Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Town Government By Number

Say It Again, Sam. . . Catch Phrases And Taglines Dominate Town Releases; Actions In Community Reflect Town's Routine Rote

"We are committed to making Baldwin an even better community in which to live, work and shop," said Town Councilman Anthony Santino in a recent press release. [SEE Murray And Santino Discuss Baldwin Business District Redevelopment.]

Aren’t those the EXACT words said to flow off the lips of Supervisor Murray and the members of the Town Board with respect to developments in Elmont, Bellmore, East Meadow and Wantagh?

Check out the various community-related press releases the Town of Hempstead puts out at Hmmm. How many times, out of how many mouths, do you see the words, "We are committed to making (insert community name here) an even better community in which to live, work and shop?"

Look for the (insert community name here) tagline on all Town releases, right next to the old stand-by, "Continuing to invest in community upgrades is another way the Town of Hempstead is improving the quality of life for residents..."

Strikingly similar variations on the theme can be found in Around The Town pieces published regularly in your local papers. In fact, in many instances -- whether on issues of taxes, passports, e-cycling, pet adoption, road repair, or that old standby, facade improvement, you will find that not only the catch phrases, but the releases in their entirety, are exactly the same. Just change the name of the Councilmember representing (insert community name here).

1 is blue. 2 is red. 3 is orange. "Every picture a Rembrandt." You know how it goes. Match the color to the number. Stay within the lines. Each piece a perfect reproduction of the one before, yet lacking originality, conceptual design, or even the occasional passing thought.

Please do not misunderstand us. We wouldn't want the Town's Communications Department to overwork -- reinventing the wheel for each release. It would, of course, be nit-picking to the extreme to fault the Town of Hempstead for redundant verbiage alone.

Unfortunately, it's not words alone that repeat themselves at the Town. Year after year, in communities across the township, residents hear the same lines, over and over and over again.

"Going after illegal apartments is a top priority." "We're going to rebuild 'Downtown.'" "The Town of Hempstead is holding the line on taxes." "We have no control over the Town's Special Districts." "Today is the beginning of a bright and promising future for (fill in the blank)."

The repetetive overtures -- "we're with you, we hear you, we're going to get the job done" -- not only wear thin over time, they are no longer of much reassurance.

With each new Supervisor comes the same old set of artists' renditions of the "new" Elmont, the "revitalized" Uniondale, or the "redeveloped" West Hempstead. Yet, year after year, Supervisor after Supervisor, it's the same old Elmont, a vital but still not revitalized Uniondale, and a West Hempstead that continues to suffer from arrested development.

The tune, as with the words, is always the same. "Continuing to invest in community upgrades is another way the Town of Hempstead is improving the quality of life for residents." What do you mean, "continuing?" Where is that investment in the Town's unincorporated areas? Some of us are just not seeing it. Maybe that's why so many Town of Hempstead residents believe our quality of life has not improved, but rather, has declined over the past year. [Click HERE to check out the e-Polls.]

Every hamlet a paint-by-number clone of the village to the east and the community to the west -- it's problems remedied by application (as per corresponding number) of Victorian street lamps, brick pavers, quaint "period-style" benches, and plentiful planters. Herald then the "look what we've done" press release, and with a "The new (insert project type) will be attractive, useful and continue the town's efforts to make (insert community's name)'s downtown even more inviting and vibrant," all is well again in Paint-by-Numberville.

Not all is hopeless, though. The Town is still inviting folks to make “Valentine’s Baskets” in Elmont, Baldwin Harbor, Hicksville and Lakeview. And lovers can continue to "tie the knot" at Town Hall under the Supervisor's smiling gaze.

"Today is the beginning of a new and promising future for families in this neighborhood and throughout (Oceanside, Bellmore, Seaford -- you pick 'em)." Okay, if not "today," then maybe "tomorrow." Or perhaps the day after that. We'll see.

Maybe all we need is to throw away the paint by number mindset -- to take that crayon or marker and color our Town freehand, unafraid to think, and to draw, outside the lines.

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