Friday, October 21, 2005

Whose Town Is It Anyway?

Afternoon Hearing On Kate Murray's Budget Proposal Canned ~ Tax Assessor Faulted

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?


  1. Once again a not so serious approach to the problems that we are having in the Town of Hempstead as well as the problems in Nassau County.

    Is this the approach the Democratic Party has making jokes?

    Once again noone has answered the tell tale question - What has Harvey Levinson done to make our lives better?

    And don't respond with his plans or ideas, the past GOP handling of the TOH or County.

    Concrete facts of his accomplishments is what I am looking for someone have an answer to this question?

    Also the blame of rising taxes doesn't fall on the TOH but on the Assesment process - The TOH does set the tax rate but has that tax rate risen and by how much in the last 4 years??

    The Assesments have been increased extensively in the past 4 years it's a no brainer to figure out that you times the assesment price by the tax rate to figure out your tax!!!

    So has the tax rate risen extensively in the last 4 years & What has Harvey Levinson done anything to help out the taxpayers in Nassau County???

  2. To answer your question, ncres4change, yes, the TAX RATES HAVE risen "extensively" over the last 4 years. Just look at your Property Tax bills.

    Interestingly, though of no surprise to anyone in tune to what's going on, the Assessment Rate has gone DOWN, considerably (from 1% of Assessed Value to 1/4 of 1%) under Harvey Levinson, while Tax Rates - with particular attention to School District and Town Special District - have gone up, up, and out of sight.

    What Harvey Levinson HAS done is to apply the law, as the Courts of this State direct (would you have him do otherwise?), pointing out the glaring inequities, offering practical solutions, tweaking the system where possible, and taking his case directly to the people. [The former Assessor never did any of those things, managing only to mess up what the law required him to do.]

    If we, as taxpayers, refuse to listen to what Mr. Levinson is saying, shame on us. If you, Mr. Nassau County Resident For Change (a misnomer, indeed), are unwilling or unable to see the tax numbers for what they are, then shame on you!