Friday, May 29, 2009

Green Babylon

Town Converts Environmental Rhetoric Into Energy Efficient Action

A little thinking out of the box goes a long way, as Babylon Town Supervisor, Steve Bellone, could tell you.

Say hello to Babylon Town's LI Green Homes Program.

A tweak of the law here, and some common sense application of verbage there, and, voila, homeowners can save money while reducing their home's carbon footprint.

In most townships, the talk of environmental stewardship is just that, talk. A moment in the sun for a photo op. A press release coveting the environmental friendliness of the town's programs, designed not so much to benefit the air we breathe or the water we drink as it is to assure favorable ratings for the elected official issuing the proclaimation.

Surely, Supervisor Bellone, politically astute as he is, realizes the personal benefit gained here. And yet, one senses that the low key Bellone recognizes the greater gain for the greater good that the greening of Babylon imparts. Bravo!

The Town of Brookhaven is exploring its Green Homes options, even as we blog.

We implore Long Island's other towns, and in particular, Oyster Bay, North Hempstead, and the self-proclaimed leader in environmental causes, Hempstead town, to get on board as well.

Long Island's towns must be environmentally sustainable, as well as responsible, if our communities are to thrive.
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From Newsday:

Babylon has the right idea for greener homes

For every homeowner worried about what rising energy costs will do to the household budget, an array of energy-generating solar cells would be a fine home improvement.But not many families want to lay out the money upfront to install solar cells, even with the help of rebates from the Long Island Power Authority and state and federal tax credits. It's still money that a homeowner has to spend in the short term for a long-term benefit.

Now the Town of Babylon has devised a way to solve the money problem and move people toward greater home energy independence. It's an idea that other towns should consider - as Brookhaven is. If enough of them do it, a real market for solar installation can develop here, creating not only greater energy efficiency, but also real jobs.

How did Babylon get into this? Supervisor Steve Bellone, an environmental activist as far back as his volunteer work in college, began by pushing hard for greater energy efficiency in new homes and commercial buildings.

Then the town did an inventory of its carbon footprint. The major culprits in the emission of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, it turns out, were older homes that badly needed improvements to help them hold in warm air in winter and cool air in summer.

But how could people pay for retrofitting without laying out a lot of money at the start? Babylon took a novel approach: It expanded its solid waste code to add energy waste as a solid waste, based on its carbon content.That definitional change enabled the town to tap into a reserve fund that the state requires it to maintain for its solid waste operations. So Babylon could use some of that reserve fund to pay for the work needed to increase the energy efficiency of homes.
Homeowners repay that money over time, and it goes back into the reserve fund to help others.

Now the town has added a solar component. If a home meets the town's standards of energy efficiency - otherwise, adding solar makes little sense - it can be eligible for low-interest financing for the installation of solar panels.

Here's how the Green Homes program works: The homeowner gets an energy audit by a town-licensed contractor. (The cost of the home audit can be wrapped into the eventual bill for the actual improvements.) Then the town pays the contractor for retrofitting the home - a process that can now include solar panel installation.

To arrange for repayment, the town figures out how much the owner will be saving on energy costs, and sets the monthly repayment at an amount less than the monthly savings. Once the cost of the work is paid off - in an estimated average of under eight years - the homeowner enjoys 100 percent of the continuing energy savings.

Another reason people don't want to pay for energy efficiency is that they figure they'll be moving soon anyway. But this program gets around that: When you sell the house, the new owner gets to enjoy lower energy costs, but also continues to repay the cost of the retrofitting, through the monthly bills. That benefits both the seller and the buyer, and lets the buyer move on. This concept has attracted interest from municipalities far from Long Island.

Locally, in Brookhaven, Councilwoman Connie Kepert is pushing Green Homes. A public hearing is set for May 28. Her town's lawyers say the state's constitutional ban on using town funds for private benefit may be a problem. But Brookhaven plugs leaky oil tanks at private homes, to protect the groundwater. Is leaking carbon - whether at the home (if it's oil-heated) or at the power plant that makes the home's electricity - less dangerous than leaking oil? Isn't plugging both kinds of leaks a public purpose?Babylon has taken a small but significant first step. True, there may be legal shoals ahead. But reducing our energy costs is so vital that every town should take a close look at Green Homes.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Staycation In The Town Of Hempstead?

Why The Heck Not?

The latest mailing (we have yet to check the mailbox today) from the Town of Hempstead encourages residents to vacation in Hempstead Town during these tough economic times.

There's golfing, boating, museums, hiking trails. You name it.

Of course, the Town folk don't mention the ever-popular guided tour of the Covanta Waste Recovery Station (whose smoke stack has a claim to fame as the tallest structure on Long Island), or an overnight stay at one of Hempstead Town's fabled no-tell hotels. [May we recommend the Long Beach Motor Inn?]

Hey, you can't cover all the bases in a full-color mailing, or even on the Town's website, which beckons vacationers with the tag line, "It's all happening in Hempstead Town!"

The "it" in "it's all happening" is, of course, open to interpretation.

As much as we like to poke fun at the Town of Hempstead, and its jolly Supervisor, smiling Kate Murray (all well-deserved, to be sure), we've got to admit, a staycation in Hempstead Town, with its pristine beaches, beautiful parks, and breathtaking vistas, isn't such a bad idea at that.

So, this summer, all of you Town of Hempstead residents, play where your tax dollars are supposed to be working.

Tell them smiling Kate Murray sent you!
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For information on the Town of Hempstead's "vacation" spots, visit the Office of Tourism at Click HERE to request brochures.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rebuilding New York?

Well, Not So Fast

You see the signs along the roadways -- mostly north of the City, and certainly nowhere on Long Island, where roadways barely qualify as such --REBUILDING NEW YORK.

Ever notice how long it takes to rebuild anything in New York?

Assuming an infrastructure project gets started -- which can take years, in and of itself -- nothing ever seems to get finished.

Locally, one need only to drive along the highways and byways, or, if you really want a jolt, to sally forth along our residential streets.

No paving with the proverbial gold here.

More globally, yet only twenty miles or so to the west, all you have to do, perhaps dispairingly so, is to look down at Ground Zero, where "rebuilding" means going on eight long years of staring into a gigantic hole. Now we're being told that the project may not be completed in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which would be, er, let us think -- oh yeah, in 2011.

Okay. There's the emotional factor. And, yes, financial considerations. But come on, folks, almost eight years post 9/11 and little progress in rebulding the financial center of the world.

Oh no. Let's quibble over a name. Freedom Tower. World Trade Center. How about "huge hole in the ground," and leave it at that? FT. WTC. WTF? Who gives a hoot what they call it (other than Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, who has to stick in her two cents -- or was that our two cents -- everywhere)?

Just build the darn thing already!

Nothing emboldens our enemies more than our failure to pick ourselves up, stand on our own two feet, and get moving again.

We are reminded of those old WWII flicks, where the enemey would blow up a bridge, and, by the time the smoke had cleared, the Allies had rebuilt that bridge. Take that, you Axis of Evil!

New York needs to get moving, get building, and get it done.

Perhaps some of that stimulus money toward a modern-day Work Projects Administration.

If not a New Deal for New York, then certainly, a new foundation.
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The following letter appeared in the Malverne-West Hempstead Herald. It pertains to local initiatives, but clearly, its message is universal:

Waiting For Godot?

To the Editor:

There is movement, swift and deliberate, and movement, immeasurable and barely at a snail's pace.

The latter would appear to be the modus operandi for both town and county vis-a-vis infrastructure projects such as the reconstruction of Hempstead Avenue, the revitalization of Hall's Pond Park, and, yes, even the much-celebrated sale, closure, and demolition of the infamous Courtesy Hotel.

If movement is perceptible here, it is certainly not to the naked eye!

With respect to the Hempstead Avenue project, we'll soon be reaching the one year mark since shovel hit pavement, and one can only presume that the contractors are being paid by the hour -- or maybe by the minute. Sure, the reconstruction was started in the fall, rather than early spring, but who would think winter weather would interfere with road work here in New York?

The rehab of Hall's Pond Park has yet to begin (how many years after the passage of the Environmental Bond Act?), it, too, slated for a fall start date, with completion anticipated in about a year after that. [Of course, if the County intends to maintain the newly revitalized park as it does Hall's Pond presently (which is to say, not at all), why bother throwing good money after bad?]

And then there's the Courtesy.

It was months ago, back in 2008, after a battle of more than a decade, that Hempstead Town finally gave its stamp of approval to the rezoning of the parcel upon which the Courtesy sits.

Now, we are told that Trammell-Crow is expected to receive all necessary approvals (from Town and County) by the summer of 2009, with the sale of the property (and with it, one again presumes, the closure of the hotel) to occur by September or October. Demolition, and construction of the rental units, to follow, hopefully in relatively short order (weather permitting). So we tack on a few more months to this project and to that initiative, and, like the patient saints we, the people, are, we wait -- and wait, and wait.

Just how long do the taxpayers of Nassau County and Hempstead Town have to wait until projects, many on the drawing board for what seems like eons, are started, no less completed?

We're not talking about massive undertakings, such as the Lighthouse Project, which one would expect to take a bit longer (though never this long). We're talking about rebuilding a roadway, revitalizing a park, and demolishing a no-tell hotel which, everyone agrees, must go.

I recall being a legislative intern up in Albany during the winter of 1976. The legislative complex in downtown Albany was nearing completion, and the legislators needed a roadway to connect the Thruway to downtown. Overnight, if not literally, then, surely, within weeks, an intricate and elaborate system of interchanges, bridges, and connecting roadways -- sewers, lighting, and all -- was in place. This in the dead of an Albany winter!

If they could get it done quickly in Albany in 1976, then why not in Hempstead Town and Nassau County in 2009? True, our local officials can bypass the Avenue, forgo a stay at the Courtesy, and simply turn their heads as they pass West Hempstead's passive park. As for the rest of us, taxpayers all, "they also serve who sit and wait!"

Seth D. Bykofsky
West Hempstead, NY

The writer, waiting impatiently in Nassau County and Hempstead Town going on twenty-five years, is a former president of the West Hempstead Civic Association, and co-founder of The Community Alliance.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Transparency You Can Actually See Through

'See Through NY' Sheds New Light On How Tax Dollars Are Spent

Hey, its your money! Want to know how its being spend?

Well, just in case you're curious, there's a website out there, sponsored by the Empire Center for New York State Policy, that collects and shares data and information on state and local spending.

SeeThroughNY, "designed to become the hub of a statewide network through which taxpayers can share, analyze and compare data from counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and public authorities throughout New York," offers insight into where your tax dollars are going, and going, and going.

From payrolls to expenditures to effective property tax rates [WARNING: Sticker shock may cause blood pressure to rise higher than your local property tax], its all there for you to see and digest -- we'll provide the antacid.

Together with NY State's Project Sunlight, an initiative we've highlighted previously on this blog, SeeThroughNY gives taxpayers the data and crunches the numbers, all of which should (with emphasis on should) give New Yorkers not only the knowledge, but the impetus, to make the most of our tax dollars -- or at least to vote out of office those who do not!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nassau GOP Throws In Towel In County Exec Race

Ed Mangano (Who?) Slated To Get Lost In Party's Fading Shadow

Its Memorial Day.

We've marched in the parade, laid the wreath, saluted the flag. The B-B-Q is heating up. Now what can we do?

Wait. We've got an idea. Let's talk politics. Local politics (as in, "all politics is local").

Its official, Nassau County's "party of no" has chosen longtime Nassau Legislator Edward Mangano, little known outside of his district, to chase down Tom Suozzi in this fall's race for County Executive.

You mean to tell us Greg Peterson is busy?

"They've pretty much conceded the County Exec spot," said a Republican insider, speaking to this blogger on condition of anonymity. [What? You mean the GOP migh recriminate against their own for telling it like it is?]

And you thought the gauntlet would fall at Kate Murray's feet.

No way.

Even Murray, whose well known (by name, at least) in Nassau, and extremely popular (for reasons known only to God) in Hempstead Town, would have a tough time defeating the more popular Tom Suozzi. Why, even calling Tom a mysoginist wouldn't have helped her cause.

Anyway, sources close to the GOP Committee tell us that Murray was needed to run for re-election as Supervisor in Hempstead Town, the very last bastion of Republican control on Long Island (and perhaps on earth), where Democratic enrollment, and a mood of "enough already", threatens the very fiber of the eons-old Republican cloth coat.

So that leaves the GOP without a formidable opponent to take on Tom Suozzi, who, barring a disaster the likes of which took down Eliot Spitzer, is likely to waltz into a third term without having to break much of a sweat.

Used to be that the Dems had no one to run in Nassau County. For the most part, they still don't. But the GOP?

Well, the good old days are no more.

Its Ed Mangano's turn at bat (sort of like pinch-hitting for the pitcher with, er, another pitcher). This year's poster boy for an all but lost cause.

Mangano, who has sat on the Nassau County Legislature since its inception in 1996 [you remember -- back in the day when Ed and his GOP cohorts were rubber-stamping Tom Gulotta's budgets] will be taking his heftiest swings at Suozzi's policies and record.

In fact, Mangano vows to "save Nassau" from policies that have increased taxes, spending, and fees. [Gee, Ed. How do you save Nassau from yourself?]

There'll be high brows and low blows, to be sure. In the end, though, look for mighty Mangano -- a heck of a nice guy, by all accounts -- to strike out.

You're taking one for the party, Ed. Yes, the party.

On the national scene, that would be the party of Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin. Locally, its the party of Peter "deport the Muslims" King, Peter "full of" Schmitt, and, oh yeah, smiling Kate Murray.

Strange bedfellows, indeed!

And what happens when Ed Mangano, who will give up his seat on the NC Legislature to run for County Exec, is trounced by Tom Suozzi? Well, there's always the Oyster Bay Town Council.

As for the race for Town of Hempstead Supervisor (where many of us are still hoping to see Kate Murray go far-- as in far, far away), another County Legislator, Dave Denenberg, appears to be considering the challenge.

Can this David topple the GOP Goliath that has resided in Hempstead Town Hall for more than 100 years?

We can only hope. [Actually, we'll all have to do much more than merely hope should Dave decide to run against the GOP's fortress Hempstead, the equivalent of Darth Vader's Death Star.]

One thing's for sure, though. With temprement skewed against all things Republican, and Dems outnumbering Republicans on the rolls in GOP strongholds like Garden City, of all places, not even Hempstead Town Hall is safe!

Friday, May 22, 2009

NY Economic Recovery Cabinet Tracks Stimulus Money

Know Where Your Fed Tax Dollars Are Being Spent

The New York Economic Recovery Cabinet, known as NYworks, will provide compiled reports with Stimulus-related news, announcements, and grant opportunities.

The first three reports, issued as newsletters, have been released, and can be accessed by clicking on the links below.

Newsletter 1

Newsletter 2

Newsletter 3

Click HERE to access all Newsletters, HERE to submit your ideas, and HERE to get updates.

As we like to say, its your money.

Have your say, New York, in how those fed tax dollars are being spent, then watch where your money actually goes.

We'll be monitoring the outflow here on The Community Alliance blog, reporting on the good, the bad, the necessary, and the absurd.

Meanwhile, you are encouraged to post comments with your thoughts and observations, and to submit a guest blog of your own, on any matter of community interest.

We'd love to hear from you. Write us at

Thugs? He Called Them Thugs?

County Exec Gives Thugs A Bad Name

Nassau County Executive, Tom Suozzi, pointed his finger at the planted (as in potted) hecklers at a rally held Wednesday, verbally scratching his head, wondering how any work was getting done in the Town of Hempstead that day.

Joe Mondello (is he still alive?), the GOP Committee Chair, called Tom's retort "sophomoric." We call it, "the truth."

This blogger still recalls, quite vividly, when GOP hecklers and naysayers, most from Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 6 (we knew this, as their official Town SUVs were conveniently parked outside) showed up at the Franklin Square Public Library to boo then County Assessor Harvey Levinson. At the time, Harvey was running against TOH Supervisor, Kate Murray.

Thugs would have been too kind a word. Indeed, neighborhood thugs were heard to complain, "Hey, we've got standards, too!"

Fact is, planting agitators, heckling, shouting profanities, staging disruptive protests, and feigning civic-mindedness, has long been the MO of the Town of Hempstead GOP, especially so since Kate Murray has reigned as Supervisor.

No evidence that Town of Hempstead employees were summoned, like sheep off the mountainside, to shout profanities and give Tom Suozzi an earful?

Right. Check out Town Hall on Washington Street at any time such shenanigans are playing out. You'll find the place eerily quiet.
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From Newsday's Spin Cycle:

And it's a rousing start to Nassau campaign season!

The election season in Nassau got off to smashing start Wednesday.

Republicans to Democrats: You’re sophomoric.

Democrats to Republicans: You’re thugs.

It was great theater as the Democrats stuck their thumb in the Republicans’ eye by holding a press conference outside GOP headquarters in Westbury to announce that a former leader of the Young Republicans of Nassau, Nina Petraro Bastardi, was running for the Nassau County Legislature as a Democrat.

GOP chairman Joseph Mondello opted for a show of force instead of gimmickry, and about 100 GOP stalwarts turned out to give Petraro and her Democratic supporters a loud, sometimes profane greeting.

When Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi started to list Petraro’s accomplishment as summa cum laude at St. John’s, one heckler yelled, “she’s dumb as a rock.”

Another protester kept telling Legis. David Mejias (D-Farmingdale) that his shoes were not shined to their usual glossy finish. Another protester, chain-smoking, kept yelling from the periphery about the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.
Bastardi’s mother lost her balance at one point, and Mejias accused protesters of pushing her. Another protester challenged Mejias to a fistfight.

Before the event began, Democratic operatives across the street took pictures of the protesters.

“Get a close-up of every face! I want a close-up of every face,” one young man in a suit said to a man with a small camera. “We’ll see how long they put in for lunch.”

Suozzi, citing no evidence, suggested the protesters were employees of the Republican-controlled Town of Hempstead. “It’s hard to believe there’s any work getting done in Town of Hempstead today,” Suozzi said.

Here’s Suozzi’s take on the day: “They’re yelling like an angry mob, which is how Republicans have acted over the past 50 years. They don’t have any ideas. They yell and scream, and the big thing they yell and scream is ‘No. No. No.’’” On his Twitter, he added: “GOP sent out the thugs.”

Mondello called the stunt “sophomoric,” and had this to say: “They think they can come with impunity into our house and cause trouble. They can’t walk all over us... We’d never pull that kinds of stunt. They come to us, they’re going to have to take their risks. They got what they deserved today. They tried to make light of what we stand for in the Republican Party, and we gave it back to them.”

How many days to Election Day?

In Memory Of The Fallen

Reflection On And Remembrance Of Those Who Fought And Died For Freedom

Memorial Day 2009 -- A Time To Remember

Click HERE for a full list of Memorial Day weekend activities here on Long Island, courtesy of

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Too Much Local Government" Bill Moves Closer To Passage

Cuomo Spearheads Measure That Would Open Door To Dismantling Of Special Districts

As an addendum to Wednesday's post on Special District relief, could it be that help is on the way, at least in some limited form?

The bill, in its present form, creates a means for consolidating, or even eliminating, local government entities.

Unfortunately, the legislation does not go far enough. It neither mandates consolidation, nor forces the hands of either local officials or the taxing jurisdictions themselves to consolidate voluntarily, absent what could be a lengthy and cumbersome voter referendum process.

Okay. We have to start somewhere. Let this be a beginning, and a message to all local governments that too much is more than enough!
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AG Cuomo: Bill would address 'too many governments'

Flanked by seven state legislators, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Thursday rolled out his plan for easing the state's property tax burden by simplifying the process of consolidating local governments.

Speaking before a group of civic activists and business leaders at the Long Island Association in Melville, Cuomo predicted the Legislature would pass a bill that creates a uniform process abolishing or consolidating towns, villages and special districts. Currently, a complicated patchwork of laws governs the process.

"Everyone has been lamenting this system for years, Democrats and Republicans, and nothing changes," Cuomo said, adding later, "Government must rethink its overhead."

Cuomo said his office has counted at least 10,521 local governments in the state - something both state and local officials have blamed for New York's heavy local property tax burden. However, he added that no one knows for sure exactly how many governments there are statewide.

"When you don't know how many governments you have, you have too many governments," he said.

Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), the only state senator among the legislators at the meeting, noted that the actual number of local governments was not important to most people."It's all the same taxpayer," he said. "It's all coming out of the same pocket. It doesn't matter what level of government it is."

Cuomo's bill targets towns, villages and special districts, tiny units of government that handle services such as fire protection for specific areas. Long a source of patronage jobs for political leaders, special districts have come under fire for spending abuses. In fact, Cuomo proposed the reform after Newsday stories on pension abuses and wasteful spending in special districts.

On Tuesday, state legislative leaders in Albany announced their support for Cuomo's bill. That announcement was significant because some legislators, fearing the loss of patronage jobs, initially resisted the reform. But as the legislative session wore on, support grew, partly because the reform would not mandate consolidation.

The bill offers three avenues for consolidating local governments. It would enable county executives to do a master plan to be submitted to a referendum; allow local boards to vote to consolidate; and enable citizens to put the issue on the ballot themselves.

Citizens seeking to put the issue on the ballot would be required to get signatures from 10 percent of the district's voters, or 5,000 people, whichever is less. Once such a referendum passes, the local government would have up to a year to complete the process.

If the local government fails to act on a referendum, a court-appointed monitor would step in and ensure that the referendum results would be followed, Cuomo said.Such legislation would have a profound impact on public policy, said former Deputy County Executive Paul Sabatino, an attorney who is representing residents of Gordon Heights seeking to dissolve their fire district."I think this could do for consolidation of special districts and other local governments what the Freedom of Information Law did for openness in government," he said.

Gordon Heights residents, who pay the highest fire taxes in the state, have tried twice to dissolve the district. They submitted a new set of petitions to the Town of Brookhaven Dec. 31 and are still waiting for the town assessor to review the petitions.

"It took us six months to get the signatures, and it's taken them five and a half months to not do anything," said Rosalie Hanson, a civic activist who has spearheaded the effort.

Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D- Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) said they had been working closely with Cuomo on the legislation.

Silver announced Tuesday that the bill had a Republican co-sponsor in the Assembly, assuring its passage there. Although Democrats have only a two-vote edge in the Senate, a number of Republicans have expressed support for the bill. That is critical because Smith cannot guarantee that all Democrats will vote for it.

If the bill passes, insiders said, it would be one of the more significant accomplishments of the legislative session, along with the repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws.

Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Saint James), who appeared at the Melville meeting, said if the bill does not pass New York should look to the budget crisis in California as its future.

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who has long advocated reducing the many layers of government on Long Island, said he supports the legislation."This legislation puts the decision in the hands of the people as to what form of government best represents them," said Arda Nazerian, one of Suozzi's senior policy advisers.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

Third Time A Charmer?

Souzzi Announces Re-Election Bid. Calls For Property Tax Revolution

We may be talking about revolutions per minute, as in that old Victrola, where the record is stuck in the same groove, the beat of the property tax drum playing over and over and over.

Yes, Tom Suozzi is running for a third term as Nassau County Executive, and this time, his theme centers around stopping the ever-burgeoning property tax.

Wait a minute. Where have we heard this before? Oh yeah. The last re-election bid. Or was it during Tom Suozzi's stymied run for Governor? Or could it have been Tom as Chair of the NYS Committee on Property Tax Relief?


Property tax is the hot button issue of the day, and Tom Suozzi is going to ride that bull until he either whips it into submission, or gets thrown off like a rodeo clown. [We're all hoping for the former, but suspect we'll get a lot more bull than actual tax relief.]

To be fair, the County Exec, whatever weight he may carry in the public arena, has little actual power when it comes to taking action that could result in significant property tax savings.

Sure, he can consolidate sewer districts here and there, but, beyond that, its up to the State Legislature, which created such things as the special district fiefdoms, and the local townships, which use these taxing authorities as personal patronage mills, to get off the pot and consolidate, eliminate, and dedicate themselves to streamlining the delivery of goods (like water) and the provision of services (like fire and sanitation).

Then again, talk of revolution always stirs the soul, if not the electorate. So, Tom, thanks for keeping the property tax crisis on the front burner.

Going forward, however, beyond the You Tube forays, there are other issues that need the County Exec's attention, many of which have ebbed and flowed since early in Tom Suozzi's first term.

To name a few --

Economic (Re)development. The bandwagon was hot and heavy (or should we say the magical mystery bus tours), but economic development has all but stalled in its tracks, particularly on the largely forgotten south shore.

"New Suburbia." From our vantage point, the new suburbia looks pretty much like the old suburbia, only more congested, and a whole lot less green. The plans are ambitious, indeed. Time to make it so!

Special Districts. Part of the property tax problem, still begging for a realistic, workable solution. That "crazy quilt" continues to wrap around our wallets.

Empire Zone. Ah, the Evil Empire's got nothing on Nassau's first (and only) Empire Zone. True, the economic downturn hasn't helped, but other than an occasional cricket pitch, its been more bust than boon.

Affordable Housing. Where? For Generation Next, seniors, and the struggling middle class (whoever they may be), "affordable" just doesn't enter into the equation. Even with the drastic drop in home prices, most cannot afford to buy. And with property taxes still on the rise, few can actually afford to live.

"Cool Downtowns." We've heard talk of such things, but haven't seen all that much in terms of the revitalization of "Main Street."

Environmental Bond Initiatives (circa 2004, 2006). After a flurry of spending, mostly on sewage and drainage, with a smattering of land acquisitions, the bulk of bond money, appropriated for the improvement and preservation of Nassau's parks and green spaces, remains unspent. Projects, okayed by the County Legislature, some years ago, still sit on the drawing board, while brownfields continue to dot the landscape, and our public parks, particularly those designated as "passive," languish.

Nassau County Master Plan. Nuf said!

Well, its a process.

Clearly, there is much work to be done, and more than a single issue -- albeit property tax relief must be priority one -- to be tackled by this administration.

Tom Suozzi is brash, sometimes arogant, at times pugnacious. He's often bitten off more than he can chew, and, as close to the edge as we dare to perch, much more than even we can swallow.

He hasn't solved all of the county's problems, or even made a dent on a good number of major concerns, tough talk and spicy rhetoric aside.

And yet, after saving Nassau from financial disaster, Tom has taken on the establishment in Albany (is Albany fixed yet? How 'bout neutered?), and the malaise here at home, thinking as big as he talks.

Nassau needs big thinkers. The kind of big thinkers that push for monumental reforms in areas such as the property tax, and who pine for large-scale redevelopment projects, like the Lighthouse at the Nassau hub, where others would (and, unfortunately, do) shrink in the face of such Herculean undertakings.

The November election is a long way off. In political terms, its a lifetime. While making no formal endorsement here today, we will say this much: No one thinks bigger, of the future of Nassau County or, for that matter, of himself, than does Tom Suozzi. Nassau County needs big. Big ideas. Big plans. Big, er, how can we say this nicely, balls.

So, Tom Suozzi is off and running. Could the race for Governor of New York in 2010 be far behind?
- - -
From the Tom Suozzi Campaign:

Developed Statewide Solutions to Reduce Property Taxes

"The growth rate of property taxes in this state is unsustainable, especially for the elderly, working families and small businesses... I thank the Commission and Chairman Thomas Suozzi for their diligence over the past four months, and now it is time for the leadership of this state to act."
-Governor David A. Paterson, June 2008

Tom Suozzi is a lifetime resident of the City of Glen Cove - he has lived and breathed New York State's property tax crisis as an elected official representing 1.3 million people. From his experience as Mayor to County Executive, he heard stories of people who were struggling to pay their property taxes- especially seniors on fixed incomes and working families.

Tom realized that high property taxes are a statewide systemic problem- not just a local one. His desire to fix the property tax burden once and for all on a statewide level was a driving force behind his race for the Democratic nomination for Governor against Eliot Spitzer. Even though he lost the election, he gave the property tax issue the prominence it needed and was appointed as Chairman of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief by Governor Spitzer in January 2008 and Governor Paterson in March 2008- a credit to his dedication to reform. Tom embraced this opportunity to develop real solutions to the problem he was so passionate about during the campaign.

Tom devoted himself to this effort and spent hundreds of hours on research, met with experts, elected officials, stakeholders, held fourteen public hearings, and made trips to all parts of the state to talk with taxpayers and hear their stories. The end result of this tireless and at times painstaking work is the final 126- page blueprint, which is a roadmap to solve New York's property tax crisis, delivered to Governor Paterson on December 1, 2008.

Tom continues to fight for implementation of his proposals and gained the support of the leadership of New York State. In June of 2008, after the Commission issued the preliminary report, Governor Paterson endorsed the Commission's main recommendation of the report and immediately introduced a program bill to cap the growth of school property taxes. Governor Paterson included several recommendations of the Commission's final report in December 2008 budget proposal to give mandate relief to school districts, which Tom argued was sorely need in order for schools to have greater control over their finances, especially during the harsh economic times.

This issue is as important to Tom Suozzi as it is to the millions of people suffering from unsustainable property taxes in this state, and he will carry on his effort to implement solutions until New Yorkers see relief.

If you're tired of paying high property taxes, then click here to Join the Fight with Tom Suozzi.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Special District Relief On The Way?

Don't Hold Your Breath

Newsday reports that the NYS Legislature may be on the verge of proposing legislation that would give voters the opportunity -- essentially, by petition and referendum -- to consolidate or eliminate special taxing districts.

The theory, advanced by Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, is that the ordinary Joe will vote for what's best for himself, and his pocketbook. Local control doesn't get any more local than that!

That theory, of course, went out the window after the third time John Q. Public sent the same folks up to Albany, to do the same job, somehow expecting different results! For all the talk of a taxpayer revolution, from all appearances, voters, if only in a nod to the devil they know, seem to favor the status quo.

Still, giving residents the power to abolish or consolidate special taxing districts, should they choose to do so, would be a move in the right direction, for the long term, albeit one that allows our State Legislators to pass the buck to the people they were elected to serve, rather than to actually serve the best interests of the people by taking decisive action themselves.

As Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos intimates, New Yorkers -- and, in particular, Long Islanders -- need immediate relief from outlandish property taxes, and the outmoded, self-serving means of providing services. Not that anyone in the Legislature is proposing anything remotely designed to do just that.

Such relief can only come by way of mandate of the Legislature. Vox Populi, as democratic as it may sound, will only take taxpayers so far, assuming measures to dissolve or consolidate ever make it to the ballot box.
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From Newsday's Spin Cycle:

Lawmakers back district-merger bill; details sketchy

Efforts to consolidate local governments picked up momentum Tuesday as state legislative leaders announced they were introducing a bill to simplify the process for dissolving the tiny units of government known as special districts.

At a leaders’ conference in Albany focusing on reducing property taxes, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) announced that a bipartisan bill would be introduced shortly — assuring its passage in that house.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), announcing his support for the first time, said a bill also would be proposed in the Senate. Democrats hold only a two-vote edge there, but several upstate Senate Republicans have spoken in favor of it.

Gov. David A. Paterson also expressed his support, and Silver said the measure could reduce property taxes by 5 to 22 percent statewide.

Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), declined to say whether Skelos supported the legislation, but said: “The attorney general’s plan is one way to achieve long-term savings, but Long Islanders need immediate relief.”

But opponents of consolidation have argued that special districts provide greater local control. Thomas Shanahan, lobbyist for water suppliers on Long Island said, “We’re not opposed to a reasonable system, but we need to see the details.”

Both Silver and Smith said they had been hammering out the details with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the reform in December after Newsday stories on abuses in special districts.

Special districts handle specific services, such as water hookups and garbage pickups, in specific areas. No one knows exactly how many there are statewide. But on Long Island alone, they collect nearly $500 million a year in tax revenue.

Currently, a Byzantine patchwork of laws makes it virtually impossible to eliminate districts. Cuomo has proposed giving citizens the power to put consolidation proposals on the ballot if they get signatures from 10 percent of the district’s voters, or 5,000 people, whichever is less.

If the referendum passed, the local government would have up to a year to complete the process.

Rosalie Hanson, a Gordon Heights activist who has pushed to dissolve the fire district there, welcomed the bill.

“I’m relieved and happy to hear it because the current petition process is antiquated,” she said. “And what I went through personally I feel that no other human being should endure.”

Gordon Heights residents, who pay the highest fire taxes in the state, have tried twice to dissolve the district. They submitted a new set of petitions to the town of Brookhaven Dec. 31 and are still waiting for the town assessor to review them.

Bloggers Of The Community, Unite!

Blogging Toward A Better, Brighter Community

Just as no community is an island, existing in isolation, one without the other (hence, the need for umbrella organizations such as The Community Alliance), so, too, must the voices of community, however varied and disparate, come together from the great diaspora of the blogosphere, joining in spirit -- if not through the wonders of cyber technology -- to give moment to the great cause of community-building.

An e-mail recently received from a reader of this blog -- himself a blogger -- highlights the need for all of us who care deeply about community, about Long Island, about a quality of life that is sustainable, to lend our voices, along with our energies -- to this empassioned endeavor:

I write an advocacy blog on the Lighthouse Project called Let There Be Light(house) ( I just wanted to thank you for the great pieces on Kate Murray that have run lately, and I’m especially glad to not be the only one out in the blogosphere trying to get the truth out.

I also think some of my readers, who sent me the link to your cow post, may have been overzealous…Now that I read it again, it looks like complete and udder (pun intended) satire, though it says something about Kate Murray that I could actually see her doing that.

Either way – thank you for the great blog, and I hope to continue working with you and others who get it on this very important issue.

Nick Giglia
Let There Be Light(house)

Finally, someone who recognizes and appreciates satire!

Then again, beneath the greatest satirical works of our time lay the foundations of truth, as ironic -- if not downright painful -- as that truth may be.

The Let There Be Light(house) blog is one of many on Long Island that lay bare the plans, the foibles, the best, and the worst, offered and pondered. And yet, there is a disconnect, even among blogging communities, as if we were travelers through space and time, each in our own universe, totally unaware of one another's existence, unless and until our worlds collide (or at least gently bump).

The Lighthouse Project, and with it, the redevelopment/revitalization of the Nassau Hub, is a vital component of Nassau's sustainability well into the 21st century, and one in which we all hold a communal, if not proprietary interest.

Nick Giglia's blog is an attempt to shed light (pun intended) on but one of the issues that will, one way or another, profoundly impact upon Long Island's tomorrows.

Surely, there are other voices, other bloggers, other footnotes to the worldwide web, yet unseen by the surfing eye, begging to be heard, read, and cross-referenced by link, post, or Twitter.

Perhaps a Community Blogging Alliance is in order.

Well, if nothing more, we can continue to search out the voices of community, boldly going where no blog has gone before.

After all, if our mission is to find common sense solutions to common community problems, we'll need all the help we can get!
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In a further e-mail from Nick Giglia, whose blog is about as non-partisan as they come, yet another community truth is revealed. Call it not matter vs. anti-matter, but perhaps, Murray vs. Anti-murray. We see a pattern emerging here -- on all fronts. . .

I believe that we are pushing for a necessary step forward in Nassau County and Long Island as a whole.

. . .I did not expect the blog to become partisan, and I in fact spent many months giving Kate Murray every benefit of the doubt and pleading for sanity among the people emailing me and calling for ceremonial hangings from the nearest liberty tree. However, the Town of Hempstead simply pushed me too far. I was tired of the ridiculous statements to the media, the dismissive attitude toward voters, the phony petition drives, and their lackadaisical approach to just about everything. As someone who lives literally right next to the Bellmore Army Base (which the Town of Hempstead agreed to re-develop 13 years ago), I sadly know exactly what a promise of speed from them is worth. I realized that a commitment to truth meant a duty to share unpleasant truths rather than misleading sunshine.

Despite this, I still don’t believe the blog has become hyper-partisan, and in fact I have said many times I would stop criticizing Kate Murray if she would bring herself to attend a meeting or publicly proclaim a commitment to get something done at the Coliseum site. I see my mission as simply getting the truth out there and letting people make their own decisions, even though I never hide my support for the project. I just ran an interview with sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, which highlighted some of the issues surrounding public financing for sports facilities, and I am hoping to bring more experts into this discussion as the blog matures and the issue becomes more high-profile.

Thank you again for the kind words and a willingness to stand up and fight for the future we need. I am in my early 20’s and I don’t see an economic future for myself here on Long Island. It might be too late for me – I see myself having to go to Boston or San Francisco to get my high-technology business off the ground – but hopefully some new policy can prevent those after me from having to make that decision . . .

Thank you again, and together I hope we can continue to educate the public.

Nick Giglia

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Know of a blog or other online missive offering comment on community-building, quality of life, or other aspects of community here on Long Island? Pass along the link to us at We'll do our best to get out the word.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

School Budget Vote Today, May 19th

Support Long Island's Generation Next

There's plenty that ails Long Island's school districts -- all 127 of them. [And that's just for starters.]

From budgets that rival those of small nation-states and teachers/administrators who mistakenly believe that six figure salaries (with the pensions that go with them) and generous, taxpayer-sponsored lifetime benefits are entitlements, to school boards whose not so hidden agenda is to systematically dismantle the public schools and so-called "reform" groups who would just as soon divert your tax dollars to private and parochial schools as to keep them in your wallet.

Phew! Tip of the iceberg, no doubt.

Still, we must not let our dissatisfaction and frustration get in the way of what's truly at stake here -- the education of our children.

After all, years of a dumbed-down electorate have gotten us where we are today: overtaxed, under served, and endlessly paying the piper with little or no music to hear for it.

It will, apparently, be for our children to get us out of this mess, as we have seen fit to sit on our hands and do absolutely nothing to buck the trend of borrow, spend, and spend some more.

To do so, our children will need the smarts that can only come through a first class education, both in and out of the classroom, and our support, as parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends, who understand that the future of our communities is held in the hands of every child who walks through that school house door.

The Community Alliance urges everyone eligible to vote to do so. And when you step into the voting booth and pull that curtain shut, consider the beneficiaries of your actions before you pull that lever.

The choices we make today will decide the direction we take tomorrow!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Reassessing The Assessment Under Nassau's New Assessor

What's Broken Is Still Broken, And There's Not A Fix In Sight

Challenges abound. Refunds, years in the paying. Lag time between actual assessment and property tax due still years apart.

So, what else is new?

For one thing, the Nassau County Assessor, Thaddeus J. Jankowski, Jr.

And that's about all that has changed.

Tax rates? Still rising.

Spending? Through the stratosphere.

Did we ever say, "It's not the assessment" that's responsible for skyrocketing property taxes on Long Island?

Of course we have. Time and time again, going on five years now.

Then again, easier to point a finger, find a scape goat, and blame processes and procedures, rather than to grab the bull by the horns (as we continue to watch what comes out the bull's other end) than it is to cut, consolidate, and eliminate.

No, it's not the assessment, as afoul of logic and reason as that system certainly is.

It is the myopic vision of those who see the solution to every problem as increased spending of the taxpayers' dime (if only it was but a dime), bigger being better, and more rather than less as the panacea to everything from garbage collection (as in the fiefdoms familiarly known as sanitary districts) to educating our children (as in 127 separate school districts on Long Island alone).

Blame the Assessor?

Sure, why not? But while you're at it, blame the other elected officials, from State Legislators on down, who spend our money with abandon, raising the property tax rates through the roof, even as that roof collapses on top of us!
- - -
From The New York Times:

For Nassau, Assessments Still a Stubborn Issue


A DECADE ago, problems with Nassau’s property tax assessment system nearly bankrupted the county. Officials have been trying to fix it ever since.

Comprehensive reform was supposed to be completed by now, Nassau officials said, but they concede that it is not. Despite a countywide reassessment in 2003, property owners continue to file about 130,000 challenges a year. Nassau’s assessment court cases total more than in the rest of the state combined.

To settle such claims, the county is paying about $85 million this year for property tax refunds — most of it for taxes that went to school districts and other local governments, not the county. The state agency overseeing Nassau’s finances has rebuked it for borrowing $35 million of the total.

“It’s imperative that we fix this problem once and for all,” County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, who was elected eight years ago vowing to repair county finances, said in an interview. “We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made on the residential property, and disappointed with the progress on commercial property.”

Commercial cases account for 83 percent of refunds.

In a renewed effort, this year Mr. Suozzi appointed a new county assessor, Thaddeus J. Jankowski Jr., to succeed the previous assessment chairman, Harvey Levinson, who was elected. The old system of having an appointed Board of Assessors headed by a chairman elected by the voters ended last year.

Mr. Jankowski, who served in a similar position in Boston, said he sympathizes with people confused by Nassau’s assessments.

“I’ve asked all kinds of experts — lawyers and officials — if they can explain to me in 20 minutes or less how the system works,” he said. “So far, I haven’t found a single one.”

He is drafting changes to simplify the process, which is markedly different from the one in Suffolk, where the 10 towns individually set the assessments, not the county.

Nassau’s system is also under attack in State Supreme Court in a lawsuit from County Legislator Roger H. Corbin. He contends that when property owners win assessment reductions, the county should stop its practice of paying the refunds for excess taxes that school districts and other governments collected.

“It’s not fair, and it’s illegal,” said Mr. Corbin, who contends that the county has no authority to pay those refunds. The system hurts homeowners in districts with little commercial property because their county taxes help pay refunds for excess taxes collected by other districts with a large commercial base, he said.

The county attorney, Lorna B. Goodman, sides with the suit. “The law is what Mr. Corbin said it is,” she said.

But school districts oppose the suit, saying they have no control over assessments and cannot afford refunds. One of their lawyers, Gregory J. Guercio, said, “The county should pay for its own mistakes.”

Nassau’s assessments, based partly on 1938 construction costs before materials like wallboard and vinyl siding, hobbled along for decades. Then the system spun out of control in the 1990s, overwhelmed by challenges. Court cases dragged on for years, running up huge retroactive refunds. Eventually, refunds of nearly $2 billion were incurred.

To pay, the county borrowed so much that Nassau had the highest per capita county debt in the state. Nassau’s credit rating sank, and the county was forced to seek a state bailout. The state agreed but created the Nassau Interim Finance Authority for oversight.

The fiscal turmoil exacted a political price, too. After decades of Republican dominance, the Democrats won a majority in the County Legislature in 1999 and elected Mr. Suozzi in 2001.

Mr. Suozzi has been widely praised for reducing the county work force and other costs, balancing the budget, reducing debt and raising the credit rating. But assessment issues proved stubborn.

He supported a general revaluation, ordered by a court because of racial disparities.

He tried to expedite challenges, correcting assessments quickly to avoid retroactive refunds. He planned to pay off the old case backlog and pay new refunds from current revenue instead of borrowing. He had hoped to do this by the end of his first term in 2005, but the efforts were incomplete.

“An ‘F’ across the board — they did not do any of the above,” said the Legislature’s Republican minority leader, Peter J. Schmitt. He has called for an assessment freeze. “We have a backlog of grievances, and we’ve returned to borrowing. It’s terrible.”

Renewed borrowing also drew the ire of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which last fall stated its “unanimous and unequivocal” opposition. Borrowing “was one of if not the pre-eminent reason for the original fiscal crisis of Nassau County, which led to the creation of Nifa by the state,” the agency said. “We cannot begin down that road again. Nifa cannot endorse a fiscal policy that it was created, in part, to end.”

Mr. Suozzi said he had made major progress, including nearly doubling the assessment staff to 252 from 130, correcting glitches in the computerized reassessment and paying off a record $251 million in refunds in 2005.

Mr. Suozzi attributed discontent over assessments to the old reputation of faulty valuations; high taxes — about $10,000 year for a typical homeowner; Republican campaign advertisements against assessments; and firms specializing in filing grievances that foster the notion of overassessment. The firms seek fees for such cases.

Ten companies widely solicit owners and account for 80 percent of residential assessment-grievance cases, Mr. Jankowski said. “Somebody remarked to me they got 12 different mailings to be signed up as a client,” he said. “People are being told their assessments are too high — even before they get their assessments.”

Owners of 46,471 properties filed for each of the last four years — even though 78 percent never won reductions, Mr. Jankowski said.

Lawyers handling challenges give the county mixed grades.

“They’ve made an attempt to keep the assessment rolls up to date, which didn’t happen before,” said Donald F. Leistman, who specializes in commercial cases. The process has accelerated and the backlog has dwindled, but assessors often ignore past reductions in setting new values, he said.

Fred N. Perry, a leading lawyer in residential cases, voiced a similar complaint. “They don’t honor court-ordered reductions,” he said, “and people in my field are continually scratching our heads.” He said the county’s Assessment Review Commission “has been getting up to speed in the last two years, but they’re not perfect.”

The county comptroller, Howard S. Weitzman, said Nassau had made big strides in resolving assessment issues, “but it may be that the goals were too optimistic.”

“By this time we had hoped assessments would not be a problem,” he said, “but it’s a work in progress.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Friday, May 15, 2009

We'll Have A Gay Old Time

Same Sex Marriage: The Time Has Come For NY To Say YES

No person should ever be denied their civil rights or the basic freedoms others can enjoy.
---Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

The NYS Assembly passed what has become known as the "Gay Marriage" Bill -- technically, Assembly bill A. 7732 -- by a margin of 89 to 52.

No surprises. The measure was expected to easily pass the Assembly, and even garnered the votes of five courageous Republicans, who bucked the tired, old party line to move New York boldly into the 21st Century.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called this measure "a matter of equity and justice. New Yorkers should have the right to marry whom they chose. Partners unable to enter into a civil marriage, and their children, lack basic legal protections taken for granted by married couples."

Mr. Silver is absolutely right. Let the moans and groans of the homophobes subside. [No one is turning to salt.] The law would recognize civil unions, with all rights and privileges attendant thereto.

From life and death decisions, to the mundane, everyday benefits typically afforded to married couples -- and rarely given a second thought -- the act would give same sex couples equal rights and protections, as same are guaranteed by the Constitutions of both the United States and the State of New York. [As if we should really need legislation to tell us that.]

Some of those voting against the bill cited personal indignation. Others preached morality. [Hey, you're in the NYS Legislature. All morality has been permanently suspended.] And a few said their votes represented the will of their constituents. [Right. Like that ever made a difference, either to our representatives in Albany or their constituents.]

Truth is, there are only two reasons, in this day and age, to vote against a measure that provides for equal protection under the law for any person -- in this instance, a law that would recognize consensual relationships between two adults of the same sex: ignorance and cowardice.

For the bill's opponents, it is as if not to recognize same sex civil unions would simply make homosexuality go away.

No. To fail to recognize true and meaningful relationships, loving and giving relationships, simply makes our humanity go away.

This blogger is not a homosexual. Not an indictment. Just a fact.

A homosapien, yes, who believes that every member of the species, without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation, deserves equal treatment and protection under the law.

Indeed, the measure has nothing to do with homosexuality, per se, or the State's endorsement thereof. It has everything to do, however, with simple human decency.

Don't like homosexuals? So don't marry one.

Frankly, we believe in live and let live, rather than in minding everyone else's business, and intervening, as if by some God-given right, when someone else's conduct or mindset does not conform or comport to your own.

Should gays be permitted to marry? Absolutely. After all, why should heterosexual couples suffer alone? Just kidding, dear...

Now the measure goes to the State Senate, where it faces stiff opposition (even among some Democrats), and an uncertain future.

Its not easy to give up old ways, or to admit that the times have changed. Still, one would hope that our State Senators, upon reflection and introspection, would do right by all New Yorkers, voting YES on the Marriage Equality Bill.

Of course, that would take a particular courage -- if not an appropriate set of balls -- the likes of which hasn't been seen up in Albany in a long, long time.
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The Community Alliance encourages readers to contact their State Senators, urging them to vote YES on the Marriage Equality Bill, S. 4401.
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Assembly Passes Marriage Equality Bill

Measure would allow same-sex partners to legally marry in New York

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell today announced the passage of a marriage equality bill that allows same-sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil marriages. The measure, a program bill introduced by Governor Paterson and sponsored by O'Donnell, grants same-sex couples the same legal recognition afforded to couples of the opposite sex.

In 2007, the Assembly passed a similar marriage equality bill, 85 to 61, with bipartisan support. Today's vote of 89 to 52 also gained approval from majority and minority members from throughout the state.

"This is a matter of equity and justice. New Yorkers should have the right to marry whom they chose. Partners unable to enter into a civil marriage, and their children, lack basic legal protections taken for granted by married couples," said Silver (D-Manhattan).

"The Assembly cast another vote today for equality, and sent a strong message that our state must no longer exclude citizens from basic rights and protections. Our constitution and our consciences demand action," said O'Donnell (D-Manhattan). "It is impossible to ignore the pleas of parents who want their children to be treated equally under the law and individuals who want nothing more than to protect their partners and families."

The bill (A.7732) would amend the Domestic Relations Law, to give same-sex couples the opportunity to legally marry in New York State and make all provisions of state law applicable to same-sex marriages. The measure specifically provides that no member of the clergy can be compelled to perform any marriage ceremony.

When the Assembly last passed marriage equality in 2007, Massachusetts was the only state that allowed same-sex marriage. Today, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Maine permit same-sex marriages. While laws in Connecticut and Iowa were implemented by judicial decision, Vermont and Maine passed measures through their respective state legislatures. Both houses in New Hampshire have also passed a same-sex marriage bill, which is awaiting approval or veto by their governor.

California courts consented to marriage between same-sex partners for five months last year before the approval of a statewide referendum that instructs the state government to acknowledge only marriages between a man and a woman.

O'Donnell continued, "Many of my colleagues who voted yes are individuals of profound faith who were able to draw a distinction between civil and religious marriage. I commend every one of them for casting this courageous vote."

Silver noted the changed political landscape since the last Assembly vote, in 2007. Residents in urban, suburban and rural areas all over New York State contacted their Assemblymembers, urging them to approve the marriage equality legislation.

Governor Paterson issued a directive to state agencies last year to recognize all marriages performed outside the state, including same-sex marriages performed in Canada or the few states that can be legally solemnized. Some municipalities in New York State offer domestic partnership registries for the purposes of benefits, but civil unions are not offered under New York State law.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lighthouse Project? What Lighthouse Project?

Town Supervisor Nixes Meeting, Cites Ethics

If the Lighthouse Project ever becomes a reality at the Nassau Hub, it will have very little to do with the tenacity of Hempstead Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, who missed out on yet another meeting with elected officials and developers.

Oh, it wouldn't be right if Murray mingled with the developers when she herself, as a vote on the town board, must sit in judgment on the matter.

Yeah, right. Suddenly Kate Murray is concerned about the appearance of impropriety.

Okay. So don't show. Send a rep. Maybe your dad, Norm, now that he's "retired" as a $130,000 per year Law Assistant for the town, collected nearly $40,000 in severance (plus his pension of almost $50K per annum) and stepped in as a $40 per hour clerk -- in the same department.

Got any of those cushy clerk jobs left, Kate? Need a law assistant?

Its always talk a good game -- no, a great game -- for Kate Murray, but whenever it comes to actually showing up, the Supervisor is too busy or otherwise unavailable.

Gee, Kate, you always have time to show up at a senior center (courting the Alzheimer's vote, no doubt, for no one in her right mind would vote for Kate, unless, of course, she was on payroll), or for some innocuous ribbon-cutting ceremony in Levittown, but on the substantive issues, whether downtown revitalization in Elmont or a round table on plans to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum area, you are constantly and consistently a no show.

Kate, we elected you [well, not all of us] to be our representative at important functions, of which the Lighthouse Project is one.

By missing yet another opportunity to interact and interject, you delay progress and dismiss the public will.

Perhaps more disturbing than the conspicuousness of your absence is the silence of your compatriots at town hall, most notably, your fellow elected officials in Hempstead Town.

Instead of praising you to the hilt, and sticking in a "Kate Murray and I" wherever ink meets paper or lips shall parse, they should be calling a Kate a Kate, demanding that you either step up to the plate or head to the showers.

Worse, still, is the silence of the good people of Hempstead Town, who, whether moved by Kate's irrepressible smile, or simply mesmerized by her iridescent red jacket, refuse to recognize Kate Murray for what she is -- a public servant who serves not the public interest, but only her own. [All right. And that of her dad, brothers, and Lord knows who else.]

If only Kate Murray would look out for John Q. Public as she does for her father, brothers, and sundry other relatives, instead of taking money from our pockets, the town might actually be putting money in!

The smile and the patronizing (no pun intended) rhetoric are disingenuous. The era of fooling too many of the people too much of the time must, at long last, draw to a close.
- - -
From Newsday:

Murray a no-show at Nassau Lighthouse project meeting
10:43 PM EDT, May 11, 2009

There was an empty chair at a meeting held Monday by the Lighthouse Development Group and the Nassau County executive on the fate of the proposed 150-acre mixed-use development around the Coliseum.

It was reserved for Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.

Suozzi and the developers say Murray was a no-show at the meeting that had been arranged by local labor union officials between Thursday and Sunday night.

But town officials insisted Murray had said she was unavailable even as she said she would meet with the principals at another time.

Both the developers and County Executive Thomas Suozzi said her absence is evidence of a pattern.

"After 31/2 months and at least six attempts to get a 'process' meeting on our project, we were confident that the seventh would be the charm," said Lighthouse president Michael Picker. "We were very disappointed." Suozzi said he found it hard to believe that Murray hadn't agreed to Monday's meeting.

"Why would the developers and members of their team, me and members of my team - all busy people - have shown up after having changed their schedules if they didn't think Kate Murray was going to be there?" he said. "There have been too many instances of her saying [that] she can't go to a meeting, it's not proper - and now, she can go but it's not the right time?"

Suozzi said Murray had also refused to attend a meeting he tried to arrange in March.

Hempstead Town officials have said it's improper for the supervisor to meet with applicants "to discuss the project" of which she will sit in judgment. Murray did meet with developer Charles Wang in January, and officials said she would meet with him again on the approval process, which he has criticized.

Long Island Federation of Labor president John Durso acknowledged Monday that Saturday afternoon Murray said she would "make herself available" for a meeting, but did not commit to attending Monday's meeting - though he "was under the impression" that she would.

Hempstead Town spokesman Michael Deery said that Murray reached out to Lighthouse principals Monday afternoon to set up a new meeting.

By 6 p.m., he said, they hadn't called her back.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Town That Murray Bilked

Patronage And Nepotism Still The Norm In Hempstead Town

Did anyone care that Supervisor Kate Murray had her father and brothers on payroll in the Town of Hempstead?

Apparently not. This was public knowledge -- and blasted conspicuosly and regularly in the media -- before the last election. Murray was resoundingly re-elected, blatant nepotism notwithstanding.

Now we learn that Murray's dad, Norman, 83, has retired from one job at the town -- so he could collect a hefty pension -- only to show up the next business day, collecting a salary at a newly created position at Hempstead town hall. Well, at least he showed up.

No attempt to even hide this overt abuse of the taxpayers' money, let alone the trust of the people one of the Murrays was elected to serve.

Its the electorate be damned in Hempstead Town, where the only qualification one needs for employment is pedigree.

As Kate Murray works on her unauthorized autobiography, aptly titled, The Pomposity of Dope, Town of Hempstead residents have had their pockets picked yet again. Kate's no dope. Voters, on the other hand? Well...

No apologies from town hall. No comment from Kate Murray's dad, the pensioneer cum $40 per hour clerk. And no apparant outrage from the good people of Hempstead Town.

You may not always get what you deserve in life, but you do get what you elect.

When will we ever learn?
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Patronage in the Town of Hempstead? It's the same old story

What do the jobs of a $130,542 law assistant and a $40-an-hour clerical worker in Hempstead have in common?


That's why the 83-year-old father of Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray could leave the full-time law assistant's position in the town attorney's office on a Friday and return to the same office as a clerk the following Monday. As Norman Murray passed go, he got to cash out $39,735 in severance pay and start collecting a $49,188 public pension.

The town says the rehiring of Murray doesn't violate the state's new law barring double-dipping because it's a different job. Well, the job he left is unfilled, and the new post seems to have been added. Besides, he's being paid more than three times the average hourly rate of any other clerk.

Outrage could be one response. In the Murray case, where the supervisor's two brothers also are employed by the town in the parks department, nostalgia seems more appropriate. Here, in the Nassau GOP's last power base, it was a move reminiscent of the glory years, when the party thumbed its nose at taxpayers, defiantly and unapologetically.

If At First You Don't Secede. . .

Long Island As The 51st State

Talk of seceding from the less than perfect union to form our own state abounds once again, this on the heels of the MTA bailout and constant grumblings of LI not receiving its fair share from Albany.

The Suffolk County legislature has sent a so-called "home rule" message upstate.

Why, there's even talk of setting up a commission to study the pros and cons of statehood for Long Island.

The Nassau County legislature is not likely to take up the cause, a product, we surmise, of its own malaise and ineptitude rather than thoughtful abstinence.

Haven't we bantered about statehood for Long Island in the past?

Of course. Why, just last year the Suffolk County Comptroller (do you even know his name?) suggested a State of Long Island, arguing that the billions the island sends to Albany should stay on Long Island. Actually, he's been pinning for statehood since 1991.

But what about the billions Albany sends to Long Island, for the rails, the roads, the schools, the state parks?

True, at most Long Islanders see only 10 to 25 cents on every tax dollar paid to the state returned to the island, but does anyone really believe we could do better fending for ourselves?

With businesses fleeing -- or simply shutting their doors -- and the sales tax base in serious decline -- where do you think the money will come from to operate Long Island's 900 some odd (okay, mostly odd) special districts, 60 villages (or is it 90? We forget), two cities, a multitude of towns, and, oh yeah, 127 separate school districts?

Ah, that would be you, John and Jane Q. Public.

Just imagine the county legislature -- fielder's choice for Nassau or Suffolk -- taking on the role of state legislature. If you think we have dysfunction now...

More power to the towns and villages? We don't think so.

And wait. It gets worse. Tom Suozzi and Kate Murray vying for Governor? Bring on the Libertarian candidate!

Bottom line: Long Island, as messed up as it is as two of New York's largely forgotten counties, would not be sustainable, economically or otherwise, as an independent state.

Study it all you want, folks. Or not. Just don't spend a single tax dollar of ours in the process.

Long Island as the 51st State? As they say in Brooklyn (which, technically, is a part of Long Island), fugetaboutit!
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From Newsday:

Suffolk home rule message eyes seceding from state

Suffolk legislators approved a home rule message Tuesday calling for a study and referendum on the merits of Long Island seceding from a "tyrannical" New York State government, though they are unlikely to be taking up muskets for an armed revolt.

The dormant Long Island secession movement awakened by presiding officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), who, angered by the regional payroll tax imposed by state lawmakers to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bailout, called for a vote on the matter to register his anger about the new tax.While Lindsay said the vote was as a publicity stunt, some of his colleagues were less subdued.Legis. Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham), the body's GOP leader, called for a revolt on Long Island against the state.

"The actions that have been taken by those in Albany on the part of Long Islanders are tyrannical," he said. "We are at the point of revolt. . . . Long Island needs to stand up and take whatever action is necessary to throw off those shackles of the tyrants up in New York State."

State lawmakers won't consider Suffolk's Long Island secession request unless Nassau County passes its own home rule message. Nassau presiding officer Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) said she won't consider the issue.

Secession would have to be approved by Congress and state lawmakers, who have shown no inclination to be receptive to requests by Staten Island to leave New York City and the East End to part with Suffolk County.

No U.S. state has been created from an existing state since the Civil War, but that didn't stop Suffolk officials from holding an often-hyperbolic debate on the topic. "It's become a matter of economic survival," said Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, who has pushed Long Island statehood since 1991.

The bill passed on a 12-6 vote.

Legis. Brian Beedenbender, who voted against the measure, called the taxation-without-representation talk foolish."This is taxation with poor representation," he said. "We have representatives. They stink!"

There was some concern that the debate would brand Suffolk legislators as time-wasters or worse.

"Is there going to be an impression that the Long Island delegation, that they're wacky, that they're wackos?" asked Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). The home rule message supports state legislation sponsored by Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (R-Sag Harbor) that would create a task force to study Long Island secession. It also calls for a nonbinding secession referendum in 2010 in Nassau and Suffolk.

Losquadro said the matter is serious enough to attempt to bypass Albany lawmakers.

"By its definition, an act of secession is a revolt and it doesn't necessarily adhere to all the laws," he said. But Losquadro, like Sawicki, said his belief in Long Island secession stops short of armed revolt.

Staff writer William Murphy contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Out Of The Mouths Of Journalists, And The Pockets Of Taxpayers

A Local Editor Brings The Empire State Down A Notch

Joe Rizza, West Hempstead resident and editor of the Mineola American and the Three Village Times (Anton News), may not buy into the notion that "no news is good news," but he certainly knows when New York taxpayers are getting a raw deal.

Enough said, at least by this blogger...
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From the Mineola American:


New York - The Backwards State

New York's nickname has been "The Empire State," but in light of the recent state budget passed and the struggles with the MTA, it may as well be called, "The Backwards State."

When times are tough with the nation mired in a recession, with people losing their jobs and taking pay cuts, the citizens need their state leaders in Albany to think outside the box and come up with a budget that does not further hurt residents. So what do the leaders come up with?

More taxes and fees.

At a time when residents may be hurting financially, state lawmakers in Albany have decided to take more money to close a budget deficit. Who is going to close the deficits that exist in people's personal lives? In a time when people need relief the most, state lawmakers found a way to make their situations worse.

It is backwards thinking to take more money away from the public when what we need to help the economy is for people to spend money. We need consumers to support our local businesses. The true purpose of a tax cut or an economic stimulus is to give people some relief whereby they can use additional money to spend on goods and services. Businesses are helped and jobs are created. Instead, the state has given people less money to spend.

Senator Craig Johnson, who voted for the state budget, said that people would spend money. Perhaps Senator Johnson is out of touch with those who have had to endure layoffs, pay cuts or pay freezes. After all, some of Senator Johnson's staff members received raises of over 50 percent after the Democrats became the Senate Majority leaders in January.

Senator Johnson says his staff works extremely hard. That may be so, but New Yorkers have been asked to do their share during difficult times. On Long Island, it seems people do more than their share.

Then, there's the case of the backwards agency that is the MTA. With the country in the midst of an energy crisis whereby we continue to buy oil from foreign countries to satisfy what has been called an addiction to oil, it makes sense that we should encourage mass transportation. However, the MTA has managed to discourage mass transportation with its enormous fare increases to help fill a budget deficit created by excessive spending. For a weekend trip from Mineola to Penn Station, it will cost $15.50 for a round trip ticket. For a family of four to go to New York City on the weekend, that's $62 and that's just for transportation to Penn Station.

You have to wonder where the MTA is spending the money. Recently, we received an eight-page, glossy brochure from the MTA on the 70th birthday of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. This is an agency that some lawmakers are considering bailing out with a payroll tax.

While there is talk these days, the ones most in need of a bailout are the residents, but nobody seems to be listening.

- Joe Rizza

Friday, May 08, 2009

Mooove Over Elsie -- Molly The Cow To Mow For Hempstead Town

Supervisor Announces Bovine Beautification Program

Here at The Community Alliance blog, we've chewed the cud with Nigerian goats, opined about flying swine, and even honked over a mother goose that lost her way.

But its all about cow-mmunity on this blog.

So, its only fitting that we go out to pasture for a courageous cow who literally escaped the slaughterhouse, living to let the cow chips fall where they may for another day.

A life of leisure on the farm for Molly the runaway cow?

Not so fast, Borden breath.

Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray, has other plans for Molly. Big plans. The kinda plans that make for extra copies of those Murraygrams underfoot, so you won't step in any cow you-know-what.

Yes, at a news conference hastily called this morning in front of the Dairy Barn on Washington Street, Murray, sporting a black and white imitation cowhide jacket, and Town Councilwoman, Angie Cullin, of Angie Cullin's Culinary Delights & Gun Shop, told reporters that Molly -- and her entire bovine family, thrice remoooved -- would be relocated to Hempstead Town, put on the payroll (of course), and permitted to munch away at weeds on the great Hempstead Plain.

"We absolutely believe that there's a place for Molly in Hempstead Town," said a smiling Murray. "She's got moxie, two stomachs, a miniscule carbon footprint, and we've got more bull here in this town than any cow could handle."

That Methane footprint, on the other hand...

Never one to miss a photo op, the Supervisor promptly hopped upon Mollie's hump -- with the able assistance of Senior Councilman Tony "I thought we were going to bar-b-que this beast" Santino -- and rode off directly into the sun toward Levittown.

"Hiyo Molly, away," shouted Murray.

Free milk today for everyone in Hempstead Town. Next week, a chicken in every special district.

Folks, you simply cannot make this stuff up. And you thought this only happens in the moooovies...
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From the pages of Newsday:

[This one deserves a Pulitzer -- or is that a Bullitzer?]

Cow escapes slaughterhouse and moves to LI sanctuary

On any udder day she would have been on the chopping block.

But a day after a 1-year-old bovine scrammed from a slaughterhouse in Queens, the cow, now dubbed Molly, arrived on Long Island.The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Molly, spared from death row, was transported to a Calverton sanctuary named The Farrm Thursday.

"The ASPCA is happy to make Molly's future brighter," said Joseph Pentangelo, assistant director of the agency.

It is a moo-ving story.

On Wednesday, Molly had a legitimate beef with her future: She was slated to become a New York strip, among other prime cuts, at the Musa Halal Inc. slaughterhouse on Beaver Road in South Jamaica.

But instead of kowtowing to fate, Molly broke out at 1 p.m.

The dairy queen led a Wild West cattle drive down 109th Avenue, as she dodged cars, cops and butchers - cutting through a driveway and busting through a fence before officers cornered her in a backyard, shot her with a tranquilizer gun and lassoed her.

She was then loaded into a horse trailer, though not before ramming her head into the side of it, police said.Thursday morning the ASPCA announced Molly was headed for greener pastures.