Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Down In The Dumps?

Private Company Seeks Variance For Recycling Plant In Oceanside;
Local Civic Rallies Community In Opposition

Serota Brown Court II, LLC, a Valley Stream based company, proposes to build and operate a recycling facility in Oceanside. The company has made Application for a variance, as is required to construct and operate a facility out of character with the surrounding community, to the Town of Hempstead, Zoning Board of Appeals. [A Public Hearing on the Application, previously scheduled to be heard by the Zoning Board on November 30, 2005 and adjourned without date, will give Serota Brown the opportunity to clear the air concerning a recycling plant in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, and will afford all residents wishing to speak to this matter of great community concern the occasion to be heard.]

The Oceanside Civic Association, vanguard of the community's well-being, stands opposed to the construction and operation of the proposed recycling plant. Residents are being urged to consider the millions of tons of trash and construction debris to be carted in to the Oceanside community (and through surrounding hamlets); to envision the congestion of hundreds of trucks carting in the trash; the noxious fumes and odors of both trash and ash, with their detrimental impact on air quality and basic quality of life. And don't forget about the seagulls. SEAGULLS?

Now, given what the random traveler along Long Beach Road or Lawson Boulevard happens upon while taking that leisurely sojourn through Oceanside and environs, one might ask, "Doth residents of the home of the likes of Mount Trashmore and Oil City now see fit to complain? Do they not enjoy even more trash heaped upon the pile? Would they not be willing to pay twice the price for recycling within their own Sanitary District? And, those clams at Pete's Clam Bar don't come from surrounding waters, do they?"

Heaven forbid. Oceanside is no place for trash, no home for the recycled. Be gone, would-be recycling villians. Build your recycling plant where it truly belongs -- Elmont, West Hempstead, or, better yet, at the steps of Kate Murray's Town Hall!

Okay, we jest. Just barely. Oceanside deserves better. A higher use -- say, a municipal parking field. :-)

Fact is, the dumps, the trash, the unwanted masses of garbage yearning to stink up the neighborhood, will -- like the cell towers, the after-hours clubs, the adult video stores, the storage facilities, the illegal apartments, the waste transfer stations, and the sordid debris of humanity -- wind up in the community of least resistance.

The unincorporated areas of the Town of Hempstead, of which Oceanside can make claim, have borne witness to decades of lax zoning and virtually nonexistent Code enforcement. Neglect has been the order of the day, and decline, a seemingly inevitable way of life.

"Why should I give a damn? I don't live in Oceanside?" Why, because if we do not defend the quality of life of Oceanside's residents, who will be there when the time comes to defend ours?

"Well, maybe Oceanside is the best place to put a recycling plant?" Possibly. None of us are strangers to Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY). Still, we need answers to our questions. Do we, in Hempstead Town, really need this recycling plant? Are there sufficient safeguards to protect the community's health? Will the presence of this facility impact adversely upon the character of the surrounding community and/or the health and well being of its residents? What are the benefits to the community, if any, versus the risks?

We don't have the answers to these questions, and, to be sure, there are many other questions just begging to be asked. This is precisely why residents should come to the Town Zoning Board's Public Hearing once scheduled -- to ask the tough questions and, hopefully, to get the straight answers. [The Community Alliance will publicize the hearing date once it becomes known to us.]

In fact, residents of Oceanside and neighboring hamlets, and friends of the environment and community everywhere, should start asking those tough questions NOW, in advance of the Town's public hearing. A community armed with knowledge is, indeed, in the best position to mount a victorious defense.

There is nothing more compelling to a governmental body -- whether an elected Town Board or an appointed Zoning Board -- than the voice of the people. To fill that auditorium at the Town's Bennett Meeting Pavilion with those in opposition -- or those who simply want to know -- sends a clear and certain message: that, after the gavel has fallen and the hearing has closed, the best interests of the community will be served.

To be sure, the decisions of the Zoning Board of Appeals will not be based upon nor swayed by public opinion (nor should they be, the letter of the law to be applied in all instances -- wink, wink). Still, the weight of public opinion can be brought to bear to make certain that the law is applied strictly and uniformly; that "exceptions" are carved out sparingly, if at all; and that the character and quality of life of our communities are, above all, protected and preserved.

The battleground, this time, is in Oceanside. Next time, the battle may rage in your front yard. This, then, is the time for all good people to come to the aid of community -- for that blight upon a tree in Oceanside, left untreated, will, as certain as seagulls seek out garbage, spread to your community.

The Community Alliance, in solidarity with our neighbors in Oceanside, and in cooperation with the Oceanside Civic Association, opposes the granting of a variance to Serota Brown Court II, LLC for purposes of bulding, maintaining and operating a recycling plant as proposed, and respectfully requests that the Town of Hempstead Zoning Board of Appeals, upon full hearing and due consideration, deny cases #975 and #974 as shall appear on the Board's Hearing Calendar at a date and time to be set by the Zoning Board.

Of interest, Serota Brown's Application itself raises eyebrows -- and then some -- requesting permission to "Use premises for recycling of demolition debris & uncontaminated construction materials which may be noxious & offensive." Which part of "out of character with the community" does Serota Brown not understand?

Indeed, it would appear that Serota Brown is appealing to the Board of Zoning Appeals from "the determination of the Commissioner of Buildings that proposed use of the premises for construction & demolition debris transfer station is not a permitted use in the Industrial zone."

Fellas, the Commissioner of Buildings was right!

Then, too, while the Zoning Board cannot consider past deeds in ruling upon present Applications, residents should be mindful of Serota Brown's less than stellar conduct in the operation of a solid waste dump in Oceanside -- a dump owned by Nathan Serota, principal in Serota Brown Court II -- which resulted in $320,000.00 in penalties to the State DEC. [SEE STATE GAINS CLEANUP OF ILLEGAL LONG ISLAND WASTE DUMP.]

Those who wish to comment on the pending Application, or who may be unable to attend the public hearing of the Town's Zoning Board of Appeals, may -- and are encouraged to -- express their concerns in writing to Hon. Gerald Wright, Chairman, Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals, 1 Washington Street, Hempstead, NY 11550. Letters may be faxed to the Board of Zoning Appeals at 516-483-0432. [PLEASE PUT IN THE SUBJECT LINE: "SEROTA BROWN COURT II,LLC cases #975 and #974".]

Concerned citizens may also contact the Oceanside Civic Association via their web form, or e-mail the association's President, Raymond Pagano, at
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A reminder that democracy is not a spectator sport (if it was, we'd be watching the NY Jets on a continuous loop).

What are the quality of life issues that impact upon your community? At The Community Alliance, we not only want to know, we want to help. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and there really is STRENGTH IN NUMBERS!

The Numbers Game

Numbers Don't Lie, People Do. Okay, Sometimes Numbers Do Lie. . .

The Town of Hempstead does it, every time the budget rolls around -- say "freeze." School Districts do it -- proposing 8% budget increases that translate into 13% property tax hikes. And, believe it or not (yes, its true), even politicians do it -- skewing the numbers in their favor or, when the figures fail them, simply making the numbers up as they go along.

An interesting piece appeared literally on the eve of this year's elections on It rendered an accounting, of sorts, on the number of police officers hired -- or lost, depending on the point of view of the spinner -- by the County of Nassau during Tom Suozzi's first term as County Executive. Here's a sampling:

How many "less" Police officers are there in Nassau County? Ask any Republican candidate or PBA Capo Gary Delaraba and the numbers are all over the place.

Gary Delaraba in the Long Island Press "He's 375 police officers short."

Legislator Peter Schmitt says "There are 593 fewer police officers on the streets of Nassau County today than when Suozzi first took office (in 2001)."

Schmitt also says "Our Police Department has 600 fewer officers on the streets today, than when Tom Suozzi took office..."

County Executive Candidate Greg Peterson says "Under the Suozzi administration, more than 500 experienced law enforcement officers have left police service."

Legislature candidate Tom Sabellico says "we now have 550 less police officers than four years ago."

Sabellico also says "there are also 500 fewer county police officers than five years ago."

At a League of Women Voters candidates night, Sabellico used a number in the 300 range.

Legislature candidate Jeffery Katz says "This has resulted in a total loss of police manpower of about 800 officers."

The FACT of the matter is that since Suozzi and the Democrats took over, Police Academy classes have been graduating at capacity. In fact, Suozzi was there at the first graduating class in FIVE years. In REALITY under Republican control, there were no academy classes graduating for 4 years.

As reported here at The Community Alliance blog, Tom Suozzi actually appointed the maximum number of police officers to the Nassau County Police Department permitted by the police union's own contract.

Is it that those who are elected to represent us -- and those who would be -- don't bother to check the numbers before hand, or do they just assume we'll swallow what they stick down our throats on blind faith? A bit of both, we suppose.

Numbers, like statistics, are often skewed to paint the skewer in the best possible light, and the skewee in the worst. [Most of the time, you and I are the "skewees," in case you haven't noticed!] The distortion of fact -- and, conversely, the creation of a whole host of fictions -- stems both from the bias of those who blatantly bloat or deflate the stats to suit their purposes, and from the ignorance and apathy of the intended recipients, who rarely bother to check the facts -- notwithstanding.

We are reminded of that scene from The Manchurian Candidate (1962 version), where the McCarthyesque Senator John Iselin (played by veteran actor James Gregory, perhaps best remembered by TV land viewers as Inspector Frank Luger on Barney Miller) couldn't keep straight the number of Communists professed to be in the Defense Department.

Senator Iselin is reflected off the glass covering a portrait of Lincoln - juxtaposing the ghostly-thin, anti-Communist with a stalwart American from another era, as he fixes himself a drink. As a spineless puppet, Senator Iselin complains to his wife that he can't keep the number of Communists straight in the Defense Department: "I mean, the way you keep changing the figures on me all the time. It makes me look like some kind of a nut, like an idiot." She holds up a newspaper and proclaims:

"Well, you're going to look like an even bigger idiot if you don't get in there and do exactly what you're told...Who are they writing about all over this country and what are they saying? Are they saying: 'Are there any Communists in the Defense Department?' No, of course not, they're saying: 'How many Communists are there in the Defense Department?' So just stop talking like an expert all of a sudden and get out there and say what you're supposed to say."

When he crumples, she apologizes for being dictatorial and brash: "Would it really make it easier for you if we settled on just one number?" As he pumps Heinz [commonly known as 57 Varieties] tomato ketchup from a bottle onto his steak, she arbitrarily decides on the exact number of card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the Defense Department for his script - so it will be easy for him to remember. In Iselin's speech to the Senate later that afternoon in the next cut, he accuses the Defense Department of hiring '57' members of the Communist Party.

Of course, that's the movies, not real life. Tonight, for instance, President Bush will address the nation yet again on his "strategy" in Iraq. Listen carefully for any numbers mentioned or statistics referenced (not that "W" is big on the nitty gritty). The number of "terrorists" routed or killed. The number of "Iraqi defense forces" now at the ready and on the front lines.

Doubtful you'll hear the stats on the war's cost -- either in tax dollars ($223,155,980,000 and counting as of 8:50 this morning), or in terms of human life (there have been 2,309 coalition deaths, 2,110 Americans, one Australian, 98 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, two Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Hungarian, 26 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, one Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians in the war in Iraq as of November 29, 2005, according to a CNN count). So what? We're "winning" the war in Iraq, haven't you heard?

On December 7th, Tom Suozzi holds his summit on School Property Taxes, calling forth educators, administrators and legislators to put heads together on a crisis that quickly reaches the boiling point (in some communities, the mercury on the thermometers has already popped through the glass casing). Watch carefully as dollar figures, budgetary statistics, and State Aid formulae are amassed and dissmeninated. Scrutinize these "facts" under your microscopes.

In the not too distant future, we'll receive the latest bills/receipts in the mail for the non-school portion of the Property Tax. We'll see exactly how the numbers mesh with the promises to "freeze" and the assurances to "hold the line." The Community Alliance will report on these numbers -- as they really are and as they impact upon your bottom line.

Perhaps it was the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said it best, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." [Erroneously misquoted as "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts" on, of all places, Go figure!]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

We'll Have A Gay Old Time

After We "Out" The Cartoon Characters, Who's Next?

There he goes again. Dr. James Dobson, the fella who makes Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson look like left-wing radicals of the 60s, is taking his family "values" act on the road, preaching -- more like pontificating -- to all who would listen, the virtues of the "straight" and narrow-minded.

You remember James Dobson, don't you? If not, let us refresh your memory. Dobson, a psychologist by degree (they really do let anyone in, don't they?), is founder and chief spokesperson for Focus on the Family -- an organization "increasingly concerned" about the direction families in his America are headed. His is a ministry -- read as "cult" -- thinly veiled as the savior of all that is good and heavenly in our nation, advanced, of course, "by reasonable, biblical and empirical insights."

Now, if Dr. Dobson were just another evangelical blowhard, we'd shake our heads in disbelief, let out a soft sigh, and walk away. But no. Dr. Dobson was not content to merely attack our lost family values and heathen lifestyles from the bully pulpit. No sir. He had to go after one of America's most honored and favored pastimes -- the cartoon. And not just any cartoon, but that yellow and squishy absorbee who lives in a pineapple under the sea -- SpongeBob, SquarePants.

Ah, it all comes back to you now. Yes. Dr. James Dobson was the guy who outed SpongeBob, linking him in untold sexual (or was it asexual?) exploits with his often dumbfounded starfish pal, Patrick. [The Community Alliance has since learned that it was SpongeBob's pet, Gary -- the snail that meows like a cat -- who let the sponge out of the moist cello-wrap.]

The insinuation is, as freaky as it is fiendish, that cartoon characters somehow have sexual identities and preferences, and watching them in certain left-wing, pinko, commie cartoon videos will, in ways that only Freud understood, turn your children into homosexuals. [SEE, Will SpongeBob Make You Gay?]

Okay, it was nearly a year ago that Dobson went on his anti-sponge tirade, so we've had ample time to regroup and reflect. Now that the good doctor is besmearching SpongeBob's holey name and porous qualities on college campuses and at local laundromats, reflect we will.

So, SpongeBob is flaming, even at the bottom of the sea. But what of Bert and Ernie? We see those twin beds moving closer and closer by the day! Then there's Winkie Dink. Why, even his name says "Gay." Tell us how "Woody" Woodpecker got his name, and what to make of a Pink Panther. And how about Gumby? Let us tell you, they didn't call his sidekick "Pokey" for nothing!

Let's call a spade a spade, boys, and a gay blade a gay blade. Snaggle Puss - Gay. Elmer Fudd - Gay. Winnie the Pooh - Gay, and darn proud of it. Wile E. Coyote - Gay (and dumb, too. For all that money he spends on Acme products, he could buy dinner for the whole family at Peter Luger's)!

How interesting that human sexual characteristics are now ascribed to cartoon characters and two-dimensional stick figures, and how appropriate that these preposterous labels are affixed, in a manner which could barely pass the "straight-face" test, by, well, cartoon characters and two-dimensional stick figures masquerading as human beings.

Truly, our world needs more folks like Dr. James Dobson, if for no other reason than to remind us that birth control is a good thing. Certainly, we need no reminding that Big Bird, Barney and Popeye the Sailor Man (who had, we are told by cartoon historians, a wistful romp in the spinach patch with his arch rival, Brutus) are not members of our families - immediate or otherwise. They are, alas, mere cartoon characters - amorphous in the context of sexual preference.

Yes, if Donald and Daffy walk like ducks and squawk like ducks, they probably are ducks. As to their sexual preferences - or lack thereof - frankly, that's their business - a matter best left for dinner table discussion amongst Huey, Dewey and Louie (who, by the way, never hung out with the opposite sex, if you know what we mean).

Now, we don't know if Mickey Mouse is gay - although the no-shirt look and those red blousy shorts tell us he's a bit light in the pants. Personally, that's his business, not ours - or for that matter, Dr. Dobson's.

The draconian neocons, who thrive on telling us how to live our lives, seem to miss the very point that the SpongeBobs, Big Birds and Winnie the Poohs are so poignantly conveying to our children - that diversity and acceptance of our many differences are good things.

Of course, Dobson and his ilk fear diversity and difference. For variation debunks the "superman" myth (hey, didn't Superman wear tights?), and dissimilarity destroys their ill-conceived notions of a master race destined to control both mind and matter.

Sure, SpongeBob is decidedly gay. And the Tazmanian Devil is straight as an arrow. We ask you, which one would you rather have as part of your family?

So, what does any of this cartoon-bashing and Dobson-dribble have to do with our quality of life on Long Island. Well, nothing. Or everything. That's for you to decide, which, by the way, is precisely our point!

"Let's go, Patrick. Time to blow this popcorn shrimp stand..."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Black And Blue Monday

They'll Come Out To Shop At 5 AM, But Will They Come Out To Vote?

As the level of Tryptophan slowly diminishes, the last cup of apple cider quaffed down days ago, we awaken to find that the world remains much as it was when we last left it for the Thanksgiving holiday -- only worse.

If the Friday after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, then certainly, the first work day after must be Black and Blue Monday. The news over the weekend confirmed it. Stampede at Wal-Mart (did someone yell, "IMMIGRATION?"); a father and daughter skating on thin ice -- search and rescue turns to search and recovery; the Giants miss three (count 'em, 3) field goal attempts; the Jets lose -- AGAIN; and how many soldiers were killed in Iraq?

Who was the lucky one to get the long end of the wishbone? Surely, it wasn't this blogger. Pick up Sunday's Newsday and turn to the Our Town page of the Hempstead Life section (a misnomer, at best, as clearly this is not life in Hempstead, at least as we would like to know it) hoping to find some cheerful news. No such luck. Just another photo of smiling Kate, and much surmise as to her political future. Kate Murray For County Executive? [Denise, please don't put ideas into those big heads with the little minds.] "The sky's the limit," says Kate. More like "the sky is falling."

It has been nearly three weeks (count 'em, 3) since Election Day, and not a single Murraygram has threatened to clog my mailbox. The postman is forlorn, and that pile of bathroom reading material is dwindling. Suddenly, the information so vital to the voter before November 8th that it had to be mailed, on an almost daily basis, in full-color brochure, to every household at taxpayer expense is no longer of any great moment. Apparently, our "need to know" dead-headed at the end of the campaign trail. Surprise.

Enough of this politics. Back to Wal-Mart for that $300 laptop and the not-quite-designer jeans for $6.99. All shopping is local -- even if the manufacturer of those inexpensive clothes sets up shop in Indonesia so that 9 year old girls can toil in filthy sweatshops for 12 cents a day. The retailers must be doing something right to drag millions out of bed at 5 AM. Reports of folks camping outside the store the night before just to be the first in the door. Now that's what I call a fun way to cap off Thanksgiving. "Hey honey. Could you put the turkey leg and a piece of pumpkin pie in aluminum foil? We're spending the night at Wal-Mart!"

Gee, we've never seen such enthusiasm as there is in fighting for a parking space at Roosevelt Field on Black Friday so you can pay half for items previously marked up 150%. If only we could muster such unmitigated excitement for the election of Fire Commissioners. Why, imagine them fighting over a parking space at Town Hall so they could break down the doors at the next meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals? Only if the new Mrs. D'Amato does a pole dance. Even then. . .

Could be a simple matter of marketing. Vote for One Sanitation Commissioner, Get the Second FREE! Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla could give out free gifts to the first 100 residents to walk through the door at a Town Board meeting. We hear the Tickle-Me-Kate doll is in great demand this year (not only does it smile, it wets itself on your wallet). Coupons for instant variances, perhaps. And that cooking demonstration at Angie Cullen's Culinary Kitchen always draws them in. "Today we'll prepare Turkey ala Santino, stuffed with all kinds of pork that you'll gladly pay twice as much for. Enjoy!"

Yes, you can lead shoppers to the mall in the hope of finding a bargain -- even at 5 AM -- but just try to yank 'em out of bed -- at any hour -- to vote, to attend a town meeting, or to participate in the day-to-day of their own government. To boldly stuff our stockings? Of course. To partake in the stuff that impacts directly upon our quality of life? Ahhhhh, we don't think so. Go figure. . .

You know, this blogger is getting kinda sleepy. Its time for a nap, and then, some more leftover turkey. "Heap on that Tryptophan, will ya Ma?" After a long, deep sleep, maybe I'll wake up and hear some good news for a change. Osama Bin Laden declares, "Can't we all just get along?" -- World peace erupts. -- There were no reported DWIs today. -- Father and daughter skate on thin ice and arrive home safely in time for Thanksgiving dinner with family. -- Voters turn out in record numbers to elect local canine catcher. Kate Murray concedes defeat to Deputy Dawg.

Well, if all else fails, we can always go shopping!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

And A Child Shall Lead Them. . .

Evaluating Alternatives To Property Tax Based School Financing

We've all heard the Chinese proverb, as adopted by the Gordon's of Glouster Fisherman (or was it Mrs. Paul?) "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Of course, with all the mercury in the fresh fish and the PCBs in farmed fish, one has to ask, "Should we be eating fish at all?" Take those Omega-3 supplements, a couple of Lipitor, and bite into that 18-ounce prime rib, we say.

But we digress. We acknowledge that teaching the child has much more merit than spoon-feeding that child for the rest of his life -- fish or no fish. The real issue we must contend with is the price of the fish versus the cost of educating that child.

As any fish lover can appreciate, what was once less expensive than chicken is now among the most expensive eats. Why, you can't get a decent salmon steak for under $6.99 a pound, and those "exotics" are untouchable.

Okay, so buying the fish doesn't come cheap. What about teaching to fish? What is the price tag of our children's education?

Well, a recent review of this blogger's mortgage escrow reveals that the lender paid $3,572.00 to the Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes last month for School Property Taxes. [Cash that check quickly, Don, before it bounces!] Now, that's $3,572.00 for half a year -- or 6 months, for those who count using both hands. Folks, that's $7,144.00 per year for School Taxes alone. How much was that fish again?

Assuming that the $7,144.oo is in the neighborhood of 60% of our total Property Tax bill, adding in 20% for County Property Taxes and another 20% for Town and Special District Taxes, would bring this blogger's total Property Tax bill for 2005-06 to a whopping $11,906.66. That's nearly $12,000 in Property Taxes for a single year on a postage-stamp sized lot improved by a single family home (sans illegal tenants to help defray the costs).

Assume, as well, that the school portion of the property tax will double by decade's end -- not a stretch, by any means, as even contingency budgets up the ante 6-8% each year. That's roughly $14,000 in School Taxes alone. If County, Town and Special District taxes remain constant (even Kate Murray couldn't guarantee that freeze), this blogger's Property Tax bill for 2009-10 would be in excess of $19,000 for a single tax year. What's in your wallet?

Forget unacceptable or even unconscionable. The School Property Tax, based solely on the market value of real property, has become, simply put, unaffordable. Unless your income will double by 2009, you are not even keeping up. [And heaven help us should the local property tax no longer be deductible!]

The problem is abundantly clear. Rising costs, escalating budgets, inadequate State Aid, and a cadre of overburdened property owners who, if they are asked to continue to pay for fishing lessons, will soon find themselves starving to death.

The solutions? Why ask us? Heck, we're no experts. What do we know? Well, for one thing, it doesn't take an Alan Greenspan - or even an Ewald B. Nyquist (always loved that name) -- to figure out that in New York, the State Aid formula (where some districts get nearly full funding while others hover near the 12% mark) must have been concocted not by Einstein, but by Professor Irwin Corey.

There needs to be a "fix" geared toward what we'll call an equitable distribution of State Aid to all school districts. After all, teaching a child to fish shouldn't cost that much more in Coxsackie than it does in Coram, and children in both districts deserve -- and under the State Constitution, should be deemed equally entitled to -- an equivalent share of State funding. [We're still having a bit of trouble coming to terms with the State Constitution, Article XI, Section 1 of which mandates that "The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance of a system of free common schools, wherein all children of this state may be educated." (Emphasis added.)]

Okay, so free education is never free, but come on Mr. and Mrs. State Legislator, you're not living up to your obligation under our State Constitution! Where are the jurists who strictly interpret these things when we need them? Find us one Judge on the Court of Appeals who will say that inequitable funding of public schools by the State is inherently unequal under New York's Constitution, or that where School Districts are mandated to play, then the State is required to pay.

Anyway, if we are to be left to fend for ourselves -- and it appears we are, for even the fishing nets provided by the State have gaping holes in them -- then we'd better start swimming or, to paraphrase Robert Zimmerman (a/k/a Bob Dylan), we'll sink like that proverbial stone.

Of course, there is no paucity of ideas being advanced -- just an apparent lack of initiative on the part of our elected officials to grab the bull by the horns. Oh, plenty of bull, all right, but few if any willing to take them by the horns.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, well known for their successful court challenge of the State Aid formula as applied to New York City, has advanced a Schools For New York's Future Act. The proposal, reviewed, considered, and, in many respects, adopted by the education community, calls for the following:

AN ADDITIONAL $8.6 BILLION FOR OPERATING EXPENSES to be provided to districts across the state. The bill takes the same funding reforms that the court ordered for New York City and applies them to every district in New York State. This means that hundreds of districts throughout the state will receive substantial increases-a total of almost $3 billion-in addition to the $5.6 billion that the court ordered for New York City. No district's current state aid allocation would be reduced. The bill calls for a four-year phase-in of these new funds, with appropriate adjustments for inflation and student enrollment.

AN ADDITIONAL $10 BILLION FOR IMPROVING CAPITAL FACILITIES to relieve overcrowding, reduce class sizes, and other maintenance and facilities projects. Of this amount, $9.2 billion would be used for projects in New York City.

A TRANSPARENT, SIMPLIFIED FOUNDATION FORMULA that consolidates over 30 existing state aid categories into a single funding stream, providing districts with predictability and transparency in the way their schools are funded. The foundation formula starts with a base level of funding-about $8,000 per pupil-which is then multiplied by the number of enrolled pupils in the district. This figure is then adjusted to make sure that schools with high rates of poverty, children with disabilities, and English language learners receive substantial extra resources. Finally, the amount is adjusted by a cost of education index and a sparsity factor.

A CLEAR, FAIR FORMULA FOR DETERMINING EACH DISTRICT'S STATE/LOCAL SHARE that is based on the local district's ability to pay and its relative enrollment of students with high rates of poverty. The formula substantially increases the state's overall share of education funding. For many districts, this means that the proposed formula will result in lowering the proportion of total expenditures paid by local taxpayers. For New York City, and certain other districts that have not been successful in providing their students a sound basic education, this fair share local contribution would be mandatory.

AN ENHANCED ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM that will guarantee that the influx of funds is used in ways that actually provide all students a genuine opportunity for a sound basic education. New York City and other districts whose students are currently not meeting state standards would be required to develop a four-year comprehensive sound basic education plan that will replace most of the current planning requirements. The commissioner will issue regulations that will ensure that districts' comprehensive SBE plans set forth annual and long-term benchmarks for measuring outcomes, and that there is extensive public engagement of parents, teachers, administrators, and school-based planning and shared decision-making teams throughout the process.

The CFE's proposal is not without its detractors, and, at the very least, one has to question the "equity" in giving New York City's school children $9.2 billion of the facilities improvement funds while the rest of New York's kids have to share the remaining $0.8 billion. The Bill has its shortcomings, but nevertheless, its a start. As they say, that journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Glaringly absent from CFE's proposal is how in the dickens we're going to pay for all this equity. Unless we are willing to shoulder $100,000 in School Property Tax per household (as if we're not already headed in that direction), we've got to think outside of the box -- or, at least, outside the house, where the funding of our schools is dependent upon a regressive property-based system of revenue raising.

Liz Krolik, a coordinator for the Alliance for Quality Education, a statewide coalition of more than 230 organizations, and an organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, posited a few palatable suggestions, as were published in Newsday this past September. [SEE A Crazy Way To Fund Schools.] In the height of the campaign season, Newsday's timely Long Island Topic seemingly flew under the radar. Perhaps we can put it back up on the screen.

Advancing possible reforms, Ms. Krolik opined:

The state income tax, for instance, is a progressive tax based on ability to pay. Over the past 25 years the top state income tax rates have dramatically dropped. Simply by restoring these rates, the state would draw in the needed revenues to fund education. Calling on wealthier residents to pay their share would help close the gap and guarantee access to extracurricular activities for all kids.

Another option is to eliminate corporate income tax loopholes. It's time that the state reinstated these levies that would broaden the tax base, shift the regressive system from individual taxpayer to a more progressive corporate taxpayer system and raise needed revenues.

The Assembly has introduced the Schools for New York's Future Act, legislation designed to fix the school funding formula, increase public accountability and increase state school aid. The legislation uses a formula that determines state funding based on the needs of the students.

With this kind of tax reform, or some mix of all three ideas, parents won't have to be overburdened by raising private funds for sports and extracurricular activities, and no children will be denied their constitutional right to an education.

Surely, there are pros and cons, costs and benefits, of every suggested reform. Still, one thing is abundantly clear -- reform is imperative if we are to survive financially while striving to provide our children with a workable system of public education where No Child Left Behind is no longer an unfunded mythical beast devouring local resources, but rather, a fully implemented reality, backed by funds from both Washington and Albany.

Teach a child to fish. By all means. Let's find a way to pay for those lessons that won't leave us -- and our children -- fishing with a baitless line in an empty pond!
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What's your opinion? Thoughts, suggestions, rants? The Community Alliance would like to know. E-mail us at

The Community Alliance takes a Thanksgiving holiday hiatus, thankful for the legion of volunteers who understand that the causes of community, great and small, never take a holiday, and mindful of the fact that while we may enjoy the bounty bestowed upon us, many -- on Thanksgiving Day and every day -- go without. Click on to feed the hungry. "Whoever Saves One Life Saves a World Entire."

From all of us at The Community Alliance, a happy, thankful and thought-filled Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fire And Water: Paying To Play

Comments To Blogspots Spur Debate ~ Keep Those Postings Coming!

A recent post to one of The Community Alliance rants raised some interesting points, reached certain far-reaching, if but entirely obvious conclusions, and, we believe, is well worth repeating here.

Nassau Resident writes:
So much to say, so little time. So much to understand, so little time. So much to think about, so little time. Of course, that's one of our basic problems these days, isn't it - so little time left in our harried, busy lives for us as individuals to seek out the truth for ourselves; instead, we are more and more often forced to listen to the processed and reduced 'truths' we have to hear on the news, read in the papers, or watch on television.

Is there financial waste or misspending in the fire service on Long Island? Before we say yes or no, let's remember one thing: the brave men and women who leave their families when the gong sounds, be it during dinner, services, or the middle of the night, are generally using the equipment that has been provided for them by the taxing authorities; the firehouses are generally constructed by the taxing authorities; the vehicles are purchased by taxing authorities. These taxing authorities - fire districts - are run by publicly elected officials. Does everyone know that the second Tuesday in December, every year, is the annual election of Fire District Commissioners, across the whole of New York State? When was the last time YOU voted in this election? It is these commissioners who decide what to spend, when to spend it, how to spend it. They go on trips to Vegas for 'commissioner' conventions, supposedly to learn what they can about how to run a fire district. Yeah, as if some guy who's a sanitation worker in his real job, or some other low-level menial labor, really has the business aptitude to understand what it takes to run a multi-million dollar fire district. Not to belittle these folks in their day-to-day pursuits, they are all hard working, family supporters. But let's be honest, if they know so much about running multi-million dollar businesses, why are they picking up garbage for a living?

It is here, with the Commissioners, that we must start, just as we must start with the School Boards to control spending in the schools, and the Sanitation Commissioners to control costs in the Sanitary Districts - by the way, some of these same Fire Commissioners are also publicly elected Sanitation Commissioners - bet you didn't know that either - and as Sanitation Commissioners, they even draw a salary. You think they know any more about running multi-million dollar Sanitation Districts than they do about running multi-million dollar Fire Districts? Maybe that's why Districts like Sanitation 6 charge way more per household than the Town of Hempstead.

Newsday's series of articles is revealing many interesting facts, some wholly truthful, others misinterpreted, still others simply out of context, but while they have singled out individual firehouses, fire companies, and districts as examples of what they call abuses and excesses, one must take careful note that the same names seem to keep coming up, again and again and again. And while these departments may very well have spending out of control, one must ask a very good question: can I do it better myself? It is always easy to sit back and pass judgement; to develop the plan, and then to execute it properly is a whole different matter.

A friend of mine ran for Fire Commissioner in our district a few years back, and lost the election. Not for lack of trying, you understand, but partly because the residents don't know, and they apparently don't care - turnout was around 5% - at least not until Newsday starts writing articles about the fire service.
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These comments, by a poster whose identity remains unknown to The Community Alliance, are well thought out and well said.

Absolutiely correct in praising the brave and selfless volunteers of our fire departments. They have never been a part of the problem. Well, almost never.

It is also true that we have to start with the Commissioners -- the folks we "elect" to represent us. Shame on us for not coming out to vote in these elections. Do you think at least part of that has to do with when the elections are held (December for Fire and Water, August for Sanitation), and that the interests of certain groups/people are best served by not publicizing that vote?

Fact is, most folks do not know that elections for Fire District and Water District Commissioners are held on the 2nd Tuesday in December -- most are still digesting Thanksgiving dinner and getting ready for Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza -- and even those who do know rarely pay attention. Too bad, as these are the elected officials who decide how much of our money the districts will tax, and how and where our money will be spent, whether for most critical local services, or for junkets to the Bahamas.

Perhaps we need to prevail upon our State Legislature to have all such "local" elections held on the same day every year. Why not on that certain Tuesday in November, or, if they fear the voter would be confused by too much on the ballot, that Super Tuesday in May when we vote on school budgets, library budgets, and corresponding Trustees, those other local mandates that consume our thoughts and our money?

Could be if we, as taxpayers, took an interest in these elections, scutinized who was running, reviewed budgets and processes, and then kept our eyes on the pot (after all, it is our money), maybe, just maybe, we would see qualified candidates elected as Commissioners, and at least some semblance of accountability to the public in the operation of these Special Districts.

Of course, most residents barely take an interest in the election of Presidents, County Executives and Town Supervisors, so what can we expect when it comes to Commissioners of Fire, Water and Sanitation.

And the question still remains, do we really need 126 (or whatever that number is today) separate and distinct fire districts and school districts, umpteen sanitary districts, and the more than 400 other "special" taxing jurisdictions that spread time, effort and money too thin on this not all that long island?

The Special Districts fly below the radar, like almost everything that happens in government operations, simply because we let them. We turn the other cheek, go about our "harried, busy lives," stopping only long enough -- if then -- to gasp at our property tax bills, to let out a huge grumbling sound, and to throw up our hands in disgust.

Our involvement, as citizens, as residents, as taxpayers, cannot be a passive one, lest we resign ourselves, as if by fatalistic design, to a decline in quality of life, in basic services, in simple human dignities. Our growing complacency, our willingness to accept what has been and what is, our refusal to stand up, shout out and be counted, are eclipsed only by the ever escalating price we pay in the loss of suburbia, the least of which, in the long run, may well be the property tax.

Indeed, the fault lies not in our stars -- or even in those Commissioners -- but in ourselves.
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Find A Solution, Win A Day Off From Property Tax
Seems that there's only one way to get new ideas to the table; to generate enough interest and excitement so that folks actually take it upon themselves to do someting. Have a contest!

And so it is with finding solutions to the property tax crisis here on Long Island.

The question: What can be done to reduce or eliminate the School Property Tax on Long Island?

Give us your answer, in 500 words or less, and, should your proposal be selected, The Community Alliance will post it prominently on its website, feature it on this blog, forward same on to our legislative leaders, the County Executive, and the media, and, better still, reward you with one (1) Property Tax Free Day* in 2006, courtesy of the C0-Chairs of The Community Alliance.

Now that's a win-win for everyone!

E-mail your proposals to Contest open to bona fide homeowners residing in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Deadline for contest submissions is Friday, December 30, 2005. Special District Commissioners and their families are not eligible. Void in the village of Malverne, or where otherwise prohibited by law. Winner must prove home ownership and produce actual tax statements as issued by the office of the Receiver of Taxes. The decision of the judges will be final.

*Value of Property Tax Free Day to be determined by dividing winning homeowner's entire property tax bill (School, County, Town, Special District) by 365, with a check or cash equivalent to be paid to said homeowner. In the event of a tie, the C0-Chairs of The Community Alliance will split the difference and go out to lunch at Umbertos.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Suozzi Launches School Tax Reduction Campaign

School Board Presidents, Legislators, Comptroller Join in Unprecedented Coordinated Effort to Reduce School Property Taxes

Mineola, NY - On the heels of his overwhelming reelection as Nassau County Executive, Tom Suozzi joined County Legislators and school board presidents from across the county to launch a campaign to help reduce school taxes, which make up the largest portion of property tax bills in Nassau County.

"The most important issue on Long Island right now is the high property taxes we pay in Nassau County, much of which comes from school taxes," Suozzi said. "We have to start building a consensus that this is the number one problem we face on Long Island and we have to find a solution."

Residents throughout the county have identified high school taxes as a key issue, Suozzi said, and businesses also say the taxes are a reason why more companies are not locating here. While the county has no control over school taxes, Suozzi said he felt a moral obligation to take on the fight to reduce them because the issue is so important to the future of Long Island. Several leading school district officials asked Suozzi to become involved in finding a solution to the crushing burden of high school taxes.

"But this won't be solved overnight, and the answer will not come this week or in the next couple of months," Suozzi said. "This is a long term problem that needs real solutions, not a quick fix."

Suozzi pointed to an imbalance in state aid as a major contributor to the problem of ever escalating school taxes in Nassau County. "We only get 17 percent of our school funding from the state when the state average is 37 percent," he said.

The County Executive said he has invited representatives from the 56 school districts in Nassau County to discuss possible solutions to the school tax problem during a meeting in early December. He and his staff have been meeting informally on the issue with a smaller group of school board leaders since the early fall.

County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, who appeared with Suozzi at the news conference, said high property values in Nassau County also contribute to the school tax problem on Long Island. "Our research on this issue has shown that the state depends too much on property values when it calculates state aid formulas," he said. "Everyone knows our property values are high, but what people may not realize is that more than half of Nassau residents can't afford to buy their own houses based on their incomes. So we're paying high taxes, based on low school aid, because of how much our houses are worth. This system needs to be changed. A lot of people are house rich, but income poor."

The half a dozen school board leaders who joined Suozzi to launch the campaign praised his willingness to take on a leadership role on the sensitive issue. "This is only the beginning of our efforts, and we look forward to working with all of the county's school districts and seeking solutions to this very pressing issue," said Tom Murphy, President of the North Shore School District Board of Education.

The December meeting with school board leaders is being called to develop an agenda for the school tax reduction effort. Potential solutions to the tax problem may include the possible consolidation of certain business functions among school districts, Suozzi said. He also did not rule out the possibility of legal action in order to secure Nassau County's fair share of school aid from the state.

Other school board officials joining the County Executive for the announcement included: Amy Beyers, Vice President from the North Shore School District; Cindy Cardinal and Aline Khatchadourian, president and vice president of the Manhasset School District; Richard Tortorici and Janet Bakes Wilk, president and past president of the Glen Cove School District; Ron Walsh, president of the Locust Valley School District; and Roy Lester, president of the Long Beach City School District.

Suozzi urged school district leaders to come together to find a solution for the good of the county.

"I believe that I'm in a position, and we're all in a position, to organize and bring together these 56 different entities that need to be brought together, right now, on this issue because we're all getting beat up, school district by school district, community by community," he said.
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Is your local School Board "on board" the campaign train to reduce School Property Taxes? If not, why not?

Contact the members of your community's Board of Education -- call, e-mail, send a letter, or, better yet, attend a Board meeting -- and tell them to get on board, or get out of the way!

How about your State Senator and Assemblymember? Have they joined the fight? If not, why not?

Contact your State Legislators and tell them you want real School Property Tax reform now!

Ask your local civic association and community groups, are they on board? If not, why not?

This is no time for sitting on the sidelines, the potted plants of "Main Street." We've done too much sitting around over the years as Special Districts from Fire to Sanitation to Water run amuck, as we play footsie with politicos who pat us on the backs with one hand, while their fiefdoms pick our pockets with the other.

And your neighbors -- have they signed on to lower School Property Taxes? Do they even realize that the battle rages so close to home?

E-mail this Blog (SEE link below) to your friends, colleagues and fellow Long Islanders. The more who know, the greater our chances of victory!

Now some may view Tom Suozzi's activism on this front as a purely political ploy. It may very well be. For the moment, however, this is the only train in the station on track for real Property Tax reform.

Friend or foe of the County Executive, there is no denying that the oppressive and regressive Property Tax -- and, in particular, the School Property Tax, which accounts for more than 60% of our Property Tax tab -- is strangling us here on Long Island, and there is neither politics nor ploy in saying that Property Tax is the enemy. The enemy of your enemy is your friend!

Yes, that train is about to leave the station, folks. "Get on board, or get out of the way!"

Two Nuts Roasting Near An Open Fire

Murray & Santino Incinerate Oceanside Foodtown

Just days after the Dynastic Duo of Hempstead Town, Supervisor Kate Murray and Senior Councilman Anthony Santino, knocked down the Oceanside Motel's sign and tore down its walls, the pair took a blow-torch to the neighboring Oceanside Foodtown, burning the building to the ground. "We are marking the end of the Oceanside Foodtown’s 'reign of appetizing' on this community," announced Murray. "This unwelcome neighbor is gone and in its place we will build yet another unnecessary and non-revenue raising local parking lot."

Murray and Santino had spearheaded the torching of the long abandoned Foodtown. The vacant building was, in its heyday, the home of sordid sales of canned goods, including the dreaded string beans and notorious creamed corn. In April of 2004, town officials directed the town attorney's office to move forward with a plan to order 365 deli platters and convert the site to an annex of the Coliseum Deli. In May of this year the court signed an order clearing the shelves of the former supermarket of everything from pasta to glazed ham, and word went out at Town Hall to begin preparing Maletov Cocktails. "The town has moved aggressively to burn down the Oceanside Foodtown, and it's very gratifying to be able to see this place go up in flames now," said Santino. "We've worked hand-in-hand with arsonists, gang warlords, and the homeless to make Oceanside an even seedier place to live, and removing the remnants of the supermarket by conflagration is an important part of our commitment to destroy the community."

As black smoke rose over Oceanside, 126 companies with 1029 pieces of equipment responding, Murray waxed poetic, the glow of the searing flames reflecting in the Supervisor's glistening eyes.

“Sure,” said Murray, roasting a marshmallow on the charred remains of what was the Foodtown checkout counter, “hammering that wrecking ball through the walls of the Oceanside Motel was awesome, but nothing beats a 5-alarmer to get the blood flowing. Care for a wiener on a toasted bun?”

Murray and Santino indicated that the town is preparing to build a parking field – number 1,478 in a series -- at the location. Construction is tentatively slated for later this fall, the cooling of the ground below the former Foodtown’s foundation permitting. The Supervisor and Councilman said that the parking lot would be aesthetically attractive and coordinate with recent work the town has performed on local streetscape enhancements and building fa├žade beautification. “Oh, screw that,” said Murray. “It’s a f---n parking lot. Asphalt. Concrete barriers. Parking meters tied in to the Property Tax bills of every man, woman and child in Oceanside’s glorious Parking District. You expected maybe Nirvana? Who’s kidding whom? You want those uneven brick paved walkways with weeds sprouting in every direction? Or those new plantings that no one from the Town will ever water? Granted, the Victorian lighting does give residents the opportunity to pay more into the Town Lighting District’s coffers, something Tony tells me residents would enjoy, but God Almighty, do we really need another (expletive) parking lot here?”

“We’re continuing the town's efforts to make Oceanside's downtown even more desolate and unattractive,” declared Councilman Santino, popping Jiffy Pop over red hot embers, as firefighters lugged hoses across the sidewalk.

"Councilman Santino and I want to thank Oceanside neighbors for working with us to rid this community of the Oceanside Motel and the Oceanside Foodtown," concluded Murray. "Today is the beginning of a new and promising Master Plan to build a parking field for every family in this neighborhood and throughout Oceanside. Tomorrow, we sack Nemo’s. After that, who knows?”
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POSTSCRIPT: At 10:30 AM today (November 15th), the Hempstead Town Board holds its monthly meeting.

There is an item on the Administrative Calendar (meaning, without public comment) to bond $24,000,000 to finance highway and road improvements, as well as millions of dollars in other bonds (meaning, Property Tax increases) -- for heavy equipment, light equipment, a truck washing station, and the list goes on and on. What? No parking lots?

At the Town Board meeting to be held on December 13, 2005 at 10:30 AM, there will be public hearings on Resolutions regarding the annual compensation of the office of Supervisor, Councilmembers and Town Clerk. Do you think there will be anything left over for a raise for Kate's Dad, Brothers and sundry other relatives? Well, they can always float a bond!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dissent Is Not Disloyalty

Fire Districts Under Fire; Costs And Expenditures Scrutinized in Newsday Special Report

If you think its tough to get taxpayers - let alone officialdom - to make waves about Sanitary Districts and Water Districts, just try getting someone to take a closer look at how Long Island's Fire Districts operate.

Fire Districts - those other tax-dollar guzzling fiefdoms that do business "independent" of government control and oversight - have long flown under the radar, avoiding public scrutiny of any kind. Post 9/11, the world of Long Island's firefighters has been nothing less than untouchable.

Quietly over the years, community leaders have been questioning budgets, costs and perceived abuses, only to be stonewalled by the local Fire Districts and largely ignored by local officials.

Even the media, asked to investigate what goes on behind the firehouse doors, was reluctant to do an expose -- more, we suspect, a case of corporate jitters than the front-line reporters' unwillingness to break the story.

This week, in a special report titled Firealarm, Newsday takes a long, hard look at what's going on at Long Island's Fire Districts. [SEE]

It isn't about the firefighter -- other than how difficult it has become to attract volunteers into service, and the fact that firefighters who would expose abuses within Fire Districts quickly become the pariahs of both department and community.

It is, however, about declining service calls - particularly for fires - escalating costs, and internal operations that, despite the outward appearances of local control (like the Sanitary Districts and Water Districts, Fire District Commissioners are "elected" by the public), remain shrouded in secrecy in what essentially remain good old boys clubs.

When was the last time a Fire District on Long Island was audited? How many residents - other than the friends and family of firefighters - actually vote in Fire District elections? How many elections for Commissioners are contested? [This blogger recalls a contested election for Fire Commissioner where, if you supported the "outsider" and your support was known to the "insiders," you were bullied, harrassed, and, should you dare to show up at the firehouse to cast your ballot, stared down by the poll workers and the sitting Commissioners who stood watch outside the voting booth. No intimidation there!]

Then there's the question of consolidation of Fire Districts, with the possible elimination of some Departments. Newsday reports that there is now more fire equipment and apparatus on Long Island than in all of the fire companies in New York City and Los Angeles combined. Just how many independent fire departments do we need to cover districts which, in some cases, are as small as one (1) square mile?

And what of the Fire District's "reserve" funds, monies collected above and beyond annual operating costs which are rolled over into District accounts and utilized for building campaigns and sundry incidentals over which the taxpayer has little or no say? How many Fire Districts refund the surplus to the taxpayers, or so much as tell them about it before again raising the tax the following year? We're talking, in some instances, of millions of dollars in the Fire Districts' coffers, with no accountability to the public.

They don't want you to know. They don't want you to ask. They don't want you to look. And heaven help you should you question the propriety of any conduct of your local Fire Department. "How dare you criticize the bravest of the brave! Those who place their lives on the line, as volunteers, no less, 24/7. Why, its simply unamerican."

No, it is not about the firefighter. It is, however, all about how our tax dollars (and "voluntary contributions," for those who reside in Voluntary Fire Districts*) are being spent by quasi-governmental agencies that, until now, have been answerable to no one.

One suspects that the State Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, will soon begin to take a closer look at Long Island's Fire Districts and Departments and how they spend our money. It is high time. No doubt there will be an uproar at the firehouses -- "Who are you to question expenditures, of any kind, made to protect the public, and the costs of maintaining our fire departments, home of the brave, if not anywhere near free."

It is time that someone examined the inner workings of our Fire Districts and Departments. Bravo, Newsday, for taking the operations of these most sensitive Special Districts out of the shadows and into the cleansing light of day. You won't be bullied -- intimidated by those who would label you as disloyal by virtue of your willingness to question -- and neither will we.

*Should you fail to make a "contribution" - above and beyond the property tax you pay - you will find a uniformed firefighter at the door to your house to personally collect. No axe in hand, but he might as well have one!

For more on Long Island's fire service, read The Big Burn as featured in the Long Island Press.
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Dissent Is Not Disloyalty. . .

In the 1950s, if you spoke out against the outrages of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the House Unamerican Activities Committee, or the Internal Security Act, you were labeled a Communist, blacklisted, and disgraced as a sympathizer of causes that ran counter to the American ideal.

In the early 1970s, if you protested the war in Vietnam, the White House's "secret plan to end the war," or J. Edgar Hoover's wiretaps in the name of national security, your were disloyal to your country, summarily admonished to either "love it or leave it."

Today, should you dare to question the motives of going to war or staying at war in Iraq, the provisions of the Patriot Act, or the actions of a President said to be taken to protect a nation and make the world safe for democracy, you are derided, and accused of rewriting history.

Closer to home, its more than friendly fire that comes our way when we protest the abuses of the Sanitary Districts and the tyrannies of one-party rule at Town Hall. And just wait and see what we'll be called as we challenge the Fire Districts.

Ah, the more things change.

There's plenty we could say when it comes to those who would silence the debate -- whether that debate be of matters of global concern or on the costs of picking up the trash on our own block -- as there is concerning those who would remain silent where a rising concert of voices is both warranted and necessary.

With reverence to those who have said it and are saying it, we defer to someone who, perhaps, said it best -- the late Edward R. Murrow, correspondent for CBS News:

"No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly.

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men— not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it— and rather successfully. Cassius was right. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'

Good night, and good luck."

See It Now, March 9, 1954

Powerful words then. No less meaningful and relevant words now. Words for all of us to think about. Words for each of us to live by.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Tax Plan To End All Tax Plans

The Community Alliance Announces Plan To Eliminate All Property Taxes*

After an exhaustive, 2 1/2 hour study -- during which experts from around the nation (among them Harriet Miers, Moe Howard and Pat Paulsen) convened to brainstorm the issue -- The Community Alliance has formulated a penultimate plan (apocalypse being the ultimate) that will eliminate all property taxes in Nassau County.*

If adopted, School, County and Town* property taxes will be phased out - 20% each year over the next 5 years - until residents* are free of the burden entirely.

To make up for the drastic shortfall in revenues lost by the elimination of property taxes,* estimated to be in the billions, without a corresponding increase in income taxes, The Community Alliance has taken a novel -- yet certainly not unprecedented -- approach: increase property taxes for Town of Hempstead residents four fold each year - maybe more, if they take a liking to it.

The plan, dubbed "Stick It To Hempstead Town - They'll Pay For Anything... Twice," was quickly endorsed by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

"Absolutely brillant," declared Suozzi. "If only Harvey Levinson had proposed higher property taxes, more cronyism, and $700 steak dinners for every registered Republican, he would have taken the Town by storm."

Reached for comment at the Coliseum Deli, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray was quick to embrace the plan. "This will give taxpayers in Hempstead Town the opportunity to employ additional Committeeman at the over 300 new taxing jurisdictions I intend to create," said a smiling Murray. "We will never have to increase existing taxes -- just set up another Special District, tell residents its good for them, establish a tax rate, and 'freeze' it. Then do it all over again the next day."

"Think of it," said Town Councilman Tony Santino, who was tapped by Murray to administer the plan in Hempstead Town. "Its ingenius. If people enjoy paying three or four times as much to have their trash picked up in the Sanitary Districts, imagine how ecstatic they'll be when they're paying thousands more for Salad Dressing Districts, Light & Lively Yogurt Districts, No Turn On Red Districts, Pothole Districts, Support Your Local Animal Shelter Districts. Man, the possibilities are endless!"

"Damn," blurted Nat Swergold, the recently named Special Counsel for the newly formed Murray Mailgram District 1, "we're gonna have to add hundreds of additional trucks next Passover. I can hardly wait."

"Yes," said Jeffrey Katz -- the Democrat turned Republican, Liberal yet Conservative, Orthodox but "I'll try the Shrimp with Lobster Sauce if it will get me your vote," fact-challenged contender for Jeff Toback's seat in the County Legislature -- "Now we can finally establish that We Were All Jewish In The Beginning District I've been yearning for!"

Asked if Town of Hempstead residents might not be a wee bit infuriated about having to cover School, Town and Special District taxes for the entire County, Town Attorney Joe Ra -- who will soon be designated as Commissioner (1 of 100 such Commissioners -- this week) of the Richie Kessel 'Cause I'm Big Enough To Be My Own District District -- had this to say: "Look, we increase taxes at the Town every year. Sometimes we call it a 'bond.' Other times, we up the tax and figure no one will notice those 'plus' signs on their tax statements. Maybe they're crosses. Its a religious thing. Folks pay good money for religion these days. Anyway, we pad a little here, fudge a little there, cut back a bit more on Code enforcement, zoning regulation, and street sign replacement, and, voila, they're paying $100,000 a year in property taxes, eating cat food, wearing the same dirty skivvies day in and day out, and loving every minute of it!"

Okay, but won't they eventually figure out that they've been had? "Hey," retorted Ra, "We screw our constituents royally, literally giving it to them by the numbers. The opposition discloses every foible, runaway mismanagement, nonexistent oversight, and millions of taxpayer dollars thrown out the window for postage, patronage and playing the public for patsies. Every paper in town -- save the Richner publications (thanks guys, that tax abatement for your new Garden City headquarters is on us) -- lambasts us and endorses the other guy, and still 96,146 residents (well, 146 were residents. The others were bused in from the New Orleans Superdome) voted for Kate Murray."

Sure, treat 'em like dirt and make 'em pay through the gills for it. They'd protest by the thousands on the Mall in D.C. Hold sit-ins at college campuses across the country. Why, in France, they'd burn every car with a Le Murray bumper sticker on it. But not in Hempstead Town. No siree. We take all they can dish out, then ask where we can send the check. [Please make checks payable to Donald X. Clavin, Jr., Receiver of Taxes. Cash may be dropped off at your local Sanitary District for distribution to the party faithful.]

96,000 some odd (mostly odd? Okay, face it, they're completely odd) voters cast ballots in Hempstead Town to keep the party going. Here's to the next 100 years, fellas.

"Do you think if we really try to ignore the problems that plague America's largest township, while continuing to pile on the taxes, feigning no 'control,' sending out those 8 1/2 by 11 glossies, and smiling for the cameras, we can get 100,000 votes next time?"

We wouldn't be at all surprised!

*Except in the Town of Hempstead, or where otherwise prohibited by the gross stupidity of its residents.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Continuing Misadventures Of Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor

Episode 13 - Reassessing The Reassessment

Yes, it's Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor. Strange visitor from another planet who came to Nassau County with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal assessors. Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor, who can change the assessment of mighty townships, reclassify single family homes as commercial properties with his bare hands, and who, disguised as Harvey Levinson, mild-mannered Assistant District Attorney for a great suburban prosecutor... fights a never-ending battle to consolidate Sanitary Districts, restructure the property tax, and end the patronage way.

In our last episode, Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor, had secured the records of the Nassau County Board of Elections, noting the names and addresses of all registered voters who had cast their ballots for Kate Murray. "These houses will all be reclassified as Commercial premises," quipped our hero. "Now they will pay for their evil and thoughtless ways."

Ducking behind a nearby cell phone tower, Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor, donned his now famous cape (previously assessed as a high ranch), and took flight to Sanitary District 1 to do battle with his nemesis, Natman of the Planet Swergold.

As fate would have it, Swergold, who was off at Morton's Steakhouse having a $700 filet mignon, had left a trap for the unsuspecting Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor -- a garbage truck filled with Murrayite, the only known substance, mined in the Ra Galaxy, capable of zapping Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor's powers to reassess.

"Great Suozzi's ghost," came the cry from Denis Dillon, our hero's adopted father, as he clutched his Rosary.

Would this be the end of Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor? Would the League of Women Superheroes intervene to save him? Will the Town of Hempstead be spared from the evil clutches of the Mondelloids -- creatures from another dimension of time and space whose thinly-veiled acts of benevolence are cryptically codified in their treatise, To Serve Man. [Yes, its a cookbook, you idiot. Haven't you ever watched a Twilight Zone marathon?] And what about, Naomi?

For the answer to these and other questions, be sure to join us for Episode 14, Assessing the Reassessment of the Assessment, in The Continuing Misadventures Of Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled pogrom, The Kate Murray Hour and A Half, with your host, Kate Murray.


The Next Frontier: Beyond Property Tax Relief ~ REAL REFORM

Tom Suozzi, having tackled the county's fiscal woes during his first term as County Exec, has now set his sights on another mess he inherited and we all pay handily for - the school property tax.

Accounting for somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of our property tax bill, school taxes, left unchecked, are going nowhere but UP. It was no election year hype when the pols told us that, unless we do something bold, the school property tax will DOUBLE within 5 years. Now that should frighten every homeowner in Nassau County.

When it comes to "bold," no one fits the bill better than Long Island's own Tom Suozzi. Think of him what you will (even Spitzer into the wind, if you'd like), his oft times brash style has behind it a substantive flair for innovation and creativity. Clearly, if there is anyone who could lead the charge to change the very fundamentals of how we finance our public schools, its Tom Suozzi.

No, he cannot do it alone, or simply pay homage to the old catch phrase, "We can do it because we did it." School District financing is as complex and intricate as the State's School Aid formula is archaic and incomprehensible. It will take a team of inspired and resourceful thinkers and doers (included among them, hopefully, more than a handful of Nassau County's best), ready and willing to take on both the status quo and the stagnant mindset of Albany -- which itself has been unable or unwilling to so much as poke at the property tax monster with a 10-foot pole.

Suozzi has said that "everything is on the table" vis-a-vis the school property tax. Of necessity, this must include more than passing consideration of many factors and options, including, without limitation, the following:

  • Full funding of State and Federally mandated programs. If you mandate it. Pay for it!;
  • Parity in State Aid among the State's multitude of school districts, including 126 such Districts -- each a taxing jurisdiction in and of itself -- on Long Island;
  • The realization that the State's STAR (School Tax Relief) [as in "Wish Upon A..."] program provides only paper relief, where a reduction of the school property tax is erased by a corresponding (or greater) hike in the tax rate by the School Districts;
  • Consolidation of School District programs, initiatives, common expenditures (i.e., transportation, insurance) and, in some instances, of the District's themselves;
  • Real answers to the tough question, "How many Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Deputy Superintendents, and assistants thereto does it take to operate Long Island's schools?"
  • Utilization of the existing revenues from the State Income Tax and sources other than a residential property tax to provide for the guarantee of a free primary and secondary education as embodied in the State Constitution in 1894: "The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this State may be educated." [We have a hard time equating a $6000+ school property tax bill with "free."];
  • Harnessing the power of strength in numbers by getting ALL of Long Island's School Boards in the same book and on the same page, lobbying the powers-that-be in Albany for funding parity with upstate districts, full funding of every mandated program, and substantive revision of the State Aid formula, which has, for all intents and purposes, been frozen in time since the 1960s;
  • Full funding of every No Child Left Behind initiative mandated by the feds, but unfunded by Congress;
  • The cooperation, support and proactive resolve of Long Island's delegation to the State Legislature in working with County officials (and Town officials, too, should they be so inclined to join the effort rather than to merely ridicule it) to restructure school financing. [We are fortunate to have in our own backyard the Deputy Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, the Honorable Dean Skelos. Dean has served Nassau County residents with distinction for more than two decades (that's over 20 years, folks). He is one of the most powerful people in Albany today. Its time for Dean to get on board the School Property Tax Reform train, in deed and not just in word (that "word" generally being STAR, which, as we said, provides little if any real tax relief).]

While one would think that in 20 years of service, Senator Skelos, working with his colleagues, would find a way to bring true reform to a tax system that, quite frankly, hasn't worked in at least that long, the record of inertia on this issue proves otherwise. Our State Legislature may, ultimately, be the solution here, but for now, they remain a very big part of the problem.

Here's the thing: Every seat in the State Senate and Assembly will be up for grabs in 2006. That means our State Legislators have less than one (1) year to get their acts together and bring real property tax reform to Long Island. Let's begin to hit them with this issue TODAY, and not wait until the fall campaign season, when the best we can hope for is the promise of reform.

Perhaps its time -- more likely, past time -- that we hold our State Legislature hostage, rather than the other way around. If we're still in the same sinking school property tax ship come Tuesday, November 7, 2006, we vote the do-nothings -- and each of them -- OUT!

There are a host of ideas we've not mentioned here -- this in the interest of whatever brevity is left on this blog. Your ideas, most certainly, are welcome. Let's explore. Let's discuss. Let's even debate. And at the end of the day, which swiftly approaches, let's be determined to, at long last, ACT!

There is no tomorrow on the property tax front, folks. The dollars aren't there. Our homes, the future of our children, and our very way of life here on Long Island are on the line.


ENDNOTE: The Community Alliance would like to extend our sincere thanks and heartfelt gratitude to Harvey Levinson. Harvey, the election may not have gone your way (or ours), but the issues you raised, and the changes you envisioned, not only helped to shape the campaign and fuel the eventual outcome in other races, but gave impetus to many of us who, with you at our side, will continue the fight for honest, open, efficient and effective government. You've opened many an eye as to the injustices and inequities of our taxing jusrisdictions, the failures of the property tax system, the corruption and costs of those special districts, and the consumate chutzpah of the folks who think they own Hempstead Town Hall.

While your message may not have resonated among the voters of Hempstead Town on November 8th, too many of whom continue to blindly vote with eyes wide shut, take heart -- our steady advance to take back our Town from the constant ravages of 100 years of benign neglect, self-serving cronyism, and pick-pocket politics cannot and will not be halted by a rusting, broken Machine -- and that Tuesday in November, 2007, is closer than it appears in the mirror!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Can 96,146 People Be that Stupid?

Ignorance & Complacency - 96,146; Hope & Reason - 65,485

If ignorance is bliss, then in Hempstead Town, where voting by crayon and staying within the lines is a way of life, there must be euphoria.

Forget the corruption and excessive costs of the Sanitary Districts. Vote to keep 'em. Never mind the patronage and cronyism at Town Hall. Its all in the family. Who cares if half a million tax dollars are spent on campaign mailings? Apparently, not the voters of Hempstead Town.

Illegal accessory apartments. Skyrocketing property taxes. Unaffordable housing. A quality of life that only a sewer rat could love. Welcome to the Town of Hempstead. Kate Murray, Supervisor.

There may be joy in Mudville -- where the uninformed, misinformed, and blatantly lied to voted with a single, albeit unintelligible voice (sounded kinda like Jabba The Hutt), while the party of a thousand voices (that which sounds something like democracy), failed to vote in numbers sufficient to stem the tide and change the course -- but the elation belies a reality that is as close at hand as your next tax bill.

For those who saw the light, only to have it dim when all the votes were counted, take heart. Machines, even the best of them, will, at some point, break down. And while you can seldom defeat ignorance -- either by argument or at the ballot box -- there is solace in knowing that, ultimately, ignorance will defeat itself. Let's hope most of us are still around when that day comes!

Meanwhile, as both consolation and reminder, DON'T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR LEVINSON bumper stickers will be available in the Gift Shop.

Looking ahead two years to the next election for Town of Hempstead Supervisor, a prediction. No, a guarantee. It will not be Kate Murray. No sir. Kate will be plucked from her perch at Town Hall for the political plumb she's been craving for - a judgeship. The Nassau County GOP will delight once again in anointing our next Supervisor (Tony "You Ain't Paid For Nothin' Yet" Santino, perhaps?). And a new face will chair the County Republican Party -- Katuria D'Amato? Who said you can't go back to the "bad old days?" Geez, we've never left!

As for The Community Alliance, we're moving forward to tomorrow. Property taxes (remember them?) remain top on our list. The battle against the Special Districts did not end on Election Day. It has just begun. Consolidate. Eliminate. And, Madam District Attorney, after you take that oath of office in January, convene that Grand Jury and pursue justice for the residents of Hempstead Town. The tyranny of those invisible taxing jurisdictions -- and of those who refuse or neglect to take responsibility for or control over them -- must be brought to an end.

School Districts, accounting for some 60% of our property tax burden, must be held accountable to the residents they serve, as our State Legislature and Governor must be held accountable to both School Districts and constituents. If you mandate it, fund it. If you provide State Aid to a School District situated in a suburb of Buffalo to the tune of 75%, you give that same 75% to School Districts in Elmont, Baldwin and Wantagh. No more 100% funding of upstate School Districts, while Long Island's schools garner but 16%. An income tax to replace the school property tax? We already have one! Long Islanders want to see their tax dollars at work on Long Island. The Campaign for Fiscal Parity begins today!

Affordable housing and downtown revitalization. Buzz words bantered about with an almost unrelenting drone. No more talk. Our downtowns and "Main Streets" are Twilight Zones, not Development Zones. Our children cannot afford to buy into the American Dream. Our parents -- and, in many instances, we ourselves -- can no longer afford to live in our own homes.

We've dumbed down "Smart Growth" on our Long Island for far too long. Today we begin to take back our "downtowns," with a reasonable mix of retail, recreational and affordable residential development. Today we begin to dispel the myth that suburbia has to be either horizontal sprawl or a vertical tower touching the sky. Applying vision and plan, we can provide safe, affordable housing for our seniors and workforce, in an environment where we not only know our neighbors, but can once again walk with them for the morning paper, a loaf of bread, or for a stroll in the park. Let's begin today to reshape our communities, bringing life to the very ideal of the suburbs envisioned by those who brought many of us here in the first place.

Our problems and concerns -- whether property taxes, the education of our children, or the costs of energy and a roof over our heads -- did not magically disappear when the polls closed on Tuesday. They are still with us -- real, ominous, and waiting for those of vision and action to step to the fore.

The Community Alliance will continue to lead as we travel down that road to take back our town, to rebuild our downtown, and to restore pride and livability to our hometown. We will continue to ask for your ideas, your suggestions, your courage and your support.

Standing still does not serve the best interests of community. It never did. We cannot -- and dare not -- go back. We never will. That leaves but a single option -- to move forward. Today, we take that next step toward tomorrow. The train to the future is leaving the station. We welcome you to either get on board, or, with all due respect, to get the hell out of the way!

Several years ago, we who now form the core of The Community Alliance, posited the question, "Why do we need to work together to improve our community?" We were taken aback for a moment by the response. We assumed, after all, that it would be intuitive. "Strength in numbers. Speak with one, unified voice. Our problems are your problems." Of course, we soon realized that it wasn't quite that simple.

Just as all politics is local, most issues confronted on the "community" level - whether related to code enforcement, business district revitalization, or the clean up of a pond or an abandoned lot - are perceived as local, the province of this or that civic group. "You want to come here and help us? Why?" Suspicious thoughts as "outsiders" are looked upon as unwelcome interlopers.

"You stay in Elmont and concern yourself with those deadly basement apartments. We're not West Hempstead, with that loathsome Courtesy Hotel. We'll handle our own problems, thank you very much."

Community is, indeed, sacrosanct. It was not all that long ago, when a Tri-Community Summit (Elmont, Franklin Square & West Hempstead) was first proposed, that a local civic leader said that he thought such a conclave would be a great idea, but "don't expect too much. They (the civic and business leaders) are like warlords. Very territorial. They are quite protective of their own turf." For a moment many of us felt as if we had left the security of our respective communities for the uncertainty of the Afghan frontier. Have we not learned, in this enlightened society, that such divisiveness breeds only destruction? Have we not come to see, after years of life under the fiefdoms, the "clubs," and the Special Districts, that the real and beneficial changes come - if at all - only when the entirety stands as one? "Yes," we thought. "The whole must be greater than the sum of all of its parts." Ah, we were young and naive.

As we pore over the papers indigenous to each locale, even today, we sense a common appeal. "Join your civic association. Band together to fight the evils of community. Together, we can make a difference." No less vivid is the call to action, echoed by each group with mounting fervor. "Fight the illegal rentals. Demand greater code enforcement. Bring business back to 'Main Street.'"

And yet, this seemingly single mindset, placing us, definitively, on the right track, is often drowned out by the chorus of civic voices. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pages of our community periodicals, where the many voices of community come together, if but on paper alone, only to fade into the background without significant impact.

The message of community is often lost in the din. What need be a common voice of the people, a concert in harmony, is, more often than not, singular sound bites from one group or another. The noise, while appropriate and necessary, is but chatter lost in the cosmos. Sure, as "local" organizations, we hold our own. We manage, after long and protracted battle, to close down the after-hours clubs on the Turnpike. We muster the energy to fight the mega gas stations and the car washes. We are most proficient in the piecemeal salvation of the trees, even as much of the forest is forever taken from us.

In the more "global" arena, however, in attempting to address the issues that touch all of us, we make few inroads, and see little appreciable progress. Yes, we are on the right track. We must acknowledge, nevertheless, that even those on the right track are going to get hit by that train if they just stand still!

That quality of life which we value, that which we speak of longingly, is what our civic and business organizations most want to preserve and enhance. Even so, it is that very quality of life, that vision of suburbia, which, despite our best efforts and noble intentions, continues to slip away. Illegal accessory apartments proliferate. The condition of our "downtowns" deteriorates. Property taxes rise and aggravate. Elected officials promise to ameliorate. The suburban landscape so cherished, but for the occasional tree we are able to save, erodes before our eyes.

We live, and yesterday's election results makes this abundantly clear, in a dual society. Call it the two Americas, the two Counties, or, for that matter, the two Townships. One is of the privileged; those who seem to get everything they want, often without ever having to ask. The other - and we fear we on the south shore of Long Island, in general, and in the unincorporated areas of the Town, in particular, fall squarely in this category - is of the forgotten.

The forgotten are asked to bear the burdens and endure the hardships, to accept substandard services delivered at exorbitant expense, to witness the intrusion of urban ills, to be content with sprawl and decay, and, above all, to be patient.

The forgotten are asked to wait for their roads to be paved, their parks to be maintained, their streets to be cleaned. The forgotten are told "It won't happen overnight. The wheels turn slowly. We're on your side."

The years go by. The names and faces change - and sometimes they don't - and here we stand, amidst the decline of the Turnpike, the Avenue and the Road - forgotten.

The question asked is no longer, "Should we work together?" but rather, "How can we work together effectively to bring about positive change in our collective community?"

It is no longer a matter of "talk and walk" with our elected officials, but instead, a call to engage in a true partnership, with all levels of government, to cooperatively and decisively tackle the problems that we share.

The privileged have the time to wait, though they rarely have to. The forgotten, on the other hand, have little time before their voices are silenced, before they are overwhelmed by the insurmountable. The privileged have their special interest groups, their highly paid lobbyists, their monied Political Action Committees. And the forgotten? Well, we have The Community Alliance to make certain that we're all working together, that our collective voice is heard, that, ultimately, we are successful in getting the job done!

Hope and reason may have lost the election for Town of Hempstead Supervisor on November 8th, but hope, if not reason, springs eternal. In the long run, ignorance will be defeated by reason, and hope shall triumph over complacency.

In the name of hope and reason, let's get moving!