Neuhaus Budget: ‘Smoke and Mirrors’

By Michael Kaufman

As if on cue, Orange County Executive Steve (Bait-and-Switch) Neuhaus proposed a $703.2 million budget Wednesday that included a threat to lay off hundreds of county workers if the county legislature does not agree to sell the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation to a private, for-profit operator. “Just on the face of it—lots of smoke and mirrors in order to get ONE result … sell Valley View,” said legislator Mike Anagstonakis, who has consistently voiced opposition to privatization, after listening to Neuhaus outline his budget plan.

Democratic caucus leader Jeff Berkman agreed that the budget as outlined by Neuhaus “was steered toward one conclusion only, which was to sell Valley View.” Both Anagstonakis, the lone Republican legislator committed to keeping Valley View county owned, and Berkman, whose caucus has mustered enough votes to deny the supermajority required to proceed with the sale, said they need to read through the entire proposal before commenting further. Berkman, however, also said he agrees with Neuhaus that the county has serious financial problems and that he appreciates the county executive’s appeal for bipartisan efforts to find solutions. But is there really anything to appreciate? Neuhaus has never reached out to the Democrats before and the only reason he is doing so now is because he needs a couple of their votes if he is to succeed in selling Valley View.

Berkman, meanwhile, has drafted his own proposal to “downsize Valley View as a way to save it.” The centerpiece of his plan is to sell 120 of the 360 beds at Valley View to a private operator and reduce the number of workers at Valley View. “Some county employees may have to face the choice of relocation to other county department positions,” notes Berkman, and others would have to agree to accept employment with the for-profit facility. Under his plan those who agree to be transferred would have “first priority consideration” to be hired and would also retain their right to union representation.

Is it a coincidence that both Neuhaus and Berkman seem to have the same private operator in mind? As reported by Chris McKenna in Thursday’s Times Herald-Record, Neuhaus “touted plans by prospective buyers to expand services to Valley View and offer jobs to its current employees. He highlighted one suitor in particular, which is said to have already developed a partnership with the new medical school Touro College opened this summer in Middletown.” Berkman meanwhile suggests the 120 beds “be transferred to a private operator affiliated with Touro Medical School,” and notes that the Danza Group, “owner of the former Horton Hospital where Touro-Middletown is located, could partner with a firm that provides quality nursing care and can be affiliated with Touro Medical School.” Valley View would remain as a 240 bed, county-owned facility, “and not be considered for sale, transfer, or corporate ownership alteration for a period of no less than two years.”

Two years? I guess that’s better than the May 1 deadline proposed by Neuhaus to end county funding of Valley View. It seems our Orange County government sometimes bears a striking resemblance to the federal government. I can envisage a moment where Berkman and Neuhaus negotiate an agreement on Valley View, after which a grinning Neuhaus declares, “I got 98% of what I wanted.”

We can’t let this happen.

Michael can be reached at





Tags: , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Neuhaus Budget: ‘Smoke and Mirrors’”

  1. Tad Richards Says:

    Good, solid, old-fashioned reporting that you don’t get much of these days.

  2. Valerie Lucznikowska Says:

    For all those on the privatization express – this book is a must read: “Private Island” by James Meek – about the Thatcher rush to privatize just about everything in the UK and it’s now-hated results that are so expensive to consumers.

  3. esme Says:

    This proposal of Berkman and the now affiliation of Focus Ventures leaves no doubt in my mind that this organization, which has many “arms” is the chosen buyer and that this is merely a means to an end. Right now there is much too much controversy and there would definitely be another lawsuit if the proposed sale goes to a law and a vote or a resolution. This is a sham to get people to calm down, let their guard down and in two years all the champions will be gone. Berkman cannot at this time vote and flip, again too much controversy, but nevertheless he has sold VVC out. The term “relocation” is an insult. It is also a dire reminder of the classlessness of these politicians.

  4. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Thanks, Tad and Valerie. Here are some additional comments delivered via email:

    P.B., retired NYS Dept. of Health investigator/regulator, writes, “Berkman’s wish to downsize Valley View and ‘sell’ the beds to Touro is absolutely ridiculous. First and foremost, paperwork would have to be completed and sent to the NYS Dept. of Health requesting permission to downsize, when in fact the Berger Commission’s findings were that Valley View should increase their beds back up to the 500+. Touro would have to request from the NYS Dept. of Health, Division of Long Term Care Services permission to operate a Long Term Care facility. We are talking years here.”

    A member of the Valley View Family Resident Council says, “We should be discussing the proposed budget and the issues you summarized in your article this week. We should have invited Berkman to discuss his plan from HELL and his relocation process, which speaks volumes and is in alignment with the letter sent to Brescia from the Danza Group. Again we are being
    out maneuvered by the county executive, who has devious reasons for selling VVC.”

Leave a Reply