It is imperative that Tom Suozzi wins his upcoming bid for reelection. My reasoning for this is simple: that a vote for Suozzi will serve to hasten our descent into an economic cataclysm. And that may be precisely what we need.
The deciduous state of our local economy reveals nothing if not a general state of malaise, or form of financial purgatory. Any attempt at recovery, whether employing conservatism or progressivism, will only break against the middle, further paralyzing government, industry and the individual. As a mature region we have no choice but to fail, utterly and completely, before we can rebuild. You cannot salvage a failing system for a sustainable period by altering it or adding to it. It must be replaced.
Suozzi’s opponent in this election, Republican Ed Mangano, has many of the right ideas but is still tied to the last, gasping vestiges of a broken system. Insurgency provides clarity for the opposition during a campaign but there are too many pigs that still feed from the trough that was the Republican machine. The only pig that wound up on the spit was Tom Gulotta, while nearly everyone else survived, marking time in the Republican havens of Hempstead and Oyster Bay. The patronage in these towns makes the impossibly petulant John Kaiman of North Hempstead look like a financial genius.
The Nassau Democrats under Tom Suozzi and Jay Jacobs broke the Republican machine as they promised they would. Then they did the unthinkable with their mandate and replaced it with a new, shiny model. And boy does it hum. Nassau County’s newly reported 2009 structural deficit is almost $170 million. As if this isn’t staggering enough, consider that just five years ago the county was sitting on $284.8 million in reserves. This is more than a dip in sales tax—that’s a more than $450 million operating swing since the end of Suozzi’s first term alone. The Suozzi/Jacobs machine is indiscriminately destroying everything in its path. A vote for Mangano would be the responsible thing to do if our goal is to prolong the inevitable.
It takes teamwork to make the dream work and hubris to kill it. So let’s get on with it then.
We need Suozzi to continue destroying the county because we are still too close to what was. What we require is distance from our successes. A distance that inspires creative thought and attracts new talent. But if we remember what it was once like, if we allow ourselves to wax poetic about the glory days, then we rob ourselves of the hunger for change. Everything that this suburban dream once represented must be brought to its knees and become wholly untenable if we are to get out from under the crushing weight of debt, patronage and mismanagement. No sense bickering about it now, there are bridges to burn.
We cannot allow ourselves to look over our shoulders and wonder what brought us here. The answer is quite obvious and there’s nothing more to gain from our mistakes but to allow those who made them to bring it to an end. Suozzi has delivered his dream of a new suburbia, even if it’s not the one he fully intended. But he is not to blame. He told us everything we wanted to hear with impunity because lying isn’t illegal. In fact, it’s rather polite. Had we watched his actions more carefully, instead of listening to his words, we would have seen for ourselves what was to come. If we understood the creature that is Tom Suozzi more completely we would have seen an adroit political figure who seeks only personal gain. Naked ambition such as this is a commanding and necessary attribute when a clear and precise path is discernible. It is called for in matters of war or human rights—battles between good and evil, right and wrong.
Naked ambition absent a defined and popular objective feeds only on itself thereby facilitating its own decline. It needs only to be married with time.
To rebuild a progressive and robust economic system in this place requires the abrogation of several structural impediments such as inordinate layers of government, a broken zoning infrastructure and extravagant political patronage. At one time these were not impediments but characteristics of a burgeoning suburban economy, a system designed to support a wide economic and political infrastructure. A system now crumbling under its own weight. Unfortunately, the current leadership in both parties is alike in that they were all there for the rise; they remember what it was like to experience absolute growth. It’s all they know. The Republicans skipped an entire generation of new blood in protecting their fiefdoms at the height of power. The Democrats simply had a lot of catching up to do and grabbed power with reckless abandon while pointing their fingers in every direction but their own.
The great mistake on both sides is not in wanting the past to return but in believing that the local economy is cyclical. It is not. The American economy as a whole may indeed be cyclical but the road to past American economic recoveries was paved with losses suffered by localities and the shifting tide of industry and innovation. Our local officials have laid down their arms of ingenuity at the altar of inertia, leveraged our future and chose slush funds over rainy day funds. All because they believe it will get better. But it won’t. It can’t. Not until we have ridden it to the logical and bitter conclusion—complete decimation.
In the end, Suozzi will prove to be neither visionary nor charlatan. I submit that he is, in actuality, nothing. There is in him an emptiness fueled by intangibles; he is a charade in a suit that ceases to exist when the audience takes leave of him. We can only see him now because he is the purest reflection of the things we still want or wish to be, brought to life by the words he speaks and the manner he presents them. By definition of his nature he cannot possess any discernible principles except the ones that suit the moment. He is an assiduous student of the wind, sensing shifts imperceptible to you and me.
As his subjects we are frogs in boiling water, incapable of understanding impending doom because in the pot the heat rises slowly, insidiously. And then, blackness. We won’t take notice of precisely when he left the pot unattended, only that he wasn’t there when it came to a boil. He will mention us as the reason that his career must be advanced. So that he may prevent further economic bloodshed because unseen forces tied his hands. He will implore his new audience to help him, to pitch in, and that he will share in the sacrifice for the greater good. The role of martyr suits the politician with naked ambition because it too implies that he must rise above the broken system to be in a position to fix it. Or, plainly stated in this instance, Fix Albany.
I am as much pragmatist as prophet where this is concerned. It gives me no comfort to be either, because this is my home. But so long as we are comforted by the figure looking back at us with the proper empathy and concern, and as long as our decline is skillfully managed from behind closed doors by power brokers who share in his political gain, he will continue to win. And our pot will continue to boil.
I’m an ardent admirer of his skill and believe wholeheartedly that of any politician in New York State, Tom Suozzi has the clearest vision of ascent. His ambition will set the course normally charted by one’s moral compass and, in fact, little may stand in his way. Therefore we must return him to this office so that he may don the appropriate formalwear as captain of this Titanic and ride the final wave into obscurity. Absolve him of his financial transgressions by defeating his reelection bid and we will be left to pray that real calamity awaits him at the next doorstep so that his directive is clear. Only then can he achieve lasting greatness and be forgiven for the price we have all paid for his ambition.