State Senator, David Carlucci, has been less than complimentary in the past about County Executive Scott Vanderhoef’s proposals to solve Rockland County’s fiscal crisis. He was about the last proposal:
"The County Executive proposed an $8 million gimmick to an $80 million dollar problem. Hardly well thought out, and with no support from the county legislature, this ill-conceived plan would enact troubling new measures for Rockland residents. Vanderhoef's plan will implement an outrageous new energy tax on families who are simply trying to heat their homes in the cold winter months. What's next – a tax on breathing? Scott Vanderhoef now has a new tax increase for every day of the week – plus one for good luck. It's clear that the County Executive is not serious about ending the fiscal mismanagement that has betrayed our taxpayers for too long. They have resorted to more of the same tax and blame policies that have gotten us into this mess.”
Strong stuff indeed and makes one anxious to receive Carlucci’s evaluation of the County Executive’s lastest effort to help Rockland County out of its mess. According to the it involves an agreement with the CSEA which is the county’s largest labor union with close to 2,200 employees. Patch reports:
“For many months we have been negotiating with the CSEA,” said Vanderhoef. “I am pleased that we were finally able to reach an agreement that I believe benefits the County, the employees and the taxpayers of Rockland County. We have taken many critical steps this year to improve the County’s finances and settling this contract is an important piece of that overall plan.”
CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo chimed in with: “We reached an agreement that achieves needed savings" while CSEA Rockland County Unit President P.T. Thomas added “We’ve said all along that meaningful savings could be achieved".
Here are the details of the latest “needed and meaningful savings” to rescue Rockland County from its profligate spending.
1) A 15% health insurance contribution rate for new employees
2) A salary and wage freeze through the life of the contract, with the exception of five year longevity increases or salary increases tied to job promotions
3) Deferred payment for a total of 10 days work during certain periods in 2012 and 2013, with compensation for those days taking place on December 1, 2014
4) Language preventing layoffs for budgetary reasons through the life of the contract
Whew! How is that for a batting list? Vandehoef might be able to hit a single if it is approved by the CSEA membership. As one to the Patch report said:
"Let me see if I understand this... NEW employees will contribute to their health benefits (but we aren't hiring), DEFERRED pay for 10 days (but we just moved that balloon to Dec 1, 2014), and a commitment to NO layoffs for 3 years. And Vanderhoef has the nerve to say "We have taken many critical steps this year to improve the County’s finances", what a joke."
If the contract is ratified by the CSEA membership, it will then go to the County Legislature for final approval. Yet, this proposal is just the latest of several musical offerings composed by the County Executive who is now trying to sell the child’s ditty 'One Potato, two potato' as an Oratorio. The lyrics go like this:
In my little garden - Promise you won't laugh
I haven't any flowers - And I haven't any grass
Now I'm going to dig and plant - And soon I'll have a show
With a bit of sun and a bit of rain - There'll be a lovely row.
One potato, two potato, three potato, four
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.
One potato, two potato, three potato, four
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more!
The Rockland County 'Philharmonic' Legislature, which 'hasn't any flowers and hasn't any grass', is rehearsing its 'soon I'll have a show' Oratorio for its premiere performance at a legislature meeting later this summer. Conducting the performance will be Maestro Vanderhoef, with Ilan Shoenberger on First Violin and Harriet Cornell on French Horn. Vanderhoef is a surprising choice for conductor of this work since 'One potato, two potato' requires strict control of the tempo and in the past this conductor has had difficulty in keeping .
According to the March 20, 2012 issue of the Journal News: Rockland County does not have a Finance Director. It is muddling along appointing a temporary one every 6 months. “We’re still in a learning curve at a very critical TIME,” Vanderhoef said, “We just haven't had TIME to look". Vanderhoef and the County Legislature have racked up an $80 million deficit while they were on a learning curve and didn't have time to find someone who has competency in finance. Now they have a 'promise-you-won't-laugh' deal with the CSEA to kick the can down the road and 'with a bit of sun and a bit of rain' they will pay the union leadership for its patience later.
Rockland County has a population of just over 300,000. It is governed by one County Executive and five Town Supervisors whose combined salaries and benefits exceed that of the President of the United States who governs a population of over 300 million. A critical few of them are kept in power by block voting, the and by giving out . Further, several of these 'dig and planters' do not seem to know the basics about budgeting, controlling unions, controlling tax increases or stopping patronage. The fiscal state we are in is not a tax problem - it is a spending problem caused by spiraling union and pension costs that have been enabled by an incompetent County Legislature and by Town Boards succumbing to arbitration blackmail and granting outrageous police salaries and pensions.
There is another form of 'One Potato, two potato' which goes as follows:
One potato, two potato, three potato, four
Five potato, six potato, seven potato more.
Icha bacha, soda cracker, Icha bacha boo
Icha bacha, soda cracker, out goes Y-O-U!
This chant is used to find the first person to be ‘It’ when beginning a game. All players put their fisted hands together in a circle and one person starts the chant by tapping each fist in succession. After the performance of the Vanderhoef ‘Oratorio' the game of ‘It’ will be played to determine who can be called ‘Out’ for all of this child-like foolishness. Vanderhoef's candidates for ‘It’ may again include David Carlucci with Supervisor Gromack thrown into the mix for wanting to declare and escape from the County's clutches permanently.
I have three candidates to start my own ‘It’ list nominations. Topping the list is County Executive Scott Vanderhoef himself for twenty years of mournful leadership which has led the County's taxpayers down into the 'valley of the shadow of death'.
Next, I would nominate Legislator Ilan Shoenberger for his domination of the legislature with pseudo-gravitas while munching on his snacks in the rear row. Schoenberger, who is chair of the legislature’s Budget & Finance Committee, has budgeted and financed the County down to a notch just above junk bond status. He dug a hole so deep that he had to run to Albany seeking shovels so he and the legislature could dig the County in to a deeper hole. When the shovels were not forthcoming Schoenberger pointed his at Carlucci saying Carlucci was 'It' by remarking: "He has abandoned the people of Rockland".
Schoenberger's latest gimmick is to charge back every expense he can find to the Towns in what appears to be an attempt to have the Towns raise the taxes needed to pay for the County's profligacy. Not that the taxpayers much care who sends them a bigger tax bill since at the end of the day it is their pockets that are being picked. His latest stunt is to investigate the feasibility of returning County roads to the Towns while criticizing the 'tit-for-tat' response of the Towns who now plan to bill the County for the cost of utilities on County roads. Schoenberger requested a written opinion from the legislative counsel on the legality of the Towns’ proposal to charge the County for the cost of maintenance and operation of streetlights, traffic signals and hydrants on County roads remarking "if they want a fight, they’re going to get a fight.”
Ah, yes, Legislator Schoenberger may entertain us with a "fight" but we all know who will pay to watch it. This is what happens when 'political gurus' and 'patronage providers' try to act like they have a basic knowledge of economics. They reach for their legal books and economics becomes relegated to a game of 'shame' and 'rabbits'. "It's a shame" said Orangetown's . "This is pulling a rabbit out of a hat."
But what does one expect when living in Alice's Wonderland? The Schoenberger 'white rabbit' ran to Albany and now it runs to the legal books saying if the other 'white rabbits' "want a fight, they’re going to get a fight.”
The real jokes are actually better than those in Alice's world! Consider this one - Schoenberger requested an analysis of how much County roads "cost taxpayers" and how much would be "saved" if the roads were no longer County roads. 'Cost' refers to what taxpayers pay - 'saved' refers to what Schoenberger avoids when someone else sends the taxpayer a bill on his behalf.
These political semantics are not about fiscal policy but about re-election. The politicians are not fixing the problem - they are fixing the blame. At election time the mantra will be. "I didn't raise your taxes - he did!" Meanwhile our elected officials continue to whine as a cover for their ineptitude instead of coming together to do what they were elected to do - fix problems not create them.
Third on my 'It' list is Legislator Harriet Cornell who has presided over this fiasco while saying next to nothing. What can one say about her?
I'm working on the next seven candidates to make my "Top Ten 'It' List".
Got any suggestions?
(Picture caption courtesy of http://mistyslaws.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/tag-youre-it/)