Special District Elections Set For Tuesday, December 13th
This year, perhaps more than any other, Long Island's Fire District elections -- where residents get a presumptive say in who will be Commissioner, at least in Districts where such races are contested -- are getting quite a bit of attention. Could be folks are beginning to realize that increases in Fire District budgets (up an average of 11% this year, according to Newsday. SEE Rising Cost of Fire Protection.) play a significant role in the spiraling property tax saga. Or maybe we're starting to understand that a pot unwatched will eventually boil over, and we'd better be more mindful of the flame.
Whatever the reasons may be, Long Islanders appear to be more atuned to who is spending their money and how ("and how," indeed). Whether they will come out to vote in Tuesday's Fire District elections remains to be seen.
Some 35 Fire Districts in Nassau County alone (85 island-wide) will hold elections for one or more commissioners [SEE Newsday's Fire Commissioner Contests], amidst other ballot propositions, such as allowing firefighters to accrue pension credits beyond the age of 60.
Residents do NOT get to vote on Fire District budgets, but they do have the opportunity to elect those who do -- Fire District Commissioners.
If you are unsure of which Fire District you reside in (after all, we have so many to choose from), you can easily ascertain this information by plugging in your property address at Nassau County's website, My Nassau. The site will also tell you your elected officials, road management authorities, Police Precinct, School District, and Sewage District. [It won't tell you your Lighting District, Sanitation District, Waste Disposal District, Parking District or Water District, but hey, there are just some things in life you have to find out on your own! :-)]
Speaking of Water Districts, publicly elected Commissioners will also vie for office this Tuesday. We say "publicly elected" because many residents are served by private water companies, such as Long Island Water. Those residents don't get to vote. Drink up.
To determine your Water District (or water company), look at your water bill. You can find out if, when and where your Water District election will be held by calling the phone number on your water bill.
Note that Fire Districts, Water Districts and the like are not necessarily co-terminus, especially in the unincorporated areas. So, for instance, West Hempstead residents may be served by the West Hempstead Fire Department, the Lakeview Fire Department, or, in a few cases, the Franklin Square-Munson Fire Department. Similarly, such residents may have their water provided by or through the West Hempstead-Hempstead Gardens Water District, the Cathedral Gardens Water District, or Long Island Water, a private company. And these districts do not necessarily follow the lines of School Districts, Library Districts, Councilmanic Districts, Legislative Districts, and so on and so forth.
Confusing? You bet. And that's just the way the "powers-that-be" want to keep it. "Divide and conquer" is the catch phrase. Keep residents guessing as to who provides both essential and non-essential services, and they're at your mercy.
While we're on the subject of mercy, our elected officials should show us some. In South Hempstead, an unincorporated area located in the Town of Hempstead, Town Councilman Tony Santino (you remember, the fella who repeatedly bashes us over the head with a garbage can, charges us for the privilege, and tells us we enjoy it), does not hesitate to show us that he plays favorites in the local Fire District race.
Santino has publicly endosered incumbent Fire Commissioner Ray Spatz of the South Hempstead Fire Department in Tuesday's election. He did so by mailing letters to South Hempstead residents encoraging them to vote for Spatz. [Gee, we hope Santino didn't write those letters on official Town letterhead or utilize Town tax dollars to pay for postage. Nah. He would never do that!]
Mark Goldstein, a local community activist, is running against Spatz as an outsider (not a member of the Fire Deprtment), with the intention of seeing what can be done to lower the tax rates. [While the 2006 Fire District budget is actually slated to decrease in South Hempstead by approximately 2.7%, the District, one of the smallest on the island in terms of area covered, is reported to have the highest fire tax rate in the county. We suppose Mr. Santino is of the opinion, as with the Sanitary Districts, that we don't mind paying double for fire service either.]
Readers are reminded that Tony Santino is the spokesman for Joe Mondello, the Nassau County GOP Chairman, and has been mentioned in prominent circles (by Mondello himself, in fact) as the heir apparent for Town of Hempstead Supervisor, this when Kate Murray goes on to graze in greener pastures. So much for the "independence" of the Fire Districts. Much like Sanitation, Water and the multitude of other Special Districts that regularly divest us of our tax dollars, the Fire Districts remain, for the most part, under the thumb of partisan political insiders.
In a gesture of even-handedness (and because we have a soft-spot in our hearts for community advocates who put the people's welfare before political interests), The Community Alliance endorses Mark Goldstein for Commissioner in the South Hempstead Fire District. Sorry we can't mail out letters from Town Hall at the taxpayers' expense, Mark, but you have our blessing and our support.
There are few things more crucial to our well-being than fire protection and drinking water, and no votes more critical -- given the implications for the bottom line of our tax bills and the power-plays of local politicos -- than those for Fire and Water District Commissioners.
All residents are encouraged to seek out the often obscured information concerning Tuesday's Fire and Water District elections, and to take the time to vote. Even in Districts where Commissioners are running (waltzing?) unopposed, your appearance at the ballot box lets them know that you care, you're watching, and that government, even at its most basic level, is everybody's business!
Polling places and times vary from District to District (yet another way to discourage your vote). Check with your local Fire Department and Water District for poll hours and locations.