Sunlight is the best disinfectant in government – Citizens for a Better Nassau County

Citizens for a Better Nassau
By Bill Gingrich
September 30, 2020

Congratulations to all those who won in our recent local elections, and thank you to all those who put themselves out for public service. It is not easy to campaign for public office, and it was particularly challenging to do so during the global pandemic.

We are guardedly optimistic about the impact that new leadership can have on our county commission. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, over 100 years ago, made his famous statement that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” in a 1913 Harper’s Weekly article, entitled “What Publicity Can Do.” Transparency and sunshine in government is certainly something that we need right now and always. While the recent election results are encouraging in this regard, work remains to achieve a truly open, honest, and transparent county government.

Now that the elections are effectively over for all local races, the hard part begins. Careful stewardship of our community is vitally important to our future property values and quality of life. I encourage everyone to remain engaged in local matters to ensure Nassau County is competently led and that we hold our elected leaders accountable for the decisions they make on our behalf. Accountability and transparency are among the main reasons we formed Citizens for a Better Nassau County. These two tenets shape our mission. We encourage accountability from politicians and government employees and urge them to embrace transparency and fairness as fundamental to their service to our community.

Many crucial issues face our local elected leaders, and we need to continue to pay attention to how they conduct themselves while in office. From a fiscal sustainability standpoint, principal among these issues are:

Spending control as we navigate through the COVID-19 recovery. By benchmarking Nassau County against other counties of similar size, we can work to root out waste in the operating budget.
Prioritizing and whittling away at our sizable capital deficit is crucial. Decades of financial mismanagement has left us with unpaved, expensive-to-maintain roads, poorly maintained and inadequate infrastructure of all kinds, and a dearth of park facilities needed by our growing county.

Implementing a prudent capital debt policy that prohibits paying cash for long-lived capital assets when they can be bonded at favorable interest rates. This approach protects existing taxpayers while allowing future residents to help pay for the capital assets they will enjoy.

Establishing an emergency reserve fund to only be tapped during true emergencies like hurricanes or (perish the thought) another pandemic.
Developing clear and consistently applied ordinances that raise the bar on residential development. And at regular intervals, reevaluate the appropriateness of impact fees paid by builders to ensure that future growth pays for itself without burdening existing taxpayers.

Demonstrate an actual long-term commitment to economic development to attract large private capital investment to our county while providing high-wage jobs for our citizens. These types of new taxpayers, unlike residential taxpayers, cannot homestead their properties, consume less in government services, and broaden and diversify our tax base, while also making our local economy more resilient in future economic downturns.

Recruit the very best and brightest to fill county positions. Stop the knee-jerk reaction of promoting from within. While institutional knowledge is valuable, residents of Nassau County deserve a qualified county staff, selected based on individual merit, qualifications, experience, and a proven track record of success, particularly in leadership positions. These leaders should, in turn, hold their respective staff accountable for achieving annual goals and objectives.

Elections shouldn’t be the only time we pay attention, nor should they be the only time we hold our local elected leaders accountable. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to visit our website at and sign up for free email updates to stay informed about what’s going on in the county. Please help us grow our organization and continue to shine a light on local matters that are important to all of us.

Editor’s Note: Bill Gingrich is a retired GE executive and chairman of Citizens for a Better Nassau County.

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Jack Knocke
Jack Knocke (@guest_59074)
3 years ago

Love the article Bill. Let me know if you would like to sit down to see how I can support your ideas leading to action and sunshine.