Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spitzer Creates NYS Commission On Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness

Focus On Elimination Of Waste, Consolidation Of Services, And Savings For Taxpayers

As promised, Governor Eliot Spitzer has delivered -- not with a "ready-to-go" plan to get a handle on the multitude of special taxing jurisdictions in New York that just might keep a few bucks more in the pockets of homeowners -- but rather, with a commission to study the problem and offer prospective solutions.

Not that this is a bad idea, but folks, hasn't the inefficiency, waste, and outright corruption and ineptitude of the special taxing jurisdictions (a/k/a local government) already been studied to death? [Why, we've even blogged on the issues ad nauseum, so much so, that we're tired of hearing our own rant.]

We know what the problems are. We even know what the remedies must be. So why a commission -- as esteemed a panel as it is -- to tell us what we already know, or to merely give validity to plans that have been floated before us time and time again?

Why? Because that's the way government operates -- by creating more government (and by the looks of the panel, it is a government from the government and of the government) to solve problems government itself has created and perpetuated.

Okay. Enough of the cynicism. At least we now have bodies -- and, in most cases, faces -- we can look to for a consensus, and a Governor who we can hold accountable for putting the commission's recommendations into play.

As to the commission itself, its good to see Long Island -- where special taxing districts outnumber by far all other government entities combined -- represented ably and responsibly by the likes of Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman and newly-minted Assemblymember Craig Johnson. [Somewhat more than parenthetically, we would have liked to see Harvey Levinson, the Nassau County Assessor who got the ball rolling (back in 2005) here on Long Island on the hidden costs of the special taxing districts, named to the commission as well. (Harvey, at least you won't have to travel to Albany in the dead of winter, and we're sure you'll be sticking in your two cents every chance you get, anyway.)].

Also serving at the Governor's pleasure are a couple of former Lieutenant Governors (so this is where old Lieutenant Governors go to die, eh?), current and former legislators, and the owner of the Albany River Rats AHL hockey team of Niskayuna, New York.

Missing from the list of commissioners (do they get pension credits, by the way? How about paid health insurance?) is anyone from the rank-and-file. Not a single community advocate. No one from a civic or taxpayer watchdog group. John Q. Public is conspicuous by his/her absence from the commission, and this is most unfortunate.

Citizen representaitives would certainly add another dimension, if not fresh, front-line perspectives to the commission, and would give this assemblage of what can be characterized as the governmental elite -- true blue bloods for a blue ribbion panel -- greater credibility in the minds of the taxpayer. [Don't worry. The taxpayer doesn't expect too much to come out of this conclave, anyway, having seen the antics of the special taxing districts held up to the supposedly cleansing light of day, with little if any resultant change in either method or madness.]

As for our recommendations to the commission (yes, they want YOUR ideas), first off, read The Community Alliance blog (a search therein for "special districts" would be a good place to start). Then, check in with local groups, such as Residents for Efficient Special Districts (yes, we know -- oxymoron) here on Long Island. Pick the brains of those whose pockets are being picked by the tentatcles of local government.

Watch for the commission to hold hearings and forums across the State -- after all, that's what commissions and Blue Ribbon panels do! Yes, it will be deja vu all over again, but only to the extent that we allow the commission to saunter when it should gallup. [Join the commission's e-mail list for updates.]

Bottom line: Let's not spend the next quarter century talking about the problem. Let's actually devise and implement a practical, workable plan to eliminate it. [Hmmm. "Eliminate." Now that's an idea, as concerns inefficient and uncompetitive local government, whose time has come!]
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NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness

Governor Spitzer today issued an Executive Order creating the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, which will address the issues of local government merger, consolidation, regionalized government, shared services and smart growth. A letter was also sent to county leaders and local government officials across the State, asking them to identify at least one major initiative in these areas that is either already underway or can be initiated this year.

As a local government official or other interested party, you received this e-mail for your convenience in accessing information about the Governor’s Executive Order, his letter to local officials, and the new Commission. That information is available on the Commission’s website, where you can also access a number of resources on local government issues and submit your ideas for local government reform. The website has an option for adding e-mail addresses to the Commission’s ‘list-serve’ for future communications about its work (e-mail addresses that received this note are already on the list, but additional e-mails may be added).

The Commission’s website is: www.nyslocalgov.org
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READ the Governor's letter to local officials

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