Political Pawns or Voters Depending on Who You Ask

Nobody told me to bring aspirin while watching our legislators take turns trying to make each other look bad. Sadly, the citizens of Nassau County are the ones who lost out.

A few days ago I was asked to speak on behalf of Counseling Center at a rally at the Nassau County Executive Building and before the legislative session that followed. Public speaking is not something I do professionally nor is it something I particularly relish however I accepted enthusiastically because of what I see going on in Massapequa as well as our surrounding communities. I also accepted because I planned on including my children and wanted to demonstrate that quotes such as be the change you wish to see in the world are more than just inspirational words stolen from Gandhi to be posted on social media. They are words that deserve action.

My daughter and three of her best friends attended the rally with me. It was with great pride that I watched as they stood on the steps of the Executive Building and fielded questions from news organizations. At 14 and 15, they stood there representing a small segment of our future. It was, I hoped, something our legislators would have the opportunity to see. I had hoped that those people who are voted into office would look into those faces and all of the other young faces that showed up in hopes that voices would be heard, and have to tell those kids why their programs were being held hostage to political machinations.

While in the legislative session which could be a reality show called Legislators Behaving Badly, my daughter and her friends were paying attention. Our Presiding Officer Republican Peter Schmitt and our Minority Leader Democrat Kevan Abrahams went back and forth each blaming the other party for this funding issue. Neither denied that the funding was there yet neither side could come to a reasonable solution that would help our youth and families. The word pawn was thrown around and my daughter’s friend, Jess, whispered that the legislators both needed a sharing stick. My daughter smiled and suggested that if she fought with her brothers like that, they’d get sent to their room for a time-out. Out of the mouths of babes….

Unfortunately, while I had the opportunity to speak at the press conference, the legislators all chose to interrupt the public comments to fight over closing out the 2011 budget. It seemed that this session was the first time that any of them had seen the budget, at least that was the impression I had after listening to over an hour of questions and fighting over funds that one legislator labeled fictitious. I am not a professional demonstrator nor would I classify myself as politically savvy but it seemed to me the timing of the closing out of the budget business was designed to clear out the room, which it did. We finally had to leave at 3:45 while legislators were still fighting over whether funds were fictitious or not and whether or not money that is fictitious could be borrowed.

I have met Peter Schmitt in the past just as I have met Kevan Abrahams. They both seem like nice men though I don’t know either of them personally. I have written both. The Minority Leader does not represent my community though he is a representative of my County. Every legislator there represents Nassau County, the county I live in. My interest doesn’t end at the Massapequa borders. I hold every legislator there responsible for what will happen to our youth if they continue to hold our kids as pawns. It was, by the way, a lovely description provided by our legislators. Pawns.

What our legislators really need to understand is that I am not just a pawn. I am a taxpayer and a voter. I do not limit my votes to party lines. I look at the issues and the people who are running, people who may be very nice people, but people who in the end, will be serving me, my kids, and my community. They serve all of us, not just Republicans and not just Democrats. They serve all of us. In three years, my daughter and her friends will be eligible to vote. It isn’t that far away. Those legislators need to end their squabbling and do what is right for their communities. But they will only do that if all of the pawns step up and let their voices be heard.

There will be another session on Monday, June 25. This pawn, I mean voter, plans on attending. My voice will be heard.





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mel June 21, 2012 at 02:31 PM
where is the red light camera money going? Was it not set up to fund these programs? Where is that money, Mangano, Schmitt, Abrams?
Kristen Ferrari June 21, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Hi Mel, The red light money was set up to fund these programs and then taken away. It was discussed heatedly at the session but in the end, both sides seemed more interested in political swiping than doing what they were elected to do which is serve their constituents. It shouldn't be a Republican/Democrat issue. it is a Nassau County issue. Please take the time to contact the Nassau County Legislators and demand that we don't lose these programs. Imagine just in Elmont that there will be 800 kids on the street with nothing to do. That's just one town in Nassau.
John Rennhack June 21, 2012 at 06:16 PM
The red light money - a program the republicans initially opposed including Schmitt and Mangano - was shifted by Mangano and the republicans to pay for their ever-increasing budget deficit. Meanwhile political cronies are being hired fr six figure salaries and connected law firms are getting county contracts for work the county attorney's office used to do.
Kristen Ferrari June 21, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Hi John, Both sides blame each other and both sides have "valid" reasons why they dig in their heels. The bottom line is that they are hurting the kids and families of the same county they claim to serve. I'm tired of the state of politics and want to see all of the kids to have a place to go, not just the Republican kids and not just the Democrat kids. All kids! It was my understanding that originally the red light money was going to be used to fund the Youth Board and Youth Services and was then rescinded. It's hard to really know what's going on when both sides refuse to answer questions and instead attack the "other side of the aisle," a phrase I heard the entire time I was there.
bob gee June 21, 2012 at 11:48 PM
800 kids with nothing to do???? maybe they could prepare for the coming school year. maybe do some volunteer work, clean the parks, work in hospitals, etc
mel June 22, 2012 at 12:02 AM
The programs that help organize youth community services and volunteerizm are the exact ones that are getting their funding cut. I want to know, how can Mangano and company redistribute the red light camera money?
Kristen Ferrari June 22, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Bob, those are some wonderful suggestions, but who will be supervising? If parents have to work and there are no summer or after school programs, who will be with the younger kids who are not old enough to be left alone all day? Teen years are not typically years that the best choices are always made. I'm not sure if you remember being a teen, but I do. I was a pretty good kid but still found trouble on occasion. That was with a mom who didn't have to work. What about the kids who aren't so lucky? Who's problem do they become then when they run out of summer reading projects? Maybe you're frustrated by the state of the economy and I don't blame you, as a taxpayer, I'd like to know that there are programs there to keep our youth busy as well as programs they can turn to when they need help.
Kristen Ferrari June 22, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Mel, you're absolutely correct. The programs that will be cut will only hurt our hard working families and our youth. Anyone who is troubled by our youth and families classified as pawns by our legislators should write, call, or show up. They get away with it because they think they can. The next Legislative session is this Monday, June 25. I plan on being there to address the Legislature since they denied me my opportunity last week.
John Rennhack June 22, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Kristen, the youth programs were a political target by Mangano. As you said, "pawns." The Democrats didn't choose youth programs as a target. Mangano is being sued by the unions over his unconstitutional power-grab to cancel contracts. I will bet you that instead of in-house lawyers already being paid by taxpayers, Mangano will hire a firm full of his cronies and they'll have a few $million to pay for those lawyers. Sever all outside contracts and the savings can be found. But then Mangano and D'Amato's friends pockets don't get lined. All the Democrats are doing is making Mangano and Schmitt abide by their campaign pledges to stop borrowing. It's Mangano who is using the young people of nassau county as pawns in his game. When Mangano fired social services case workers a few months ago, there was a huge outcry and backlash. And guess what? Mangano and his mini-me Rob Walker "found" enough money to rehire the workers. Did you know that Peter Schmitt's top aide makes $170,000? Previously he made $90,000 as press secretery. Previously he was a legislator (defeated) making $39,000. He also has a job at Nassau Community College. Tell me we aren't being laughed at all the way to the bank by political hacks.
Kristen Ferrari June 22, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Hi John, It was actually our legislators who called us pawns as they fought back and forth. In their attempt to make each other look bad they actually spoke the truth. I was asked to speak to the legislators a few years ago about the same issue before Mangano was in so while I have no problem assigning blame to him in this particular instance, the bigger picture for me is that the two party system is crushing all of us. They need to stop the games, the squabbling, the making the "other side of the aisle" look like the bad guy. Both sides are guilty of it. I would love to see the turn out again this Monday that we saw last Monday. Even greater would be a larger group of people paying attention and contacting the legislators. All of them! I have been guilty of not being as involved as I should have been and that ends now. I know you are informed on many of the issues and what goes on so please know that I appreciate your comments and input.
John Rennhack June 24, 2012 at 06:00 PM
What is exceptionally silly is that this could have all been avoided if the so-called energy tax would not have been repealed. For $5/month, Nassau was bringing in $60-$70million per year. So an extra $75/year for an average rate payer and there would be no need to borrow and no threats of program cuts.
Kristen Ferrari June 24, 2012 at 08:05 PM
John, I don't mean to disagree with you but I am beginning to believe that no matter what solution is suggested, the legislators are more interested in political one-upmanship than doing what is right for the citizens of Nassau. It astounds me that more people are not outraged that our families are being held hostage to political games. It is the silence that enables these politicians to conduct business as usual.
Kristen Ferrari June 24, 2012 at 08:06 PM
For the record, I have written both Peter Schmitt and Kevan Abrahams numerous times regarding this issue. So far, neither has responded. Mr Abrahams may not be my legislator but he has had conversations with me in the past on other issues. Mr. Schmitt is my legislator and there is no excuse for ignoring his constituent. I do plan on addressing that at tomorrow's Legislative Session.
Yankee Man June 29, 2012 at 08:38 PM
When did it become the role of goverment to become a baby sitter for kids. I have 5 so dont go there. My mom worked and the stay at home mom down the block watched us and we actually played outside without parents interfereing and being overly involved. My youngest goes to his elementary school for a 1/2 day rec program. that is paid for my the school district and we pay a fee. That is our choice. No dont have goverment workers involved. What ever the issue ,,its always " dont hurt the kids".,,,lol.
Kristen Ferrari June 30, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Soup Nazi, its not babysitting. There are many agencies such as the YES Community Counseling Center that will feel the cuts. When we see an increase in the prescription drug problem, heroin, alcohol abuse, crime, and a decrease in our quality of life, what would you suggest? If places like YES address issues that many of our citizens face, why would you want to cut them? What you don't seem to understand is that somehow you will pay. Would you rather pay for more police, more jails, more corrections officers, etc? Would you rather see more lives lost to addiction? More DWIs? Would you like most of the petty crime to become more violent crime? I find it funny when people consider funding youth programs the same as offering free babysitting yet no alternatives are offered. Your mom was very lucky to have a stay at home mom down the block to babysit. Not everyone is so lucky. I know many two income families that have no choice but to be two income families. Because you or your mother did not need an after school program, summer camp, or counseling agencies doesn't mean nobody does. Many of those people who utilize those programs pay taxes just like you. One other thing that's getting lost. The legislature is not saying the money is not there. They are fighting over which side has to give up what before they make it available. If you don't find that disgusting I don't know what to tell you.
mel June 30, 2012 at 04:48 AM
You are absolutely right Kristen, its that the legislature uses this funding as political pawns that is so troubling. What they don't realize is that when they decide to restore the funding 6 months later, often times it is too late and the programs have desolved. The sad thing is that nobody really cares until they need it and it is no longer there. There will be another rally next Friday at the leg offices at 11:30. Hope you will be there
John Rennhack June 30, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Unless Schmitt agrees with you, you will not hear from him.
John Rennhack June 30, 2012 at 05:18 AM
The money can be found tomorrow if the County stops hiring outside law firms to do the work that the County Attorney office SHOULD be doing and did do for 8 years under Suozzi. Look at the money being handed out to Mangano-connected law firms. And now with the Unions suing Mangano over his power-grab, expect another couple of million being spent on outside firms.
Kristen Ferrari June 30, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Hi Mel, It is disappointing to me that people seem so uninterested in this. You are right though, when they need it then they will care. I was unaware of a rally planned for next Friday. The 6th? If that is the case I will be there. I'm working on a letter that I have several signatures for. I'm going to figure out a way to make that letter available for anyone who would like to sign it. Thanks for your comment and the support for these programs!
Kristen Ferrari June 30, 2012 at 11:56 AM
John, as usual I appreciate the knowledge you bring to this. It has been my understanding, and still is, that the money is there whether the red light funds are given back to the youth programs as originally intended or whether the bonding issue gets approved. There is no reason that these programs should be on a political chopping block. And I did hear from Peter Schmitt. I will post more on that later.
Yankee Man June 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Kristen Are you siggesting that govt run day care helps curb herion use and crime. In there a connection with crime rates and lack of services for young kids. Some very poor area ( none of which you have ever stepped one foot in I can assure you ) have very little crime, because of solid family structures, and private institutions like churches, sports leagues etc. The greatest indication of future criminal activity is whether you have a father in the house.
Kristen Ferrari June 30, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Soup Nazi, First, don't draw conclusions about where or where I have not been. I'm reasonably sure we've had variations of this discussion on other threads when you posted under another name. The economy is in the tank. Kids are using drugs and harder drugs at younger ages. I would say the rise in addiction rates would be a great indicator of future criminal activities and some of those future criminals DO have fathers in the house. I will never minimize the importance of a father or mother's role, but what would you presume to do with kids who don't have both parents or kids who have parents but parents that are crappy? Should we just pretend they don';t exist? Not all of them become criminals but should we wait until they become criminals before we consider the financial impact they will have on society? I'm not sure what your solutions are other than make sure every household has a father and every working mother should have a neighbor who babysits. Please tell me what you suggest.


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