $20 million for 2010.
The act of signing the bill did serve to typify the theme of the day - tangible change in a desperate period of our history. It was made clear that this group was swapping whatever came before for a member of the middle class who would cut tax burdens and improve the lives of his working constituents.
“As we begin this new year, let this be a new beginning under Ed Mangano,” prayed Father John Tizio of St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church of Bethpage, one of the many religious figures who supplied the event with an atmosphere of prayer, spiritual reflection and song.
“This is a great day for America,” U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer then exclaimed, promising that as he had “a great close working relationship with Tom [Suozzi],” he would work with Mangano “for the benefit of the people of Nassau County.”
Schumer elaborated on Mangano’s humble, hardworking background – the best credentials for county executive, he explained.
The senator said that he personally comes from Brooklyn, which enables him to relate directly with residents of Nassau County and understand that “not enough people pay attention to the middle class.”
But, in Mangano, coming “from the salt of the earth,” the county has someone upon whom Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would be smiling down, he said. Schumer explained that the nation’s founding fathers were concerned that “someone from the outside” would try to run for political office. They feared “scoundrels” pursuing self-interest through elected positions.
But, he offered, “Look at who we have chosen. He came from the bosom of the place he represents… this is the democracy they would have wanted,” Schumer told the crowd.
Also smiling down – from a seat on the stage - was Peter J. Schmitt, the new presiding officer of Nassau County’s now Republican legislature.
Promising to be brief, Schmitt said, “This is a great day for Nassau County. We’ve been presented with a unique opportunity to chart a new course for Nassau… I can’t think of a better person than Ed Mangano… we’re going to get it done working together.”
Congressman Peter T. King called the inauguration “a wonderful day and a wonderful moment.”
“Our nation, state and county face extraordinary challenges,” King said, adding that a leader “from the people” is needed right now. “The Manganos are from the people,” he continued, saying, “Ed and Linda have never forgotten the people who have given them the mandate.”
Rev. Dr. Phillip Edward Elliott of the Antioch Baptist Church of Hempstead, before leading the crowd in a hand-clapping version of Put a Little Love in Your Heart with the Antioch Cathedral Choir, said that Mangano’s inauguration marked “a new beginning for Nassau County’s well-being.”
The reverend doctor recalled their very first meeting, when Mangano was wearing a sweat suit. He said he considered the outfit to be part of “a common touch I will never forget.”
Elliott then commended Mangano’s determination during the election, saying, “You challenged Goliath… with no war chest… with just rolled up sleeves.”
His poetic praise culminated with a stirring statement that described the dire situation driving Magano’s voters in the ballot booths, and where a new leader of his type fits into the picture for these people.
“On Election Day you cast a stone of hope, hewn from a mountain of despair,” said the reverend.
Upon this dramatic image, Judge Stephen Bucaria swore Mangano into office and the new county executive declared in his mild mannered style, “This is very cool.”
He proceeded to immediately repeal the energy tax and announced that he would also attack the issue of a “broken” assessment system straightaway - the system that determines the tax value of properties. Mangano called this the “granddaddy” of all things that have to change in Nassau, adding that this system’s “defects” are resulting in millions of dollars in errors, explaining, “It is because of this system that Nassau taxpayers are indebted for over $1.2 billion for past errors,” and another $100 million in 2010, “for prior years errors.”
The new executive said that the assessment system and many other issues he plans to tackle were clearly troubling the “ordinary people” he met throughout his campaign, people whose faces were “lined with worry and creased with concern. And they have every right to be.”
But, these voters, he said, “…let it be known that they had enough. They voted for change. That is why I am standing here today and why I am so honored to be given this opportunity… Long Island has been too good to me and my family for me to just sit by and do nothing. I do believe that we can make a difference and make things better.”
To elaborate on how he would lead Nassau County to greener pastures, Mangano said, “‘Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.’ I believe the art of leadership is to unlock those extraordinary possibilities in each of us. I will bring together the private sector, Nassau County government from both sides of the aisle, our partners in state, local and federal government, organized labor and the not-for-profit sector.”
He said that growth would come in Nassau from a green energy fund and small businesses, which would create jobs through research done at places that Tom Suozzi also touted as valuable resources, like the Feinstein Institute at LIJ, the soon-to-be completed Hofstra Medical School and the Cold Spring Harbor and Brookhaven National Labs.
“Will we succeed? Yes Indeed. Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed,” County Executive Mangano assured his supporters, borrowing a quote from Dr. Seuss.
Katie Piacentini contributed to this story.