We are close to the end of what has been a historic year. So many things happened affecting so many people that it is hard to give sufficient words to describe what each event or happening means. But a year-end look back is worth the time and effort, so I will take a shot at it.
It has been more than six weeks since the national election, and somehow most of the people I meet still seem to be in a state of shock. Most of the unhappy voters are from New York who supported Hillary Clinton. Quite a few of them assumed that the election was a done deal and that Clinton would be on her way to the White House. When the most factual book is written about this election, the writers will no doubt find that the Clinton campaign made many tactical mistakes that caused her to blow it.
On the subject of heroes, there is no bigger one that I can think of than former Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg. While he was in Albany, he became Governor Cuomo’s nemesis on the issue of funding for the disabled. At no time in the history of the state was any Assembly member able to force the governor to find more funding for a cause once the state budget was completed.
Weisenberg got every member of the Assembly and Senate to support his bill to allocate $90 million for programs for people in need. The bill passed both houses, and Weisenberg was under intense pressure to wait another year before the funding would be included in the state budget. He rejected the pressure and insisted that the money had to be approved without delay.
Even though he has left office, Weisenberg continues to be a relentless fighter for more funds for programs for the disabled. His latest campaign is to get the direct caregivers a pay increase. It’s hard to imagine that the people hired to take care of people with disabilities are making less than fast-food workers. In addition, Weisenberg is asking why these workers have such a high turnover rate and wants the state to look into the problem. He is traveling throughout the state to hold news conferences and use the media to keep up his battle for worker equality. If you are looking for a worthy charity, make a donation to the Harvey & Ellen Weisenberg Special Needs Program.
Among of the most disturbing things this past year were the criminal charges lodged against some highly visible Nassau County elected leaders. All of them are assumed to be innocent unless proven guilty. Watching the current political scene, it seems like there are ethical bonfires across the state. Once upon a time, elected leaders could step over the line and it went unnoticed. Today’s world is different, and but for a very small handful, too many politicians just don’t get it. I hope that the next group of leaders will respect the public’s desire to get the job done without scandal.
Two elected leaders are clearly back in the limelight. Former County Executive Tom Suozzi has regained his political footing and is now on his way to Congress, replacing Steve Israel, who did a terrific job. My fellow columnist Al D’Amato looks like a possible candidate to be an ambassador in the Trump administration. My only advice to the former senator is that he shouldn’t agree to an offer in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
There is no way that I would avoid talking about this year’s serious issue of hacking into our computer systems. The proven intrusion by Russian operatives is a warning that there is no system in this country that is safe from cyber-attacks. It’s the Democrats one day, and then it’s Google and the Defense Department. Tomorrow it could be your electric power system, your doctor’s office and multiple other places. So don’t take this occurrence as just an annoyance. Just because they didn’t hack your information this week doesn’t mean that you aren’t next in line.
To all my readers, have a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.