Friday, August 25, 2006

Five Questions To Ask Your State Legislators

Assembly, Senate Seats All Up For Grabs This Fall; Time To Ask, "What Have You Done For My Community Lately?"

With the campaign season about to get into full swing, Long Islanders prepare to let out their collective yawn. Think of it as a "same Senator, different year" kinda thing.

As lethargic as the electorate may be, we still should be asking our State legislators -- most of whom have been up in Albany so long that you have to scrape the moss off of their backs -- the tough questions on the difficult issues.

And if you're not going to ask your legislators (and most of you won't), you should be asking yourselves these questions (among others). At the very least, you should be thinking about the consequences of allowing these questions to go unanswered, and the underlying problems, unaddressed.

The Great Rebate

1. Albany's answer to the ever-escalating property tax -- an almost unbearable burden for most New York homeowners -- has been to offer a nominal "rebate," characterized by pundits as political fodder designed to buy votes, providing little in the way of real relief to the bottom line. Beyond the limited, if not entirely self-serving property tax "rebate," what proposal(s) do you intend to put forward to bring long-term property tax relief to long-suffering New Yorkers?

Watch The Gap

2. There is a growing disparity between the amount of State Aid recieved by upstate school districts (some getting upwards of 80% of their budgets funded by the State) and the paltry amounts, by comparison, received by Long Island's school districts (typically ranging from 12% to 15%). Why this glaring gap in funding public education, and how do you propose to end the inequity?

Home, Home On Deranged

3. There is a burgeoning crisis on Long Island, and elsewhere in New York, stemming from rising housing costs, a "built-out" suburbia, and a total lack of anything resembling "affordable housing." Over the last few legislative sessions -- most recently, this year -- the NYS Assembly has passed legislation (the so-called DiNapoli bill, "Long Island Workforce Housing Initiative") which would require builders to set aside 10% of the units built (in developments consisting of five or more units) for affordable housing. Similar legislation has routinely died in the State Senate, this year failing to so much as make it out of committee. What's the Senate's problem with the Workforce Housing Initiative, and what legislation will you sponsor in the coming session to assure that affordable housing is in Long Island's future?

It's Been How Long?

4. You've been up in Albany now going on xx (fill in the blank) years. That's xxxx (fill in the blank) in dog years. During those years, while you've worked your way up the leadership ladder, the NYS Legislature has sputtered into virtual ineffectiveness, being categorized as "the most dysfunctional legislature in the nation?" One would think that after all these years in office, at least a few of the problems we face would have been resolved. Instead, it seems that the legislature has become not only a part of the problem, but a cause of it. Why should we send you back for another two years?

"Your Present Plans Are Going To Succeed... In Bed"

5. Like almost every fortune cookie -- where the words "in bed" must be added to the fortune to give it true meaning -- our legislators are constantly telling us what they've done or are going to do to improve our quality of life. More times than not, their benevolence -- and the member item dollars -- extend no further than the legislators' own backyards. You see the TV spots that show your local State Senator, for instance, on a playng field surrounded by young children, the voiceover proclaiming, "Senator (insert name here) has built parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities. . ." Of course, you need to add "in (insert Senator's hometown here)" to give that statement validity. "Thank you, Senator. . ." So tell us, what exactly have you done for our community lately?

We're quite certain you could add at least half a dozen other questions to this list -- please do -- make your legislators' day!

And by the way, almost every State Legislator in the Long Island delegation reads The Community Alliance blog. So, if you, Assemblymember, State Senator, or candidate therefor, would like to respond directly to our inquiries, go ahead, make our day! Our e-mail address is

Ask questions. Insist on answers. Demand better!
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NYS Assemblymembers

NYS Senators

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