Thursday, May 21, 2009

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?
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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.

1 comment:

  1. The perverse thing is that the whole idea of "New Suburbia" is not that new. While we were building Levittown, they were building walkable, mixed-use suburbs out west and in Greenbelt, MD. Here it is, 60 years later, and people are still arguing that there is no viability to this model....It's INSANE.

    Otherwise, I agree with all your other issues. On the whole, you have to think Suozzi has a major edge here, but anything can happen.