Mass Mailings By Governmental Entities More Political Than Informative;
The Community Alliance Calls For Review And Restraint
We almost dread opening the mailbox these days. Sure, the bills - particularly the property tax bills - are enough to make your head spin, and the amount of junk mail is unbelievable, but the real stinger is the deluge of letters, flyers, brochures and newsletters from elected officials, especially as election time draws near.
Yes, we know about the Murray Mailgrams. They keep coming, giving new meaning to the words "bulk mail." Old news. Enter Howard Weitzman, the Nassau County Comptroller, with a couple of mailings of his own - including a 4-page newsletter, replete with no less than 4 photos of Howard dutifully auditing, and whatever else it may be that a Comptroller does. [As an aside, Kate takes much better photos than Howard, and uses a higher quality of both ink and paper. That Town surplus does come in handy, doesn't it!]
Leaving aside the fact that, in one of the photos, an underling who bears a striking resemblance to Don Clavin (Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes and Weitzman's opponent in the upcoming election) appears to be looking over Howard's shoulder, and that the majority of the content of said newsletter passes muster as informational rather than political, the real question here is are these costly and prolific mailings - all at the taxpayers' expense - necessary, or, for that matter, effective? The answer, on both counts, is a resounding "NO!"
First, most recipients of these mailings, now desensitized after years of receiving cart loads of literature, which themselves have consumed enough paper to destroy an entire rain forest - don't even bother to read them. Straight from mail box to trash bin, without so much as a passing glance. Talk about throwing money into the garbage!
Second, for those who do look beyond the name and photos of the sender (which, as we all understand, is the underlying intent of these mailings), there is little, if any, content that cannot be (or has not already been) disseminated through other media. Even before the ink has dried on, say, the Weitzman Weekly, the press has received a stack of releases for publication, media "alerts" up the whazoo, and more calls for press conferences than Carter has liver pills (huh?).
Aside from the print media, in the age of electronic medium - notably the Internet and e-mail groups - there remain but relatively few holdouts (like those Japanese soldiers found on occasion in the jungle of Pacific atolls who did not know that WWII was over) who do not have access (or claim not to have access, seemingly everyone from 9 to 90 being "logged on" at any given moment) to the worldwide web, and to the websites through which government, at all levels, could give us our daily fix of news, info, and "look what we've done for you now."
Why, an hour doesn't pass at The Community Alliance that one elected official or another isn't touting this program or that through an e-mail, with reference to "learn more" by clicking on a link to an appropriate website. And all of this at virtually (pun intended) no cost to the taxpayer. Whether Tom Suozzi's Miracle In Mineola broadcast to every e-mail address collected over the years (including the duplicate addresses), or State Senator Dean Skelos urging residents to Petition the MTA to abandon plans for rate hikes (over which the Senator himself, as an Ex Officio member of the MTA Board, exerts considerable control), the e-mails flow and the information is out there, for everyone to read, consume and digest, should they choose to be so informed and engaged. Ah, there's the rub. Ignorance may be bliss, but it sure as heck doesn't come without a hefty price tag!
The Weitzman mailings are singled out here not so much as a glaring abuse (clearly, they do not rise to the level of the Murray Mailgrams - as chronicled through the Murray-Mail-Meter - in terms of either frequency or cost, and we are not at the point of establishing a Weitzman Wheel of Waste on The Community Alliance website - www.thecommunityalliance.org), but rather, as the latest instance in what can only be categorized as a constant frittering away of hard-earned tax dollars that could certainly be better spent elsewhere (as in hiring COUNTY RESIDENTS, Tom, or NON-PARTISAN, UNRELATED employees, Kate).
Certainly, these mailings should be curtailed as we go through the politically-charged campaign season, and subject, perhaps, to the pre-mailing scrutiny of an impartial body that will separate the purely political from that which serves a public benefit.
Or maybe government can, in consideration of such mundane matters, take a cue here from corporate America. Instead of monthly - or weekly - mailings, how about an Annual Report to us "shareholders." The "Board of Directors" can still have their names and pictures in the hands and before the eyes of every resident, and we get all the news and information we need. Okay, we'll even allow for Quarterly Reports on a seasonal basis, for those "must knows" like the summer concerts in the parks and the Street Sweeping Schedule (which, by the way, is prima facie evidence that no one reads these mailings - ever. When was the last time anyone moved his/her car off the street on a Street Sweeping day? We rest our case).
As for the "breaking news," such as the infamy of the Sanitary Districts (more to come on this, to be sure), well, that's what Newsday, News12 and the local papers are for. Heck, they'll even go with the fluff of the "filler" story on a slow day. And if what you have to say - whether your name is Tom Suozzi, Howard Weitzman or Kate Murray - is so darn important that it must go out under seperate cover in today's mail, then send it out sans fanfare or photo. Of course, just to keep it real, and so there's no more fast and loose with our tax dollars, you can always blog!
In Other Words . . .
Newsday calls Town Sanitary District Abuses "An Invitation To Steal"
Not Necessarily The News. . .
Here are some headlines you WON'T see under Town News (although they would if they could :-):
Kate Murray of Levittown Wins 2005 Town of Hempstead Triathalon
Hempstead Town To Celebrate Kate Murray Month
The Birth of the Suburbs Happened In Levittown: Kate Murray, Surrogate Mother
Town Announces Calendar Photo Contest - Guess Who?
Town Launches New Hotline Number - MURRAY Hill 7- 0700
And let's see, what's on tap for this weekend? Ah, Kate Murray's Festival by the Sea. . .
Thank goodness Kate Murray has a great sense of humor. Imagine if Peter King was Town Supervisor?
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Is This A "Tax Freeze" or A "Tax Freeze (wink, wink)?"
We beat up on Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, for pledging a freeze on ALL Town taxes when what she meant to say was "I'll freeze all taxes 'under my control,'" so its only right that we put the fire to County Executive, Tom Suozzi, when he promises to hold the line.
Will Suozzi's pledge for no Tax increase in 2006 be across the board - meaning not only a freeze on the County's General Purposes Tax, but also, those other taxes that eat the greenery in our wallets, such as County Police, County Police Headquarters, County Fire Prevention, County Parks, Recreation & Museums, County Sewage Disposal District, and so on down the line?
Are we going to see 0% on each line of that Tax Statement or, as we suspect (no, guarantee) will happen with the Town of Hempstead, see that zero gain limited to General Purposes?
We tried to find the answers to these questions online. If they are there, they certainly don't make them easy to find! [Please, though, no mailings to further explain...]