Friday, September 28, 2007

A Former Water Commish Opens The Floodgates

Water Districts, Water Districts Everywhere, And Only A Few Look To Shut The Valve

Nassau County Comptroller, Howard Weitzman, recently reported of the misdeeds of those who are "elected" to oversee the Franklin Square and Hicksville water districts.

We've been writing about the special district shenanigans for years now, and you've been reading about it all in Newsday, and elsewhere.

Of course, we're all on the outside, looking in. All except one of us -- Michael Uhl of West Hempstead -- who was doing so much more than treading water when he was Water Commissioner of the West Hempstead-Hempstead Gardens Water District [a race he won by unseating a lifelong incumbent, one Anthony Dignato, by 3 write-in votes.]

Today, Michael continues to rail against the excesses not only of the water districts, but of government, in general.

Our guest blog today comes to us courtesy of Michael Uhl, a proponent of competent and efficient government. [Shh. Don't tell that to the powers-that-be...]

Michael Uhl is a candidate for Nassau County Legislature in the 8th LD, seeking to unseat 6-term incumbent Vincent T. Muscarella. [You may need a crowbar and that stuff they use to remove twenty year old bumber stickers to get this guy out of his seat, Michael!]

Check out Michael Uhl's website at
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You Tell Me It's The Institution
By Michael Uhl

As a former Water Commissioner, I was recently asked to testify by the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency at Hofstra University. You can read my full testimony

I gladly testified about my personal experiences, because, during my three-year tenure, I saw firsthand how entrenched incumbency results in negligent and inefficient government services. Combined with the runaway taxes we pay, and the low voter turnout, it is obvious that our communities and our democracy are eroding. With today’s new technologies, however, we can use our voices and not be silent accomplices to our own demise.

If we want to successfully address the problems vexing us on Long Island, we must summon the political will to recognize that 4,200 taxing jurisdictions spread throughout New York are too many, too expensive, and too loaded with conflicts of interest to provide efficient government services. We must reduce the number of Commissioners and make them meaningfully accountable to the residents and guided by experts in each discipline: a Water Director, Fire Director, Sanitation Director, etc.

Subsequent to my testimony, the Suffolk County Water Authority adopted many of the same recommendations I have been advocating – it rescinded perks granted to part-time Board members and corrected other efficiency and accountability issues. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.

A large number of part-time Board members in various special taxing districts have been entrenched for decades without term limits, been paid for undocumented work, and received health insurance for themselves and their families. Additionally, they have received dinners, trips, and vehicles and have given lifetime jobs to family members, all at the taxpayers' expense.
Commissioners are paid based upon the number of days they work, which is determined by simply "signing in" for the day. As a commissioner, I advocated that Commissioners should not be paid for signing in unless they actually worked. Taxpayers should not be paying for a signature only. In order to achieve this basic level of accountability in the West Hempstead Water District, I requested that each Commissioner should provide a written summary of the work he performed for the district that day. The Board refused to do so. Despite their refusal, I recorded my work because it was the right thing to do.

I convinced the Board to track and remediate toxic spills, including MTBE contamination, before the wells, which the community relies on for its drinking water, were negatively affected. The Board stopped tracking spills after I left office.

What a surprise.

Three years later, there was a public scandal when our wells were contaminated with MTBE and residents were ordered not to use their tap water. Proactive policies can protect against such future damage and expense.

I voted against the Board when a particular Commissioner wanted to hire his daughter without interviewing any other candidates. The daughter was not hired during my term due to my objections, and fear that I would "spill the beans" to Newsday. I left the board on December 31, 2003. The daughter promptly went on the payroll in January 2004. An alarmingly high percentage of the District’s employees are family members, and that perpetuates the entrenchment.

It was because of my experience as a Water Commissioner, and my growing concern as a citizen/taxpayer, that the symbol of my current campaign for the Nassau County Legislature seat in the 8th District arose: One person from the community, carrying a lantern, followed by a growing number of people from the community, shining their lanterns, can light the way to a secure and successful future. Some will say this is a pipe dream -- and they will be correct, but only if we do nothing.

You Say You Want a Webolution

We live today in the digital age, the 21st Century, yet we are governed, in many cases, by 20th Century machine politics. This entrenched form of government is unable to change and develop new ways to do the business of government. It resists transparency, oversight, standardization, and performance measurement, all of which are qualities of a healthy democracy and sound business. Such outmoded practices will continue to threaten our safety, health, environment, home values, and economy until it is no longer sustainable. To change this situation we can, and must, now get involved electronically on our own time, then vote.

Advances in technology have allowed citizens to achieve our ideals of participatory democracy more easily than ever before through the use of the Internet and related technology.

We must collectively demand specific standards that hold our officials openly and measurably accountable for their performance. Their records of voting, attendance, and actual accomplishments ought to be publicly available on the Internet.

The Internet allows today’s diverse citizenry to reason with each other and to engage in communication with our representatives like never before. It is essential that we use these connective technologies to strengthen and achieve our common bonds.

I hope you will join me in carrying the “lantern.” Please e-mail me with your thoughts at
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The Lantern. Isn't that on the Turnpike in West Hempstead? Hmmm. We think we had breakfast there last Tuesday.

Thank you, Michael, for saying so eloquently and succinctly what we've been trying to say in these blog pages for years.

We can only hope that enough good people out there will heed the call and join the webolution.
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If you think The Community Alliance blog is "all that," check out Michael Uhl's blog at Not only is it cutting edge, its green!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Father, Son, And Holy Ghost

Everyone And His Cousin Is On Payroll At The Water District; And Town Attorney Was Paid Counsel

Tell us, does no one see this as outrageous?

Father, sister, mother, in-laws, uncles -- every member of the family getting a salary in the special taxing district fiefdoms, and guess who pays to run these crazy Mom & Pop outfits?

Yes, you, Mr. & Mrs. Taxpayer!

Think the situation in the Franklin Square Water District is unique, the exception to the rule?

Uh, uh. It is the rule, baby.

The Commissioner's son is the superintendent. Junior's nephew and the business manager's son are water plant attendants. The Commissioner's daughter is an account clerk. And guess who the attorney for the water district was? Joe Ra, the Town of Hempstead Attorney, who also wore the hat of counsel for Sanitary District 6.

Not that there's anything wrong in the least with any of this. No. In fact, the water district's business manager defends the practices of nepotism, calling this "all in the family" arrangement "justified."

Is anybody else absorbing all of this, or are we the only ones who get it?

This nepotism, this blatant patronage, this whoring out of municipal services, where the taxpayers and homeowners are being ripped off royally for undocumented work at meetings that never take place, while the Town Supervisor and her cronies sit in Town Hall chortling, "We have no control over the special districts."

No, and there were no American troops at the Baghdad airport, and there are no homosexuals in Iran.

Maybe these folks should start practicing another line of historical repute: "I am not a crook!"

What will it take -- short of indictments hauling every last one of these petty little hacks into jail -- for us to say, "Enough already!"

How much more of our hard-earned money will we allow them to flush down the toilet, while they thumb up their noses at all of us, before we throw the bums out?
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From the Franklin Square/Elmont Herald:
Water district shows leaks
By Brian Zanzonico

For the second time in three years, a local special district has received a scathing report from the county comptroller.

An audit of the Franklin Square Water District has determined that officials received per diem payments for meetings they did not attend, and that the district's hiring practices gave preferential treatment to family members, County Comptroller Howard Weitzman says. Among Weitzman's findings, which were released last week, were that some $55,000 of the $75,000 in per diem payments in 2004 and 2005 were paid to commissioners for days when there were no meetings of the water district board or outside meetings. According to Weitzman, there was little documentation of the hours worked or what jobs were performed. At the time of the audit, state law set the maximum daily compensation for water district commissioners at $80 a day.

"Although water bills are probably not homeowners' largest monthly payments, Long Island water districts are multimillion-dollar operations run with public tax dollars, and they should be operated efficiently and with proper oversight," Weitzman said. "These audits provide further evidence that some special districts in Nassau County are being operated as local government fiefdoms where unchecked spending is often for the benefit of the commissioners and other insiders."

Water district Business Manager Carmen DiMartino said the per diem payments were justified, but he added that all future meetings would be documented in a log book. "If they're giving their time, they're entitled to some reimbursement," DiMartino told the Herald. "If they go to a meeting of the Long Island Water Conference, that's time spent for the district."

The audit also found that nepotism was rampant among water district officials: Commissioner Leonard Falco's son, Leonard Falco Jr., is the district superintendent; Leonard Jr.'s nephew and the business manager's son are water plant attendants; and a commissioner's daughter is an account clerk.

DiMartino defended the water district's hiring practices, saying that all employees must go through the Nassau County Civil Service Commission, a board that serves 33 county departments and 234 municipal agencies, including the towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, school districts, libraries, villages and special districts. "The case of whether an applicant is qualified has to be approved by Nassau County Civil Service," DiMartino said. "If they meet the qualifications, they're hired. Everyone here is qualified."

These were among the other audit's findings:

There were no written operating policies and procedures for many of the district's accounting and operating functions, such as cash receipts, disbursements and payroll.

The district paid $13,600 for the water district attorney and a junior attorney during the audit period. The district reported both attorneys' time to the retirement system, even though the water district attorney, Joseph Ra, had a full-time job with the Town of Hempstead and was also a part-time attorney for the town's Sanitary District 6. The district also paid Social Security and Medicare taxes for the attorneys because they had employee status, even though Internal Revenue Service guidelines permit them to be treated as consultants, which would have saved taxpayer money. Ra resigned from the water district in 2005. Job assignments did not detail segregation of duties regarding financial transactions. Job descriptions were written vaguely or did not exist.

Overtime payments totaling about $50,000 had no supporting documentation. DiMartino said the water district has remediated most of the problems uncovered by the audit, including the institution of a code of ethics, includes a policy on conflict-of-interest that prevents employees from overseeing family members. "Everything that was possible to change, we changed, to satisfy the questions that were brought up," DiMartino said.

The comptroller's 2003-04 audit of Sanitary District No. 6 found that more than $400,000 in goods and services had been purchased with no evidence of solicitation of competitive bids; that the district paid a lobbyist $12,000 a year without documentation of the need for one or evidence of the work performed; and that health benefits were provided to certain part-time lawyers and commissioners but not to other part-time employees. Sanitary District No. 6 covers Elmont, Franklin Square, Garden City South, Lakeview, Malverne Park, South Floral Park and West Hempstead.

Comments about this story? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 240.

Suozzi Moves To Consolidate Sewer Districts

A Good Start In Cleaning Up The Cesspools That Are The Special Taxing Districts

County Executive Tom Suozzi recently announced an agreement to consolidate four local sewer districts with Nassau County's Sewer and Storm Water Authority, merging a common service, eliminating self-perpetuating fiefdoms, and, hopefully, saving the taxpayers money.

"There could be no better place to shake up the status quo and to begin to untangle the special district log jam than at the sewer districts," commented Michael Uhl, a former Commissioner of the West Hempstead Water District, who, having brought much needed reforms to the waterlogged in his hometown, now challenges the longstanding inertia of legislative malaise in Nassau County's 8th Legislative District.

Of course, there are questions as to the ability of Nassau's system to handle the overflow, so to speak, with the County's aging and leaky Cedar Creek plant already operating at 70% capacity, and having quite a few problems of its own.

Nassau's sewer treatment and disposal facilities will have to be brought up to speed, and opertations will need to be streamlined and made more efficient if taxpayers in the existing sewer districts are to realize not only an improvement in service, but a gain in their wallets.

That said, consolidating these sewer districts is a good start. Hopefully, it is only the beginning!
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Suozzi Announces Sewer District Consolidation Agreements
4 Municipalities to Merge Sewage Treatment with County, Resulting in Tax Savings for Local Taxpayers

Mineola, NY – Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi today announced that four municipalities – the Villages of Cedarhurst and Lawrence and the Cities of Glen Cove and Long Beach – have agreed to consolidate their sewage treatment operations with the County’s Sewer and Storm Water Authority.

As part of the County Executive’s campaign to consolidate hundreds of overlapping municipal services operating within the County, a detailed study of sewage treatment found that a County-wide sewer system is technically feasible, and would provide savings to the taxpayers and be better for the environment than the current set-up.

“Consolidation only makes sense if it saves taxpayers money,” Suozzi said. “If these sewer operations were maintained by the localities, the villages and cities would have to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities, causing their sewer rates to rise. These agreements avoid those future costs.”

The agreements with each of the four districts stipulate that no one will lose his or her job as part of the mergers. The County continues to work with the remaining sewer districts and municipalities, advising them on the benefits of consolidation, as found in the study. (The study was conducted by the county in consultation with the engineering firms Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. and Dvirka & Bartilucci.)

The Nassau County Sewer and Storm Water Authority currently treats 85% of the county’s sewage. These agreements will result in that number rising to 93%.

Each of the four agreements has been separately negotiated. The four contracts will be finalized over the next 60 days and be brought before the Nassau County Legislature and the two village boards and two city councils for final agreement. While each agreement is different, all of them will result in savings for local taxpayers. Three of the four sewage treatment plants will be decommissioned and replaced with a pump station. The recently-upgraded Glen Cove plant, with over 2.5 million gallons per day in excess capacity, will be used to serve sewer communities in the North Shore that are currently served by cesspools.

We're Not The Only Ones Concerned About Local Government

North Country Gazette Offers Initiative List To Streamline Government and Reduce costs

Lest you think that special taxing districts and paying more for less is a Long Island/Nassau County/Town of Hempstead thing -- and it is, of course -- the folks from way up there in the North Country (isn't that Canada? Nah, just uppa U.S.) report on the continuing work of the NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness (yes, we know, we know).

Apparently, they have local government inefficiency and corruptness in places like Warren County, and even though news of the election of a local sheriff trumps more global issues, there is growing concern -- at least among those with their ears to the rail -- that "too much government, too little action" is detrimental to the taxpayers' health.

Sure, we have more local government here on Long Island -- and less efficiency, we might add -- than anyplace else on earth [and some of us are darn proud of it, too], but New Yorkers everywhere are catching on, either getting on board the "fix local government" express, or getting off the train, leaving New York.

Yes, we still have our qualms about the efficiency and competitiveness of the State's Commission. After all, we've slept our way through endless hearings and poured over voluminous reports before, only to see little, if any, change. Still, its the only game in town at the moment, and better to keep the debate going, lighting that candle, than to throw up our hands in frustration and disgust, cursing at the darkness.

Whatever the outcome of the Commission's study, one thing is perfectly clear: There will be no real change, and no true benefit to the taxpayers, unless we, the people, decide we've finally had enough of the status quo.

We, the people. Involved. Participating. Voting the rascals out, and those with the balls (there, we said it) to effect change -- even where it comes at their own political expense -- in.
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Initiative Lists Would Improve Local Governments

ALBANY—Speaking to the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) on Thursday, Governor Eliot Spitzer released a list of nearly 150 initiatives to improve the operation of local governments ranging from municipal consolidation and restructuring to the sharing of services.

Responding to a request made by the Governor earlier this year, local governments submitted initiatives they believed to be ripe for efficiency measures. Lists were submitted to the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness (LGEC) established by the Governor in April of this year.

LGEC and an inter-agency task force providing legal, logistical and technical support to the Commission are already working with local governments on a number of projects across the state.

“These initiatives were submitted by local leaders who believe, as I do, that government should be an evolutionary process leading to better, more efficient ways of serving New Yorkers,” said Governor Spitzer. “These ideas embody a commitment to streamlining government, and I commend those officials for their courage and leadership in this area.”

The LGEC is expected to make recommendations to improve the efficiency, competitiveness and quality of life of New York’s localities to Governor Spitzer by April 15, 2008.

Former Lieutenant Governor Stan Lundine, the commission’s chairman, said: “The commission is learning from its hearings, and discussions with government officials across the state, but the local initiatives serve as a laboratory for new ideas and identify needed changes in current law and practice.”

Included among the nearly 150 local initiatives are efforts to reduce the size of government by consolidating districts, pooling administrative functions, and eliminating duplicative services, including:

–Studying numerous municipal and school district consolidations;

–Consolidating special districts for water, sewer and garbage collection;

–Consolidating town-county highway services in thirteen counties;

–Exploring fire district consolidation in five counties;

–Consolidating justice courts in eight counties;

–Developing multi-county jails, purchasing and other functions;

–Developing countywide assessing, tax collection, public employee health insurance, code enforcement, technology and emergency dispatch initiatives;

–Establishing multi-municipal policing initiatives in four counties; and

–Exploring smart growth initiatives in seven counties.

Thus far, the commission has held public hearings in the Capital District and on Long Island. In addition, its next public sessions are scheduled for Western New York on Oct. 24; and in the Hudson Valley on Nov. 28, and additional sessions are scheduled with local government associations and regional chambers of commerce.

The commission is composed of 15 members, including representatives recommended by the four legislative leaders. In addition to studying new proposals, the Commission is examining long-standing programs and policies that may require re-evaluation, modification or enhancement.

Among the LGEC early accomplishments is the implementation by the Office of Real Property Services of a new aid program to encourage countywide property assessment and tax collection.

A complete list of projects, as well as other information about the Commission is available at its website:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When Wright Is Wrong

Gerald Wright's Campaign Posters On Utility Poles Send Wrong Message

We've all seen them. The placards that adorn the sides of buildings, fences (typically surrounding abandoned property), and public utility poles.


Nothing unusual -- althoungh nonetheless unlawful -- here.

Still, it irks us when we see Gerald Wright, who is seeking election as a County Court Judge, tacking his illegally posted signs to utility poles along major thoroughfares in Hempstead Town.

You see, not only should Mr. Wright be held to a higher standard because of the position he's seeks [he's running for a judgeship, damn it], he also happens to be the Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Hempstead -- the folks who are supposed to protect us good citizens from unlawful, unsightly, and improperly placed signage that stands in violation of the Town's Building Code.]

To be fair, neither Mr. Wright nor the Town of Hempstead have been particularly adept at removing illegal signs -- with the notable exception of postings made by Democrats during the fall election season. And yet, shouldn't Mr. Wright, who, presumably, will take an oath to uphold and administer the law should he win election to County Court, be more sensitive to the very codes that the body he chairs is required to enforce?

See no evil. Hear No evil. Do no evil. Well, scratch the last one.

Gerald Wright has the chance to right his wrong, now, some six weeks before election day. Until such time as he shall do so -- if ever -- we must proclaim the Wright is the wrong man for the job!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

There Must Be Something In The Water!

With Water Districts Tainted, Can The Well Be Running Dry?

First its Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray saying she has no control over the special districts that operate under Town seal.

Then its Congressman Peter King telling the media that we have too many mosques.

And how about Nassau County Legislator Peter Schmitt calling for a freeze in the reassessment, when market values on Long Island are clearly on the downswing?

Its a regular brain trust, here on Long Island!

Yes, there really must be something in the water we drink, aside from the MTBE.
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From The New York Times, Editorial Page:

Is It Something in the Water?

Recent notes from Long Island’s wide, wacky world of special taxing districts, courtesy of the Nassau comptroller, Howard Weitzman:

¶Water commissioners in Franklin Square and Hicksville were apparently so dedicated to their duties that they met two or three times a week during the two-year period in 2004 and 2005 that Mr. Weitzman’s office audited their districts. Every time they met, each pocketed the $80 per-diem payments that the state allows commissioners of such districts to receive when doing the people’s business.

But the meetings were apparently so urgent and action-packed that the commissioners were unable to keep adequate records of how many hours they worked, or what actual district business they performed. The cost of two years’ worth of per-diems to taxpayers: $76,400 in Franklin Square and $55,120 in Hicksville.

¶The Hicksville district gave free Costco memberships to its three commissioners and their spouses. They told auditors that they used the memberships to buy bottled water.

¶The commissioners in both districts are part-timers, but received full medical, dental and vision benefits during the audit period. The Franklin Square commissioners got life insurance too. Three Hicksville commissioners went to American Water Works Association conferences in Orlando, Fla., and San Francisco, for dubious reasons and for about $20,000 in taxpayer money.
They were reimbursed for meals at rates that were sometimes nearly double what the federal government allows its employees in those cities.

¶Of the 15 people on the Franklin Square district’s payroll, seven are related to one another, suggesting that blood is indeed thicker than water. (Think of it as a riddle: If a commissioner’s son is the district superintendent, the superintendent’s nephew is a water plant attendant, a commissioner’s daughter is an account clerk, and the business manager’s son is a water plant attendant, then who gets robbed? That’s right: you, the taxpayer!)

We’re no experts in fluid dynamics, but it does not take a hydrologist or even an unlicensed plumber to realize that tax money, like water, will disappear if leaks are not plugged and people are not watched every minute. On Long Island, nobody seems to have been watching, except for Mr. Weitzman, whose full audit — the latest of a series of wince-inducing reports from his office — can be obtained from the Nassau County Web site,

There are a couple of chilling lessons from Mr. Weitzman’s perennially fruitful search for small-bore atrocities committed by these little-known, largely unaccountable cul-de-sacs of elective government:

First, that these petty inefficiencies, wastefulness and abuses of power add up to significant amounts on any New Yorker’s tax bill.

And second, that the Hicksville and Franklin Square Water Districts are only two of almost 7,000 town special districts across New York, in addition to 4,200 other local governments.

Mr. Weitzman deserves applause, again, for casting a withering eye on special-district shenanigans. But at some point, it’s the voters who must wake up to stop the steady drip, drip, drip of tax dollars down the drain.
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Oh, and somebody -- anybody -- guess how much the Secretary to the Board of Water Commissioners in the West Hempstead Water District (the former son-in-law of an ex-Commissioner) makes per year? Try in the neighborhood of $93,000. For what, you ask? Well, that's water under the bridge.

Folks, if we don't start throwing these goons -- and the politicos who keep the medieval fiefdoms going -- out with the bath water, pretty soon, about all we will have is a pot to pee in!

America At Its Best

All Evil Needs To Triumph Is For Good People To Refuse To Hear It Coming

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pronounced, "I'm a nut job"), the President of Iran, is, perhaps, the very embodiment of evil. We will even concede that, given the choice, we would vote for Kate Murray over Mahmoud -- and that's not easy for us to admit.

So, why let him speak at Columbia, or give him a forum, anywhere?

Why, because making believe he doesn't exist, or hoping against hope that he'll go away if we don't listen to his vitriolic words, won't make it so, and the surest way to quash the hobnob of demented minds is to expose the rhetoric, the absurdity, the cruelty to the cleansing light of day.

We ignore evil at our own peril. We cannot isloate ourselves from it, or pretend that if we keep a tight lid on it, its cancerous tentacles will not reach out to strangle us.

Instead, we must confront the evil that Iran's President spews every time he opens his mouth, subjecting his words not merely to public ridicule and protest, but to something even more powerful, the truth.

You see, evil lurks not only in the hearts of men like Ahmadinejad, but incubates in the shadows, where ideas are forbidden to de debated, dissidents are jailed or beheaded, and thoughts are controlled by the state.

That's not America. Well, not our America.
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Editorial: Columbia right to host Ahmadinejad

After the squall of controversy over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University yesterday blew over, a nagging question remained: Was Columbia right to have hosted a foreign leader who has advocated the destruction of Israel and questioned the validity of the Holocaust, if not its historical reality?

On balance, the university did the right thing.

Despite protests from pro-Israel groups and denunciations from presidential candidates, it was good for students and faculty at the School of International and Public Affairs to hear Ahmadinejad's speech, however rambling, and his answers to tough questions, however evasive and unsatisfying.

Despicable as Ahmadinejad's views are, he belongs in the roster of Columbia's World Leaders Forum. Like it or not, he can't be ignored. He represents a nation whose already parlous relations with the United States are reaching a dangerous straining point over Tehran's continued nuclear push and the provocative part Iran plays in Iraq's sectarian conflict.

At the very least, it's useful to know how an adversary behaves and how he deals with a potentially hostile audience. Many of the students in the audience yesterday are preparing for a career in foreign affairs. They should be exposed to leaders whose views may be antithetical to theirs.

But perhaps the most compelling argument for hosting Ahmadinejad is what it demonstrates about the two countries. In Iran, dissidents are silenced and jailed for their views. Protesters risk being clubbed by Iran's religious police. In Morningside Heights, by contrast, there may have been peaceful protests and Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, may have given the soft-spoken Iranian leader an intemperate reception, calling him a "petty and cruel dictator." But Ahmadinejad was allowed to speak and respond to some tough questions.

As President George W. Bush unexpectedly said, Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia "speaks volumes about really the greatness of America." Not an elegant remark, perhaps, but an appropriate one.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Community Alliance Blog Passes Milestone

Or Was That A Kidney Stone?

600th Blogpost On The Quality Of Life Web Log

They said it couldn't be done. It Wouldn't last. No One would read.

Yet, here we are, more than two years and 600+ blogposts later, still dropping jaws, pulling legs -- but no punches -- and keeping the politicos, from Town Hall to State Street, on their toes, eyes wide open.

Surely, this will merit the blog an award from the Long Island Press. We have to be "The Best of..." something.

Damn you, Robbie Woliver!

Okay. If we're still writing, and you're still reading, we must be doing something right. Then again, it could just be that all those government officials we harp on daily just can't seem to get it right.

Either way, we thank you for making The Community Alliance blog the most irreverant -- though never irrelevant -- blog on Long Island.

When it comes to looking out for your quality of life, we blog, you decide.

Hey, its your Long Island, after all. Blog on!

Paseando a Miss Daisy

Take A Drive To Long Island's East End For The LI Latino International Film Festival

Governor Spitzer's decision to have the State issue drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants couldn't have come a moment too soon.

Now, thousands of illegal Mexicans can join you, September 28 - 30, at the 2007 LONG ISLAND LATINO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (LILIFF), to be held at the
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach, NY.

Doubtful there will be a dishwasher or a landscaper in town through next Sunday -- and it will be safe to once again sleep with the doors unlocked and the windows open, even for those who reside next to the nearest shape-up center.

Levity aside, LILIFF looks to be a memorable event, marking not only the great accomplishments of Latinos in film (and not just Jennifer Lopez), but also the significant contributions made by Latinos to the Long Island economy and Long Island life. [Including, of course, the advent of Taco Bell and the near-eradication of the English language!]

Of course, we jest. [Just don't let Peter King get hold of this blogpost.]

The Long Island Latino International Film Fesitval is not to be missed! [Our money is on A Garota/The Kid (Short/Animation/5min/Brazil/ 2006). Hey, isn't that Oh No, Mr. Bill from Saturday Night Live? Ah, that's Senor Bill, to you...]

What better way to mark Hispanic Heritage Month -- and the end of the Jewish High Holy Days -- than a Latino Film Festival right here on Long Island.

Cuba, Si. Castro, No!
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Click HERE for screening and ticket information

The Phone Rings Off The Hook In Franklin Square

Local Activists Ask Residents To Answer The Call

With all of the unsightly cell phone towers around -- posing a threat to property values, if not our health -- we're amazed that we can't get calls transmitted directly into our heads. Who needs the cell phone anymore.

Franklin Square residents have been fighting the construction of yet another ugly cell phone tower [this one to be thinly disguised as a god-awful, humungous flagplole], with little or no help from local government (read as, the Town of Hempstead -- what else), which has essentially thrown up its hands under the good old "federal pre-emption" doctrine.

Sure, local politicos have attended rallies and posed for photo ops, but we have to ask, whose Franklin Square is it anyway.

If the folks in Franklin Square don't want a cell phone tower, then, for goodness sake, they shouldn't have a cell phone tower. Period!

Whose community is it it, anyway?
- - -
From the
Three Village Times:


The fight against T-Mobile is not over! As most of you know, T-Mobile has a variance application before the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning & Appeals to construct a 65-foot high cell tower in front of the Franklin Bridge Centre Shopping Plaza at 340 Dogwood Avenue, Franklin Square. A hearing was held on September 28, 2006 and another hearing is anticipated some time this November. A Cell Tower Community Update Meeting is going to be held on October 2, 2007 at the Franklin Square Public Library at 7 p.m. All are urged to attend.

At the September 28, 2006 hearing, T-Mobile presented their case to the zoning board. Based upon their "Drive Test," T-Mobile claimed that there is a significant gap in coverage in the four-tenths of a mile area to be served by the proposed cell tower. They also introduced a Visual Impact Study claiming that the proposed 65-foot high cell tower would not have a negative visual impact on the community.
We raised issues as to their "Drive Test." T-Mobile concluded that the subject area had a significant gap in coverage, but did not provide the underlying data supporting their conclusions. The zoning board "ordered" T-Mobile to provide us with their underlying data; to date, they have failed to do so. We raised the fact that T-Mobile's consumer website showed coverage in the area and our expert testified that he made 100 T-Mobile cell calls in the area with all 100 calls going through crystal clear.

We also objected to T-Mobile's Visual Impact Study. It is our contention that their study is defective because it was performed while leaves were still on the trees and without prior written notice to the zoning board. Our contentions were based upon case law.At the September 28, 2006 hearing, T-Mobile closed their case after nearly eight hours of testimony. Incredibly, in April 2007, T-Mobile did a "do-over" by conducting a second "leaf-off" impact study with prior written notice to the board. We vehemently objected to their second study sending a letter to the zoning board. How many chances should T-Mobile get, especially after they rested their case? This issue will be decided at the next hearing.

Over the past year, many residents have come up to me and asked, "Can health concerns about the cell tower prevent it from going up?" According to the law, as long as the emission levels are within federal guidelines, health is not a defense. However, from a personal level, everyone has the right to be concerned. In an April 23, 2007 article, the London Times reported that a quarter of a 30 member staff at a school within sight of a 90' cell tower developed tumors. The cell tower was installed 15 years ago and was eventually taken down by the cell carrier after protests from community residents. Until it is 100 percent certain that there is no link between cell towers and health, why should we take a chance? From a potential health impact, are we better off with or without a cell tower? The proposed tower does not belong in the middle of a residential neighborhood or near schools.

It is obvious that T-Mobile is going to fight us to the very end. If we defeat T-Mobile, our case could possibly be a "difference maker" in the telecommunications industry, setting forth the blueprint for beating a cell carrier. The publicity could be extensive. We have come too far and too long to give up now. We must continue the fight.

Remember, our case is different from the recent church variance hearing. We are governed by Federal Law and, therefore, must establish evidence of record to prevail. Therefore, it is imperative that we bring back our expert. Also, in the church case, they withdrew their application. Despite community opposition, T-Mobile is not withdrawing.

We have come a long way. It would be foolhardy to quit now. Let's give them a fight to the finish. Thanks again for everyone's support.

Say no to T-Mobile.

Franklin Square United Neighborhood Association, Inc.

Ronald Lipsky, President

No Schmitt!

Peter Schmitt, In Glass House, Casts More Stones

Our friends at Nassau GOP watch have caught Nassau County Legislator Peter Schmitt up to his old "do as I say, not as I do" tricks.

The story, as told by John Rennhack, goes something like this:

Schmitt raises some righteous indignation on News12 about the PROPOSED raises for the County Executive, Assessor, DA, and Clerk.

Schmitt practically screams at Scott Feldman, "You don't try and sneak it in the middle of the night without any public scrutiny or without any public debate or public discussion. He should know better."

What the hell is Schmitt talking about? Seriously.

Nothing is being "snuck in" because Schmitt, as a legislator, has to READ the budget proposal and thenVOTE yes or no.

Schmitt is just plain LYING when he says there won't be "public debate or public discussion."

That is what the LEGISLATURE will be doing before they vote in the budget proposal.

I'm going to try to help Schmitt here...

Step 1. Suozzi sends budget proposal to theLegislature.

Step 2. The Legislature (which includes Schmitt) wil lread the budget.

Step 3. The Legislature (again which includes Schmitt) will have a public hearing on the budget.

Step 4. The Legislature (still including Schmitt) will VOTE on the budget.

Nowhere in there is Suozzi sneaking in raises "in the middle of the night" or "without any public scrutiny or without any public debate or public discussion."

It is up to the LEGISLATURE to approve or deny the raises.That is how it works.To use Schmitts own words, Schmitt "should know better."

Schmitt is hoping that he can fool Nassau residents into thinking that the raises are a done deal and no one can object to them.Why does Schmitt think Nassau residents are stupid?
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Click HERE to view Schmitt's News12 tirade via the Nassau GOP Watch.

For the record, John Rennhack is challenging Peter Schmitt for Schmitt's seat in the Nassau County Legislature. [Better have that seat fumigated if you win, John!]

John maintains the Nassau GOP Watch as well as the Peter Schmitt Watch and the Peter King Watch.

You can visit John Rennhack's own campaign website at or at myspace.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Don't Just Wish Upon A STAR -- Apply!

Long Island Residents To Receive "STAR Codes" In Mail Week Of September 24

If you think you're seeing STARs, you may be right!

Watch your mail for a letter from the NYS Department of Taxation & Finance. The letter will include your STAR Code, necessary for completing your Application for a property tax rebate.

With STAR Code in hand, you may complete and submit your Application for a rebate.

Residents will be able to apply for their rebates online, which will -- should -- expedite the process.

Questions about how the STAR rebate process works? Click HERE

For general info about the STAR rebate program, click HERE

To apply for your property tax rebate, click HERE

And please, don't spend your rebate all in one place. The government will want that money back, soon enough!

Which Part Of "Volunteer" Don't They Understand?

No Pay For Special District Commissioners? Well Duh!

Okay. So we've been saying this for years.

If you want to volunteer -- as in "there's no greater service to the community than public service" -- then do so for reasons other than getting paid for "no show" meetings, junkets to Vegas or the Bahamas, or lifetime health benefits for you, yours, and the patronage cronie next door.

Maybe now that Newsday is editorializing to that effect (and you know the members of the NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness are not only thinking about this, but talking out loud as well), taxpayers, too, will sign on.

School Boards work without pay or comps, as does the aforementioned Commission, come to think of it.

Lop off the heads of these special district beasts -- some of which have multiple (as in five or more) commissioners -- and watch how quickly these self-serving, tax dollar eating fiefdoms disappear off the face of the earth!
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Cut off the commissioners
Special districts are costing taxpayers

State law prohibits school board members and fire district commissioners from getting paid.

These volunteers don't get medical, dental or vision coverage, either. Why then should the elected commissioners of water, sanitary and sewer special districts be entitled to those generous benefits, sucked directly from the pockets of taxpayers?

Recent audits by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman make a strong case for the State Legislature to end these practices. The latest study found that the three Hicksville Water District commissioners filed for 689 per diem payments at $80 each. That's a total payout over two years of $55,120, plus the cost of their medical plans. Some waive the insurance coverage (for which there is a cash rebate) because they were covered by another plan, but that raises another question. How can someone work another full-time job and in the same year, still find 114 days to punch the clock as a commissioner? That's a deal that makes the $19,000 the Hicksville commissioners spent to attend conventions (Orlando in 2004 and San Francisco in 2005) seem like a small perk in comparison.

The Franklin Square Water District wasn't any better. Three commissioners there put in 955 days, over two years, for a payday of $76,400. But don't think you can feed at this trough. It's usually a family affair, with 7 of the 15 on the payroll all related. No surprise then that a recent poll by the Long Island Index found very strong support for consolidation of non-emergency special districts into centralized entities. Gov. Eliot Spitzer appointed a commission on local government and efficiency, and it will make recommendations for reform at year's end. Eliminating compensation for special district commissioners would be a good place to start.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

Author, Author

Friends Of The Library To Sponsor Distinctive Author Reception

Last year, we opened a spanking new public library on the Turnpike in Elmont. [Why do they call it the Elmont "Memorial" Library? Did Elmont die?]

Anyway, in about a month's time, our friends in West Hempstead -- not to be outdone -- will be cutting the ribbon on their new facility located on Hempstead Avenue. [Do you think Hempstead Town Supervisor will have the audacity to show her smiling face?]

Our friends at the library -- literally the Friends of the Library -- have let us know about a very special event scheduled for Thursday, October 18th: A Distinguished Author Reception.

It truly is the latest and the greatest, and all are invited -- not only from West Hempstead -- to join the celebration.
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Celebrating the Theme of Community and Volunteerism”
West Hempstead, NY 516-565-3714

The Friends of the West Hempstead Library announces the Long Island Distinctive Author Honorees

The Friends of the West Hempstead Public Library’s Long Island Distinctive Authors Reception is being held on Thursday, October 18th at the West Hempstead Public Library beginning at 7:00 pm. The Friends program will be featuring several distinctive authors from Long Island as they celebrate the launch event of their new headquarters. Announcing today the Long Island Event Author Honorees:

Bob King, “Raising a Fallen Treasure,” “The Vanderbilt Homes,” “ A Dream Remembered”
Bob McMillan, “Global Passage”
Valentina Janek, “In Love and Friendship”
Jim Ryan, “Simple Happiness”
Sheila & Letty Sustrin, “The Teacher Who Would Not Retire”
Christian Carrington, “The Time Paradox”
Diane Baumann, “Show Dog”
Steven H. Post, “Samsara Moon”
Lynn Broder, “The Long Winding Road”
Ann Schrank, “Growing Up Italian”
Lori Gershon, “Child of Light”
Kathleen Bart, “A Tale of Two Teddies,” “Global Gourmet,” “Town Teddy & Country Bear”
Kevin Durst, “Glitter That Was Once Gold”
Tim McHeffey, “Juggling the Journey”

The Friends are looking at the Long Island Distinctive Authors Reception as a tribute to authors who have made a special contribution to Long Island and who clearly represent community spirit. All proceeds from the event will benefit the West Hempstead Public Library’s Enhancement Campaign.

As quoted by Kathleen Dunne, President of the Friends, “watching the new library being built, one can’t help but see it as a testament to the vision and dedication of an entire community. A dream like this can only take shape through the passion, commitment and support of local organizations and community leaders.” Local author, Valentina Janek, recently published a book describing the love and friendship that can be generated in a community. “They say in the end, all that really matters are the connections and relationships people share” stated Janek. “When people come together in love and friendship, that force and tenacity can do wonderful things for a community.”

To celebrate this spirit of community and involvement, the Friends of the West Hempstead Public Library would like to invite you to not only make a difference, but to actually be the difference at the Long Island Author’s Reception on October 18th, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM at the new West Hempstead Public Library located at 500 Hempstead Avenue, West Hempstead, New York.

The cost to attend the benefit is $50.00 per person. For reservations, sponsorships and congratulatory messages to distinctive authors, visit or

All checks should be made payable to “Friends of the WHPL.” Questions can be emailed to us at or The Friends can also be reached by calling Carol Segrete at 516-481-6591, Valentina Janek at 516-565-3714 or Patricia Locurcio at 516-385 8766.

The Friends of the West Hempstead Public Library work to support and enhance the resources, services and facilities of the West Hempstead Public Library, through public awareness, advocacy and fundraising.

Profusion is a public relations small business partner serving clients in media relations, event management, internal communications, cause related and social marketing.
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Something happening in your community that you want EVERYONE to know about?

Post it right here at The Community Alliance blog. E-mail community news to us at

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How To Clean Up Hempstead Town

It Was Al D'Amato, Of All People, Who Once Said It Would Take An Enema To Clean Out Town Hall

The Community Alliance offers a simpler solution: Colon Cleanse

Granted, there's much more than 20 pounds of waste, fat, and the stuff that an irritable bowel is made of at Hempstead Town Hall, but hey, a thorough colon cleaning would be a good start.

What more is there to say, really, other than, "These statements have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent lazy, inept, or just plain awful elected officials, and it is not a substitute for a frequent cleansing of the system by means of exercising your right to vote. Regular use may relieve incompetence. is a proud supplier of Colonex 700 Products to many levels of good government. is not affiliated in any way with The Community Alliance."

Until there is a colon cleanse in your medicine cabinet, there is a remedy to the all too common malaise of government by constipation -- VOTE!


Click HERE to Register to Vote. Deadline for Voter Registration is October 12th.

Click HERE to read, An Enema Of The People, as timely an pertinent today as it was when it was first posted in 2005.
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THIS JUST IN: Newsday Gets It Wrong
No Birthday celebration for 105 year old George Gordon is this!

Check out the video. This is Joe Mondello celebrating 105 years of one-party rule at Hempstead Town Hall. [If you look closely at the video, you can see Kate Murray trying to wipe the cake off her face. Hey, and there’s Joe Ra, wearing yet another hat…..]

And by the way, "George Gordon" is just the Nassau County Republican Committee's code for "Grand Old Government." A government for the few, of the few, and paid for by the many!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Waters Get Murkier As Special Districts Foul Financials

Nassau Comptroller Reports Fiscal Irregularities In Franklin Square, Hicksville

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Howard Weitzman, the Nassau County Comptroller, issued a couple of Audit Reports that cast some very ominous clouds over how the water districts in Franklin Square and Hicksville handle the taxpayers' money.

If the themes sound familiar -- commissioners paid for undocumented meetings; unbridled nepotism; little or no fiscal oversight or independent review -- well, it must be something in the water.

“Although water bills are probably not homeowners’ largest monthly payments,” Comptroller Weitzman said, “Long Island water districts are multi-million dollar operations run with public tax dollars, and they should be operated efficiently and with proper oversight. These audits provide further evidence that some special districts in Nassau County are being operated as local government fiefdoms where unchecked spending is often for the benefit of the commissioners and other insiders.”

While commissioners in both Franklin Square and Hicksville could not be reached for comment, The Community Alliance was fortunate enough to touch base with Michael Uhl, a former Commissioner of the West Hempstead Water District.

Mr. Uhl expressed no surpise to the Comptroller's findings. After all, he had exposed many of the same shortcomings during his tenure as Water Commissioner in West Hempstead.

"This is but the tip of the slowly melting iceberg," said Uhl. “With little independent oversight and no one watching the pot, is it any wonder that financial abuses abound?”

In July, Mr. Uhl testified before the NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitveness as to his experiences as Water Commissioner, detailing but a few of the abuses of the public trust.

Mr. Uhl, who is now a candidate for Nassau County Legislature in the 8th Legislative District, told The Community Alliance, “If they’re not watching the books, do you really think they’re keeping tabs on the quality of our water?”

Guess what? They're not watching the books. . .
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Water officials slammed by Nassau comptroller
By Carl Macgowan

Water district commissioners in Franklin Square rang up tens of thousands of dollars for attending undocumented meetings, and the district is riddled with nepotism, Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman said Tuesday.

Hicksville water commissioners, meanwhile, raked in thousands of dollars worth of compensation for going to conferences in Florida and California, Weitzman said in releasing audits of both districts.

Weitzman said the districts' spending habits were symptomatic of abuses practiced by many special districts throughout the county.

"They're self-perpetuating fiefdoms. They operate with very little transparency," he said.

"Clearly all these districts are set up for a few under the guise of benefitting the communities."

Franklin Square and Hicksville officials said they have changed their ways and adopted new policies since the audits were conducted in 2004 and 2005. In most cases, county auditors agreed with the changes, according to copies of the audits.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Town Supervisor Has Friends In High Places

Tower Of No-Tell Hotel Boasts Banner Mocking Kate Murray

Let no one say Kate Murray isn't the apple of the eye in the West Hempstead community. [Don't worry, folks. No one will be saying it!]

If nobody takes credit -- not even Al Queada (or was that, Al D'Amato?) for placing that hilarious -- yet altogether true -- banner atop West Hempstead's Courtesy Hotel, we will.

Yes, late Sunday night, as a full moon shown over the LIRR Right-of-Way -- eclipsed only by the forlorn shadows of National Wholesale Liqiudators -- The Community Alliance tapped operatives of the Kevin Gorman for Town Supervisor campaign to scale the walls of the Courtesy, placing the Murray Banner 4-stories above the ground.

Indeed, it was Kevin Gorman himself, reaching for new heights, who donned a Spiderman costume and, with the assistance of five homeless street people and a dozen belly bombers from White Castle, climbed vertically up the side of the hotel, hoisting the banner. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Alas, the banner came down as quickly as it went up. We suppose the Town of Hempstead threatened to fine the hotel for an illegal sign, or worse, threatened to keep the hotel open, indefinitely, lest the banner come down. [Or perhaps -- and this is just a guess here -- the Nassau County/Town of Hempstead GOP Sign Stealing Committee has started its work early this year.]

As for the September 20 hearing before the Nassau County Planning Commission on the Town's must maligned Urban Renewal Plan, same has been postponed, without date, according to West Hempstead Civic Association President, Rosalie Norton.

And so, the saga of West Hempstead's "faulty tower" continues.
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Banner on side of W. Hempstead hotel blasts Murray
By Eden Laikin

With Election Day just weeks away, a large sign was hung on the side of the Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead, indirectly blaming the Hempstead town supervisor for not closing the crime- and drug-ridden hotel sooner.The banner, which was first spotted by residents on Thursday and has since been removed, read: "RE-ELECT Kate Murray. We're still here, because she's still there."

Neither the civic groups that have complained about the hotel for more than 10 years nor the hotel's out-of-state owners have claimed responsibility for the sign. The owners entered into a contract with a developer to purchase the property before the town intervened.

Murray, who is not contested in today's Republican primary, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the Nassau County Planning Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday to vote on the town's plan to redevelop the entire 10-acre blighted area, which includes the hotel. The nine-member commission has the final say on zoning actions by local governments and was supposed to decide on the town's urban renewal plan last month. It postponed the decision in order to review all the public comment. West Hempstead Civic Association members hope the commission rejects the plan and honors a contract signed last year by Courtesy's owners with developer Trammell Crow, which wants to demolish the hotel and build an apartment complex.

If the commission rejects the plan, the town board could adopt it only with a super majority of votes - five of seven board members.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

The Stakes Are High At Belmont

Redevelopment Of Belmont Park Must Involve And Benefit Elmont Community

We like to see our State Legislators working together, putting people and community before politics and the divisiveness of partisanship.

No one, in our opinion, does it better than Assemblyman Tom Alfano of the 21st AD in Nassau County. The moderate Republican, known to ignore party lines in favor of community ties, now joins forces with his Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Craig Johnson, on plans for Elmont's renaissance.

When Town Supervisor Kate Murray touts her plans for redevelopment, we cast serious doubts -- it being altogether necessary to suspend all belief in the hope that the Town of Hempstead could or would actually do anything for the good people of Elmont.

With Tom Alfano and Craig Johnson leading the charge and taking an active role in the process, we feel assured that Elmont's best days are truly yet to come.
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As representatives of the communities surrounding the Belmont Park Race Track, we remain very concerned with what appeared to have been a lack of consideration for Elmont and Floral Park in the awarding of a new state franchise for the thoroughbred franchise.

Recent events, however, have given us optimism that the communities' voices will not be ignored during this process that will determine who runs Belmont for the next 30 years.

We, like many of you, were alarmed that the memorandum of agreement between the governor and the New York Racing Association made no references to the race track's role in the community.

The decades that NYRA has operated Belmont in a bubble has also left many with little faith that, unless mandated to, they would become the good neighbors that our communities need and our residents deserve.

The day the decision was announced, we sent a letter to Governor Spitzer that spelled out our concerns and strongly requested that the communities have a seat at the table during any decisions that were made about Belmont.

Since that time, the governor has said, both personally and publicly, that he agrees that the communities should be part of the process.

We applaud him for heeding our call.

But, make no mistake about it: We have a long way to go.

We need to make sure that these assurances are in writing and part of the final franchise agreement, which has to be approved by the state Legislature.

As your representatives in the Senate and the Assembly, we vow to make sure that the community's needs are met in the final version of the agreement.

How the track can best benefit the community is something that should be left up to the community. Elmont is currently undergoing a visioning process designed to determine the community's future direction.

Its relationship with Belmont, an attraction that draws thousands of people to the area, is sure to figure prominently into this plan.

We promise to work with them to make sure that their vision is taken to the state level, and becomes a reality.

In fact, the Elmont Community Coalition Council, which serves as the umbrella organization for all civic groups in the community, has put together a comprehensive, sensible list of recommendations we feel should be used as a roadmap for this new relationship. Some of these include:

· A major overhaul of the facility including new painted fencing, more attractive landscaping, sidewalk improvements, renovation of backstretch housing and educational facilities for backstretch workers and erection of lamps instead of poles surround the park and many others.

· Community participation and inclusion in the Annual Belmont Stakes and other important races as well as a celebration parade at major events.

· Economic development and tourism initiatives including high-end restaurants and shops on the grounds of the park as well as a hotel and convention center to expand the use of the grounds year-round.

· Creating an overall business and service center to generate tax revenue for the community, at the same time increasing the tax base which results in lower property taxes to homeowners.

· An iron-clad PILOT (Payment in Lieu Of Taxes) agreement guaranteeing a revenue stream from Belmont to local area governments, specifically the school districts.

Of course, the only way that we can be truly successful is if all of us, state officials, local leaders, and residents, to work together. This is not an issue that can afford to be infected by partisanship and any other difference that may divide us.

The future never is.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Return Kate Murray. . .

. . .To Levittown!

Kevin Gorman Announces Bid To Unseat Kate Murray In Hempstead Town; Challenges Supervisor To "Do The Right Thing"

Kevin who? You heard right. Kevin Gorman.

We can almost hear Kate now. "Misogynist. Woman hater. Pay no attention to the man behind the voting booth curtain."

Ah, yes. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And, by the way, we love a good massage (misogh?) as much as the next guy.

But what of the candidacy of Gary Carlton? Gary, we hardly knew ye!

Oh well, so much for nostalgia. The Democrats now have their candidate for Town of Hempstead Supervisor, and the race to take back Town Hall is on.

It will come as no surprise that The Community Alliance throws its full support behind the campaign of Kevin Gorman (if that isn't the death knell, we don't know what is).

After all, short of the nomination of Charles Manson, we'd probably be inclined to support ANYBODY BUT MURRAY. [Okay, we wouldn't endorse, say, David Berkowitz (a/k/a Son of Sam), and maybe not Benito Mussolini (then again, he did make the trains run on time), but short of that. . .]

If you live in the unincorporated areas of the Town of Hempstead, you know from whence we speak. Forgotten, second-class citizens, consumed by burdensome taxes imposed by the town's special taxing districts; huddled under the oversized signage of vacant storefronts on a Main Street which had its last best year in 1962; unable to afford to remain in our own homes; our children disgusted and moving off Long Island; blighted, beleagured, beaten up at every turn by a local government long on maintaining its own stranglehold on town hall, but way too short on ideas, ideals, and action beyond its muted, myopic words.

If you live within the incorporated areas of Hempstead Town (as in, "it takes a village") -- lucky you -- where you can be thankful that local authorities are truly local, and at least somewhat proactive (a dirty word in Hempstead Town), ignore at your own peril the plight of your neighbors who are not nearly as fortunate. That blight is but blocks away!

So here's a bit about Kevin Gorman -- musician, columnist, Psychiatrist (why is it that the Dems can't for the life of them get a decent website up and running) -- and his challenge to Kate Murray.

As for "doing the right thing," well, Kate, the time to do right by the residents of Hempstead Town passed you by without notice long ago. The "right thing" requires "the right stuff."

Few would deny that Kate Murray has the right stuff, or something hidden under that red blazer that looks like the right stuff. We certainly will concede that Kate is intelligent, endearing, and, of course, photogenic.

Given the lack of effective leadership at the helm at Hempstead Town Hall -- something that residents in places like Elmont, West Hempstead, and Uniondale -- to name a few of the communities marginalized by Murray -- know all too well, it is evident that the sitting Supervisor simply doesn't have what it takes to summon "the right stuff" to the fore, let alone to "do right" by the residents of Hempstead Town.

Anyway, after 100+ years of one party rule, its time.
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Kevin Gorman

An almost constant fighter for moderate Democrats since the days of Hugh Carey, Kevin Gorman of Wantagh, NY has announced he is running for Kate Murray’s job as Hempstead Supervisor—and unlike past candidates to oppose Joe Mondello’s machine, Mr. Gorman will not go quietly.

“The Town Board is obsessing about grass height being unseemly at 8 inches rather than 10 inches, yet they do not enforce or respond to residents at any height.” Mr. Gorman opened at his news conference in Mineola. “We have a century old system of special districts, designed originally to employ year round residents, while more than half the home owners were seasonal owners from the city. Now we are employing still entrenched Republicans at the expense of ourselves. The Town of Hempstead is no longer a playground for the rich. It is where we live and we are taxing ourselves and our children off our beautiful Island.”

Mr. Gorman also noted that the Town is so entrenched in the politics of sustaining one party that it allows abuse of residents by Town plumbers, builders and contractors who have made their way onto Town inspection boards by “playing the game.”

“The motivation for public service is not, nor should it be the lining one’s pockets with taxpayer dollars”. If a member of a town board or special district board will not work without compensation, they are not true public servants. Taxes must be brought down and if someone does not go through the myriad of Town Government with a fine tooth comb, generations of Long Islanders will be lost to less expensive parts of the country.”

“I watch now as my grown nieces and nephews fight to return to the NY metro area and I pray that they will succeed. But we have to help ourselves by voting for change. Kate Murray, I challenge you to do the right thing, and get these cloaked taxing fiefdoms--- boards filled with party loyalists seeking medical insurance, and contractors policing themselves as Town inspectors--- replaced by qualified personnel who are truly prepared to serve the public ---not continue to pick the pockets of taxpayers.”

Gorman said “My experience will enable me to keep an eye on the town’s finances while also ensuring that the residents of Hempstead receive the level of services to which they are entitled – and for which they pay too much in taxes”.

Gorman asks that voters to send a message: elect him Town Supervisor in order “to stop the outrageous waste going on in the halls of Hempstead Government. The 800,000 residents of Nassau’s largest Township are being left behind by the more progressive models of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay. And it is our young adults and elderly who suffer.

Gorman also condemned the lack of housing code enforcement and zoning boards that are
turning our home towns into another commercial hodgepodge not unlike the outer boroughs of NYC”. Further, he criticized the current town administration for collecting millions of dollars for special taxing districts and then claiming that Town of Hempstead taxes are stable—letting the special districts raise their taxes unabated for decades. These districts are the Town of Hempstead and duplication of service providers is no longer perceived as being treated as “special” but rather just plain “abused and overtaxed”.

When it comes to special taxing districts, Kate Murray is like an ostrich,--- sticking her head in the sand and hoping no one will notice—her, or the problem.

Mr. Gorman would also support a ban on all tax payer financed town mailings 90 days before an election to provide a level playing field for all candidates.

Kevin Gorman grew up in Wantagh, one of seven children born to George and Grace Gorman. He graduated from MacArthur H.S. in Levittown and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Fordham University. He later attended the National School for Finance and Management. Gorman spent 20 years in the banking industry, rising to the position of Assistant Vice President. He was Branch Manager for Dollar Dry Dock Savings in Rockville Centre for 12 years before it’s merger with Chase. He owned his own business in Levittown in the 1990’s and is now Executive Director of Labor & Facilities for Nassau Downs for the last 5 years. He is a resident taxpayer of the Wantagh home in which he was raised.

Gorman has an extensive history of community involvement that began with his election to his local Parish Council at the age of 18—serving two terms as chairman. He was Secretary for the Seaford Bicentennial Committee and is a former Chairman of the largest community blood drive on Long Island, receiving for his work, the Long Island Blood Service’s first Life Saver Award.

He is a Past Grand Knight of his Knights of Columbus Council and a founding member of Division 7 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, as well as a member of the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce and the Levittown Community Council. For his service to CYO and today’s youth, he received the Leo Laughlin Award. He founded and currently heads the Squire Lacrosse Club, the Squire Basketball Club, and the Wantagh Babe Ruth League (that later became the South Shore Indians Baseball Club of which he is the President).
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Past Grand Knight, eh? Well, that does it for us. GORMAN IS YOUR MAN. Let's send Kate Murray back to Levittown's Knoll Lane on November 6th!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Codes of Silence

Through Building Chief's Misdeeds, All Residents Pay The Price

We thought we'd had the last word on the Town of Hempstead's ex-Building Commissioner's oversights on Knoll Lane in Levittown, but, upon further reflection, we decided to let Newsday's Joye Brown chime in with an epitaph, of sorts.

Call it a monument to "do as I say, not as I do." A requiem for those who ask others to live by the letter of the law, while they themselves flaunt it.
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How ignoring building codes hurts your neighbors
By Joye Brown

"I didn't hurt anybody."

That's what disgraced former Hempstead town building commissioner John Loeffel told my colleague, Eden Laikin, in a recent interview.

All Loeffel did was renovate his house, adding an apartment and a very high roof. All he did was make his house bigger, nicer and worth a whole lot more money.

He didn't hurt anybody, he said. And neither did the slew of other building department employees in Hempstead, North Hempstead and Islip who've been caught recently adding value to their homes without bothering to get permits, never mind that they earn good money while in public jobs supposedly to know the rules better than the average property owner.

They didn't hurt anybody. That's what I'm guessing they'd all say.

But they've insulted every property owner who's braved the rigors of a building department and damaged the public's trust. They've also hurt their own neighbors by forcing them to shoulder what should have been the officials' share of the property tax bill.

Take Loeffel, for example.

Once he secures the required permits on his Levittown home upgrade, he will pay an estimated $6,000 more in property taxes next year, according to the assessor's office.

It's unclear how long ago Loeffel began his renovation project (it could run anywhere between three and five years, I'm told), but photographs in the assessor's office show a house a heck of a lot more modest in 2001 than it is now.

But let's be generous (hey, it's my first day back from vacation) and give Loeffel the benefit of the doubt. Let's say he didn't pay the higher estimated taxes for three years.That translates roughly - and that's real rough because the school and special district tax levies shift year to year - into $18,000 of his property tax burden that the neighbors had to cover.

It doesn't sound like a lot until you consider that it's thousands of dollars Loeffel gets to keep.

That's true now. And it will remain true, even after Loeffel secures the right permits and wins the right building approvals.

Do the math.

Hempstead charges a $30 fee for a certificate of completion. And a cost of construction permit fee (which is based on an industry standard, not how much contractors charge) is $100 for the first $1,000 in construction costs, and $12 for each additional $1,000. For an average second-story addition, that works out to about $1,500 in permit costs.Loeffel, whose additions hardly were average, probably would have had to pay a slightly higher fee.

But now he'll go a different route to make things right. Loeffel, officials said, will have to win a town "maintenance" permit that would allow him to "maintain" what already is there.That could cost him more than $3,000, since it's usually double the construction permit fee.

Even with additional costs, however, Loeffel's fees will fall short of the thousands of dollars he saved in property taxes.Loeffel told my colleague that he's sorry; that he made a mistake that embarrassed him and cost him the top job in the building department. He said he had planned to file for the renovations and then resign his town job. But he's said nothing about volunteering to pony up taxes he would have paid. And there's no state law that can force him to do it, either.

There's no way Loeffel, or any of the other workers, could compensate the untold number of neighbors cheated by their informed inaction. That would be tough to calculate and too expensive to go through any reimbursement process.

Still, the law should be changed, if only to make offenders pay up.

There's a reason property owners hate going through local building departments. The process can be lengthy, difficult and, for some, absolutely infuriating. And yes, there are property owners who will do just about anything to avoid paying higher property taxes, including making obscene gestures as they bar inspectors from their property. (As happened recently with a team from the county assessor's office.)

There is a higher standard for officials like Loeffel, who ought to know better. And no matter what he or anyone else says, somebody always gets hurt.

There was a direct financial gain to his ignoring town building codes.

And there ought to be a way to get that money back.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

As If Broadwater Wasn't Enough

Natural Gas "Island" Threatened Off Long Beach

First came the proposal to build a natural gas barge in the middle of Long Island Sound. Then, a wind farm off of Jones Beach. And now, a natural gas "island" in the waters off of Long Beach.

Gee, aren't we popular!

According to a report in The New York Times, "Atlantic Sea Island has proposed a 60-acre artificial island for a liquefied natural gas terminal south of Long Beach. Broadwater Energy wants a floating liquefied natural gas terminal as big as the Queen Mary anchored in the middle of Long Island Sound. Other companies are considering underwater turbines on the East End to harness tidal currents."

If it seems we're surronded, well, quite frankly, we are. And we aren't getting much help from the powers-that-be in Albany, with Governor Eliot Spitzer all but mute on the plans to turn Long Island's waters into a virtual LNG time bomb, and both the Governor and legislavtive leaders being lobbied extensively by the energy giants whose financial interests lie behind the likes of Broadwater and Atlantic Sea Island.

Forget about being the prospect of a terrorist attack (Osama's next video could be taped on the Long Beach boardwalk). Consider the dangers of liquified natural gaslines, subject to bursting or leaking, barges and tankers, potentially colliding, and the nightmare of an on-site accident, the conflagration sure to give new meaning to the word, "flammable." And "what if" that once-in-a-century hurricane barreled down on Long Island? Is there enough "preparedness" to save us from our own ill-conceived devices?

Just how realistic of a solution to Long Island's energy crunch would all of this gas in our front yards be? A panacea, with enough natural gas to not only keep the furnaces glowing for generations, but also to significantly lower our Keyspan/National Grid bills, or simply more profits for the oil and gas companies, with Long Island only reaping the headaches that come with pipelines, power lines, and other such harbingers of so-called energy independence?

If the special interests of the energy conglomerates weren't enough to give Long Islanders a sinking feeling about Broadwater and Atlantic Sea Island, guess whose firm had been retained, back in 2004, to provide security for the floating gas island?

None other than Giuliani Partners, with the former NYC Mayor, now GOP Presidential hopeful, saying, "We have been retained to provide advice with regard to the security for Broadwater's proposed LNG facility. Additionally, we will make recommendations on the measures necessary to achieve state of the art security. This facility will provide an important additional energy supply to the region, with an emphasis on security.”

Thank you, Rudy. We feel so much safer, already. [Wonder whether former Governor George Pataki will make a return engagement to hold Giuliani's coat?]

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) has been active in its opposition to Broadwater, as it continues its legislative campaign on a number of critical environmental issues.

Hopefully, CCE will jump on board efforts to halt the Atalntic Sea Island project, as should all of us who are concerned about the future of long Island's waters and Long Islanders' quality of life.

There is no sound proposal, or, for that matter, a safe harbor, when it comes to liquefied natural gas facilities off of Long Island's shores. Some of us are beginning to smell gas. Let's hope nobody lights a match!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Situation Normal, All "Fowled" Up

A Birdseye View Of Government Inefficiency

At The Community Alliance, we were blogging about government waste, corruption, patronage, duplication of services, and plain old inefficiency, long before there was a Commission on Local Government Competitiveness & Efficiency.

We thought we had seen, and reported on, most everything, from the steakhouse escapades of the Sanitary Commissioners to the excesses at the firehouse.

Well, we didn't quite have the whole story. Yes, there was more, and now it can be told.

If you think you have it bad, drowning in property taxes, caught in the headlights of government whose modus operandi can only be characterized as Blaissez-faire, consider the poor swans of Hall's Pond Park.

Paula and Michael Uhl, activists and advocates in their own right, tell their story to that chronicler of community, Seth Bykofsky.

We are pleased to share this swan song with you. . .
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When Swans Get Goosed
A Tale of Too Much Government, Too Little Action

As told to Seth D. Bykofsky

It’s enough to ruffle anyone’s feathers. No day at the pond for one family, and a travail through the thorny bramble of all too many layers of bureaucratic buffoonery for two good deed doers who championed the cause of five beautiful swans that had lost their way.

This is the story of government run afoul. The seemingly simple rescue of wayward swans that, but for the doggedness of their guardian angels, could have ended tragically. This is the story of how two citizens, connecting the dots between town, county and state, heralded the return of a swan family to their summer domicile at, of all places, Hall’s Pond Park in West Hempstead.

Paula Uhl walks every morning down to the pond. On this particular summer day at around 7:15 AM, she saw 2 adult swans, each approximately 4 feet tall, walking northbound smack dab in the middle of Nassau Boulevard, their 3 signets following closely behind. It was a sight to behold.

Two motorists came to Paula’s aid, attempting to corral the birds away from rush hour traffic. Cell phone in hand, Paula called Nassau’s finest, who swiftly dispatched two officers in a County cruiser. The officers arrived 10 minutes later, by which time Paula and her adopted swan clan had walked half a mile or so to the Echo Park pool complex, a Town of Hempstead facility.

Siren blaring, lights flashing, the police managed only to panic and scatter the frightened birds, all to Paula’s dismay. Waving off the barrage of sight and sound – that “right to remain silent” a most welcome relief -- Paula asked the officers to help her contain the animals within the partially fenced in deck of the pool. Paula herded, while the officers called the County’s Animal Control unit. Paula requested the officers to remain with the birds until the proper authorities arrived. They refused, citing the possibility of something “more important” coming up. No doubt, a flock of irate sheep protesting in front of the Courtesy Hotel!

Paula, concerned that the swan family was thirsty, and seeing that one of the signets was injured and bleeding, asked the Supervisor at the Echo Park pool for some water. He refused assistance. So much for the “Summer of Love” at the Town of Hempstead.

A few Echo Park employees did try to help, but were told it was against the Town rules. [The Town has rules?] Paula ran home for a bowl of water.

Once home, an exasperated Paula, already late for work, asked her husband, Michael, to mind the swans.

Michael Uhl headed off to Echo Park and kept a watchful eye on the swans. He called Animal Control for an ETA, only to be told that the County doesn’t handle swans. They suggested he call the Town’s Bay Constable for waterfowl.

A flurry of telephone calls to the Town of Hempstead, and Michael established that the Bay Constable would arrive from his Point Lookout HQ sometime between 1 PM and 3 PM. Michael asked the Pool Supervisor to help make sure the pool’s gate stayed closed so the swans would not wander off. Tightly tucked in his box, and more concerned about that evening’s Elvis impersonators show than the plight of the flightless swans, the Supervisor remained unyielding. Why, he could not even spare one hardly overworked Town employee to do the job Michael and Paula’s 11-year-old daughter, Sophia, was doing while Michael tried to reason with the King of Echo Park.

The Bay Constable arrived at about 1:15 PM, perfunctorily capturing the swan family, looking to take the birds down to the bay at Point Lookout. Michael implored the Constable to return the swans to their chosen summer habitat – Hall’s Pond. It was to no avail. The Town knows best, after all!

Alas, a compromise. [Let no one say the Town is not accommodating.] The birds would be released into Hempstead Lake. The Constable took off, swans in tow, Michael Uhl in pursuit.

Once at Hempstead Lake, yet another obstacle to the swans safe egress. “We can’t let the birds go in a State Park,” honked the Constable, muttering something about policy and protocol. A Town Constable retrieving wandering waterfowl from a County thoroughfare and releasing them in a State park? Unheard of!

No, the swans would have to go to the bay – barring intervention by a higher authority (say, Al D’Amato). The Constable swooped up swans and headed for Point Lookout. Michael Uhl follows.

Just then, Michael sees a sign – by way of bumper sticker affixed to the Town Constable’s vehicle – Supervisor Kate Murray’s HELPLINE.

Surely, the cuddler of lost kittens and savior of homeless dogs would have a place in her heart for our beleaguered swan family. “Kate Murray’s Helpline. How may we help you?” Name, number taken. Problem noted. Michael is still waiting for a call back. Watch the mail for a Murraygram on the care and handling of swans.

Approaching 4 PM, Michael engaged the Bay Constable in talk of nature and nurture – reason, and the apparent fact that quitting time was near for the man more beholden to Town than to bay, the impasse was resolved, and the birds were returned to Hall’s Pond. The swans were released at 4:15 PM, and, as the sun settled over West Hempstead, this swan song, thanks to the compassion and persistence of Paula and Michael Uhl, had a happy ending.

Our swans survived their ordeal, and a tumult that fashioned every imaginable roadblock short of the creation of a Special Swan District. And we wonder, when did it all become so complicated, so cumbersome? Pity the poor swans, who innocently happened into the clutches of the inefficiency of too much government. Pity the governed, who must pay the price for the ineptitude of government’s excesses.
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Paula and Michael Uhl reside in West Hempstead, as does the writer, and, at least for now, a swan family of five. Mr. Uhl is a candidate for Nassau County Legislature, 8th Legislative District.