Monday, October 31, 2005
GOTCHA! Sign Stealer Busted By Nassau County Cops
It happened Thursday night in the Merrick-Bellmore area. Under cover of darkness, the stealth stalker of political signage struck again, tearing down the Democratic placards; placing the signs in the back seat of his car -- a car plastered with bumper stickers bearing the names of Republican candidates.
Unbeknownst to this placard pilferer -- identified to The Community Alliance as a Town of Hempstead employee -- someone was not only watching, but was taking pictures as well. The Nassau County Police were called, and the sign stealer was cuffed and taken into custody. [Click here to read Sign Stealer Caught and to view photos, courtesy of our friends at Nassau GOP Watch.]
Was the sign thief acting on his own, or under orders from the top brass at GOP HQ? No word from Kate Murray, but we will make the presumption that, as with the Sanitary Districts and Water Districts, she would assert that the Town has "no control" over GOP loyalists who, in their zeal for party victory, steal Democrats' campaign signs!
The Community Alliance has learned that the sign stealer was released, the property owner of the premises from which the sign was taken avering that there was no permission given to post the sign in the first place.
So now this fella is back on the streets, just another good citizen roving the Town, removing campaign signs wherever they may appear.
As a relevant aside, in the City of New York, if a campaign sign is taken down or vandalized, there is a presumption that the opposing camp is responsible -- and there is a fine to be imposed of $1000 for EACH violation.
Ah, but that's the City of New York. Here in "the 6th borough," we're too civil to require such draconian measures.
Thank goodness for those invisible GOP signs. Guess we're the only ones who can see them -- not to mention those nasty slaps in the face of democracy, perpetrated on behalf of a desperate party by mindless goons who seek to silence the opposition by tearing down their posters!
The Drek Is In The Mail!
The latest taxpayer funded mail piece – arriving in mail boxes last week - was sent by the Town Tax Receiver and coordinated with the Supervisor’s public relations department. The envelope reads, “An Urgent Message Regarding Your Tax Bill.”
More of the frightfest from Supervisor Murray and the Town of Hempstead Machine, hijacking taxpayer dollars for purely political purposes, and lying -- again -- about the reassessment, to boot. Kate, we expected no less. Don, we expected much more!
In October, you can always count on two things: The leaves will begin to change color and the Department of Assessment is going to be blamed for increases in school district property taxes.This year is no different.
According to Nassau County Assessor Harvey Levinson, this year’s “pass the blame” rhetoric once again ignores the fact that he, as assessor, does not set operating budgets, mail out tax bills or collect taxes. The assessor’s responsibility, by law, is to determine the fair market value of a home based on what a willing purchaser would pay for that home at a specific point in time.
While the property values have increased dramatically in Nassau County over the past few years, so have school district and municipal spending.Assessor Levinson indicated that this year’s 2005-06 school property tax bills will reflect the fact that 51.8% (154,719) will see school property tax reductions thanks in part to the amount of assessed value that has been added on to the county’s assessment roll for all classes of property. Forty-eight percent of homeowners (143,369) throughout the county will experience higher school property tax increases over the spending plans submitted to and approved by voters.
“The most significant aspect of annual assessment is the fact 18.2% or 54,459 of all homeowners who saw large assessment increases will actually see their school property tax obligation fall or remain the same in comparison to last year,” Assessor Levinson stated.
Contrary to the Hempstead Receiver of Taxes’ recent mailing, assessments that reflect the ever-rising real estate market values do not cause property taxes to increase. The amount of property taxes imposed on homeowners is a direct result of the amount of tax revenue that is needed by municipalities, special taxing districts and school districts to meet its operating expenses. Annual assessment estimates of the fair market value of residential properties, as well as the values that are assigned to the other three classes of properties, determine how much value there is in the district to tax. However, even if reassessment did not take place, the market value increases and class shifts still would be independently measured and determined by the NYS Office of Real Property Services for taxation purposes.
The Receiver deliberately overlooks (for obvious political purposes) the fact that market values reflected on the 2004-05 and 2005-06 assessment rolls were established by the former Republican assessor.Two weeks after assuming office in January 2004, Assessor Levinson asked Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos and the State Assembly to enact legislation that would moderate school property tax increases through a multi-year phase-in. On June 4, 2004, Assessor Levinson sent a letter to Senator Skelos again advising him that almost every school district in Nassau County would experience significant property tax hikes in October of 2005 and stressed the need for legislation that would moderate these increases. Unfortunately, while Assessor Levinson’s legislative initiative passed almost unanimously in the Assembly, it was left to die in a Senate committee.
“If the Senate had joined their colleagues in the State Assembly in a bi-partisan manner and acted quickly when I first suggested it, homeowners who are now burdened with double-digit property tax increases on their October 2005 school tax bills would have seen their overall property tax burden phased in over a period of years,” concluded Assessor Levinson. “Until we, as elected officials at all levels of government, can work together and offer creative and real solutions to the property tax burden that is overwhelming families that struggle each day to make ends meet, taxpayers will be forced to listen to another year of the ‘blame game’.”
Yes, the tricks continue to be churned out by the Town Hall printing presses, and all at taxpayers' expense.
Hey, its YOUR Money!
Cheney's Former Top Aide To Join TOH Staff
Kate Murray, Supervisor and majority owner of the Town of Hempstead, announced today that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former Chief of Staff to Vice President, Dick Cheney, will replace current Chief of Staff, Ray Mineo, should Murray be elected for another term.
Libby was indicted on Friday by a federal Grand Jury for obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements to investigators.
“I thought we were getting LIDDY,” remarked Murray, referring to G. Gordon Liddy, a Nixon operative who coordinated the break-in at Watergate. “We’re okay with Libby, though,” Murray continued. “We need someone to fine tune those electric scooters the Town has. Who better than ‘The Scooter’ himself?”
Told that “The Scooter” was not Libby, but rather, former New York Yankee shortstop, Phil Rizzuto, Murray opined, “Oh well. I’m sure Libby is well qualified. We’ll find something for him to occupy his time with. Organizing my photo albums, perhaps.”
Until an office for Libby can be arranged for at Town Hall, Libby will work out of the Town’s Animal Shelter in Wantagh. “Hey, it’s a living,” said Libby. “And something tells me I should get used to being around cages. Just don’t ask me to ‘out’ anyone else…”
Mineo, who has served as Chief of Staff for most of the 100 year GOP reign at Town Hall, was contemplative on his pending retirement. "I could stay on payroll as a Committeeman," said Mineo. "Parks could always use another trainer. Or maybe I'll just rent out my basement, like the owners of every other house on the block in Elmont where I live. I'm already preparing the lawn signs - 'Another Illegal Landlord For Murray.'"
Meanwhile, Libby was looking forward with great anticipation to his new job in Hempstead Town. "My bags are packed," remarked Libby. "It'll be great to get out of Washington. Hey, there's a Passport Office at Town Hall, isn't there?"
If convicted on all counts, Libby faces 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
The Community Alliance Bows To Commercial Pressures ~Will Promote New 'Town of Hempstead Mastercard'
Postage paid by the taxpayer for Kate’s Murraygrams: $453,400.
Estimated tax burden to residents for the Town’s Sanitary Districts to haul all this trash away: $20 million.
Tax dollars paid to put friends, family and cronies on the Town’s payroll: $36 million.
The look on Joe Mondello’s face when Kate Murray is voted out of office on November 8th: PRICELESS!
TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD MASTERCARD. SUPPORTING THE MACHINE IN AMERICA'S LARGEST TOWNSHIP. FOR THE TAXPAYER WHO ENJOYS PAYING THE WAY FOR GOP COMMITTEEMEN, PAYING MORE FOR TRASH COLLECTION THAN FOR POLICE PROTECTION, AND PAYING $700 FOR SANITARY DISTRICT COMMISSIONERS TO DINE AT MORTON'S STEAKHOUSE, THERE'S THE TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD MASTERCARD. FOR EVERYONE ELSE, THERE'S HARVEY LEVINSON!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN. BE SAFE. WATCH FOR WITCHES, GHOULS, AND TRICK OR TREATERS MASQUERADING AS KATE MURRAY!
Friday, October 28, 2005
Imagine that the White House was under the control of a single party for nearly 100 years. Then imagine that both houses of Congress were under the control of that same party for those same 100 years. Imagine the stagnation, the absence of debate, the complacency. Imagine no one being held accountable, and no one willing to be responsible. Preposterous? Unconscionable? Unfathomable? Beyond your imagination?
Well, consider this…Since 1907, the Town of Hempstead has been under the control of a single party. Presiding Supervisor. Supervisor. Town Board. Lock, stock and barrel. Since 1907 – the year Oklahoma became the 46th State, Louis Lumiere invented color photography, and Katherine Hepburn was born – a single party, the Republican party, has made all of the decisions – from appointments to zoning – in the Town of Hempstead. No checks and balances. No voice of opposition. No minority report.
In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States. In 1907, the SS Lusitania was launched. In 1907, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. In 1907, the first electric vacuum cleaner was invented, and Maytag introduced the first wooden-tub washing machine.
In 1907, nearly 1.29 million immigrants entered the United States. [On April 17, 1907, a record 11,747 immigrants arrived at Ellis Island.] In 1907, Rube Goldberg started work with the New York Evening Journal to begin a 60 year career as a cartoonist. His cartoons depicted complex "inventions" to solve simple problems. [Many of his inventions, we understand, are still in use today at Hempstead Town Hall.] In 1907, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus was formed. [And face it, there have been continuous performances at Town Hall ever since!]
A single party ruling the roost over America’s largest township for almost 100 years? Imagine that!
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Where Even A Dog's Life Is Nothing To Aspire To
We always believed that Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray was kind to her furry friends. She sure takes enough photos with them. Now, News12.com reports that GOP patronage at the Town's animal shelter -- with hefty paychecks to party loyalists -- may, in fact, be taking food out of the mouths of those cute cats and cuddly dogs. [Click here to see, Levinson says GOP loyalist paid big bucks at town animal shelter. Watch the video. Its a keeper!]
Imagine that. $100,000 a year for a dog catcher -- or groomer, or whatever it is these folks are being paid, with OUR tax money, to show up (or not) at the animal shelter.
Its silly, of course. PETty, really. Is this all taxpayers in the Town of Hempstead have to worry about? Unfortunately, not!
Or maybe its not silly at all, the enormous sucking sound in our wallets aside. Animal rights activists are up in arms over what is now being revealed as the Town's gross expenditure of funds to grease the palms of the GOP faithful when, at the same time, the Town, pleading poverty, says it cannot afford to spay and neuter the animals in its shelter. Perhaps its not the cats and dogs that need to be spayed and neutered!
So, what's a few hundred thousand here, or another $36 million there? Its only money. And for what a good cause -- so Kate Murray can have those warm and fuzzy photo ops with her canine and feline friends, before they go back into their wire cages, waiting for their highly-compensated caretakers to put them to sleep for the last time.
Hey, its YOUR money! Or is it?
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Beyond The Campaign Signs - And Sometimes In Front Of Them - A Stark Reality
Over the years, we've all seen those signs that had a certain irony to them. For instance, the signs posted along the nation's highways in the 60s that encouraged us to KEEP AMERICA BEAUTIFUL, surrounded by trash and truck parts, obliterated by graffiti. And the signs in front of the power plant that boast CLEAN PROGRESS FOR THE FUTURE, as the blackened smokestacks in the background belch out toxins into the air.
Well, right here in Hempstead Town we can laugh -- or cry -- at similar signs. Signs that speak of trust, of integrity, of doing the job right, superimposed over -- or in front of -- a reality that says, "we've got it all wrong."
We've counted more than a dozen lawn signs, for instance, in Elmont and Franklin Square, that call for voters to Re-elect Town Supervisor Kate Murray, planted on the grass in front of single-family houses known in the community to be home to illegal accessory apartments. We will not publish the addresses of these houses, although the info will be turned over to the appropriate authorities post-election (so no one can use same as political capital before the election).
Over in West Hempstead, a fence that borders a contractor's offices at Hempstead Avenue and Woodfield Road, hosts one of those gargantuan Kate Murray placards (Respected On Wall Street ~ Trusted On Main Street). Immediately in front of that sign -- vehicles illegally parked on the sidewalk. The illegally parked cars and trucks at this location are nothing new. Residents have been complaining about that for years. The Re-Elect Kate Murray sign is new, and residents have just started to take notice and make noise.
Perhaps its not at all coincidental that the Kate Murray signs, and many other political placards around our Town, serve to unwittingly highlight the hapless records of our elected officials in taking action on those quality of life issues that impact close to home. Then again, this could be a new policy by an administration that is right on top of things. See an illegal apartment in a single-family house? Mark it with a lawn sign. Code enforcement so lax that cars are routinely and with abandon (if only by lack of oversight) permitted to park upon and block the Town's sidewalks? Place a re-election banner behind it.
Ever wonder why those who snub the law with impunity appear to be the biggest supporters of the status quo? "Turn the other cheek" may be good for them, but it hurts the rest of us, and costs us plenty!
Like the canine leaving his mark (on the way, no doubt, to the Town's animal shelter), the Town of Hempstead is leaving its markers, pointing out -- with an unprecedented proficiency (one we'd hope they'd use in the ordinary course of the Town's business) -- the violations, the eyesores, and the patently unlawful.
And just on the corner of someplace and nowhere, the Town's street signs missing or obliterated, is a sign-post to which a Kate Murray bumper sticker is firmly affixed. Did the campaign staffer notice, we wonder, let alone report, that the street signs were amiss as he was pasting that placard to the pole? Probably not. And that campaign pastie will, no doubt, be there long after election day, while those proper street signs that should, by right, adorn that pole, sadly, will not.
Hey, its YOUR money! Or is it?
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If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again -- As A Consultant
Just when you thought the storms were over, we learn the fate of Michael Brown, George Bush's embattled, clueless appointee and former Director of FEMA, forced to resign in shame after the Feds "We never saw it coming" response to Hurricane Katrina. He's baa-ack!
No, Brown is not the head of FEMA anymore. [Count on "W" not to make the same mistake twice when there are new mistakes to be made by the hour.] Brown does remain on the payroll, however, as a $3,000 per week consultant retained -- now get this -- to investigate what went wrong at FEMA after Katrina. Kinda like having Mrs. O'Leary, and her cow, look into the great Chicago fire. Ya think?
Leave it to the Bush administration to take care of its own, at our expense.
Maybe we could impose upon Kate Murray to find a spot for Michael Brown at Hempstead's Town Hall? We hear he's great with animals. . .
Hey, its YOUR money! Or is it?
ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8th!
(Mineola, NY) --- Weeks after the Franklin Square Library Board abruptly canceled his scheduled government forum, Assessor Harvey Levinson received word that the officers of the Plattdeutsche Volkfest Vereen had graciously offered to donate the use of the Blue Room at the Plattdeutsche Park Restaurant for a non-political public forum on assessment issues on Sunday, October 30th from 3-4:30 p.m.
“I am deeply grateful to the officers of the Plattdeutsche Volksfest Vereen for their kind offer and affording me the opportunity to help educate homeowners to better understand the assessment system as it relates to the property tax system in Nassau County,” stated Assessor Levinson.
The Plattdeutsche Park Restaurant is located at 1132 Hempstead Turnpike in Franklin Square.
“Freedom of speech is a right to be treasured in our Country,” concluded Assessor Levinson. "And I am delighted to have received the support of so many individuals in Franklin Square who defended my right to speak as an elected official and as a citizen.”
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
For Greg Peterson, Its A Trip Down Memory Lane
Ask County Executive Tom Suozzi about his vision for Nassau's future, and he'll captivate you for hours. After all, economic redevelopment and "Bringing Nassau Back" have been the cornerstones of his tenure.
Full of youthful enthusiasm -- and, sometimes, of himself -- Tom will tell you about his accomplishments (such as bringing Nassau County back from the brink of bankruptcy, to the beginnings of a comeback for Nassau's long-neglected parks, to the elimination of hundreds of millions of dollars in waste that was the hallmark of the previous administration -- an administration that gave Nassau the dubious distinction of being "the most mismanaged county in the nation").
Beyond this, Tom will expound upon his dreams and hopes for our County's tomorrows, among them, rebuilding the infrastructure of America's oldest county; creating that "New Suburbia," with its vibrant communities, quality schools and viable tax base; commiting to a strategy of "smart growth" in redeveloping Nassau's "Downtowns," strengthening the local economy, and
situating affordable workforce and senior housing in the communities where it is most needed.
True, much of what Suozzi envisions for the County remains just that - a vision. Economic redevelopment appears to have stalled on that long bus ride through the County's Development Zones, and the County parks - particularly the "inactive" ones - although improved, still lack the attention they desperately need and deserve. Still, at least there is a vision. No paucity of big ideas, as are necessary to restore luster to a grand county.
Now, ask Greg Peterson for his vision of Nassau's future and -- after that deer-in-the-headlights look -- you get little more than a nostalgic journey through the County's less than illustrious past. Indeed, if Tom Suozzi's mantra is Bringing Nassau Back, then Greg Peterson's credo has to be Taking Nassau Back. Back to the dark, gloomy, dismal days many of us would rather forget, yet dare not!
According to Peterson, our parks are a mess, property taxes are up, there are nearly 600 fewer police officers on the street, and the paint is peeling off the courthouse walls. Why, Greg Peterson has, to the dismay of the world's greatest city, called Nassau County "the 6th borough of New York City!"
Funny how Mr. Peterson goads Tom Suozzi on the condition of the parks and County facilities. Perhaps he has forgotten the mess the prior administration left us. Why, the former Commissioner of Parks & Recreation under Tom Gulotta didn't even know that West Hempstead's little patch of green, Hall's Pond Park, was a County park. Having been shown the maps, the Commissioner's response to community complaints was, "Well, its an 'inactive' park. What do you expect?" The community expected more!
Property taxes are up. You bet, Greg, and chiefly due to the increase in school district taxes, coupled with Town tax hikes disguised as "holding the line" tax "freezes," and the outrageous burden of those invisible taxing jurisdictions, the Town's Special Districts.
What really galls us is Mr. Peterson's bald-faced allusion to increased crime and a decreased police presence. Just ask Nassau County District Attorney, Denis Dillon - a fellow Republican - and he will tell you that major crime is DOWN in Nassau - at its lowest point in 30 years - and has gone down each year since 2002. Noteworthy, the County, under Mr. Suozzi, has hired 337 Police Officers in the past two years, the maximum number of new hires allowed under the PBA contract, and will hire another 120 officers - again the maximum allowed under the PBA contract - upon the graduation of the next class of recruits. Fact is, the Suozzi administration has hired twice the number of Police Officers than did the previous administration during its last 4 painful years in office! [And don't let PBA Prez Gary DelaRaba, NC Legislator candidate Jeffrey Katz, or anyone else tell you otherwise.]
What emerges out of the often murky waters of a political campaign is quite clear -- the race for County Executive is one between big ideas and no ideas at all (or, at best, old ideas that got the County into trouble in the first place)!
Perhaps the following, excerpted from Newsday columnist James J. Keating's article, Peterson Campaign Needs To get Specific, sums it up best:
Peterson had been a big cog in the machine since the early 1970s - on the Hempstead town council, then elected town supervisor in 1987. Peterson replaced Joseph Mondello, the current Nassau County Republican Party chairman, as the Board of Supervisors' presiding officer in 1993 and served on the board until it was dissolved in 1996.Shortly after winning re-election as supervisor in 1997, Peterson resigned to succeed Mondello in the luxurious patronage position of running Nassau County OTB. Later, Peterson became a law partner of Mondello's.
Does anybody else see a pattern here? This hardly indicates a new, revitalized Republican era. But we shouldn't assume too much. Perhaps Peterson has a solid policy agenda that will make a real difference for Nassau County's future.
If he does, it's been a well-guarded political secret. Campaign Web sites usually are good places to discover the fundamentals of a candidate's policy plan. But Peterson's is more about platitudes.
So, I spoke with Peterson last week. He talked a good game, noting: "The Nassau County taxpayer has had it. They're getting killed." We all know that, so what were some specifics?
He expressed distaste for further tax increases and promised to freeze taxes and limit reassessments to every five years. That's more status quo than much-needed relief.
Peterson talked about the need to "reduce the size of government, not increase the size of government," including ending "duplication of services." Sounds good, but details were lacking. Instead, he spoke of the past - eliminating two departments and consolidating four others while Hempstead supervisor. That's fine, but looking ahead and staking out clear ideas and alternatives are critical for a challenger.
Like so many other politicians running for office, Peterson confessed: "Do I know specifically each and every department at this juncture as I'm talking to you? No." But why not?
Voters deserve candidates who know specifically what's going on in government and offer specific solutions. Yet such politicians are rare exceptions on Long Island. In fact, many politicians, even after being elected to office, seem to have few clues as to how taxpayer dollars are spent.
I also asked Peterson, why should voters expect something different given the mess Republicans left behind in the county?
Again, he highlighted his town record, and then basically blamed former County Executive Tom Gulotta, Suozzi's Republican predecessor, for taking advantage of the new county legislature at the time. Peterson also protested that it is "not fair" to blame the whole party for "one person's errors." He added: "I wasn't in that mess." That's tough to swallow given Peterson's lengthy duty on the Board of Supervisors. And were fellow Republicans just blindly misled by Gulotta?
Some critics have said Peterson's campaign has been lackluster or even nonexistent. That might be because he has little substantive to say...
To be fair, Keating is no fan of Tom Suozzi, either, concluding, "If you're looking for the status quo coupled with Republican machine experience, then Peterson's your guy. If you want the status quo coupled with lots of ambition, then it's Suozzi."
Obviously, we see the choice somewhat differently: If you're looking for a time-machine back to the days when the GOP machine (of which Greg Peterson was and is an integral part) ran our County into the ground, then Peterson's your guy. If you want an ambitious agenda coupled with the vision and fortitude to see it through, then it's Suozzi.
Yes, Greg Peterson would fashion himself as a modern-day Juan Peron, returning from a self-imposed political exile to offer crumbs to the peasants he and his GOP cronies kept impoverished. Peterson would have us remember a past that existed only in the minds of those who ran the political machine and kept its gears oiled, the illusion of "times were better then."
To succeed, Peterson must hope for a collective memory lapse such that we forget that, as one who sat on Tom Gulotta's Board of Supervisors -- rubber-stamping both budget and policy -- he was part and parcel of yesterday's problems.
The last GOP administration left as its legacy decay, decline and default. As a community, concerned with quality of life as well as bang for the buck, we should be loathe to readily return to such a bleak era in our County's history.
We beleive that we cannot go back to the days of yore -- replacing a King's fallen pawn with one whose last act in elected public office was resignation.
Tom Suozzi's vision and enthusiasm to take Nassau forward into the future are grand, indeed. Perhaps as big as the man's sense of self, if not more so. Let us say this, it takes a big man with a grand vision to accomplish great things. Voters should give Tom Suozzi the opportunity to continue to think big, and to act accordingly.
The Community Alliance gives a big "thumbs up" to Tom Suozzi. On November 8th, you should too!
Gee, we wish we had said that. We didn't. And it might surprise you - or not - as to whom this profound remark has been attributed. [No, it is not Harriet "George, you're the best Governor ever" Miers.] Believe it or not, the fella who thought our Town Hall could use a good lavage was none other than former U.S. Senator, former Town of Hempstead Supervisor, former Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes, Alphonse D'Amato.
Of course, Al made that comment back in the day when the County GOP was looking for a replacement for then-Town Supervisor, Rich Guardino, who wisely left the wacky world of politics for the semi-sanity of academia. Back in the day before Kate Murray appointed Al's wife to the Town of Hempstead's Zoning Board of Appeals. Do you think Katuria's into enemas?
Oh well. We guess Town Hall didn't need such a cleansing breath after all. Walk the halls and view a virtual Who's Who of deposed Congressmen, Comptrollers and cronies galore. Who said you can't go back to the good old days? They do it daily in Hempstead Town. In fact, they've never left!
Its always alumni weekend at the College of Committeemen. Where else in the world does time stand still? Where but Hempstead Town Hall can you chat with a GOP Committeeman, former Town Councilman, Town Attorney and General Counsel for a Town Sanitary District, not only all at the same time, but all in the same person?
Hempstead Town Hall - Where elephants go, not to die, but, much like the Emerald City of Frank Baum, to get a "brush, brush here, brush, brush there." [Too bad the Wizard ran out of brains and heart after the Scarecrow and the Tin Man!] Ah, but pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. The Machine is still spewing smoke, venting more hot air than carried Dorothy's Wizard back to Kansas in that balloon. And like the Wizard of old -- who was really no wizard at all -- those in "control" of whatever little they will admit to controling at Town Hall really "don't know how to work this thing!" And that's why we say, "they can't come back."
If only we could click our heels three times -- "There's no face like Kate's. There's no face like Kate's. There's no face like Kate's" -- and wake up to find that its all been a bad technicolor dream. "You were there, Uncle Alphonse. And you, and you, and you..." Alas, we are awake (well, some of us are, anyway), and the nightmare just gets worse.
Of course, movies cost a whole lot more today than they did in the 1930s -- both to make and to see. The cost of flying monkeys -- or was that flying Murrays -- is now through the roof. [Must be that Reassessment thing.] A good crystal ball will run you a hefty sum. Particularly one like they have at Town Hall, that only looks back into the past, rather than forward into the future. "I'll get you, my pretty. And your Town Attorney, too!"
Could it be that Senator D'Amato was misquoted? Maybe we heard incorrectly. It wasn't an "enema" that's needed at Town Hall. Its "Auntie Em." Or was that "Auntie 'M'" as in "Murray?" Yeah, that's the ticket. "Auntie M. Auntie M. I want to come home. Why did you change the lock on the storm cellar door? Auntie M? Hellllooooooo..."
On second thought, maybe Al was trying to tell us something else, in his oddly obtuse way. That we, the voters, had the power to come home -- and to take back our Town -- all along. All we have to do is click the right levers on Election Day. Ah, so there is no place like home, after all!
ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8th. BE THAT MAN (OR WOMAN) BEHIND THE CURTAIN. VOTE!
Click here for more on The Wizard of Oz.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Our choice in Hempstead
Looking for enlightened leadership
For 100 years, one dynasty has controlled the Kingdom of Hempstead. Members of this ruling class have splendid jobs and special privileges because the townsfolk pay mighty taxes. But now, this burden has become too heavy and people want change. So a smart man, with a strong voice, has stepped forward, announcing that the time has come to take back the keys to the kingdom. He's right. Let Harvey Levinson end the reign of the Republicans in the Town of Hempstead.
Two years ago, we endorsed Kate Murray for her first full term as supervisor. We were optimistic that she would become independent of the Republican bosses. Murray, 43, is bright, pleasant and has taken some steps to invigorate Hempstead, the nation's largest town and the most diverse on Long Island. She tackled the growing illegal housing problem by putting the burden on landlords to prove they don't have multiple tenants in one-family homes, for example.
Unfortunately, patronage is the currency of the realm in Hempstead, and Murray has done little to stop it. She cut the payroll by 150 slots to 2,000 - but also found room to hire her two brothers. There are still 300 GOP committeemen on the rolls, as well as the wife of ex-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, himself once the town's supervisor. Appointing Katuria D'Amato to the board of zoning appeals was a bold display of cronyism in a town that invented the form. Worse, Murray defends the town's five sanitation districts, better known as patronage mills. Levinson wants to fold the districts into the town's sanitation department, saying it would save taxpayers $36 million.
Levinson, 65, is former chief deputy in the Nassau district attorney's office, a tough prosecutor. He would prune away decades of wasteful government. Two years ago he scored an upset victory to head the Nassau County Board of Assessors. In that job, he has cracked down on illegal multifamily accessory apartments in single-family homes. Levinson has a vision of better government for Hempstead and the only people he would owe are the voters. We endorse Levinson.
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.
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CLICK HERE TO READ THE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE ENDORSEMENT OF HARVEY LEVINSON FOR TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD SUPERVISOR.
Kathleen Rice Gets Nod For Nassau District Attorney
Donald Clavin, the Republican receiver of taxes in Hempstead, wants the job that Howard Weitzman, a Democrat, holds and has done well. Mr. Clavin is right to assert that a comptroller should be an independent watchdog accountable only to citizens, but he is wrong about which candidate in this race better fits that description.
Yes, Mr. Weitzman is an ally of Thomas Suozzi, the county executive. Yes, he put out one publicly financed mailing on the state of county finances just before the primary (they're healthy, in case you were worried). But the charge that this petty electoral maneuver betrays a fatally compromised allegiance to the Suozzi administration is not convincing.
Mr. Weitzman has proved himself willing to pursue investigations that embarrass Mr. Suozzi and embolden his enemies, as he did when he exposed overtime abuses at the Nassau County jail. Republicans cried foul over Mr. Weitzman's audits of obscure sanitary districts in Hempstead, which found rampant waste and sloppiness, but no one else had ever looked into them, and we are glad he did. He has helped the county in other ways, like helping to develop the NassauRx discount prescription card program, an innovation that owed much to Mr. Weitzman's experience in the health industry.
Ordinarily, we would love to see a sharp set of eyes from the opposing party keeping close tabs on the Suozzi administration. But Mr. Weitzman is doing a decent job already, and we count on him to keep it up. Mr. Clavin, a man of obvious talent and ambition, is clearly eager to test the springs of the political platform once stood upon by Receiver of Taxes Alfonse D'Amato. We wish him well. But we endorse Howard Weitzman.
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Nassau District Attorney
Denis Dillon has served as Nassau County's district attorney for 30 years without becoming a partisan hack, an achievement worth noting in these parts. He has not succumbed to corruption or lost his appetite for the job. Scandal and decay attach to veteran politicians like barnacles to a whale, but Mr. Dillon's hide is smooth. His essential integrity and political independence are not in dispute, and his peculiarities and preoccupations are well known and accounted for by voters, who keep electing him.
With this district attorney, what you see is what you get.
Unfortunately, in Mr. Dillon's case, what you get can be less than what you want or need. After 30 years, it has become hard for most voters in Nassau to remember anyone else doing Mr. Dillon's job. That alone would be reason to recommend his Democratic challenger, the energetic Kathleen Rice, whose experience as a prosecutor in Brooklyn and in the United States attorney's office in Philadelphia more than qualify her to take his place.
In any political cycle, there comes a time when it is necessary to make room for new ideas, fresher visions and the rethinking of possibilities. Mr. Dillon, 71, has had more than enough time to achieve the many goals he had as a reformer in the 1970's, and the thought of having a prosecutor as skilled and ambitious as Ms. Rice to take it from here is highly appealing.
But leaving aside Mr. Dillon's prolonged tenure, there are other reasons arguing against giving him another four years. The flip side of reliability is rigidity, and nowhere is this more obvious and troubling in Mr. Dillon than in his fervent public mission to end abortion.
His advocacy, as plain as the right-to-life rose on his lapel, has led him to use his office as a bully pulpit and interfered with his prosecutorial duties. It left him, for example, unable or unwilling to pursue charges against people arrested in a 1988 abortion-clinic protest.
Whether the appointment of a special prosecutor in that case was an abdication of duty, as Ms. Rice contends, or what Mr. Dillon calls a routine recusal to avoid arousing public suspicion of his motives, it underscored an unpleasant truth: that Nassau's chief law-enforcement official is unnecessarily burdened by a crusade that has nothing to do with his job.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Dillon's energy in his moral struggle is not always matched by an equivalent vigor in exposing actual statutory crimes, like government corruption. One need only look at his counterpart in Suffolk County, Thomas Spota, to see what an aggressive, creative prosecutor can do to clean up a rotted political culture. Mr. Dillon's office can seem listless by comparison, as it also did in what appeared to be a half-hearted investigation of abuses by priests in Long Island's Roman Catholic diocese, whose headquarters are in Nassau.
A more recent example was the plea deal taken by Frank Tassone, the corrupt former school superintendent in Roslyn, which calls for a sentence of 4 to 12 years in prison for his role in what has been called the country's biggest school fraud ever. Mr. Dillon defends it as a good deal, but it smacked of expediency and undue caution and was not commensurate with the seriousness of Mr. Tassone's crimes.
Mr. Dillon does not lack for achievements and good ideas, like his innovative use of assets seized from criminals to benefit crime victims and drug-abuse programs. He candidly acknowledges that Nassau's low crime rate owes more to demographics than law enforcement, and points proudly to his office's high percentage of convictions as evidence of a job well done.
Ms. Rice, a 40-year-old Democrat who was once an intern in Mr. Dillon's office, is waging an aggressive campaign, stressing fresh ideas and innovation. She is dubious about Mr. Dillon's jealously guarded conviction rate, saying it makes his office more willing to cut deals to protect its statistics rather than risk more ambitious prosecutions.
An experienced courtroom lawyer, Ms. Rice has tried dozens of murder cases in the Brooklyn district attorney's office and taken on fraud, public corruption, and drug and gun cases as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia. She promises to fight Internet crime and gangs with special units and to coordinate anti-gang efforts with Mr. Spota, waging an islandwide assault on an urgent problem.
Mr. Dillon is an honest man who has served creditably, but the times and crimes change. We endorse Kathleen Rice.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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The Community Alliance joins The New York Times in its endorsement of Howard Weitzman for County Comptroller and Kathleen Rice for District Attorney.
In endorsing Weitzman, we take absolutely nothing away from Don Clavin, the clever and energetic Receiver of Taxes for the Town of Hempstead. Don is a thinker outside the box who, one hopes, will break tradition of favoring party line over bottom line.
Indeed, if not for Clavin, who literally reinvented the Tax Bill/Statement so that we now can plainly see where every tax dollar goes, we'd still be in the dark as to the true impact on our wallets of taxing entities from school districts to sanitary districts. In fact, Don Clavin has done such as remarkable job as the Town's Receiver of Taxes, we believe the taxpayers would be best served by having Clavin complete his term in office. After all, if Don could fix the Tax Statements, then surely, he could fix the Receiver's office itself -- fully automating systems so that the offices' function (to collect taxes and distribute same to the many and varied taxing jurisdictions) is streamlined, eliminating the need for (and the cost of) a bevy of Deputy Receivers, Assistants to the Deputy Receivers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera down the patronage line.
Yes, we like Don. Still, when it comes to the County's finances, at this crucial time in the County's fiscal recovery, we cannot recommend that we change horses in the middle of the stream. In addition, we had hoped for more substance from Clavin, this after a flurry of captivating and tongue-in-cheek fluff. More on his 4-step Audit Plan which, even now, remains an enigma. More on what he would do to safeguard the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars from bottomless money pits such as the Town sanitary districts.
Howard Weitzman has been and continues to be a critical part of the team that brought Nassau County back from the brink of the financial abyss. There's no denying that, and no praise enough for an astute money manager - the first CPA (believe it or not) to hold the job of County Comptroller - who has not only been watching the money, but regularly reporting to 'we the people' as to where that money goes. Bravo!
As for those who intimate that Weitzman did not undertake the necessary audits, or follow through, they are simply wrong. The Audit Reports as posted on the Comptroller's official website dispel such concerns, as they do the allegation that the Comptroller's Audits were partisan in nature. [Click here to check out the Comptroller's Audit Reports.]
If voters need a reason not to return to "the good old days," they should remember this: The last Republican who held the job of County Comptroller (Fred Parola under the Gulotta administration) was a watchdog all right. He "watched" as Nassau County slipped into financial ruin. Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. The GOP Comptroller wasn't watching as the pot boiled over - or, more aptly, evaporated.We dare not go back to this kind of fiscal mismanagement at a time when the County is not only seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but is focused on even brighter days ahead. [And if you were worried about former County Comptroller Fred Parola, the man who Howard Weitzman ousted from office, don't be. Parola now has a cushy patronage job at Hempstead Town Hall, still watching those tax dollars roll in. Only now, they roll into his pocket!]
A vote for Weitzman is a win-win for Nassau County residents. A win for the County's financial strength. A win for watching where and how residents' tax dollars are being spent. The Community Alliance is pleased to endorse Howard Weitzman for County Comptroller.
As for the District Attorney's spot, suffice it to say, its time. 30 years as District Attorney is more than enough. Mr. Dillon has served admirably and has, more often than not, put the public's interests above his personal political views. And yet, politics was always on the fringe - and even just outside the Grand Jury room - in Dillon's exercise of prosecutorial discretion. If you were a GOP insider who grabbed a million bucks for himself, you got a free ride. Mr. Nobody, on the other hand, whose comparatively petty - although no less shameful and dishonorable - indiscretion paled by comparison, got the book thrown at him. Such is life. Deal with it and move on. Still, justice is best served when it is offered up blindly and equitably, and not with party favoritism.
Kathleen Rice, a keen and youthful prosecutor, offers the District Attorney's office -- and Nassau's citizens -- the opportunity to move law enforcement into the 21st Century. While it is true that crime in Nassau County is way down -- a national trend in metropolitan areas and, yes, a tribute to Mr. Dillon's stewardship -- the new crime wave, which ranges from waring gangs roaming our streets and our schools to the latest spate of home invasions, warrants a new mindset and fresh leadership. You cannot fight a 21st Century war on crime with weapons that date back to the early 70s. The time has come for Mr. Dillon, who has served with honor and distinction all these years, to step aside for generation next. A County tough on crime and true to its convictions demands no less. The Community Alliance entusiastically endorses Kathleen Rice for Nassau County District Attorney.
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Read Newsday's endorsement of Howard Weitzman for Comptroller.
Read Newsday's endorsement of Kathleen Rice for District Attorney.
Friday, October 21, 2005
A meeting of the Hempstead Town Board was scheduled for 2 PM on Thursday, October 20th. On the agenda, a public hearing targeting Kate Murray's tentative 2006 Town Budget. The hearing never took place, and the Town Board meeting was "canceled," the official reason given as lack of attendance.
The Community Alliance has now learned the truth as to why a scheduled public meeting of an elected Town Board was nixed. Blame it on Tax Assessor, Harvey Levinson!
Yes, although he has yet to be elected as Town Supervisor, Levinson usurped the powers of the Town Board, undermining the attempt by Supervisor Murray to sneak through her proposed 2006 budget, calling off the meeting, advising the few residents on hand to go home and watch their mails for the next Murraygram.
"I had to cancel the Town Board meeting," declared an irate Levinson, surrounded by supporters from Local 1313 of the Assessor's Union. "It was simply too close to the election, and to give Kate Murray the opportunity to tell the public that she has 'frozen' the budget, when, in fact, the budget is chock full of hidden 'gimmes,' would, simply put, be unjustifiable." Levinson continued, "This budget doesn't even cover the Town's Special Districts. To go forward with a Town Board meeting just weeks before the election, ramming a pork-laden budget down the throats of residents, would have been unfair. Town residents deserve to hear the truth!"
The gathering of Union workers cheered, as Nat Swergold, Counsel for Sanitary District 1, summoned a special truck to cart Levinson supporters away. "At the end of the day," declared Swergold, "we're all going to Ruth Chris Steakhouse for $700 dinners."
Supervisor Murray, angered and agitated, told reporters, "I can't understand how this can happen? I'm the Town Supervisor. What jurisdiction does Levinson have to cancel MY Board meeting? Who's in control here, anyway?"
Just then, Town Attorney (and General Counsel for Sanitary 6), Joe Ra, leaned over and whispered into Kate Murray's ear. Kate blushed, cleared her throat gingerly, and remarked, "Oh, that's right, I gave up control of Town Hall to the Baldwin Fire District two years ago. Never mind." After a pause, a reflective Murray whispered to an antsy Joe Ra, "Is there anything in the Town of Hempstead I do still control?" "Ah, there is that creek with the dead fish in East Rockaway," Ra retorted. "Oh wait, you gave control of that to those nasty sharks from Westbury. Sorry."
In addition to canceling the Town Board meeting, Levinson reassessed Town Hall as a commercial property, finding multiple illegal apartments on premises, including a basement apartment occupied by Fred Parola, former County Comptroller. "So, this is where you've been hiding, Fred," laughed Levinson. "Voted off of the County payroll, right back on salary with the Town." Parola was unfazed. "Harvey, I worked 700 hours last week alone, and I've got State Pension credits to prove it!"
Outside the Bennett Meeting Pavilion, the few residents who showed for the hearing expressed disappointment. None more so than several students from a local Catholic high school, who came to see their Town government in action. "What these students got," said Levinson, "was a lesson in government INACTION!"
Levity aside, could it be that the cancelation of a regularly scheduled Town Board meeting is just symptomatic of what goes on at Hempstead Town Hall – play to the crowds (especially if they are partisan), and then, when no one is looking, fold up your tents and go home (just don’t punch out on that time clock, if there is one. You’ll still get paid for the full day’s work)!
Seriously, the Town Board session was cancelled, not by Harvey Levinson, but by the Town Board and Town Supervisor, who were apparently of the opinion that official Town business should not go forward when but a few concerned residents show up at Town Hall. While the low turnout at a daytime hearing was no shocker – at best we are in the state of malaise, even when the impact is on our own pocket books, and, heck, some of us actually have to work full-time jobs during the day, and a part-time job at night, just to pay the tax man - what was disconcerting was that an official, regularly scheduled, Town Board meeting, where people actually DID turn out, although few in number, was cancelled!
When you call an official Board meeting, even if only one person shows, whether to be heard or simply to listen, don't you proceed in carrying on the people’s business? [Of course, without an audience – of District 6 workers, or otherwise – there’s not much play for the media, and no staged celebration of a Town budget that, in reality, doesn't give residents much to cheer about!]
A second Town Board meeting on the tentative 2006 Budget did proceed, as scheduled, at 7 PM on October 20th. The Bennett Meeting Pavilion was packed, mostly with the party faithful, heckling Harvey Levinson as he put the feet of the Supervisor and Town Board members to the fire - on the inequities and hidden taxes of the proposed budget; on the Town's refusal to reel in the out-of-control Sanitary Districts (with their Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, and Assistants to the Assistant Deputy Commissioners); on the shortcomings of the Town on the Code enforcement front (with its unreasonable understaffing of Building Inspectors); and on the very failure of the Town to adequately publicize the public hearing on the Town's own proposed budget. "With all of the mailings sent out by the Town of Hempstead," derided Levinson, "you would think there would be a mailing to residents informing them about this important public hearing on the Town budget."
Harvey Levinson was jeered by the crowd of political machine devotees. And the Town Board then called the tentative 2006 Budget to a roll call vote. To no one's surprise, the resolution to adopt Kate Murray's 2006 Budget passed. Watch for your Town tax bills in the mail AFTER the coming election!
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Town Hall Meeting Postcript
Following the public hearing, Harvey Levinson went immediately to Point Lookout, where both he and the Supervisor had been invited to speak before the Point Lookout Civic Association. Kate Murray was a no show. That makes four non-appearances by Supervisor Murray to date: Elmont, Hewlett, Oceanside, and now, Point Lookout.
Hey, its your Town. Or is it?
Thursday, October 20, 2005
State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi today announced a series of audits to review potential abuse of the State pension system by six sanitary districts on Long Island. The audits come in response to information provided by Nassau County Comptroller Howard S. Weitzman, who uncovered a lack of controls and fiscal mismanagement at three of the Districts that participate in the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), which is administered by Hevesi.
Building on findings of the Nassau Comptroller's office , State auditors will also conduct an in-depth audit of Hempstead Sanitary District #1 – which serves the Five Towns and Valley Stream South – to examine time and attendance rules, payroll policies, use of personal service contracts and other employment-related issues.
The audits will start immediately.
“Comptroller Weitzman has already determined that Nassau County residents pay the price for excessive compensation, extravagant spending and a lack of adequate record keeping in the form of higher costs for trash removal,” Hevesi said. “Our examination will determine if the six sanitary districts that participate in the Retirement System are reporting retirement credits accurately, so that we can ensure that taxpayers are not paying for pension benefits to which employees are not entitled.”
The six districts that participate in the NYSLRS and will be audited are:
Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #2
Town of Hempstead Sanitation District #6
Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #1
Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #7
Roslyn Garbage District (North Hempstead)
Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #14
Together, these Districts report 433 employees to the retirement system.
The Nassau Comptroller's office reviews of Sanitary Districts to date have covered Town of Hempstead Sanitary Districts #1, #2 and #6, as well as two other districts outside the Town of Hempstead, that do not participate in the NYSLRS. Weitzman initiated the series of audits after the County Assessor and others pointed out that the revenue raised and expenditures made by special taxing districts such as these sanitary districts occurred with little public scrutiny or governmental oversight.
Weitzman said, “When we issued our audits of five Nassau County sanitary districts last month, we felt strongly that our findings contained ‘red flags’ suggesting the possibility of fraud. Accordingly, we referred these findings to the Nassau County District Attorney and State Comptroller Hevesi. We are pleased that both offices have now launched their own investigations. The waste uncovered at these sanitary districts occurred because, prior to these audits, there has been almost no public oversight of these operations. It is past time for these multi-million dollar public agencies to be run efficiently and in the taxpayers’ interest.”
Hevesi’s auditors will determine if the districts have been:
- Properly reporting time worked and salary for employees;
- Keeping proper records, including time cards and logs of activities for appointed officials;
- Reporting full time status for only those employees working full time;
- Accurately enrolling employees to membership and notifying part time employees of their right to membership as required by section 45 of the Retirement and Social Security Law; and
- Properly classifying employees to ensure that independent contractors are not being reported as employees.
State auditors will also conduct a comprehensive audit of Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #1. The district, which was found to have among the highest garbage collection costs in Nassau County, generated some of Weitzman’s most disturbing findings including excessive and unexplained payments to commissioners and top staff, excessive travel and meal allowances, and inadequate tracking of hours worked by employees. The District’s treasurer had four reported public sector jobs and more than 700 work days reported to the NYSLRS for one year. District employees refused to cooperate with auditors from the Nassau County Comptroller's office and effectively prevented the audit from being completed.
“Such unwillingness to cooperate by the subject of an audit raises serious questions,” Hevesi said. “In the case of Town of Hempstead District #1, the preliminary findings are so troubling that we will pursue a more thorough audit using all appropriate and necessary legal resources available to my office.”
The Nassau County Comptroller's audit of Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #2 (Baldwin area), issued on September 21, found millions of dollars wasted every year on administrative expenses, including unnecessary and overpriced insurance sold to the District by a no-bid broker and personal use of 11 district cars and trucks. An audit of Hempstead's Sanitary District #6 found that there was no timekeeping for the District's employees, as well as various other financial control weaknesses. All three of the districts in the Town of Hempstead allowed sanitation workers to work as little as 15-20 hours a week, although they are paid full-time salaries.
Garbage collection in Nassau is arranged by the county’s towns, cities and villages within the county or by 24 town-created special sanitary districts. These local sanitary districts, some of which have elected commissioners, provide services only to residents and commercial establishments within their borders, and district expenses are funded through local tax levies.
The New York State and Local Retirement System offers retirement benefits for members who reach specific ages or have completed a specified number of years of service, depending on the system and plan in which employees are enrolled. At the end of fiscal year 2004-05, there were a total of 982,009 members, retirees and beneficiaries, and 2,993 participating employers including local governments, authorities and other governmental entities around the State. Contributions from enrolled employees and their employers are managed by the New York State Comptroller who invests the funds to ensure availability of resources to meet obligations to retirees, members and beneficiaries, and to moderate increases in required employer contributions.
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The following is a Guest Blog as submitted to The Community Alliance. The writer's true identity has been changed and name withheld, at the author's request, to protect the writer from, as he put it, "the retribution of mob mentality."
My name is Robert M., and I am a Republican Committeeman. Actually, I am a former Republican Committeeman, but as they say, it is always in the blood.
I share in the core values of my chosen party, in its avowed commitment to fiscal and social conservatism, and in the vision so eloquently expressed by Ronald Reagan of that shining city on a hill.
I am a person of faith, and of political fervor. I revel in my party's successes, and feel sorrow when my party fails. I have, over the course of nearly twenty-five years, been a part of the good, and have borne witness to the bad and the ugly. I've paid my 1%, logged thousands of hours carrying Petitions and on the campaign trail, rallied the vote for the party line, and answered the call, all without regret.
I write today not to bash the GOP, nor, for that matter, to praise the Democrats. Politics is politics, and machine-driven politics spoils the stew wherever and whenever it consumes a party's best intentions and most hallowed beliefs. I offer my comments only to say that I have lost faith, not in the Republican Party, but in those who, with a smug self-righteousness and a loss of empathy for you and I, have led our party astray.
The Republican Party is the party of balanced budgets, of smaller government, and of fewer taxes. At least that's what they told me when I registered all those years ago.
We've gone from a record surplus to a federal deficit that is the largest in U.S. history. Here on Long Island, we have more taxing jurisdictions (aka Special Districts) with higher taxes than one could possibly fathom. In the Town of Hempstead, we have a system of government bursting at the seams with patronage, creating layer upon layer of unnecessary bureaucracy, and blinded by the ambitions of those who view self-promotion and party machine preservation as the end-game of their service to the public. We are a party, with rare exception, totally in control, and yet, we preside over a government hurling hopelessly out of control. This isn't the Republican Party I signed up for!
The issues and concerns we face at both County and Town cannot be said to be either Republican or Democratic - although there are many, from both sides of the aisle, who would have us see them that way. Beyond the gamesmanship of the Gary DelaRobbers and the Slick Willie television ads that bear little semblance to the truth, there are significant matters begging to be debated and addressed. Town Sanitary Districts run without fiscal restraint or financial oversight; illegal apartments riding roughshod over our tax base and jeopardizing lives; everyone and her brothers on payroll; paying more for garbage collection than for police protection - and we all know how much we pay in Nassau County for police protection. This is nothing short of government gone wild.
Now, I'm not advocating jumping ship and changing party. No sir, I am one of those "cloth coat Republicans" the authors of this blog frequently refer to with sometimes more than satirical derision. I am, however, advocating a change in course for our party, a redirection with a new way of thinking; a call for the next generation of leaders who willingly say, "Enough already. It is time to look to the future."
When I first became a Republican Committeeman, ours was the party of Al D'Amato, Joe Mondello and Greg Peterson. Today, notwithstanding a different and increasingly complex world, changing by the second, we remain, as if in some sci-fi time warp, the party of Al D'Amato, Joe Mondello and Greg Peterson. They would like us to go back to a time and a place they never left, and to look forward to a future that promises only to pay homage to a less than illustrious past.
Machines are the stuff that politics is made of. It is in the very nature of things. The Kings and the King-makers, assuring a long line of ascendency to the throne. Alas, even the most enduring of empires must crumble and fall, heralding a new era -- and, no doubt, yet another machine.
In Hempstead Town, the 100-year rule of the Republican empire is nearing an end. The D'Amatos, Mondellos and the Murrays are the last vestiges of the old guard, about to take their final curtain call -- all for the good of the party. In Nassau County, we are not quite ready for that new era of Republican stewardship to kick in, Greg Peterson representing yesterday's news, the remnants of a machine badly leaking oil and meshing gears.
The Republican Party - my Republican Party - is hurting. In many ways, we've summoned our own demons, created our own Frankenstein monster that now turns on the very people who gave it life. Some of my fellow Republicans will likely crash and burn this November, which may well be the best thing that could happen to our party. Out with the old. In with the new. The opportunity to rebuild, from the ground up, from the top down. And the Phoenix shall once again rise from the ashes, stronger, better, more in tune with the needs of the people and with the time-honored ideology of the Republican Party I knew and embraced.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Last call before the election for candidates to submit Guest Blogs to The Community Alliance for publication. Random thoughts. Specific proposals. Your best foot - both in and out of mouth - forward. All are welcome and encouraged!
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JOIN IN THE DEBATE IN THE RACE FOR NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE
Tom Suozzi vs. Greg Peterson
Monday, October 24, 2005
Hofstra University's Monroe Hall
South Campus, California Avenue off of Hempstead Turnpike
Audience members will have an opportunity to ask the tough questions and, hopefully, get some straight answers. Be an informed voter. After all, its your tomorrow they're talking about!
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2006 BUDGET HEARING AT HEMPSTEAD TOWN HALL TONIGHT AT 7:00 PM
Town Board meetings are held in the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion,adjacent to Hempstead Town Hall, One Washington Street, Hempstead.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
If skyrocketing property taxes on Long Island weren't enough to give you nightmares, just wait. A government panel, appointed by President Bush, is expected to issue a report next month recommending changes to the Internal Revenue Code, including the ELIMINATION of the tax deduction for PROPERTY TAXES, and a limit on the home mortgage amount for which a deduction may be claimed.
Yes, take another look at that School Property Tax bill you recently received in the mail. As the law stands today, you can take the full amount of that tax, as well as County, Town and Village property taxes, as itemized deductions, somewhat easing the blow, and the tax burden. If the President and the GOP-controlled Congress have their way, that deduction will be gone, the tax bill being the bitter pill for homeowners alone to swallow, without corresponding relief.
"It is a dagger to the heart of the people on New York," Senator Charles Schumer told Newsday. [Tax reform proposal eliminates deduction of property taxes and limits size of interest on mortgage deducted.] "We will do everything in our power to defeat this pernicious proposal."
The panel's conclusions come as no surprise to the informed and enlightened, President Bush having made this draconian proposal before the 2004 election. The measure, if adopted, would impact most severely upon middle-class homeowners whose income is generated mainly by their pay checks. The well-to-do, yielding the bulk of their income through investments, would likely benefit owing to a proposed decrease in the Capital Gains tax. [Phew. For a minute there we thought "W" might have to sell the ranchette. Thankfully, the income generated by Dick Cheney's sale of all that Haliburton stock will be protected!]
Even if the panel's proposal is modified, there are likely to be changes to the tax Code that limit deductions on property taxes, at least partially, causing still further financial hardship to already hard-strapped Long Islanders.
Just think - $10,000+ in property taxes, and NO TAX DEDUCTION to show for it. Still have qualms about replacing the school portion of the Property Tax (accounting for some 60% of the property taxes you pay, based on the value of your house without regard to income) with a nominal local income tax ( based on your ability to pay, and still a direct deduction from the tax due on your federal tax return)? Perhaps you'd do well to think again!
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
JNN journalist Anderson Cooperstein reports from Mineola:
With only a few weeks to go until the 2005 election, hopefuls for public office are suddenly whipping out the gefilte fish, sporting yarmulkes, and quoting Tuesdays with Morrie in order to capture the critical Jewish vote, which makes up a minute .019% of the country's population. Political analysts report that securing the Jewish vote has historically cleared the path to the White House, or at least to some good whitefish. And now, candidates for office in Nassau County and Hempstead Town are courting the ever-elusive Jewish voter.
"The Jewish vote has always been an important concern to our campaign," said Tom Suozzi, as he tied tzitzit fringes to the front of his pants. "If we can capture just .00232% of the Jewish vote, our road to keep the County Seat, bezras Hashem, will be a lot easier."
Kate Murray’s Jewish campaign strategists, collectively known as “The Kosher Kommitteemen,” concur. Kate and her team have made it a point to only drink Maneshevitz, order stale egg kichel from the Coliseum Deli, and listen to Adam Sandler CDs ever since the race for Town of Hempstead Supervisor began. "Kate’s campaign has always been about acceptance of different cultures," said a top campaign aide, Joe “Yitzi” Mondellowitz, who knows the importance of the Jewish electorate, having read The Protocols of Zion. "The book really changed my view of politics, and really of everything. I had everyone on our staff read it."
Kate Murray’s campaign has also has been deeply focused on appealing to voters with Jewish roots. "We may not agree on Middle East policies," said Murray, in response to criticism of her Public Policy Review mailing and the Sabbath vote in Sanitary District 2, "but I sure know we agree on having all Jewish Holidays off!"
Greg Peterson’s campaign advisor, Arye D’Amatofsky, says that having a serious presence in the county’s Jewish community is integral to winning the election for County Executive. D’Amatofsky has been trying for months to post Peterson's presence on popular Jewish websites such as shiksas.com and the Stern college favorite, onlysimchas.com. "When we couldn't get my cousin (twice removed), Al D’Amato’s, wedding posted on that site, it was a real setback. So we did the next best thing - we crashed a wedding and made sure Greg and Al got in a few action photos with the bride." Peterson intends to show the photo album at his visits to local Senior Centers and Assisted Living facilities, where he will tout his campaign pledge to Ensure Nassau’s Future. “The bubbes all love Greg,” concluded D’Amatofsky. “They’re old, he’s old. They can’t remember the Gulotta years, and that’s just the way Greg likes it!”
But not everyone is agreeing with the Hug-A-Jew strategy. Harvey Levinson, one of only two authentically Jewish candidates vying for top spots on the ticket (Levinson is running for Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead, while Howard Weitzman seeks to retain his position as County Comptroller), has taken a drastically different approach. "I had a real problem capturing my own faith's constituents." Declared Levinson, "No one wants to see a Jew in power, because if something goes wrong, guess who gets blamed? That’s right, blame Harvey Levinson. Blame the Jews!”
Levinson’s staff has been working tirelessly to come up with a way to attract the resistant Jewish vote. Late last week, they came up with a solution: Levinson would convert to Catholicism. "It was a tough decision,” commented Levinson, “but that's what this campaign and being Town Supervisor is all about." When questioned about the insincerity of his decision, Levinson quipped, "If Madeline Albright can do it, then so can I." Early Sunday morning, before giving a speech to Irish Town workers (all, mysteriously, named Murray), Levinson was baptized at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion RC Church & Cola, and almost immediately the Marist poll indicated his popularity among Jewish voters had nearly quadrupled. Said Levinson, "Ultimately, it was the right decision, praise Yushka."
Comptroller Howard Weitzman hopes to have the same success with his upcoming glitzy Democratic Jewish Singles events. His "Bowling and Sushi Night" and "J2 Saturday Night Gala" have been critically acclaimed among political analysts.
As for Weitzman’s opponent, Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes, Don Clavin, he could not be reached for comment. According to a campaign staffer, Clavin had just left for temple, luluv and esrog in hand, and would later be joining his Rabbi, Joe Ramban, for a Sukkot dinner.
In local races, Jeffrey Katz, who is looking to take a seat away from the Dems in the Nassau County Legislature, claims that he is the only Jew with credentials. “I have the OU (Orthodox Union) seal of approval,” says Katz, proudly. “And I’ve covered all the bases. I was a Democrat, now I’m a Republican. And I’m surrounded by Jewish voters. What could be better?” Asked about the paradox of his switch to the GOP, Katz explains. “Don’t ask. I got the calling. Actually, it was Peter Schmitt riding around in the Mitzvah Mobile shouting over a megaphone, ‘Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Republican party.’”
Katz was queried as to whether there was any confusion in his mind given his sudden flip in party affiliation. “Confused? Farmished is more like it. I’m endorsed by the Liberal Party AND the Conservative Party. Kinda like getting the nod of the Right to Lifers after being named NOW’s Person of the Year. I say crime is on the rise, when even Denis Dillon, the Republican DA, says crime has dropped dramatically. Hey, don’t ask me. All I know is, in local politics, as concerns the Jewish vote, its not property taxes, special districts, or patronage that matter. Its Israel, the West Bank, and the Palestinian question.”
Meanwhile, back in the Town Supervisor’s office, Kate Murray, the only single candidate, has put up a profile on all Jewish dating websites, such as Jdate.com. "I've been through the Jdate profiles – or at least the ones with pictures - and there are a lot of handsome Jewish princes posted who are very interested in becoming 'The First Man' of Hempstead Town," says Murray, with a wink. Although frumster.com rejected Murray’s profile due to her religion (and the posting of unverified photos) she believes that the Book of Esther strongly points to the fact that Jews have a tradition of marrying for political power, religion aside. "If it doesn't help me get votes, maybe I'll at least get some dates," said Murray, who says it is tough meeting people when you are taking photographs and licking postage stamps all day.
No matter what strategy each candidate takes, they all agree that the Jewish vote makes or breaks the election. Political Analyst, Jerry Kremer, noted that the 2000 election was ultimately decided by the retired Jewish voters in Florida. "If Gore would have made a couple more visits to the retiree communities in Boca Raton, thrown around some Yiddish terms, and maybe served some pickled herring, he would have undoubtedly become the 43rd President."
Election Day is November 8th!
UPDATE ON THE LULUV AND ESROG SHORTAGE (as first reported in The Jewish Star): Weitzman points finger at Clavin for taking the last esrog. Clavin shouts back, “If only Howie had followed up on his Audit of the Sukkah!” And so it goes…
Monday, October 17, 2005
Some Say "Yes" In View Of Shortcomings of Town Government
The last village to incorporate in Nassau County was Atlantic Beach in 1962, and even then, thanks to a law that reserved jurisdiction for zoning to the Town for all villages incorporated after 1927, Atlantic Beach had to rely on the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals to control development within its own borders. A hard-fought victory in a lengthy court battle, and the formal nod of the Nassau County Legislature, finally gave Atlantic Beach the right to control what gets built within its own borders (sorry, Mrs. D'Amato), setting the stage for unincorporated areas within the township to consider the pros and cons of village life.
The most recent community to enter the discussion of whether or not to incorporate is Merrick, whose civic leaders now look to balance government responsiveness against the creation of more government.
The story first broke this week in the Merrick Herald (Village of Merrick? Local Civic Leaders Weigh Incorporation), where Joe Kralovich, President of the Old Lindenmere Civic Association, was quoted as saying, "Everyone has trouble communicating with the Town of Hempstead. There seems to be a dysfunction there. It's our lowest level of government and has 160,000 constituents. Maybe that's just too much."
Dysfunction in the Town of Hempstead? Ya think? Actually, there are some 760,000 residents in the Town of Hempstead, and every one of them - save the 323 Republican Committeemen on payroll - has trouble communicating with the Town.
Prior to Atlantic Beach gaining the right to make its own decisions on zoning matters, there was little benefit to incorporation. After all, if you have no control over who builds what where, and enforcement remains the province of the Town (the folks who appear to have no control, and even less desire to enforce), why bother going through the trouble, and possibly, the expense? Now, with precedent having been set by Atlantic Beach, why not explore the possibilities?
After all, residents could continue to "pay to play" for the County and Town services they desire to keep, such as police protection and garbage collection (although, given the outrageous sums paid by taxpayers for the services offered by some of the Town's Sanitary Districts, one would have to be a village idiot to sign on), while taking upon themselves the critical roles of zoning, development and enforcement.
Few would argue that while the problem of illegal accessory apartments, for instance, exists in the incorpoated villages, the differences in enforcement and outcome between, say, the Incorporated Village of Garden City and the unincorporated stepchild of West Hempstead, are night and day.
You don't see the no-tell motels, the abandoned vehicles, the cars parked on the sidewalk (or curbside, block to end-block, 24/7), the haphazard development of "downtown" in a village. The responsiveness of governance by your neighbors -- literally -- rather than the "if not today, tomorrow" reaction of a Town Hall that, for all intents and purposes, could just as well be in Hemel Hempstead, England, is truly something residents have to consider.
Of course, you would't need the villages -- with their own set of problems, not to mention taxes -- if the Town of Hempstead was to be proactive rather than reactive; if the response to citizen concerns was, "We'll take care of that today," and not, "We'll talk about it tomorrow."
"We would turn everything over to the town, except that we'd enforce it," Barry Fox, President of the Merrick Park Home Owners Association, told the Herald. "We'd try to increase zoning regulations to improve the quality of life in the Merricks, and it wouldn't cost residents any more than they're paying right now."
Ah yes, zoning and enforcement. Two crucial areas long-neglected by the Town of Hempstead. And now, people are beginning to talk -- and to act. Seems we're not the only ones who want to take back our Town!
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Murray Mailgram Update
Seaford residents were treated to a Murray Mailgram of their very own. Four pages -- four photos of... guess who? Yes, residents learned about the Long-Horn Asian Beetle (no doubt planted on Seaford's trees by Tax Assessor, Harvey Levinson :-). Another pre-election campaign mailing at the taxpayers' expense. Hey, its your money!
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Newsday Sets Residents Straight On Taxes And Reassessment
Click here to read Newsday's editorial, Don't blame the assessor. They've got it right when it comes to taxes. Come November 8th, voters should get it right, too!
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Endorsements in Town Races
Harvey Levinson For Hempstead Supervisor
This year's elections on Long Island have a momentous air about them, a sense that huge changes may be forthcoming. This is especially true of the races for town supervisor in Hempstead and Brookhaven, where well-financed, aggressive Democrats are posing the most serious challenges to Republican control in decades.
Make that about 100 years in the case of Hempstead, the last redoubt of G.O.P. power and patronage in Nassau County. The current supervisor is Kate Murray, the latest in an unbroken string of Republicans who have run Hempstead down the decades, like partisan popes. She is being challenged by Harvey Levinson, the Nassau County assessor, a Democrat from Garden City and the former chief deputy to Denis Dillon, Nassau's district attorney.
Ms. Murray, an energetic native of Levittown, exudes somewhat more crisp efficiency and professionalism than the old-time machine pols from whose lineage she directly springs. She boasts of streamlining town government and adopting innovative ideas, like diesel-electric hybrid garbage trucks, while keeping taxes low and the town's bond rating high. It is to her credit that she can credibly make such claims - the Nassau G.O.P. is not known for its grounding in fiscal reality - and her affable manner is a welcome break from the cutthroat wiliness of, say, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato, who was Hempstead supervisor in the 1970's.
Mr. Levinson is a thoughtful, well-qualified candidate who is campaigning with an underdog's tenacity and inventiveness. He tells voters that the ruling party has overburdened taxpayers through patronage and wasteful spending, particularly in the strange and obscure special taxing districts that flourish in these parts. He argues that poorly planned growth has made parts of Hempstead unbearably ugly. He has stolen a page from Republicans by railing against unsafe illegal housing, though without the anti-immigrant subtext; his push to punish unscrupulous landlords by taxing illegally subdivided houses at commercial rates was an unorthodox use of his powers that focused blame in the right places.
A lot has changed since Mr. D'Amato's day, when Hempstead was an enormous political clubhouse and town employees kicked back 1 percent of their salaries to the G.O.P. But old habits die hard, and it will take more than the likable Ms. Murray to change the culture of cronyism in a one-party town. For example, Mr. D'Amato's wife, Katuria, now sits on Hempstead's zoning board of appeals, even though her previous experience in land-use issues was the two months she spent fighting the town over plans to build a hulking chateau for herself and her husband in Lido Beach.
Who appointed Mrs. D'Amato? Ms. Murray. Her suggestion that it was a nonpolitical choice is as credible as her insistence that her lavish use of town mailings is merely a nonpolitical exercise in constituent service. A glossy town publication that is called - no joke - Supervisor Kate Murray's Public Policy Review offers not her views on nuclear proliferation or sugar tariffs, but rather the usual mix of incumbent puffery, and sometimes worse, like blatantly political attacks on Mr. Levinson.
It is not a criticism of Ms. Murray's abilities to conclude that Mr. Levinson would be a better supervisor for Hempstead. Long Island desperately needs a two-party system, and the Democrats' recent gains here, by shaking up the fossilized status quo and forcing the Republicans to be more responsive, have been good for voters of all parties. The Democrats should keep the revolution going, straight into the heart of Nassau. We endorse Harvey Levinson for Hempstead supervisor.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Friday, October 14, 2005
“Kate Murray has been a ‘no show’ on lowering taxes, a ‘no show’ on illegal housing, and now she’s a ‘no show’ in public debates. It’s insulting to the people of Hempstead who deserve better information than slick and misleading TV spots,” said Levinson.
Organizers estimated the crowd gathererd for the Hewlett Library debate at over 100 people. [Almost as many people as Don Clavin brings out to his appearances -- if you include Town employees. :-)] Despite having a packed house, the Murray camp showed blatant disregard for Hempstead voters by what the Levinson campaign characterized as a last minute cancellation. "Whoops. Sorry. Have to get a wash, cut and blow for tomorrow's photo op at the Coliseum Deli. Gotta go..."
At both the Elmont and Hewlett forums, voters voiced concern over Town tax hikes that increased 15% this year alone for the Town's unincorporated areas, the Levinson team reports. In addition, several speakers questioned the Town’s spending priorities, citing the over 300 Republican committeemen on the Town payroll and the blizzard of taxpayer funded Murray political mailings.
It has been related to The Community Alliance that one individual in attendance at the Hewlett "debate" questioned why the Town found it necessary to send him a personal letter and certificate commending him for flying a flag in front of his home. "At a time when Town taxes are being raised by Murray, the Town needs to cut the wasteful patronage spending," said the concerned citizen.