Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Suozzi Calls For "Consolidation" Of Special District Elections

Yawn. . . .

It won't happen today. It won't happen tomorrow.

Such is the sentiment of Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, who has called upon the State Legislature -- that bastion of expedience and oversight -- to adopt measures that would require New York's so-called "special districts" to hold elections on one, perhaps two, days.

Currently, special districts -- which include water districts, fire districts, and sanitary districts, each with "locally" elected commissioners -- hold elections on different days throughout the year. Water and fire districts typically hold their elections in December. Sanutary districts hold elections at varying times throughout the year.

While we agree with Tom Suozzi that the entire process of special district elections is absurd, his call to action most warranted, we have to shrug our shoulders here and say, "so what?"

Residents for Efficient Special Districts (RESD) have been calling for elections on a single day since the inception of that organization, and we at The Community Alliance have done likewise, this even before RESD was a glimmer in Laura Mallay's eyes.

So far, pleas from watchdog and good government groups have, for the most part -- the machinations of commissions and blue ribbon panels aside -- fallen upon deaf ears in Albany, and, locally, town and special district officials appear content to turn a blind eye tooward public sentiment that cries out for consolidation (at the very least) of special district functions.

So, the next time Mssrs. Bruno and Silver dain to meet, perhaps someone would be so bold as to whisper in their ears -- the time for action on these special taxing jurisdictions is at hand.

Might we suggest that all special district elections be held on that same Super Tuesday in May when School Districts and Library Districts throughout the State hold their votes.

There's safety in numbers, after all -- and voters, as well, who should have their say over something that is said to exude local control, are more likely to come out on that Tuesday in May rather than that Tuesday in September, or that Friday in July.
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Suozzi pushes for fewer election days
By Reid J. Epstein

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi on Monday sent letters to Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the county's Albany delegation asking for a law consolidating special district elections into one or two dates.

Suozzi made the announcement at a Mineola press conference during which he released a report describing what he called the "crazy quilt" of special district elections in the county. According to Suozzi, there is an election every 10.9 business days in Nassau.

"We have a crazy system here," he said. "It doesn't make any sense at all.

"The report's release comes on the eve of state-commissioned hearings on special districts Tuesday and Wednesday at Hofstra University. Suozzi, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and other experts are scheduled to speak Tuesday.

Suozzi said he will ask the commission for an unspecified amount of money to help consolidate local governments.The report examined election dates for 71 Nassau districts that have the power to levy taxes, though eight of the districts either could not be reached, declined to tell Suozzi's office the date of their elections or had yet to schedule an election.

Five water districts and one sanitary district refused to release information about their election days or budgets unless Suozzi's office filed a freedom of information request, according to the report.

Independent fire districts were not included in the report because by state law they hold elections on a common date, the second Tuesday in December.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.
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The New York State Commission of Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness (we know, we know. A glaring misnomer) is holding public hearings on Long Island as we blog.

On Tuesday, July 24 (1:00 PM to 5:00 PM) and on Wednesday, July 25 (9:00 AM to 3:00 PM) hearings will be held at the Monroe Lecture Center Theater at Hofstra University.

On Tuesday, there will be presentations from Nassau and Suffolk County Executives as well as a panel on school issues. On Wednesday, there will be a panel on the many layers of local government on Long Island - counties, towns, villages, school districts, fire and other special districts - as well as a Commission meeting.

There will be some time on both days for brief testimony and responses from the audience, but time constraints may not permit an opportunity for all to testify. However all persons will have the opportunity to submit written testimony. Written testimony should be submitted by e-mail to localgov@empire.state.ny.us.

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