Talk, More Talk, And Delivering Taxpayers From Evil
Every year there is a new "in" color. You see it in everything from cars to PlayStations. Last year's "in" color was black. This year, silver is the new black. Next year, its black and blue, at least for Long Island's taxpayers!
If silver is indeed the new black, then State Senator Dean Skelos is the new Kate Murray, at least in terms of mailings at taxpayer expense. Three -- count 'em, 3 -- mailings from the State Senator in as many weeks. Color photos and all, Senator Skelos lets the residents of the 9th Senate District know, in big, bold print delivered to their mail boxes -- what he's done fighting Medicaid fraud, creating high-paying jobs, and increasing aid to our school districts. The 2006 campaign has started already, and boy are we, the taxpayers, going to pay for it!
In last week's Skelosgram, our State Senator -- on the job for nearly a quarter of a century now -- told all how he's keeping our school property taxes down by increasing the STAR deduction as well as uping the ante in State Aid. Is it only this blogger's imagination, or is the light from that STAR growing more faint and distant by the day? Increases in State Aid are barely keeping up with the increased costs faced by our school districts, including, most notably, mandated programs and initiatives that remain unfunded by the State. And all the hullabaloo aside, has anyone in this neck of the woods seen their school property tax decline?
Not that we don't appreciate the help, Dean, but geez, its obvious to all but our Governor and State Legislators that whatever it is you say you're doing to better our lot -- particularly on the school aid and property tax fronts -- just isn't doing the trick. Time to take a different approach? We certainly think so.
The latest Skelosgram -- a community-specific piece entitled "Delivering for WEST HEMPSTEAD" -- put the icing on the cake.
According to the Senator's mailing, West Hempsteaders have much to cheer about. This includes $50,000 for the West Hempstead Streetscape Project (wasn't the Town of Hempstead supposed to pick up that tab? Guess the big bucks went to Kate & Company in their recent raises). This Project calls for "new sidewalks, brick pavers and decorative lighting (Victorian, no doubt) along Hempstead Avenue by the new public library." What new public library? West Hempsteaders passed that $9.5 million bond initiative for a new library over 3 years ago, and ground has still not been broken. Why, there's not so much as a sign proclaiming "FUTURE HOME OF THE WEST HEMPSTEAD PUBLIC LIBRARY." Oh, its coming. So is Christmas -- and the 4th of July.
Still, its a nice gesture on the Senator's part. Please put that 50 thousand in an interest-bearing account until such time as the new library is built. [Maybe Hempstead Avenue will actually see its promised reconstruction by then.] That should give the community at least $100,000 in Streetscape funds. Maybe we can get the Town to match it!
Next on the Senator's "look what I've done for you" list , "...the Long Island Rail Road will repaint the West Hempstead train station this spring." Well whoop-de-doo. Has anyone seen that hole-in-the-wall in West Hempstead that the LIRR dares to call a station? Surrounded by litter, abandoned shopping carts, broken bottles and sordid debris -- hidden only in the warmer weather by overgrown vegetation -- the West Hempstead Railroad station and environs -- including the infamous MTA Right-of-Way -- are little more than community eyesores. And while millions upon millions of dollars have been and are being spent to rehabilitate, update and refurbish LIRR stations from Long Beach to Garden City, the West Hempstead station, where "maintenance" continues to be a dirty little word, will get a fresh coat of paint. Make it Dutch Boy, will ya, Dean? And how's about a nice shade of blushing pink?
The piece-de-resistance in this week's Skelosgram concerned one of West Hempstead's most disgraceful landmarks -- the Courtesy Hotel. Or should we say what WAS one of West Hempstead's most disgraceful landmarks. Great news, West Hempstead! The Courtesy Hotel is no more. In fact, it has been demolished. [This sounds like the work of the Dynastic Duo. "To the Fat Cave, Tony..."] Yes, the Courtesy has been demolished. But don't take our word for it -- or dare to believe your eyes as you pass by the Courtesy today, tomorrow or the next day and see the no-tell hotel still standing and open for business as unusual. Just ask Senator Skelos.
There it is, in the weekly Skelosgram -- "To fight crime and improve our quality of life in West Hempstead, Senator Skelos worked with the Town of Hempstead to demolish the Courtesy Hotel." [Emphasis added.]
So, if you should pass by the corner of Woodfield Road and Hempstead Avenue one of these days, and think you see the old Courtesy Hotel beckoning the prostitutes, the drug dealers, the wretched of society yearning for that free Continental breakfast, not to worry -- its just a figment of your vivid imagination (much like our daily delusion that all is well in Hempstead Town). The Courtesy Hotel has been demolished. So there! [Do you think Dean may have confused West Hempstead with Oceanside? Whatever...]
Of course, just to be on the safe side, Senator Skelos has "secured a $35,000 state grant for (a) new police booth" to be located -- where else -- on the no-man's land commonly referred to as the MTA Right-of-Way adjacent to the Courtesy. Tell us, Senator. If the Courtesy has been "demolished" -- or, with any resolve on the part of the Town, actually to be closed sometime in the future -- why do we need to spend $35,000 for a police booth on this site?
Ah yes, the quality of life is improving every second in West Hempstead and in the 9th Senate District. If you can't feel it in your bones, or see it with your own eyes, at least you can read about it in the weekly Skelosgram.
Please be sure to e-mail Senator Skelos or give him a call at (516) 766-8383 to say "Thank you!"
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More Talk. Any Action?
Meanwhile, back at the County Seat... Comptroller Howard Weitzman calls for further discussions relative to the management and attendant expenses of some 200 Special Districts operating semi-autonomously in Nassau County. You remember some of those independent taxing jurisdictions, don't you? Try Sanitary Districts, for one (or ten. Pick a number. Let's call it '57').
Newsday reports that "Nassau Democrats and Republicans joined Monday in calling for a nonpartisan conference on ways to maintain services provided by special tax districts while reducing the cost to taxpayers." [SEE, Special Tax Districts Up For Debate.]
North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a Democrat, and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, a Republican, sent representatives to Weitzman's press conference. The Chairman of the County's Board of Assessors, Harvey Levinson, was there. County Exec Tom Suozzi sent a memo supporting a pow-wow on the Special Districts, and State Senator Michael Balboni, a Republican, offered his support, reportedly saying, "Everyone has to be involved to give people relief and still deliver services."
No report of any representatives of the Town of Hempstead -- where Special Districts thrive and residents "enjoy" paying two, three or four times the going rate just to have them -- having either attended the Weitzman news conference or offering support for (or even acknowledgement of the need for) a nonpartisan conference on the matter. Only silence from Hempstead Town Hall. Surprise, surprise, surprise. The silence of the yams...
Comptroller Weitzman has issued his latest report on the Special Districts entitled, "The Case For Reform." [Adobe Acrobat required.]
The report tells us what most residents already know and painfully experience -- that there are too many cooks ("I am not a cook"), too few watching the pot, and we're being overcharged for the ingredients.
Audits, conferences, press releases, Murraygrams, Skelosgrams, and still, its the same bad news on the doorstep day after day -- the same awful hit from the tax man, year after year.
School Property Tax -- Call a conference on it. Special District mismanagement -- call a conference on it. Words as a substitute for action -- read the latest newsletter from your State Senator, Town Supervisor, or County Legislator. Better yet, catch the clip on News12, Evening Edition, of today's press conference on the same issues we talked about -- taking little or no action -- yesterday.
Talk is good. Debate is necessary. Conferences are all the rage -- especially if you can get a free lunch out of it. Still, what is needed most is ACTION -- defined as "The state or process of acting or doing; Something done or accomplished; Organized activity to accomplish an objective; The causation of change by the exertion of power."
As for The Community Alliance's plan of action - - Find out all about it after the holidays. We'll issue a release, alert the media, call a press conference, and send a blog to your e-mail address.
Let's talk. And then, at long last and with all deliberate speed, for goodness sake, let's act!