Thursday, September 27, 2007

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:

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