Thursday, May 26, 2005

Patronage As Way Of Life In Hempstead Town

Newsday confirmed today what most of us already knew – at Town Hall in Hempstead, its politics as usual, and rampant party patronage rules the day. Why, they don’t even try to hide it anymore!

The wife of former U.S. Senator and Republican Party big-wig, Al D’Amato, was named to the TOH Board of Zoning Appeals (the folks who ultimately decide what gets built in our township), and she also got a seat on the Town’s Planning Board. Katuria D’Amato, a securities attorney who, as reported by Newsday, once sued the University of Washington, alleging that she was rejected because she is white (we told you, Kate, always check the box next to “Other.”), was said to have submitted her resume (where her zoning and planning experience is limited to the million dollar property the D’Amatos purchased in Lido Beach) to Town Supervisor Kate Murray, and was given an obligatory thumbs up by the Republican dominated Town Board. [Dorothy Goosby, the lone Democrat on the Town Board, voted nay to the political plum.]

Patronage is one thing – after all, who are you going to appoint to key positions, your political enemies? This, however, is political cronyism run amuck. Fail to get re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives? No problem, you’ve got a job at Town Hall. Get the boot as Nassau County Comptroller? Don’t worry about it. We’ve got an office for you at One Washington Street. Marry “Senator Pothole” (the man who, by the way, holds second place in the Senate’s record books for the longest fillerbuster, suddenly the bane of every Republican), and you land an influential job on the Town Zoning Board. Can a cushy position at Town Hall for the ex-Mayor of the Village of Hempstead be far behind?

The dangers and downsides of one-party rule - and the miscarriage wrought upon democracy that results - are nowhere more obviously pervasive and overtly notorious than at Town Hall in Hempstead, where one party continues to serve itself, above all, and all at the expense of the people they are constitutionally bound to work for. There is a very real sense, given the cavalier and brazen attitude of both the appointed and the anointed, that the party’s place at Town Hall, secure for nearly 100 years, is more a birthright than a privilege bestowed by the electorate. Shame on them. Shame on us!

To paraphrase Town Supervisor Kate Murray, drawing (admittedly out of context) from her quote in Newsday, “I find it kind of sad…” So do we all, Kate. So do we all.

Perhaps Lord Acton said it best. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
READ THE NEWSDAY ARTICLE:,0,7097594.story?coll=ny-top-headlines

Monday, May 23, 2005

Town Taxes On Hold? Show Us The Money

Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray, has proudly informed Town residents that she “intend(s) to present a budget later this year that freezes all Town taxes.”

Now that would be nice, wouldn’t it? Of course, we will need Kate to define the word, “all,” as history serves to show us that “all Town taxes” refers only to the General Purposes” tax. Rarely beyond, and certainly, not to the so-called “Special District” taxes – taxes that Supervisor Murray recently told Newsday were beyond her control. “This is a tax freeze over every fund I control,” said Murray. “[Special District] commissioners are voted in by those communities. They have sole control and authority over those districts."

So, wait a minute. Those Sanitary Districts – you know, the ones with the trucks that have Town of Hempstead emblazoned on them, are staffed by TOH employees, and are overseen by the Party regulars – have nothing to do with the Town of Hempstead? Sure, they are separate legal entities but, duh, just how dumb do they think we really are? Next thing, the Supervisor will be telling us, the fact that the General Counsel for Sanitary District 6 is also the Town Attorney is mere coincidence!

Look for double-digit increases among the various taxing jurisdictions under Town and Party control, and please, resist those 8 ½” x 11” glossy fliers (soon to arrive in your mailbox, no doubt) wherein the Supervisor asks, “Pssst. Wanna buy a bridge?”

Friday, May 20, 2005

Alice In Wonderland

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray blasted a proposal that Nassau residents pay up to four percent of their income to help finance school districts in the county. The proposal, by the Chairman of Nassau's Board of Assessors, was made at a meeting in Mineola.
The Supervisor expressed outrage at the Assessor's county income tax plan in a letter to lawmakers who represent Hempstead Town in the New York State Legislature. An income tax could not be imposed on Nassau residents without legislative approval.
"Our residents are already overtaxed," Ms. Murray wrote in a letter to senators and assembly members. "Adding an income tax to the already lengthy list of taxes that citizens pay to finance local governments and schools would drive residents out of Nassau County. In addition, it would make the county less competitive from a business standpoint, slashing the number of jobs that are available here and reducing our commercial tax base.
"In short, taking up to four percent of the money earned by wage earners in Nassau is not in the best interest of our county or of the residents we mutually serve," the Supervisor's letter said.
In support of his proposal, the Assessor argued that a levy on residents' income would reduce the number of tax refunds that the county was ordered to make because property tax payments were based on incorrect real estate assessments. He also argued that an income tax would force renters to join property owners in financing school districts.
Supervisor Murray pointed out, however, that courts would not order tax refunds if the assessor's office was properly valuing real estate. Further, she called the assessor's renter argument "disingenuous," in that, according to press accounts, he is considering a "renter's deduction" as part of the income tax plan.
The Supervisor also attacked the Assessor's suggestion that property tax payments made by commercial real estate owners, which now finance school districts in which the property is located, be "pooled" and used to fund school districts county-wide. "What's being recommended," Supervisor Murray said, "is that local government, through its ability to tax, join the federal and state governments in attempting to redistribute the wealth of our constituents. Nothing can be more wrong. Counties are in business to provide services and finance them fairly - not to play the role of Robin Hood when it comes to funding our schools."
- - -
"But I was thinking of a plan To dye one's whiskers green,
And always use so large a fan
That they could not be seen.
So, having no reply to give
To what the old man said,
I cried 'Come, tell me how you live!'
And thumped him on the head."
"Outrage." "Overtaxed." "Disingenuous." Words that come to all Nassau County taxpayers' minds when looking at their tax bills and listening to the sparingly disguised political attacks offered in lieu of a realistic plan to contain - if not lower - our oppressive property tax.
So much for "hope for the rest of us" when our heretofore warm and fuzzy Town Supervisor takes off the gloves, wildly throwing punches in the direction of County Assessor Levinson (though none hit their intended mark), lambasting his proposals, offering nothing in the way of a counterplan or viable alternative to a modest income tax IN PLACE OF the school portion of the property tax. [Supervisor Murray neglects to say in her tirade that the nominal income tax would be INSTEAD OF the existing school portion of the property tax, making it seem that the income tax would be in addition to the property tax. Talk about disingenuous!]
And to "attack" (in the words of the Town's own press release) Mr. Levinson's proposal to more equitably "share the wealth" by distributing the whole of Nassau County's commercial property taxes, as collected, to all school districts within the County, rather than to the few that have a viable commercial tax base, as a "Robin Hood" approach [as if we all don't pour our money into the likes of Roosevelt Field, getting no tangible benefit in returned tax revenues (save for those who reside in Uniondale and, to a lesser extent, Garden City) for our school districts] is beyond cavalier. It reeks of the old smoke and mirrors of days gone by; the "Gulottanomics" that blindsided us in the 80s and 90s, and nearly brought the County to its financial knees as we crawled our way into the 21st Century.
If Harvey Levinson has taken on the role of Robin Hood, then Kate Murray, hold up in the looking glass, masquerades as Alice In Wonderland, the Mad Hatter holding court on the sacred north shore.
The classic race between tortoise and hare, thinly veiled in Ms. Murray's "Blast" from the past, may have begun in earnest. The Mad Tea Party now ensues. But Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber we must be no more. For to have no plan, no vision, no talk of cabbages and kings (let alone of ships, of shoes, of sealing-wax), is to invite disaster to the Queen's banquet.
There is, we sense, a great frustration in Supervisor Murray's words. Anger. And no doubt, fear. For having stood at the edge of the rabbit hole, precariously perched and losing balance, there is, alas, no place to fall but down.
Perhaps Lewis Carroll put it better than we ever could -
`Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his place again...'
"Alice waited a minute to see if he would speak again, but, as he never opened his eyes or took any further notice of her, she said `Good-bye!' once more, and, getting no answer to this, she quietly walked away: but she couldn't help saying to herself, as she went, `of all the unsatisfactory --' (she repeated this aloud, as it was a great comfort to have such a long word to say) `of all the unsatisfactory people I ever met --' She never finished the sentence, for at this moment a heavy crash shook the forest from end to end."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Survey On Local Efforts To Curb Illegal Apartments

Elected officials are telling us that things are getting better, that we’re gaining the upper hand on illegal accessory apartments. Others, mostly those in the trenches, say that, despite efforts to strengthen and plug loopholes in the law, the illegal apartment crisis is burgeoning.

We’d like to know how you perceive the situation in your hometown, and ask that you respond to this informal – and most unscientific – survey. You may withhold your name, if you’d like, but please tell us the locality (i.e., Town, village, etc.) in which you reside so that we may have a sense of place.

1. In your opinion, over the course of the past year, the illegal apartment situation in my town has:
(a) Improved;
(b) Gotten Worse;
(c) Remained the same;
(d) What illegal rental problem?

2. Local governments, be they the villages or the Towns, are responsible for enforcing the Building Codes that prohibit and restrict accessory apartments. In your opinion, over the course of the past year, has local government (please specify Town, village, etc.):
(a) Improved efforts to enforce the law;
(b) Paid lip service to the law, with no increase in enforcement;
(c) Done nothing to enforce the law;
(e) What law?

3. As concerns accountability, do you feel your elected officials have stepped up to the plate, doing what is required of them to stem the tide of illegal accessory apartments?
(a) Absolutely;
(b) Are you kidding?;
(c) They’ve done the bare minimum, and nothing more;
(d) What illegal rental problem?

4. In your opinion, what is required of government in order to eliminate, or at least limit, illegal rental apartments in your community?
(a) Enforcement of the law, with prosecution to the fullest extent;
(b) An increase in mailings and glossy brochures from elected officials;
(c) A bulldozer;
(d) More affordable housing for seniors, workforce and the middle class;
(e) Both (a) and (d) above.

Hey, these are loaded questions! Okay, we already know the answers. And by the way, so do you. Let’s here from you – by e-mail, smoke signal, at public forums and, mostly, at the polls that really count!