Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If They Can Do It In Batavia. . .

. . .Why Not On Long Island?

Plan To Unify Local Government, Consolidating Special Districts, Takes Shape In Upstate NY

Okay. We've been squaking about the waste and greed of those bastions of feudal life, the wasteful and inefficient special taxing districts, long before there was a NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness -- which studied, and concluded, that consolidation (and, where possible, elimination) of special districts (i.e. water, fire, sanitation) would improve not only the delivery of services, but, equally as important (perhaps more so in these tough economic times), the bottom line of municipalities and property owners.

Little, if anything, has transpired in Albany by way of mandating change to the archane manner in which New York's local governments operate, though there's been plenty of rhetoric (thankfully, talk is still cheap. Shhh. They'll find a way to tax it!), and proposals -- from the Governor's budget to the Attorney General's intended devices -- abound.

Now, the City and Town of Batavia, NY, armed with a grant from NYS to "study" consolitation of local government, has joined forces with the Center for Government Research, and together, the intent is to move forward from "study" to "plan."

Yes, everybody needs a plan. Moving plans into action, well, that's another blogpost, entirely.

Anyway, as the Batavia Consolidation Plan gears up (a website has already been created, so at least the aura of progress exists), a working plan and timetable has been established. [The target for implementation is January, 2011.]

To be considered, and ultimately put before the voters (perhaps as soon as November, 2009) is the streamling of Town and City government by way of consolidation and sharing of services.

Assuming that the Batavia project takes hold, and there actually is a consolidation of town and city government, what exactly does that portend for us here on Long Island? After all, Batavia is not Baldwin, and there is little in the way of either congruity or cooperation between the two outmoded government models -- county and town -- that would lead us (or any reasonably sane person) to believe that consoliation of any government function on Long Island is possible, let alone likely.

And even assuming a mandate from Albany, a willingness on the part of local government to yield to efficienciency and relinguish control, and a referendum before the voters, will we, the people -- who, for so long, have wholeheartedly endorsed the devil we know -- opt for change that would truly bring local government into the 21st Century?

Well, we can only hope!
- - -
From the pages of Newsday:

Districts: Less is more
Cuomo's consolidation bill would help

In a recession, companies and households cut back. Why not government? That is the idea behind Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's plan to help consolidate New York's thousands of small taxing districts. They have outlived their usefulness, and they add to taxpayers' expenses.

Cuomo has been traveling the state, seeking allies for legislation to combine districts for fire protection, water service, garbage pickup and more. In all, they amount to more than 10,500 units statewide, many offering salaries and benefits to part-time commissioners. Most are bastions for political favors, especially in Nassau County, which has over 900 - too many obscure little units for an accurate count.

Consolidating special districts is so complex that even state lawyers are baffled. Cuomo's proposal would make it easier for governments to initiate consolidations or dissolutions. And he would add an even bolder provision, to empower citizens: A vote could be called if 10 percent of affected voters, or 5,000 people, whichever is less, sign a petition. So, if citizens wanted change, their will could prevail. Gov. David A. Paterson's budget includes proposals to expedite the consolidation process. They're not as ambitious as Cuomo's. Even so, Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) wrote an op-ed for Newsday questioning how much money consolidation could really save.

Cuomo's bill may have a better shot, because it gives power to citizens, and opposing the will of the people is an embarrassing stance for any elected official. That includes Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who let a consolidation bill die last year. It's time ordinary New Yorkers took more control of the public purse.

No comments:

Post a Comment