Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Government Of The People?

Maybe. It Just Depends Which People You're Talking About?

Supervisor Kate Murray of Hempstead Town may get it (or at least she's savvy enough to know that the electorate isn't as dumb as the likes of Councilman Tony Santino would have us think), but clearly, town Board members, in Hempstead and Islip, haven't quite figured out that, ultimately, the loyalty they owe is to us (as in "We, the people"), and not to either the leaders or patrons of the party.

Did those public officials who voted to keep the costly perks for part-timers like Kat D'Amato think that no one -- not even Newsday -- would notice?

Oh, they know their vote was wrong, against the public interest. The know, as well, that there's alot of time between last Tuesday and the first Tuesday in November.

Just another day at the Town Board. Just another opportunity to say, "let the public be damned!"

We really wanted to say something witty and poignant here. Joye Brown at Newsday beat us to it. . .
- - -
8 on town boards who voted against the taxpayers
Joye Brown

Damn the taxpayers, full speed ahead.

That, exactly, was the message sent by a majority of the town boards in Islip and Hempstead on Tuesday. We've yet to hear from Oyster Bay and Huntington, where officials were quick to say they would review the outrageous practice of gifting part-time, appointed and politically connected board members - and their families - with expensive health, dental and vision benefits.

But Islip council members Pamela Green, William Rowley and Steven Flotteron, who, for the fourth time, killed a measure pushed by Supervisor Phil Nolan, the lone Democrat, to do away with benefits for the select few, made their choice.

So did Hempstead council members Anthony Santino, Edward Ambrosino, Gary Hudes, James Darcy and Angie Cullin. They killed a similar measure offered up - to the consternation of Republican Party higher-ups in Nassau County, sources tell me - by Republican Supervisor Kate Murray.

The eight voted to side against taxpayers and with fellow party members, fundraisers, contributors and others so politically connected. Reality check: Elected officials and political leaders, no matter their party, need all of the above to get into office and maintain power. It's the way the American political system works. (Or doesn't, depending on your good-government view.) But on Long Island, some of the worst political abuses are practiced as high art. And its worst form, corruption, seems almost a byproduct of the way politics is carried out.

Half of Long Island's town building departments are under investigation by the Nassau and Suffolk district attorneys' offices.More than a dozen school districts, town or other officials have been charged - or pleaded guilty - with corruption or other allegations in the last two years.Half of the revenue generated by special taxing districts in New York State comes from Long Island. No wonder. Nassau and Suffolk have 340 such districts, too many of which have become havens for politically connected people who need jobs and expensive benefits.

Long Island has a shadow government, which taxes residents just as surely, just as steadily, as any other governmental entity does.

Pulling money out of the public's pocket to fund benefits to politically connected people who are appointed to part-time boards works well for politics.

It does not work for people. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, an increasing number of residents are suffocating under the burdens of high taxes, a rising cost of living and stagnant wages.

Yesterday, school district officials put forth the smallest proposed tax hike in eight years. That would be considered a good start, unless, of course, you consider that their budgets also will include a level of state aid that probably won't be there next year.

But on Tuesday, a majority of town board members in Islip and Hempstead tried their best to ignore the reality of what it costs to live here. Instead, council members tossed out excuses as lame as they were silly.The supervisor didn't give us the information on time, said Flotteron, over in Islip, as a proposal to kill the practice died a fourth time, despite protests from a vociferous crowd. (And hundreds of telephone calls and e-mails received by council members.)

The zoning board works a lot of hours, said Santino, over in Hempstead, who voted against Murray's proposal but then offered a successful amendment to kill the perk - for the civil service commission, not the zoning board.

Guess which group includes Katuria D'Amato, a lawyer and wife of former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.


I wonder what would have happened had D'Amato served on the civil service commission?

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

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