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Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano

 

State of the County Address

 

March 15, 2010

Good evening.

Ladies and gentlemen, Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, Minority Leader Diane Yatauro, members of the Nassau County Legislature, Comptroller George Maragos, District

Attorney Kathleen Rice, County Clerk Maureen O'Connell, members of the Nassau Legislature, members of my administration, county employees, friends and family.

Thank you all for being here tonight at my first State of the County address. It is fitting that we gather here tonight in the new Morelly Homeland Security Center, which was dedicated just ten days ago. It is the perfect setting for my first State of the County address - a place that exemplifies all things great about our past, present and future.

During World War II, aircraft were manufactured here to defend democracy. Jobs were created and cutting edge technology developed on this site. Over 40 years ago, government and the private sector again came together in this building to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.

However, during the last 15 years this property fell victim to defense industry downsizing resulting, in the loss of over 20,000 jobs locally and 100,000 jobs regionally. To address this latest challenge, Supervisor John Venditto and I, working along with every level of government, the private sector, and community fostered a mixed-use redevelopment that created more than 15,000 jobs here.

Today, we gather in a facility that is the result of a public-private partnership. I want to thank Senator Dean Skelos and Congressman Peter King for securing the funding necessary to build this facility, LIFT for designing and operating it, and R&D companies like Balfour Technologies and Northrop Grumman that are developing tomorrow's technology today as they work with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

This week, I am sending a lease for approval to the Nassau County Legislature to locate the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management right here. The cost of that lease will be fully funded by a federal grant.

Fostering cooperation between all levels of government, the private sector and listening to residents will be a hallmark of my administration. Listening to the concerns of residents is a hallmark of democracy.

I listened as a candidate and now act as a County Executive. Our residents said clearly that they could not afford a tax on the electric, gas, oil, propane and firewood they used to heat their homes.

 I listened, Peter Schmitt listened, my Republican colleagues in the legislature listened and some of my Democrat colleagues recently became believers and together we repealed the regressive home energy tax.

The election is over and now is the time to put our differences behind us and work together to solve the problems our county is facing.

It will take the collective efforts of not only my colleagues on the Legislature but all our partners in government to achieve the success our residents and our county deserve.

It doesn't matter what side of the aisle you are on as long as you are part of the solution.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

President Lincoln was right and tonight we bring you the real facts.

Tonight, I am here to tell you: The state of our county is deeply troubled.

Let's begin with the budget I inherited.

Upon taking office just 75 days ago it became apparent that Nassau's 2010 budget contained unrealistic assumptions with respect to passage in Albany of a cigarette tax projected to yield $16 million. In addition, the 2010 budget contained overly optimistic sales tax revenues to the tune of $12.7 million. The bottom line was a $48.5 million dollar 2010 deficit.

To address this alarming fiscal surprise, my administration developed a $49 million dollar Taxpayer Savings Plan. The plan largely rests on slashing appointed managerial and support staff positions. To lead by example, I reduced the cost of the County Executive Staff by nearly $2 million.

To date, I have cut Government staffing by $22 million dollars. This is only the beginning. When we finish reviewing all of Nassau's 47 departments we will have MORE cuts, lots more.

Our overburdened taxpayers are demanding strict controls on government spending and smaller government. I intend to deliver just that.

The prior administration negotiated collective bargaining contracts that require the taxpayers to pay $43 million in raises and back pay over the next few years with no plan to pay for those amounts. That was wrong.

My predecessor tied this administration's hands by surrendering the county's ability to downsize the county government. That was wrong.

Even more disturbing, the prior administration failed to address Nassau County's most serious problem--the billions of dollars of losses and errors associated with Nassau's broken Real Property Tax Assessment system. That too was wrong.

The scope of those losses boggles the mind.

Past assessment errors account for nearly one-half of Nassau's debt - over $1 billion.

Yes, that's over $1 billion wasted. And that number is growing.

To put this debt in perspective, let's look at the other half of Nassau's debt.

It built buildings - in fact, it restored the old courthouse - it improved our parks, it paved our roads, it enhanced our security and it helps create jobs and attract investment.

The other half - over $1 billion - is a shameful waste of taxpayer money that continues to grow.

Annually, the tax assessment system costs our taxpayers $250 million a year.

Of that, approximately $150 million is debt service - essentially the mortgage payments on the billion-dollar debt. Add to that an additional $100 million annual loss due to errors, and you have a $250 million cost to the county.

In fact, Comptroller George Maragos just certified the 2009 cost to the County at $114.5 million, yet my predecessor budgeted only $50 million for that year.

It is governmental malpractice to allow this taxpayer abuse to continue.

The fix will be methodical and painful but absolutely necessary.

I will soon introduce an emergency property tax stabilization program that will take the necessary steps to move our tax system from an annual to a cyclical system.

The process requires action by both the Nassau and State legislatures so that we may have a system that affords taxpayers the right to correct their taxes prior to government demanding payment and also protects county taxpayers.

Reforming the system will bring stability, predictability and fiscal responsibility to Nassau's tax assessment system.

There is simply no other choice. Nassau County cannot afford to continue down the path of borrowing over a billion dollars with no benefit – NONE – to our taxpayers.

Working together we can and must reform Nassau County's broken Property Tax Assessment System. It's essential for our present fiscal survival and we owe it to our children.

On Day One, I formed the Assessment Reform Team, which includes residential and commercial property owners and counsel to both and is working aggressively to construct and execute a plan that will finally reform this oppressive, error-ridden system through better management, county action and an achievable state legislative agenda. I thank the ART volunteers for their service.

We look forward to continuing to work with Senators Dean Skelos and Craig Johnson and Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper on State legislative amendments to the assessment system.

Most important, Assessment Reform will begin Nassau's fiscal recovery.

The fact of the matter is that the four-year plan we inherited is one we simply can't afford.

You should know that my predecessor's plan called for a total of $120 million in new property tax increases.

I know you can't afford those tax increases.

This plan fails to fix the assessment system. That's unacceptable too.

So, that is why we are working now to develop a new and responsible multi-year plan that is based on our taxpayer's limited resources to fund government. Nassau County taxpayers have no more left to give. We are working to right - size government!

We will aggressively manage every dollar of County spending and will leave no stone unturned.

We continue to brief the agencies that rate our bonds on our progress and to work with NIFA to stabilize our finances. Our master plan includes a National Taxpayer Savings Initiative, a Regional Taxpayer Savings Initiative and a County Taxpayer Savings Initiative.

On a national basis, for instance, we will work with Senator Schumer and Congressmen King and Israel on programs to create Green Energy Jobs in Nassau County. We applaud

Senator Schumer's work in extending FMAP – Federal Medicaid Assistance Program - to our county in the Jobs Bill that passed the Senate last week.

On a regional basis, we are exploring shared purchasing and shared facilities initiatives with our friends in Suffolk County. We are working with County Executive Steve Levy to discuss the possibilities of a shared juvenile detention center that would serve both our counties and save money for all taxpayers.

There is much more our counties can and should do together.

Closer to home, a county taxpayer initiative has begun with a program to review every activity our county government performs. In the future, the reality is that county government will do less because the taxpayers can't afford the government we have.

We are reviewing all county-owned and leased real estate.

Today, the county leases expensive space while county-owned buildings sit vacant.

That’s ridiculous and just doesn’t make any sense.

What also makes no sense to me is the fact that taxpayers were left a crumbling infrastructure. The front lobby of One West Street, located at the heart of the county's operations in Mineola, is attractive. But to either side, visitors and employees are met with broken walls, dimly lit hallways and filth and grime. Entire floors remain gutted.

The taxpayers were left a sewage treatment system that will cost millions to repair. The Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Facility is woefully understaffed and a victim of mismanagement.

A vacant and looted social services building sits in the heart of the County Seat. Why?

That makes no sense either!

County residents and employees deal with outdated IT resources and inaccurate time keeping systems each and every day. That is despite the expenditure of $11 million dollars over the last two years. Those taxpayers who deal with the county assessor's office see Wang equipment last manufactured in the 1990's which should be exhibited in the Smithsonian and not running assessment data in the year 2010.

The county Veteran's office at the VA clinic is an embarrassing shambles and an insult to the men and women who have bravely served this country. Ceilings are caved in. Water runs across its floors. It is an absolute travesty.

I will not allow veterans to be treated like this.

Furthermore, no veteran who has served our nation should be homeless. The County Departments of Housing and Homeless Services and Veterans Services will be working together with the private sector to build units of affordable housing to ensure that every veteran in this county has a safe and affordable home

Later this year, the county will be acquiring twelve two - family units from the U.S. Navy at Mitchel Field and will use VA funding designated for new projects specifically for female veterans and those with dependent children.

In fact in Nassau County, eighteen homeless returning female veterans with children have already been identified. We need to do more to care for the people who keep us safe.

Tens of thousands of our residents are still assessing damage from Saturday night's powerful storm, which overwhelmed the county's 9-1-1 emergency call system. Calls from Nassau's residents were transferred to Suffolk and Albany.


Last year, the county returned to the state over half a million dollars of emergency management grant money that was never spent. Another $700,000 is at risk as well.

That is JUST NOT acceptable.

Those funds should have been used to update our 9-1-1 call center. And make no bones about it - that is exactly what we will do.

I have also moved to cancel an ill-conceived and financially irresponsible plan we inherited from the prior administration to build a new First Precinct house.

The lease would have cost Nassau taxpayers over $30 million, and in the end the county would NOT have owned the building.

We will make sure that our police force gets a new facility, one the community can be proud of and the taxpayers will own. The First Precinct deal was wrong. Our county can't afford that kind of waste at any time but especially not in this economy.

As I said, the State of the County is deeply troubled. But we have already begun to fix Nassau County. This administration's approach is real-time reform because residents and businesses struggling to live and work here just don’t have any more time to waste.

And we have wasted no time, and we have made real strides in these first 75-plus days.

On day one, I repealed the Home Energy Tax that was imposed last year. That tax cut will save our taxpayers over $39 million each year.

That's real time reform.

I formed the Assessment Reform Team, and have begun to aggressively manage the assessment system and to resolve the backlog of cases that goes back to 2002.

That's real-time reform.

I have slashed nearly $2 million from the County Executive's staff, have assigned fewer vehicles and streamlined the management of this county.

My administration has identified $49 million in savings, reduced the size of the workforce and saved $22 million.

No more bloated management structures at the top.

Instead, our departments will be staffed with knowledgeable, experienced professionals who share the same goal of delivering to the taxpayers the services they deserve.

That's real time reform.

We need to create jobs and opportunities in Nassau County. We are establishing an Office of Local Opportunity that will provide the support and service to taxpayers and small businesses that need a leg up or guidance through the system.

That's real time reform.

We need to tighten our belts and save every dollar we can.

I am proud to say that in just the past two months, as a result of a deal with Long Island Bus, we have generated cash and savings of over $550,000. In the past, the county allowed buses that were taken out of service to sit idle for long periods.

Weather and vandals, as well as the cost of securing these buses, made that a costly exercise. Together with Long Island Bus, we have shortened the time old buses sit in the junkyard.

By handling taxpayer money much like the way you would handle your own, we have saved over half a million dollars in just over two months and will continue this program with the MTA.

That's real time reform.

In addition to better managing taxpayer dollars, we will work hard to help local businesses. We will lay out a plan for recovery. For this county's businesses to grow once again, this must be a smaller government so we will see some departments merged and some services consolidated to begin to bring relief to taxpayers who simply have no more to give.

One way we're looking to save money is by sharing the cost of services with school districts, villages and towns - information technology, legal and phone services; transportation, auditing and buying energy in bulk, to name a few of the areas we're exploring.

That's real time reform.

We're already partnering with Suffolk County to explore ways that we can cooperate to save millions of dollars for taxpayers of both counties.

We need help from Albany and Washington. Long Island subsidizes Albany to the tune of more than $4 billion each year in excess of what we receive from Albany. Half of that subsidy is from us. We will continue to work with our representatives in Albany and Washington to reduce the financial burden of that unsustainable subsidy on our shoulders.

It has become impossible for us to subsidize Albany any longer. We need help now.

At the Federal level, I know that Long Island and the state in general would benefit if New York's primary votes for president meant something.

Accordingly, I am proposing that the New York State Republican and Democratic primaries be held immediately after the New Hampshire primary. County government can't make that change but I intend to use my influence to make the case that focusing national attention on Nassau County's economy and issues will benefit our taxpayers.

And the big question...

How do we develop our economy, and move forward?

Today, in this economic climate, retaining Nassau's jobs and businesses is job one. To that end, we will be working with local businesses, chambers of commerce, the ABLI, LIA and ExecuLeaders and all relevant county departments to retain jobs.

Our new Office of Local Opportunity will aggressively reach out to county businesses and groups to get the word out about county and state programs to retain and grow jobs here in Nassau County.


Before we do that, with the support of our colleagues in Albany and Washington, we will seek to protect and increase the state and federal aid Nassau receives.

And as we stand our ground, my administration is working to find every penny available to us through grants and other aid programs.

We will fight for the continuation of established state programs like Empire Zones, which while imperfect have provided local businesses with the opportunity to grow but is scheduled to phase out this June.

Nassau County is a place of small businesses. Most of our residents are employed by small businesses and our future prosperity is dependent on businesses which employ fewer than 100 employees.

We urge the state legislature to extend the Empire Zone program because right now our local businesses need certainty. Let's give them that certainty by extending the program.

The commercial real estate industry is critical to Nassau County and far too much space has been left empty by the poor economy. The industry pays hundreds of millions of dollars million in property taxes each year.

The commercial sector is under extreme pressure in these tough times, and my administration is committed to doing everything it can to help local businesses reverse the downward trend they have faced recently.

Businesses in Nassau County were further burdened last year by the MTA payroll tax that affects every business, school, not for profit and the county itself. It hurts because it makes it more expensive to hire people.

Tonight, I am requesting Governor Paterson and the legislature to at a minimum amend the MTA payroll tax to exempt new hires who have been unemployed for more than 90 days. Repealing the MTA payroll tax for new hires will help put people to work in Nassau now.

While we know the state faces its own severe challenges, we need state legislative help on many fronts. In addition to assessment reform, state legislation will be required to implement reforms that can help our economy grow.

We look forward to continuing to work with our senate and assembly delegations on reforms that will create jobs but won't cost the state a dime.

First, I feel strongly that reform of state tax increment financing law will allow local governments, including the county, to finance required infrastructure needed to support development at the county owned property in Bethpage, at the Nassau Coliseum, in Glen Cove and elsewhere in the county.

TIF uses projected future increased property tax revenue generated in a designated area to finance public improvements--like roads--required for new development.

Current TIF legislation makes that impossible.

We will also seek sensible regulatory reforms to the state environmental quality review act, or SEQRA. We believe the law can be amended to protect the environment but to provide developers greater certainty when they propose developments.

Yet, how do we create jobs for our children?

I believe that the engines of future job growth will be our great Long Island research institutions like the one we're in tonight, like the Feinstein Institute at North Shore LIJ, Cold Spring Harbor Lab, Brookhaven National Lab, Stony Brook University and the new Hofstra Medical School.

Our job is to ensure that when companies are spun off to explore cutting edge research that the resulting jobs and investment stay here on Long Island. Too often in the past, Long Island researchers have advanced science but the spun-off companies have left Long Island for other locations.

That can't and won't continue.

Tonight, I am announcing the creation of a business advisory council chaired by entrepreneurs Mark Fasciano and Mike Puntillo, which will meet with me regularly so that the county can address issues standing in the way of investment on Long Island.

And working with our U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and representatives Ackerman, Israel, King and McCarthy, we will maximize the amount of federal aid

Nassau County receives.

We can do better with our County's many parks.

From the sands of Nickerson Beach to the cliffs of Sands Point, Nassau County has some of the most beautiful parks in New York State. But our parks have too often been used to serve private interests rather than those of the taxpayers.

That time is over.

Tonight, I am announcing that we are taking our parks back.

This year, the county will run pilot Summer Recreation Programs in several of our county parks. We will have a robust program of activities for children of all ages. This program will create jobs.

These are your parks. They are back in your hands.

And while New York State struggles to find a way to fund its vast parks system, we want to welcome visitors with our new Be Our Guest program, designed to accommodate those who may lose access to State parks due to the State’s fiscal crisis.

This is a good deal for county taxpayers since rates for non-residents have been increased to assist in the upkeep of our parks

It is no secret that open space is limited in Nassau County.

Last month, I completed a transaction to purchase the former site of Grossmann’s farm in the Village of Malverne. We must preserve more whenever we can.

I ask Governor Paterson to continue EPF funding, which has provided $60 million in Nassau County over the last decade to close landfills, preserve open space and protect our drinking water.

And while we preserve we must never lose sight of conserving what we have. My administration is creating green jobs and providing incentives that will give homeowners and businesses reason to Go Green and stimulate the new economy.

One West Street, the Nassau County Correctional Facility, the 9-1-1 Center and our facility on Cantiague Rock Road in Hicksville will utilize green energy.

My administration has also secured a $3.9 million grant to convert several county buildings to solar energy. Vacant Brownfield areas in Nassau must be remediated and redeveloped. With private sector help, we will turn them into clean land capable of hosting businesses focused on developing emerging green technologies.

We will apply to the state for Brownfields opportunity funding together with Sustainable Long Island and will focus on corridors with empty auto dealers on main thoroughfares.

Most exciting, my administration will develop an educational resource center that will push the growth of green energy to the next level.

The critical not-for-profit sector merits attention.

In the past couple of years, as the national economy continued its devastating decline, the not-for-profit organizations that provide crucial services to tens of thousands of people across Nassau County have suffered greatly.

But we cannot let them falter, and Nassau County will do whatever it can to support our not-for-profit sector which accounts for about 16% of jobs throughout the county.

It certainly is true that there is strength in number and that is why it is so important to join forces on regional issues and work from a position of unity and strength.

To that end, I have called the first meeting of the County Executives of Suffolk, Westchester and Nassau Counties in Mineola.

We intend to meet regularly, since County Executives Steve Levy, Rob Astorino and I represent 20 percent of the state's population and about $170 billion of total economic output.

We believe working together will advance the collective interests of our counties in Albany and Washington. In light of capital constraints on the county budget, we will explore - where appropriate - seeking private capital to lessen the burden on the county taxpayer.

Soon, Nassau County and Long Island will resume growing. We all know that time can't come soon enough. When it does, we must be ready to accommodate that growth in a sustainable way.

We look forward to redeveloping the 100 acres the county owns in Bethpage and to making it an even greater job creator than it is today.

I am pleased that my colleague, Kate Murray, the Hempstead Town Supervisor, has jump-started the planning process for the Nassau Coliseum site. We look forward to working closely with the town and the private sector to develop that site and create jobs.

We will be supportive of sustainable transit-oriented development such as is proposed around the Mineola train station and others that satisfy community needs and the goals of sustainable development.

As we work on these long-term projects we are mindful that we not use government subsidies to increase available office and retail space at a time the market cannot absorb them and thereby injure today's owners who have long invested in this county and paid millions of dollars in taxes.

We need bold, creative solutions to our transportation issues.

The proposed cross sound tunnel is worthy of serious consideration especially because it does not require taxpayer funding.

Think about this for a moment…

The MTA shut down the Whitestone Bridge for a time last month and a lane on the Throgs Neck Bridge in 2009. At what point do we realize we are an island with bridges being the sole structures that control our transportation destiny?

This tunnel concept, privately funded, should be carefully scrutinized, analyzed and debated but it needs to be part of our deliberations that chart our future.

In my house, I am constantly reminding my sons to turn the lights and television off.

The cost of energy is a significant cost for the county and for our residents as well. We are focused on reducing our cost and cleaning our air and water.

We are working with LIPA on the creation of a renewable Energy Park at Museum Row.

LIPA will provide rebates to the County to offset the upfront costs of renewable resources. In addition, LIPA will conduct energy efficiency audits at no cost to the County for the museums on Museum Row. Nassau County and LIPA agree to work together to finance those investments, and we look forward to completing

Museum Row. We thank Kevin Law for his partnership.

Last week, we announced an initiative with the New York Power Authority in which NYPA will provide solar roofs on the County's 9-1-1 building. These panels will generate 80 kilowatts of power and will lower the County's energy expense.

Our partnership also includes the installation of LED traffic lights throughout the County. This will save more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars each year. We thank Richie Kessel of NYPA for working to lower our cost of energy.

This month, I introduced a bill in the County Legislature to provide a sustainable loan program that will help homeowners pay for installing renewable energy on their homes. Capital costs will be funded by the county using federal grant monies.

We intend to utilize the newly passed State PACE Bond program to finance energy-efficient investments in homes and businesses in the county.

This model of cooperation will create jobs, save taxpayer dollars and clean our environment. The county will work with CDC and United Way on weatherization projects that will cut energy expense for county taxpayers, reduce waste and put people to work.

And while we need to focus on the nuts and bolts of our county, as well as bringing business back to Nassau, we all know that there’s “No business like show business.” We are so proud that Nassau County has recently become a frequent setting for many major motion pictures.

Here in Bethpage, the movie "Salt," starring Angelina Jolie was recently filmed in a studio in this building. Since January 1, Nicholas Cage, James Caan, and Keanu Reeves have filmed full-length movies here in Nassau.

Taking advantage of state film tax credits, our county can become a place where films are made, jobs are created and taxes generated. We will act aggressively to attract and support film production.

Yet, members of our minority communities are feeling the brunt of the present Recession.

My administration has breathed new life into minority affairs. In just the last two months, the number of minority community clients served by CASA has doubled. I want to thank the staff of CASA and its director, Eldia Gonzalez.

The work they do is more important than ever.

It has been said that volunteers are seldom paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless!

Our volunteers are critical to life in Nassau County in many ways. I want to highlight our Medical Reserve Corps program. Under the leadership of our Commissioner of Health, Dr. Maria Carney, the County Medical Reserve Corps has grown to the largest in the state with over 600 qualified health care volunteers able to respond quickly to health emergencies and initiatives at very little cost to the taxpayers.

The value of those volunteer hours can be measured in the millions of dollars.

I recognize Jim Callahan and Bob Beckman for supporting the successful Citizens Emergency Response Team. These citizen volunteers assist our brave first responders like our volunteer firefighters and police officers.

And speaking of Nassau's Finest, I want to take a moment to commend Police Officer

Michael Frank, who is with us tonight and ask him to please stand.

About one week ago, Officer Frank responded to a call in North Valley Stream and rescued a homeowner who was unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by an in-house generator.

After saving the mother, Officer Frank rushed upstairs and saved her young son.

Officer Frank's modest words are worth noting.

He said: "I have children. I did what anybody in my position would have done."

For service above and beyond the call of duty, please join me in thanking Officer Frank for his heroism.

Our County Attorney's office also has a new direction and new leadership.

Over the past several years there have been far too many court decisions and jury verdicts finding that the county improperly terminated employees without due process. They have come at too high a cost – with the county paying out millions of dollars in damages.

In order to prevent this from occurring in the future, we will be starting new employee training programs in the areas of employee relations, ethics and equal employment opportunity. Prevention will yield significant savings.

That's a simple matter of good management.

Feeling secure in our homes and in our communities is a fundamental right.

Nassau County is the safest large county in America and it is my intention to make the safest county in America even safer!

This spring every patrol vehicle will have an in-car computer connected to our Real-Time Intel center. The cop on the street - your street - will have access to more real-time crime information than any other police agency in the country.

This year, Nassau County conducted a gun buyback program and with the assistance of the Police Department and District Attorney Kathleen Rice, we removed 173 illegal handguns from our streets.

Our investments in crime fighting, including personnel resources, technology and gun buyback programs are paying dividends.

For the first 2-months of my administration, violent crime is down more than 6% and firearm-related crimes are down a whopping 23%. This trend supports our initiatives directed at getting guns off the street. The safest county is getting safer.

Even as we recognize our accomplishments, we have a major new challenge to face.

The resurgence of heroin use in Nassau County is a very real problem. Heroin users today include many of our brightest students and athletes.

The drug is a threat to our future and to our families.

In recent weeks, I launched a three-prong attack on heroin:

Enforcement, Parental Awareness and Education.

I designated additional detectives and dedicated additional resources to form Operation H.A.L.T. - Heroin Abuse Location Targeting.

This initiative seeks to secure Nassau's borders from users returning from outside the County with surplus drugs that they sell.

Funded with money seized from criminals, the nationally-proven “Too Good for Drugs” curriculum is being implemented in grades K through 12.

The age-appropriate curriculum begins by teaching children about good decision-making and instilling self-confidence and progresses in the upper grades with specific lessons on drugs, alcohol, and tobacco abuse.

I want to thank LICAD, our school districts, our PTA groups and non-profits for their help and support in combating this difficult problem as we can only succeed if we join forces and attack it at every level.

Of course, none of these plans work without the daily efforts of county employees who provide service above and beyond the call of duty. This has been a long, snowy winter and the staff in the Department of Public Works has worked long and hard to keep County roads passable.

I thank Commissioner Shila Shah and our dedicated, hardworking employees for their tireless service.

These are tough times. I don't need to tell anyone in this county that.

These are especially tough times for Nassau County—which was not prepared for today's economic conditions and for those that may lie ahead.

Nassau County's residents have been overtaxed and abused too long. Working together as the employees of Grumman did on so many occasions-during World War II, to put a man on the moon and to Rebuild Bethpage - we can and will fix Nassau County.

Our journey began just 75 days ago and since then we have brought tax relief to our residents by repealing the home energy tax.

We have begun to cut wasteful spending, reduce the size of government and are working to finally fix a broken tax assessment system.

We have begun to create jobs and opportunities and are giving Nassau County employees the respect they have earned and deserve.

Yet, there is much more to do.

However, we know that as this journey continues, the road ahead will be filled with any more challenges, inevitable detours and expected bumps along the way.

However, if we travel this road together, steadfast in our determination to do what is right for the residents of this wonderful county, we will be able to navigate through any road block and any obstacle that we may encounter.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm."

Well, my feet are certainly planted in the right place - right here in Nassau County, and I vow to stay firm in my commitment to return Nassau County to greatness and most importantly to proudly serve its residents.

Thank you for affording me that opportunity and for placing your trust in me. We will succeed together.

Thank you all for being here this evening. God Bless you all, Bless our County and God Bless the United States of America.