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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mangano needs to tackle 2014's challenges head-on

Although Election Day has passed and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano retained his position, defeating Tom Suozzi by 18 percentage points, he will face several challenges in 2014, and he must tackle them head-on.

The margin of victory is proof that the people of Nassau County believe in Mangano’s initiatives. He understands, however, that this is no time for gloating. An editorial a few weeks back in the Herald alluded to some of the challenges he faces — assessments, sewage treatment plants, the Coliseum plan, social services.

Nassau County is still plagued by fiscal, labor and management issues that threaten the economic future of our communities. Mangano’s victory was a great win for fiscal prudence, but that doesn’t hide the fact that the county is still burdened by a massive deficit. Going forward, he is going to have to come up with creative ways to steer it back onto the right fiscal track.

The biggest elephant in the room is the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. Many of Nassau’s political, labor and finance leaders believe that the largest problem plaguing the county is the fact that Mangano and the Legislature ultimately do not have control over the county’s finances. NIFA’s projected deficit for 2014 is $122 million. In many respects, Mangano’s hands were tied, and NIFA gave him little if any leeway.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has wisely rearranged NIFA’s board, making former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman its chairman. This is a step in the right direction, one that Mangano believes will reduce the stalemate between him and the NIFA board. He told Newsday, “I think Jon Kaiman has set a tone of communication that’s been unprecedented with respect to NIFA.”

The second issue is the county work force. In March 2011, Mangano imposed a wage freeze, one that NIFA approved, calling it “essential.” Labor leaders are getting restless, however, and claim that the freezes have affected morale.

Nassau’s five labor unions have all reached separate agreements with Mangano that will slowly restore back pay, along with annual wage increases, in exchange for reform of health care and pension contributions.

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