Amid a packed auditorium of supporters New Year’s Day at Bethpage High School, seven-term Republican Nassau County Legis. Ed Mangano took his oath of office to become the county’s eighth county executive.
Flanked by family members, members of his cabinet and a host of federal, state and local elected officials and dignitaries, Mangano wasted no time exercising his new powers, announcing during his inaugural speech that he had officially repealed a controversial home energy tax imposed under his predecessor, Democrat Tom Suozzi, and also signed an executive order to begin the process of fixing Nassau’s “flawed assessment system.” Repealing the 2.5 percent tax on home energy sources had been a campaign promise.
The current property tax assessment system, Mangano told the audience, has indebted present and future generations of county taxpayers to the tune of $1.2 billion for “past errors,” adding that Nassau was projecting to pay another $100 million in 2010 for those errors. He was critical of “one-shot, temporary stop-gaps” in the 2010 budget and warned that in 2011 the problems would become even more serious—potentially resulting in a deficit of more than $400 million. Mangano’s order creates an assessment reform team—comprised of residential and commercial property owners—which will hold public hearings throughout the county and deliver a report to him on its findings within six months.
“Nassau County’s system of property tax assessment has played a catastrophic role in our county’s current fiscal turmoil,” he said. “We simply cannot survive if the system is allowed to continue this way…”
Mangano, 47, vowed to the energized crowd of more than 1,000 that he’d face Nassau’s many challenges head-on in a bipartisan fashion, stressing the importance and necessity of cooperation among all parties in addressing the problems. His speech followed remarks and praises from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who Mangano had personally requested to be his lead speaker, new Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), U.S. Congressman Peter King (R-NY, Seaford), and blessings and prayers from several local religious clergymen and women. Bethpage High School being Mangano’s alma mater, the school’s band provided music. The Antioch Cathedral Mass Choir also performed. New York State Supreme Court Justice Steven Bucaria administered the oath of office to Mangano.
Schumer highlighted Mangano’s working-class beginnings—such as working as a janitor throughout high school to put himself through college at Hofstra University—and middle-class roots.
“You weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth,” he said. “You got here the old-fashioned way: You’ve earned it.”
“It’s a great day for Nassau County,” he added. “It’s a great day for America.”
That day came hard-won for Mangano, whose inauguration was the fruit of a historic recount that consumed dozens of attorneys and elections workers for the better part of a month following a razor-thin, too-close-to call contest against Suozzi on Election Night Nov. 3. The battle came down to paper ballots, which put Mangano about 400 votes ahead at the end of tallying.
Smiling alongside his family, giving the thumbs-up sign proudly to a standing ovation, Mangano expressed the same optimism to inaugural attendees that had defined his attitude throughout the long process.
“We can, and we will do it together,” he said. “I promise to be a good one.”