Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Posted by Nick at Wednesday, January 06, 2010
UPDATE 10:30 PM: We are now hearing from some close to Mangano that Eden Laikin is NOT communications director, but in fact director of inter-governmental affairs. BD and I are working on a confirmation. She is definitely working for the County Executive, but initial reports may be false.
Ed Mangano and I had a very good interview in October, and I left it believing he could make a good County Executive should he, against all odds, win the election. Ed has been in office 5 days, and there are a few developments that make me fundamentally question whether the governing will match the rhetoric.
We mentioned that Michael "Lights Out?" Martino has left the Long Island Press to become Ed Mangano's press secretary. This is not a surprise, as Mr. Martino is a solid reporter, and some of his pieces seem to suggest Republican leanings. The big surprise is that his new boss is communications director Eden Laikin. If that name sounds familiar, it should - Ms. Laikin was, until yesterday, Newsday's Town of Hempstead beat writer, and the author of some of the more controversial mainstream pieces on the Lighthouse Project.
Judging from all accounts, Eden Laikin has excellent instincts as a reporter, and many people within the Town of Hempstead feel the same about her as many people on this web site and others. However, over the past year or so, she has written many questionable pieces, most of which pertained to the Lighthouse Project. This was the same reporter who chose to interview the only three people in Islanders gear at the February hearing, which had roughly 400 people attending. This is the person who constantly left out seemingly major bits of information, like Joe Mondello's infamous "blow it out your dufflebag" outburst, and blamed it on her editors (Incidentally, this happened many other times, and it could have informed her decision to leave Newsday). This is also a reporter who threatened legal action against a certain blogger with the audacity to disagree with her.
I hope this does not sound like a personal vendetta, because it is not. I think my main issue with this concerns Newsday itself, because Ms. Laikin was writing articles for the paper about Ed Mangano as recently as last week, before it was public knowledge that she would be taking a job within his administration. In addition, a source within the Nassau Democratic party told both me and B.D. that Ms. Laikin had told him, off the record, that she did not see any way the Lighthouse Project would get done.
This is where the situation ceases to be an oddity and becomes a Newsday problem. Ms. Laikin was writing pieces about Ed Mangano, seemingly at the same time she was interviewing for a job with his administration. At the same time, other sources have suggested a much deeper connection between the reporter and Mr. Mangano, which could suggest some extra symbolism. The quote on the Lighthouse Project is the proverbial cherry on top, because now, as my friend B.D. also pointed out, you have a chicken-vs-egg situation. Did the Newsday coverage of the Lighthouse - which has been sorely lacking compared to blogs like B.D. Gallof's, Chris Botta's, and, dare I say, this one - lead to Ms. Laikin developing this opinion, or did her opinion color the coverage and present a different face of the project, that, despite an almost complete abdication by the mainstream media, is still supported by a majority of Long Island residents?
As a Long Islander, I believe Newsday owes us a clear explanation from the very top. I am not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, merely pointing out that a writer for a mainstream publication who suddenly goes to work for a politician she spent time covering sends the wrong message. Newsday should stand up for its journalistic integrity and assure us that there was nothing within this relationship that suggested the paper's coverage was in any way compromised.
Machine Helping Machine?
The appointment of Eden Laikin is more than a potential slap in the face to the Long Island public that reads Newsday for information. It could also be a great boost to the Republican Party, even though many in the party establishment did not seem to give Mangano much of a chance before Election Day. Eden Laikin's departure means Newsday will have to place a new writer on the Town of Hempstead beat, someone who is not familiar with the inner workings of the Town and will likely not be willing to jump in and begin holding people's feet to the fire (just like I wasn't at the start of this blog). This could provide more breathing room, but hopefully not for a return to "politics as usual" in Town Hall.
Equally interesting is a press release from the Town of Hempstead on Tuesday, which cited recent meetings between the Town and the Lighthouse over an "amended" development. I haven't been able to confirm these meetings, and you have to wonder if that was partially designed to put outside pressure on the Lighthouse to negotiate. In fact, could this simply be confirming the meetings that we all know happened in October, before the election? One thing's for certain: the power in this debate has almost completely re-aligned.
A Uniter, Not a Divider
One of Ed Mangano's most salient criticisms of Tom Suozzi came from his leadership style, something a source once described to me as - sorry, 505 - "too Chaminade." In other words, Suozzi valued dissent and debate to a fault, often pitting aides and other politicians against each other rather than bringing people together for a common goal. Mangano is very correct that Suozzi has been hyper-partisan on the Lighthouse issue, and we know he was not happy that the outgoing County Executive stuck one last fork in Mangano's eye through the new lease agreement. Mangano promised to be a person who could bring the disparate interests of Nassau County together for a common purpose.
However, given the very questionable appointment of Eden Laikin, and the reports that Mangano blindly purged all County offices of Democrats, including the highly-respected and seemingly independent head of Veterans' Affairs for the County, you have to wonder if, as astute reader Rob pointed out, Mangano is going down the same road.
I am not like those hysterical people calling the President a failure seemingly hours after he took office. I understand that Ed Mangano has been County Executive for 5 days, and until I have reason to abandon this belief I will give him the benefit of the doubt, based on our interview. However, you have to wonder if the new County Executive is beginning to embrace too closely the spoils of victory.
We still have not heard the word "Lighthouse" from his office - the clock is ticking.