Using an iPad for a Bible, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano took the oath of office at his second inauguration Thursday at his alma mater, Bethpage High School, after the book was mistakenly left at his Mineola office.
A coming blizzard was blamed for the lapse in protocol but no one objected—and there were plenty of Nassau Democrats in attendance—because a precedent may have been set by “the first electronic Bible swearing in,” as Mangano told the appreciative audience in the packed auditorium. That didn’t happen four years ago, but then the forecast was different that day.
For Mangano’s second swearing in, the weather was a constant theme, whether it was overcoming Sandy or preparing to cope with the first serious blizzard of 2014.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke earlier than he was scheduled in the program so he could return to Albany because, he said: “I’m the guy who gives out the shovels, basically!”
After calling Mangano “a superb county executive who I believe is going to be even better in his second term,” the governor told the crowd that “Mother Nature really runs the show.”
In giving the invocation, Rockville Diocese’s Bishop William Francis Murphy joked that because he’d heard that the governor had declared a statewide weather emergency earlier in the day, he cut “five pages” out of his opening prayer.
Another recurrent theme was bipartisan cooperation.
Cuomo, a Democrat, sat between Nassau’s Republican county executive and the leader of the Republican caucus in the State Senate, Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). The governor, who is up for re-election, delivered what sounded like a campaign speech. He heaped praise on Skelos for helping him accomplish his legislative agenda.
“You’ve seen what government looks like when it doesn’t work,” said Cuomo, wearing a purple tie. “Albany had gridlock for many, many years. We had gridlock before Washington made gridlock cool!”
Then he bragged that the state has had “three on-time budgets in a row” for the first time in 34 years. That drew a warm response from the crowd.
No one mentioned that Nassau County is still under the control of the state-imposed Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which has projected that the county will face a $122 million deficit in 2014. The governor’s new appointed NIFA chairman, former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, was singled out for praise by Mangano, who said: “It’s great to have someone you can talk to.” Kaiman was sitting next to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Mangano said that he’s made serious inroads on the overall deficit problem and Nassau is moving in the right direction.
“We put the county on a diet basically,” he said. And he highlighted two “great success stories,” telling the audience, “We have the lowest unemployment rate in the region and the largest growth in sales tax revenue in the region.”
Among a litany of cost-cutting accomplishments and first-term initiatives, Mangano took special pride in citing the growth of film and television production on Long Island, noting NBC’s recent live broadcast of “The Sound of Music,” starring Carrie Underwood, from a soundstage at Grumman Studios.
“In fact,” Mangano said, “Nassau County is quickly becoming the Hollywood East of the television and film industry!”
At one point Mangano admitted, “I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize our retired police commissioner, Thomas Dale,” who Mangano recently forced to resign amid a political scandal. And in another revealing moment, when Mangano was “thanking my colleagues” in the county legislature who were seated on stage in the rows rising behind the podium, the county exec observed: “They work tirelessly and are way underpaid, and that’s something that should be rectified…”
After getting all the veterans in the auditorium to stand while they were showered with applause in honor of their service to the country, Mangano then thanked his chief spokesman, Brian Nevin, “for handling the never-ending questions from an aggressive, inquisitive and not always cooperative media.” He also thanked his chief deputy, Rob Walker Jr., for being “very resourceful…I just love him.” The feeling was mutual apparently, because Walker got choked up when he was introducing his boss.
But despite the joy of his second inaugural, the day was “bittersweet” for his family, as Mangano told the audience, because his 97-year-old grandmother had passed away the night before.
There were other emotional highlights during the more than two-and-a-half-hour event, but perhaps the most impressive was the singing of “Nessun Dorma” by Christopher Macchio, a classically trained tenor, whose voice soared. He also brought down the house—and reduced the county’s First Lady Linda Mangano to fighting back tears, when he did his version of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” And when the Antioch Cathedral Mass Choir performed Billy Joel’s “The River of Dreams,” marching down the aisles in two lines, before gathering in front of the stage, the audience stood up and clapped along as Linda Mangano beamed in a pink dress with a black floral print. The county executive said that she had helped pick the performers, saying that she dubbed this ceremony, “The Inaugural, the Musical!”
What a difference four years makes.
Take it from ex-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who regaled the audience with his memory of the first time Mangano challenged then-incumbent Tom Suozzi for county executive. “Most of us didn’t think he could win, including myself,” D’Amato said, calling that 2009 election “a minor miracle” (Mangano squeaked by with 386 votes) and characterized the 2013 election “a landslide” (he trounced his Democratic rival by 18 percentage points).
Basking in the moment, D’Amato also praised the man who unseated him from the U.S. Senate, Charles Schumer, who “led the charge” for federal aid after Superstorm Sandy. “He spent more time in Island Park than I did!”
Schumer lauded “the great Alfonse” D’Amato as “my paisan…He has been a mentor and a great friend.” He told the crowd, who didn’t need much reminding, that “as you know a while back we had a rough race together…” But now, Schumer said, they’ve “forged” a friendship. And when he went back to his seat on stage, his former opponent stood up and gave him a bear hug complete with a big slap on the back.
Schumer had also complimented all the politicians in attendance, no matter what their party affiliation, referring to Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), who sat next to Gary Melius, the wealthy political donor, and was about to say that Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) regretfully couldn’t be on hand when he spotted the Congressman lurking in the wings and brought him on stage. The crowd erupted with cheers and applause, prompting Schumer to joke, “Peter, if I knew you were going to interrupt my speech like that, I wouldn’t have given you such a nice introduction!”
King, who had rushed over from his own swearing in ceremony in Hempstead, said, “Let me thank Senator Schumer for the introduction—I thought it was a Sunday news conference when I saw Chuck here!”
As Schumer said: “It’s a great day for Ed Mangano because he got here the old-fashioned way: he earned it!”
In his inaugural address, Mangano didn’t announce any groundbreaking new initiatives He just reiterated his promise to promote growth without raising taxes while keeping government costs down—essentially what he spent his first term doing.
“I love my job serving as county executive and I’m so grateful that you have provided me the opportunity to serve a second term,” Mangano said. “From a janitor to a county executive, who could have ever imagined it? Wow! America, especially Nassau County, is the greatest place on Earth!”