Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Pause In The Disaster

The Community Alliance Blog Stands At Ease

No, we're not resigning, quitting our post to serve some higher order. [Frankly, we like it right here on the front line, the short-order cooks (and bottle washers) of community].

We're simply taking our annual summer hiatus, recharging batteries, re-energizing spirits, reflecting upon past words and deeds, and contemplating how we -- and you -- can successfully take on the work of community that lies before us.

And speaking of the work of community, there is no rest, either for the weary or for the advocate.

So, while we take a measured break now that summer has finally arrived in suburbia, be reminded that the trials and tribulations that impact upon us, as citizens, as taxpayers, as New Yorkers, as Long Islanders, continue.

Be vigilant. Get Involved. Stay strong in the face of adversity, not to mention (though we will) apathy and indifference, those great detractors of quality of life.

Read, and re-read The Community Alliance blog (which, by the way, nears the milestone of 1000 posts) -- comment, suggest, and, by all means write -- to us, to your local newspapers, to your civic and community associations, to your elected representatives.

Guest blogposts are always welcome. Pen a few good words of and about community for publication in cyberspace, and send them to us at

Continue to make a difference in your community, every day, in every way.

Together, we will seek out and embrace those common sense solutions to our common community concerns.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Taco Bell Ad Star Gidget the Chihuahua Dies at 15

Last Words: "Yo Quiero Universal Health Care"

The end came suddenly and sadly for Gidget the Taco Bell Chihauha late Tuesday, when the 15 year old former spokesdog collapsed and died of a stroke at her home in Santa Clarita.

Nearly deaf, and, according to those close to her, unable to afford the skyrocketing costs of healthcare and medications since her termination by Taco Bell in 2000, Gidget was but a shell of her former, formidable self.

"She was devastated when Taco Bell cut her loose," said her Manager, Cesar Chavez.

"Most people believe she was let go because of the misconception that she was promoting Hispanic stereotypes," said Chavez, tears the size of grapes welling in his eyes. "Not so. Actually, they ran her out of a lucrative career at Taco Bell for trying to unionize franchise employees west of the Rio Grande. Just a decent dog fighting for a living wage. If only they had the dues check-off."

After her untimely termination from Taco Bell, Gidget took on small, underpaid roles, appearing in the movie, "Legally Blonde 2," and in TV spots for GEICO.

"I couldn't stand working with those &^%$#@! cavemen," Gidget once told the Associated Press. "They thought they were 'all that,' and, OMG, the hair was all over the couch, and everywhere. Where the heck was PETA when I needed them?"

Mostly, Gidget led a reclusive life in exile, often hiding from "los federales," as she called INS agents, who hounded her for decades.

"She was nothing but an illegal alien, taking away jobs from hard-working Americans," said Congressman Peter King of New York. "Just what was she doing in seclusion all these years? Reading the Koran, perhaps? Making burritos into pipe bombs? We should have shipped her back to Guadalajara years ago!"

As word of Gidget's demise spread across the nation and around the world, praise poured in from all ports of call and kennels of repute.

On Capitol Hill, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, denying she been the voice of the Taco Bell dog, lauded the "wise Chihuahua."

"I suppose this leaves me as the top dog in the Hispanic community," quipped the woman who will become the first Latina on the Supreme Court.

"It was never the size of the dog in the fight," said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "but the size of the dog on the dinner table, as the American imperialist pigs feast on the remains. A hoax, this Gidget. There never was a Taco Bell."

"First Billy Mays, now Gidget," said Vince, the ShamWOW guy, soaking up his tears with one of those TV rags. "Gee, this really works. How do you like that?"

"She was one of us, a lantzman," declared NYS Senator, Pedro Espada. She could have been the next Majority Leader, for sure."

At the White House, President Obama interrupted a question from Helen Thomas to remember Gidget.

"It was only last week that our Portugese Water Dog received a letter from Gidget, detailing her plight. She was losing her hearing, her eyesight, her desire for enchiladas and Tostitos with salsa. Her health was in decline. She had to make difficult choices, whether to put dog food in her bowl or buy medicine; go for medical treatments she could not afford, or head over to the Staples Center for the AKC Best in Show.

"Ya know, if we had universal health care, Gidget might still be with us today."

Yes, it has been one tough summer. Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcet. Michael Jackson. Billy Mays. Walter Cronkite. That 113 year old guy. And now, Gidget.

After memorial services, to be held next week at the Santa Monica dog run, Gidget's body will be flown to Long Island, for final burial on the grounds of the Norman Levy Preserve.

"We absolutely want to give Gidget a first class send off," said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray. Besides, she'll make great fertilizer for those Nigerian goats to graze on."

And that's the way it is, Thursday, July 23, 2009.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Who's Looking Out For You, Revisited

Back To Basics At The Community Alliance

When The Community Alliance was first launched, what seems like light years ago, on the collective community plate were issues ranging from the proliferation of illegal accessory apartments to the lack of affordable housing, escalating property taxes to local government run amuck.

Well, well. It would seem that our plate remains full, many, if not most of our primal concerns here in suburbia unresolved.

Illegal rental apartments in the basements of single family homes continue to plague us, posing a threat to the life of the renter and to the stability of our tax base.

Affordable housing (the lack of which, in great measure, feeds the illegal accessory apartment crisis), is virtually nonexistent on Long Island, forcing college grads and our young workforce to seek more hospitable -- or at least less costly -- habitats elsewhere.

Property taxes, fueled by the many special taxing districts masquerading as local governments, are strangling homeowners, breaking the bank, forcing folks out of their homes, unchecked, uncapped, and going nowhere but up.

As for the dysfunction of local government, from Albany to Town Hall, well, need we say more than has already been posted on this blog.

So, if the many and varied negatives that impact upon our quality of life here in suburbia have yet to improve or abate, why bother?

Does the dialogue, that constant banter on what's wrong and what could be better, really matter?

Does keeping the issues, grand and small, front and center, serve a fruitful purpose?

Can change, evolutionary if not revolutionary, come by means of an ongoing wave of words, wearing away established mindsets and entrenched mores, as cascading waters wear away huge boulders?

Are we, in this seemingly endless quest to improve the quality of life in this suburban community we call home, making a difference, simply by advancing ideas and ideals, coaxing you, along the way, to get involved, make a stand, and take action?

The answers to all these queries, we believe, quite verily, is a resounding YES!

It would be easy to throw up our hands, toss in the towel, and simply walk away, resigning ourselves to accept a community of lowered expectations and passionless mediocrity. To accept what is, and what has been for far too long, rather than to strive for what could be.

Then again, no one said life would be easy.

Quality of life, whether here in suburbia or in the context of urbanity next door, requires of us a certain vigilance, a defiant voice that will neither be stifled nor silenced, a commitment to the future of community which we hold so dearly in trust, and the courage and fortitude to persevere, despite what appears to be the glacial movement from where were stand to where we want to go.

Perhaps, every once in a while, we need to remind ourselves of the basics.

Cover those garbage cans before placing them at the curb. Remove your cars from the street for street cleaning and snow removal. Keep sidewalks and common areas clean and clear. Be kind to thy neighbor (even if you don't necessarily love him ;-).

And then, having taken those small steps, we can begin to tackle the bigger issues -- illegal accessory apartments, affordable housing, property taxes, dysfunctional government, to name but a few (next week, global warming, nuclear proliferation, health care, and the economy, stupid) -- together, as a united community in solidarity for the betterment of Long Island.

Along the way, on this wonderful journey, the seeds we've planted -- in the blogosphere and elsewhere -- will sprout.

Whether those seeds produce beautiful flowers and green, life-sustaining foliage, or stink weed and strangling vines, is entirely up to you. Of course, we will be here to help tend those gardens, reminding you, as if you thought we wouldn't, that, as communities, we reap what we sow.
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From The Community Alliance website (circa 2004):

Who's Looking Out For You?

Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News spinmeister of “No Spin Zone” fame, recently penned a bestseller entitled, Who’s Looking Out for You? [Surely, O’Reilly is looking out for us, all the way to the bank!]

Elected officials would have us think that they’re looking out for us. Most, in fact, are watching, rather than looking. Watching to see if we can differentiate the promise from the deed. Watching to see if we are watching them. Watching to see if, the next time around, we even bother to vote.
Big Brother is watching, of course. Query as to whether, in so observing our actions and trying to control our every move, he is looking out for us?

Who, then, is looking out for us? Who out there is concerned about our well-being, our quality of life, our very tomorrows. Yes, there is Mom, always looking out for us, comforting us and, within her best measured abilities, guiding, providing and living up to the promise. But who else truly cares about the future of your schools, the vitality of your “downtown,” the value of your stakehold in your community? We hope, most sincerely, that those we elect - from the White House to the State House, from the Town Board to the School Board - do care, do share our values and our concerns, do want, ever so desperately, to look out for each and every one of us.

Hope notwithstanding, we are sometimes left to wonder.

The Community Alliance, an umbrella group representing nearly forty civic and community organizations from Elmont to Wantagh, is taking up the many causes of community that squarely come within the ambit of “quality of life.” From tackling tough issues that impact on every aspect of our quality of life, such as the proliferation of illegal accessory apartments, to keeping an eye on the mundane, like whether that mechanical sweeper ever visited your street to gather up last winter’s sand, The Community Alliance is looking out for you.

No, we’re not Mom. We can’t comfort you when you fall and skin your knee. We won’t whip up a meal to satiate the palate or tuck you in at night. [We could, however, just help you sleep a little better!] We can’t hold your hand as you cross the street (although we will go the extra mile to make that street safer), and while we will offer an attentive ear, we will not, as Mom so often does, clean up your room for you.

And let us reassure those who see The Community Alliance as the posse (white cowboy hats or black - you decide) riding into town under the hot noon sun. We are not Big Brother. Yes, we are concerned about the safety and security of residents – both in and outside of their homes. Yes, we believe that the laws designed to protect us must be enforced – by the authorities empowered to enforce them. Yes, we will continue the fight to eradicate the illegal rental apartment, with all of its negative implications for our collective quality of life. We will advise. We will suggest. We will educate and inform. The rest, as they say, is up to you!

For you are The Community Alliance! Republicans and Democrats. Liberals and Conservatives. Independents and “Blanks.” The non-partisan (or better put, the multi-partisan) approach to rebuilding and re-energizing our villages and hamlets. Whether you hail from Franklin Square or Bellmore; call “home” Merrick or East Meadow; you share that common hometown fervor. The problems and disquietudes of Levittown and Uniondale are, quite literally, those of Floral Park, Westbury, Oceanside and Valley Stream. Our passions are the same, and you, dear neighbors, are community’s best hope.

Attempts to divide us as they will (and they will) by school districts, by water districts, by sanitary districts (among countless others), our shared interests eclipse our provincial differences, and our cause majure – collectively as civic associations and individually as residents – is identical: community!

At The Community Alliance, it is our intent to lay aside the petty; to downplay the divisive; to instill that hope of suburbia that brought most of us out to Long Island in the first place. Yes, at The Community Alliance, we want you to know that we are looking out for you – realizing, as we do, that, as a community, we must all look out for one another!
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What quality of life issues are important to you and concern you most? E-mail us at

The Community Alliance
Common Sense Solutions To Common Community Concerns

Something Isn't Kosher In Albany

Oh Yeah, Its The Pork
New Rules To Share Funds, Services, Going Forward; For Now, Majority Takes Bacon

Fundamental fairness would suggest that, when it comes to sharing the wealth among New Yorkers -- in this instance, member-item money given to State Senators and Assemblymembers, to be doled out to various constituent groups back home -- all New Yorkers (and each legislative district) should be treated equally.

That would mean, in the perfect world, that each legislator -- representing an equal number of constituents, more or less -- would get the same amount of discretionary money to spend at home.

Well, as we all know, and as it has been since time immemorial, apparently some districts, and the New Yorkers that reside within, are more equal than others.

The party controlling the chamber fills up its members' pork barrels -- or not.

So, in the Assembly, Democrats get the lion's share of funds to spend back home, at will, as do their Democratic counterparts in the Senate (a bone of major contention with Senate Republicans, who, for the past forty years, had their hands on the hog, slicing and dicing, leaving mere scraps for those across the aisle).

This year, the $85 million or so in member-item funds available in the Senate was disproportionately doled out as follows: $76.7 million to Democratic members; $8.3 million to Republican members.

This means, for one thing, that Long Island draws the short stick, the majority of its delegation being of the GOP.

More than this, it sleights New Yorkers who reside in "minority" (as in party, not ethnicity) districts, an inequity inherent in this system of pork chop politics.

It was an unfair appropriation when the Republicans did it in the Senate, and it remains an affront to every New Yorker when the Democrats continue this untoward practice.

The Albany Times Union reports that the times may be a changin' in Albany, with new rules -- arm-twisted during the recent coup -- designed, among other things, to share both funds and services more equally.

Of course, that's tomorrow. For today, it remains business as unusual at the State Capitol.

While parity should be the norm -- and we at The Community Alliance applaud this awakening -- at a time of deficits and budget gaps in Albany, and financial woes back home in the districts, couldn't we make better use of $85 million?

Perhaps the monies should go back into the pot, helping to close the gap and/or reduce the deficit.

Or maybe, instead of giving that money to the Elks lodge in Troy or the Legion hall in Buffalo, we should apportion, pro rata, the member-item funds among all homeowners, mailing checks instead of slicing bacon. Now that would be a property tax rebate that makes sense.

Let's not forget that the pork -- which surely needs to be chopped and trimmed -- consists entirely of tax dollars. That's right, the people's money.

All New Yorkers have a financial stake here, and each should be entitled to an equal portion of that pig.
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Check out member-item spending, among other State expenditures, at the Project Sunlight website.
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From The Albany Times Union:

Pork puts pressure on rules reform
Agreement signals release of money promised and in some cases spent

By RICK KARLIN, Capitol bureau

ALBANY -- Thursday morning's pre-dawn agreement to reform the rules under which the Senate operates was a bit like a college term paper completed after an all-nighter: It might receive a passing grade, but can result in frayed nerves and lots of complaining.

While senators spent much of Wednesday milling about and lamenting the state of affairs as their leaders tried to hammer out a compromise, life seemed to get back to normal on Thursday. Starting around 1 p.m., legislators debated a number of bills, complete with the usual greetings and courtesies they extend to one another.

True, they didn't quickly resolve the ongoing issue of mayoral control for New York City's schools, but lawmakers did exhibit some sense of cohesion, which suggested the new rules could bring about greater amity between the 32 Democrats and 30 Republicans.

Among the changes going forward: Senators will now find it easier to bring bills to the floor for debate, and minority Republicans will in future years get a larger share of the member-item allotments better known as pork. While this year they received a small fraction -- just $8.3 million compared to the $76.7 million that Democrats handed out -- they'll get one-third of next year's pot.

Pork allocations had been one of the major sticking points in rules reform. Republicans eager to see minority rights boosted became even more motivated to strike an agreement after concluding a resolution would also bring an end to what some saw as holdups or delays in releasing already promised member-item grants from GOP lawmakers.

"We wanted (Democrats) to live up to commitments that had already been made," GOP spokesman Scott Reif said.

Lawmakers and their staffers were hesitant to discuss the delays in detail for fear it would simply aggravate groups in their districts that had been promised funding but are still waiting. In some instances, funds allocated by lawmakers as far back as 2007 had yet to be released.
The prospect of moving the funds more quickly through the system heartened GOP lawmakers who conceded that many of the monies would be released closer to the all-important 2010 elections.

The speed of the distribution of member-item money has been a contentious issue in both legislative chambers.

In 2007, Schenectady Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco -- then the chamber's minority leader -- charged Gov. Eliot Spitzer cut $100,000 in member item funding from a health clinic in Tedisco's hometown as part of a political vendetta. The money was later restored.

Last year, the state budget crisis began to slow the disbursement of member item funds for Democrats and Republicans alike, as Gov. David Paterson instructed his Budget Division to give closer scrutiny to contracts paid by the grants.

Budget Division spokesman Jeffrey Gordon stressed that the oversight isn't designed to slow payments but merely to ensure the money is spent properly and prudently. "It's been our way of managing the state's finances," he said of the heightened oversight system, instituted in November.

Recipients of member items, though, say they've been put in financial tight spots by the apparent slowdown.

"Typically, you get the award letter, you send in the paperwork, you spend the money and you get the check," said Megan Quillinan, executive director of the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center, which this year had to borrow money to pay for upgrades to a building that would allow them to start a Pre-K program last fall.

The center's $100,000 worth of member items, sponsored by Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Wilton, eventually came through, and Quillinan said it has already been able to pay back its bank loan.
Like other Republicans, McDonald said he was encouraged that one of the reforms called for giving more member-item money to the GOP.

"They are stressing fairness," he said.

Rick Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or

Key Senate reforms
Here are some of the key Senate rules reforms that lawmakers agreed to early Thursday morning:

Officers and leaders of the Senate as well as committee chairs will be term limited to eight years.
Members will have greater ability to bring bills to a vote. For example, a bill can be taken out of committee to the "active list" for debate upon acceptance of a petition signed by 60 percent of the members (38).

Committee meetings and hearings will be recorded and Webcast, and chamber proceedings will be archived and accessible through the Web site. Additionally, senators want to set up a legislative Cable channel -- dubbed NYSPAN -- to broadcast sessions and joint hearings.

All 62 senators will have equal access to Senate services such as mail and printing, and a formula will provide satellite offices for senators with larger geographic districts so they can better represent districts.

Member items will be divided with greater equity, with Republicans getting one-third of next year's allocation.

For an interactive map of the changing distribution of Senate member-item dollars, visit Capitol Confidential at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dick Tracy Calling Go Go Gomez

The High Cost Of That Tw0-Way Wrist Radio

Time was, all a good cop needed was a badge, a nightstick, and a paddy wagon to cart off the criminals. How much could that cost?

Today, in Nassau County, at least, we pay the hefty sum of $161,119,742.66 for our County police, and another $130,759,490.34 for "County Police Headquarters."

True, most of us still pay more for garbage collection than we do for police headquarters [in Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 6, for instance, residents pay $732.62 annually, versus $608.15 for County Police Headquarters], but still, what in tarnation could be going on down at headquarters to cost the taxpayer nearly 131 million dollars -- IN ADDITION to the more than $161 million we shell out each year to maintain a police presence in the County?

We posed that very question to the Information Office of the Nassau County Police Department, as well as to the Nassau County Comptroller's office. As of post time, no response had been recieved by The Community Alliance.

Well, it would seem, to this observer of community, that we're paying an awful lot to maintain a roof overhead.

Considering that Inspector Henderson of Superman fame kept all of his worldly belongings in a single box -- including his beloved percolator -- we think the taxpayer doth dole out too much for HQ here in Nassau.

Not to mix either metaphors or the fighters of evil-doers, wherever they may try to root out the bad guys, but, golly gee, where's Joe Jitsu and Hemlock Holmes when you really need them?

$161 mil for police protection? Maybe. $131 million for Headquarters? We think not!

Why, its enough to turn every taxpayer into a Pruneface.

From The Peanut Gallery (A reader responds):

Greetings -

I’m sure some kind of explanation could be provided for this outlandish expense, but it wouldn’t change the self-evident fact that this is an irresponsibly high number, especially given the current economic climate in Nassau County. The generic issue of how much taxpayers pay for municipal services has its roots in a number of problems, but I think the biggest one has to do with the degree to which our political leaders are influenced by various public employee unions.

You see this at all levels of government and with various labor constituencies: from teachers exerting influence in Albany, to the police in Nassau County, to municipal workers in the Town of Hempstead, to any number of other situations of a similar nature.

Some of this influence is for the good. But I do think there’s a problem when public employee unions engage in a high degree of political activism. Unions are very effective organizations when it comes to mobilizing support for political candidates, whether that takes the form of representing a disciplined voting block that can make or break a particular candidacy, or providing grass-roots organizational help, or simply donating money. The net result of their political strength is a clear interest among public officials in currying favor among municipal unions and otherwise doing anything they can to avoid their enmity.

Right about now, given the very difficult economic times we are in, there should be some equally difficult conversations going on between our governmental leaders and labor concerning the increasingly untenable salary and benefit costs that are commonplace in the public sector.

Anybody who works for a private employer knows full well what they’ve experienced in the last five years in terms of lost job security, increased cost of health benefits, pension plans that have gone away and other concessions they have had to make. An analogous process, on a comparable scale, has definitely not been seen in the public sector. While there have been some modest labor concessions, they have definitely not been commensurate with the degree to which government really needs to pull in its belt.

I don’t think unions are bad things, but there is a built-in conflict of interest relating to the fact that unions are such powerful political players. Imagine, if you will, a situation in which some company’s union could influence or even decide whether or not that company’s CEO kept his or her job. No board of directors, representing the interests of shareholders, would be comfortable with that kind of situation.

A CEO’s job should be to maximize profit, which is not necessarily going to be compatible with what a union might want. Unions might want higher salaries or better benefits, but that’s only going to mean less profit for shareholders. Any reasonably sophisticated investor would think it was crazy to put money into a company in which labor controlled management.

Despite this, we allow this same kind of conflict of interest to persist within government. Unlike investors, we don’t have a choice: we have to pay taxes. But we do have the choice to hold our elected officials accountable, just as shareholders can hold management accountable.

My personal opinion - and this probably where I get to earn my own enmity – is that public sector unions should be apolitical in every regard – which is to say that they should be not allowed to engage in lobbying activities, or to endorse and/or work for specific candidates.

Similarly, I don’t believe that it’s healthy for union leadership to advocate for particular candidates or to try to influence their memberships’ votes. The point is that without making some kind of change in the way public sector unions operate relative to state and local governments, you’ll continue to see the type of irresponsible cost management that would get any CEO fired. As voters, we too have the option to fire the elected officials responsible for this kind of outrage, and that’s exactly what we ought to be doing when they stand for re-election.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Facing Foreclosure?

Nassau County Bar Association To Offer Free Clinic

Chances are, even if you can make those monthly mortgage payments in these tough times of economic turmoil, those pesky property taxes are still eating you alive.

Well, that's another tale for another day.

For now, hope and help is offered to the forlorn, or at least to those who face the prospect of losing their homes to foreclosure.

The Nassau County Bar Association is offering a FREE clinic -- yes, we said FREE -- on the ins and outs of foreclosure, Tuesday, August 13, 2009, 4 PM to 6 PM, at the Bar Association domus, 15th and West Streets in Mineola.

Volunteer attorneys as well as counselors from the NC Homeownership Center will be on hand, offering one-on-one guidance, advice, and direction. Bankruptcy attorneys will also be available to answer your questions and address your concerns.

Homeowners may be eligible for free legal assistance.

Reservations for this free clinic are required. Call 516-747-4070 to reserve or for more information. [Those attending must bring their most recent mortgage statement.]

Homeowners in distress are encouraged to take advantage of this free community resource.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Albany, Honeymoon Was Over Before It Started

Partisanship Strips People Of Their Voice In Government

Never mind the marquee issues, like same-sex marriage and control over the NYC public schools (less sexy, but no less divisive).

Seems that the NYS Senate, now coup-less, still can't get its act together, notwithstanding a quorum, hastened by Pedro Espada's re-defection to the Democrats.

Forget that most issues before the Senate, including dozens of bills already passed by the Assembly, have little if anything to do with ideology, whether liberal or conservative.

The bickering, back-stabbing, and gamesmanship, to and fro, are endemic to a dysfunctional system that exists only to pit "us" against "them," whoever the "us" and the "them" may be at any given moment on any given day.

It is unabashed ego, unchecked power, ransom money, and let the public be damned politics, all at their very worst.

No, they apparently won't grow up in Albany, nor will either side (as if we really need "sides") make the effort to simply get along, if for no other reason than to promote the greater good of those they were elected to serve -- the public. [Hey, remember us?]

A long way to go until November, 2010, when every NYS Senator comes before the electorate for review.

Perhaps the Governor will keep the Senate in special session until then.

And just maybe, voters will recall the tumultuous honeymoon and dissolve the marriage of office that keeps the State Legislature from its intended business -- that of representing the people of New York State.
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From Newsday Editorials:

Now NY State Senate Democrats lack a quorum

Just when you thought the State Senate was ready to move forward, arm-in-arm, passing some bills, possibly breaking into song . . . the Democrats will fail to have a quorum today. One member, no doubt having set his plans months ago, is on his honeymoon. The house will be divided 31-30.

The leadership fight is over, and Republicans plan to attend today's session to provide a 32-member quorum. But there's no guarantee there will be enough votes to pass laws.

Not to single out Sen. Daniel Squadron, the honeymooning Democrat from Brooklyn Heights, but his case illustrates what this page has been saying - that a thin majority can be upset by just one senator at any time, and therefore the parties should be working together. Yesterday, Republicans were excluded entirely from talks about today's agenda. Many Democrats outside the ruling clique were also ignored. Have the senators learned nothing this past month?

The Senate has 344 bills ready for a vote. But if they pass one - a question on New York City school governance - that will be a big achievement for this bunch. Senate Democrats swept into office promising reform - on rules, ethics, campaign contributions, property taxes - but they are delivering the bare minimum to keep New York running.Other needed bills on foreclosures, health care, the environment, higher education, energy and pensions are languishing.Enjoy the umbrella drinks, Sen. Squadron.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

Monday, July 13, 2009

No Taxpayer Dollars Have Been Used To Post This Blog

When The Public Pays For Political Fodder

We've long complained about the misuse of taxpayer money to pay for what amounts to political mailings, especially during the long campaign seasons.

Apparently, we are not alone in taking notice of the fact that homeowners/taxpayers are being barraged with self-serving communiques that, while only marginally serving to enlighten and inform, go a long way toward keeping the names -- and faces -- of incumbents emblazoned upon the minds of residents.

At the same time, these very same homeowners/taxpayers are being bilked out of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to pay for political mailings, thinly disguised, if masquerading at all, as public service announcements.

Granted, all incumbents -- both Republicans and Democrats -- partake in parceling their candidacy through mediums such as taxpayer-funded mailings. In the Town of Hempstead, however, as blog reader and community advocate Henry Boitel points out, the GOP has the media blitz, at taxpayers' expense, down to a science.

Long live the Murraygram!
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Town Of Hempstead Underwrites Republican Campaign Literature

I know I received some kind of color flier from the Town of Hempstead, with the names and photos of (Kate) Murray and (Tony) Santino on it, just in the past week or so. It seems I have been lately getting at least one mailing a week from Murray or Santino, at taxpayer expense.

In addition, today I received in the mail three communications from the Town of Hempstead, i.e., paid for with our tax money.

1. From Murray and Santino urging me that recent State legislation that enables localities to consolidate government functions should effectively be undone since the people cannot be trusted to make the right decision on these matters. That bore postage of 21 cents.

2. From Santino telling me that there will be no tax rate increase in the town budget for 2010. He does not tell us about infrastructure that is being neglected, or debt that is filling in for taxes, or about any effort to reduce the number of patronage jobs. The mailing also ignores the substantial tax increase that property owners have experienced in the Town of Hempstead over the past ten years, simply because of the alleged increase in property values -- which went up for tax purposes a lot faster than they are coming down. Even when the tax rate does not change, high "value" of property means more tax paid. That mailing bore postage of 35 cents, even though it was the same size and weight as the first mailing.

3. From Murray and Santino - four page color brochure with their photos and names emblazoned on the front AND on the inside page, inviting me to a Hurricane Safety seminar on July 21 at 7 PM. The brochure itself seems to tell one everything one could possibly want to know about hurricane safety. One wonders what additional purpose the seminar will serve.
It sounds as though we are getting ready to take a trip with Dorothy (not Goosby) and Toto. In any event, it is not shown what the cost of this multi color brochure was or what the cost of the postage was.

The bottom line is that I got three pieces of mail today that must have incurred at least a total of $1.00 each to me and to every other household in the Town, and each of the mailings was politically motivated and not service motivated. Note this does not include the amount of time that patronage employees were paid to put this stuff together.

Since there are 246,828 households in the Town of Hempstead, how much, exactly, does the Town spend on mailings such as this?

I hope that the Democrats who are running for Town of Hempstead office will promise not to abuse town funds for self-aggrandizing political purposes in this way. Can you imagine how much money we would save by simply eliminating wasteful patronage jobs and politically motivated mailings?

Henry J. Boitel,
South Nassau Coalition
An Alliance of Democratic Organizations
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Publisher's Note: Henry, you needn't worry about the Dems running up the taxpayer tab in Hempstead Town. Doubtful that the lone Democrat on the Town Board, Dorothy Goosby, has access to any of those media funds used to engage the elves who run the printing presses in the dungeon of Town Hall, and the Democratic candidate for Hempstead Town Supervisor, Kristen McElroy, appears to still be running for the NYS Senate, at least according to her website, McElroy for Senate. Apparently, either no one knows how to change the word "Senate" to "Supervisor," or Ms. McElroy is simply running in place, keeping her name in the news, gearing up for another shot at Kemp Hannon in 2010.

Ahhh, it would seem, at least to this observer, that the cost to the electorate comes not only by way of the GOP printing press. . .
- - -
From The Community Alliance Blog, October 6, 2005:

A Patchwork Quilt Of Ideas, Thoughts, And Head-Scratchers
Murray-Mail-Meter Tops $400,000

Yet another mailbox stuffer from Town Hall, as the latest Murraygram arrives in homes around the Town. Only 3 photos of Kate in this 4-pager (someone apparently slipped up), a "let's review" guide of that which they've told us at least a dozen times before -- "Tax-Freeze" Budget; Cutting Taxpayer Costs (but not for YOUR Sanitary District); and, did we mention Hempstead Town's highest credit rating?

Yes, all stuff we, the taxpayer, should know. Problem is, we know about it already. We've read the papers, received the press releases, logged on to the Town's website, and plodded through the umpteen other Town mailings on the very same subjects.

Clearly, the public benefit of the latest in the series of Murray mailings fades in comparison to the political self-promotion, making most suspect "Supervisor Kate Murray's Budget Review and Fiscal Update," which looks, smells, and reads as campaign literature mailed under the guise of Town update, and all at the taxpayers' expense.

And so we add to the unofficial till another $32,400.00 in taxpayer financed postage for personal gain, bringing the Murray-Mail-Meter to $421,200.00. Again, that's for postage alone. Add in the cost to taxpayers of material and production, and we're talking nearly $580,000.00 spent by the Town since May of this year on what would otherwise be campaign literature paid for by the candidate.

Hey, its your money!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Paying For Public Schools In New York

More Is Needed Than Just Consolidating Non-Instructional Services

Governor David Paterson, on his recent visit to Long Island, announced a State grant of $2 million (wonder where they're getting the money from, withheld Senate salaries and stipends?) to BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) designed to get local school districts -- of which there are 124 on Long Island -- to consolidate the so-called back office, services that range from insurance and utilities to supplies and out-of-district transportation.

“Our system of local government is outdated and overly complicated, with thousands of separate entities providing overlapping and duplicative services that also keep costs up. These grants, like the one awarded to Nassau Board of Cooperative Education Services, will help to modernize the delivery of services and save property taxpayers’ money,” Governor Paterson said. “Consolidating local government operations will reduce waste, lower the cost of doing business and ease property taxes for the people of Long Island and across New York.”

Of course, administrative costs, overlapping initiatives, redundant programs -- and not to mention 124 separate staffs, from quarter million dollar Superintendents on down -- drain Long Islanders' bank accounts, especially since the source for most of the funding for such costs is the school property tax, accounting for upwards of 60% of the local property tax bill.

New York City operates on a single school system, serving nearly one million students. And yet, the resistance to consolidating Long Island's school districts into two -- Nassau and Suffolk -- is akin to that of a super bug which no antibiotic can knock out.

We'd lose our identities if school districts were merged.


Baldwin would remain Baldwin and Garden City, Garden City.

Does Thomas Jefferson High lose its identity to Susan Wagner, or Bay Ridge to Bayside? Of course not.

The identity is equally as strong in New York City's school "districts" -- sometimes more so (just check out the PSAL championships) -- as it is in any school district on Long Island.

Failing school districts will drag down the better performing school districts.

Not true.

Does Bushwick drag down Bronx High School of Science? We don't think so.

In fact, consolidating services, as well as resources, would likely serve to improve the lot -- educationally speaking, and otherwise -- of poorer performing districts, such as Roosevelt and Wyandanch, while having little impact upon the positive experience of, say, Garden City or Great Neck.

That said, to think that merging the many into one -- or two -- would substantially cut the bottom line (at least so as to significantly reduce the property tax burden) would be naive, at best.

It is not, in reality, how much we spend on public education (although, that is certainly a part of it), but rather, where that funding comes from.

Consider that, here on Long Island, our school districts receive back from the State, at most, 25 cents from every income tax dollar we, the people, send to Albany. In most districts, the actual return is more like 12 cents on the dollar. Add to that diminished return the unfunded State and Federal mandates -- programs that must be provided by the districts, and paid for, locally, by you.

Federal funding, under Leave No Child Behind and other failed initiatives, is negligible, amounting to less than 6 cents on the dollar in most instances.

So where does the rest of the money come from to finance that public education as guaranteed under the New York Constitution?

The property tax levy, of course.

And that, in a nutshell, is what burns Long Islanders more than anything else. A regressive, often oppressive tax, not based on ability to pay, which escalates annually with rising costs (from salaries, to pensions, to health insurance, to gas and electric), with the State's contribution (our money, as well) decreasing with every deficit and budget gap.

Clearly, we cannot continue on this destructive path, lest we bankrupt every Long Island household to payroll 124 separate and distinct school districts.

So, what do we do?

First, the State aid to education formulae -- on the books and shortchanging students for decades -- needs to be revised by the legislature, should they ever get back to work.

The biggest slices of the State aid pie are disproportionately awarded to upstate school districts (an apparent throw back to the days when upstaters ran the show), with downstate districts, including those on Long Island, getting mere crumbs.

No student in New York is worth more, or less, than any other.

There must be parity in State aid to all school districts, assuring the equality guaranteed under law.

And that aid must take into account mandates, which need to be fully funded by the State -- and the Feds.

And where's this money to come from, in an era that finds the State broke and broken? Well, let's start by cutting all the pork that comes out of Albany, spending the taxpayers' hard-earned money on the beef -- our children and our future.

Let's come up with a workable plan -- even Senator Dean Skelos had one -- that would slash local property taxes. Whatever happened to the Property Tax Relief and Excellence in Education Act, Dean? Not as important as which Senator gets what, we suppose.

Then there's the dreaded property tax itself.

New Yorkers already pay an income tax, a sales tax, and sundry other taxes and fees that feed the State's coffers quite handily. The added burden of a property tax, particularly as a means to finance our public schools, is untenable and unsustainable.

Do we have a revenue problem in New York, or a spending problem?

Are there issues of accountability unaddressed by either State or school district?

Are we funding the future, or squandering educational opportunities by financing a system of public schools that is not only behind the eightball, but, disturbingly, behind the times?
And, finally, is the method of funding our public schools, fundamentally through a property tax, adequate, acceptable, and fiscally prudent, or, as we suspect, arcane, archaic, and financially flawed?

We've been talking "think out of the box" for some time. Now, it is time to actually open that box, and step outside.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Light(house) At The End Of That Tunnel?

Town Of Hempstead Schedules Public Hearing On Nassau Hub Redevelopment Plan

The New York Islanders have the number one draft pick in the NHL -- John Tavares. Now, Islanders fans need a first class Coliseum, and Long Islanders, a top destination spot.

And so comes the Lighthouse project, now seemingly moving forward, at least to the point where the Town of Hempstead -- under whose purview lies approval for planning and zoning -- has scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, August 4.

Deeming the Lighthouse Environmental Report as "ready for review," the Town invites all interested parties -- including the public, whose interests are paramount here -- to voice their approval, as well as concerns, at the August 4th hearing, which will take place at the Cranford Adams Playhouse, south campus, Hofstra University, beginning at 9:30 AM.

The Lighthouse project is the most significant redevelopment initiative to come along in Nassau County in decades, and will have a tremendous impact on Long Island's future for generations to come.

Community input is vital, and this is your opportunity to be heard, as well as to be informed.

Those who cannot attend the August 4th public hearing in person are invited to comment by mail or e-mail.

By mail: Town of Hempstead, Lighthouse Project Public Comment, One Washington Street, Hempstead NY 11550

By e-mail:

All e-mails and other written correspondence must be received by August 17, 2009 to be included as part of the official record.

The hearing is, by no means, the final step in the approval process before shovel can hit dirt (and Kate can don her hard hat once again), but it is a necessary step in moving this long anticipated and much needed revitalization initiative toward reality.

It is imperative that proponents of the Lighthouse proposal come out to show their enthusiastic support for the Lighthouse, impressing upon the Town the urgency in moving the project forward without further undue delay, lest the August 4th public hearing become just another horse and pony show, the Town's nod to the project signifying nothing more than a wink along the campaign trail.

Be a part of Long Island's tomorrows by lending your thoughts, your vision, your voice, today!
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From The Town of Hempstead:

Murray and Town Board Declare Lighthouse Environmental Report "Ready for Public Review," Call August 4th Public Hearing

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and the Town Board declared that a state-mandated environmental report by the developers of the Lighthouse Project is "ready for public review" at its July 7th meeting. Murray and the board also called an August 4th public hearing on the environmental issues surrounding the proposal to refurbish the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and develop the 150 acres surrounding the arena.

"Hempstead Town has worked tirelessly to move the state-mandated environmental review process forward in record time," stated Murray. "This action is significant because it marks the start of the public comment period and allows for a public hearing on environmental issues associated with the project."

As a result of the town board declaration that the environmental report is ready for review, a public comment period has commenced, whereby residents, involved agencies (New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation, the villages of Garden City and Hempstead, Nassau County Departments of Health and Public Works, the Town of Hempstead Water Department, Uniondale School District, local fire department(s), LIPA, etc.) and other groups can review the Lighthouse Group's environmental report and weigh-in with comments, views and recommendations. In broad terms, the environmental issues that are the subject of public comment and a hearing include the project's impact on traffic, drinking water availability/quality, air quality, the handling/processing of sanitary sewage, storm water runoff and the collection and disposal of garbage, among others.

The Supervisor and the Town Board called a public hearing to be held on the Lighthouse Group's proposal on Tuesday, August 4th at 9:30 a.m. The hearing will occur at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse on the south campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead. Testimony is expected to be heard from the developer, involved agencies, the public, community groups and others who wish to speak. Individuals who wish to view the developer's environmental report (DGEIS), can view it online at the town's website (www.TOH.LI). CD copies will also be available at local libraries within the township.

Click here to view theDraft Generic Environmental Impact Statement for "The Lighthouse at Long Island"

"I want to thank our residents in advance for their interest in this important proposed project," concluded Murray. "The input of involved agencies, fire district officials, community groups and the general public are very important as we consider an innovative and exciting development proposal. Rest assured the town will consider all of the testimony, evidence and relevant information as we proceed with state-mandated and other reviews regarding the Lighthouse Project. The entire Town Board is keenly focused on the promise of progressive development proposals while it seriously considers the impact of such projects on our environment and the quality of life enjoyed by our families and future generations."
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For additional insight into the Lighthouse, from the perspective of an independent advocate, visit Let There Be Light(house).

A "How To" Primer For Smaller, More Effective, Less Taxing Government

You, Too, Can Dissolve A Special Taxing District, Or Two

Ahh, government reform, back in the hands of the people, from which it emanated, where it all began, where it all belongs.

Yes, but now -- or soon, in about half a year -- that the people have the power to take down sanitary districts, among other wasteful fiefdoms masquerading as local governments, will they know what to do with it?

Well, maybe this will help.

A newly created website detailing the ins and outs of New York's Government Reorganization & Citizen Empowerment Act. Check it out at, or at the website of the NYS Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo.

There are sample petitions to view and download, both for consolidation and elimination (hey, why not go for broke? Wipe that fiefdom off the political map), as well as step-by-step instructions on how to initiate and carry through the consolidation/dissolution process.

Why, there's even an instructional video! [Where's Billy Mays when you need him?]

Sort of makes you feel all empowered, doesn't it? Like you actually have control over local government, for a change.

Towns and Villages will get their shot, as well, having the authority to self-impose the dissolution or consolidation of local government entities. Yeah, right. That'll be the day!

So, too, will counties, which will be able to initiate the reorganization of local governments, including towns, villages, cities, fire districts, special improvement districts, water districts, and other districts created by law. [Sorry, Long Island. School Districts are exempt, so, you're stuck with 124 of 'em until somebody figures out that that's about 122 too many!]

Hmmmm. Like fantasy football, it may not be the real thing, actually lowering the cost of governmental services and bringing efficiency to the streets of our towns and hamlets.

Still, its about all we've got right now, short of a coup of our very own, the overthrow of your local sanitary district by barricading ourselves behind recycling bins and galvanized steel trash cans.

So, study up, New Yorkers. You know we have way too much government, especially in our own backyards, and it is costing us dearly.

You hold in your mortal hands the power, if not to abolish all forms of human frivolity, then, if nothing more, to carry those petitions door-to-door in your community.

Hey, what better way to "exercise" your rights as citizens of the Empire State?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Paterson Taps Palin For Lieutenant Governor

Palin Sworn In At 12:01; Resigns At 12:15

In a move designed to push the NYS Senate stalemate toward resolution, Governor David Paterson, citing a little known provision of the Public Officers Law, appointed soon to be former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, to be the Lieutenant Governor of New York.

Shortly before noon, the Governor, with Palin, in waders, at his side, made the announcement, hailing Palin as the next Kirsten Gillibrand.

Palin then took the oath of office, administered by Sean Hannity of Faux News, on a stack of cod, various family members -- including son, Trig, and cousins Algebra and Geometry -- looking on.

The move to appoint a Lieutenant Governor, who, in the event of a tie in the State Senate (as in 31-31), can vote to break point, would also effectively deny rogue Senator Pedro Espada the governorship, should Paterson become incapacitated (further incapacitated?), leave the State, or, like Spitzer before him, resign his office.

After the swearing in ceremony, Hannity, who also serves as the president of the Sarah's Our Savior Club, called the new Lieutenant Governor "a leader for the 22nd Century."

"Like a salmon swimming upstream," said Hannity, "Sarah has proven that she has both courage and tenacity, not following the crowd, but making her own way through murky waters. She knows where all the fish are buried."

Moments later, in a hastily called news conference held in front of the Legal Seafoods restaurant -- or was it Long John Silvers? -- somewhere in Guilderland (or was it Neverland?), Palin, with less than 15 minutes of fame under her belt a heartbeat away from the Governor's mansion, surprised absolutely no one, announcing -- in true Palin form [that would be, rambling incoherence with the inability to string two words together to form a complete sentence], announced her resignation from the post.

"I believe its in the best interest of New York," chortled the former GOP nominee for VP, still considered by some (mostly those confined to mental institutions) as a presidential prospect in 2012, "that I resign as Lieutenant Governor so that I may lead New York, tackling the issues head on from outside of government, where, like a sea bass on a line and sinker, I can get caught in a net, helping folks to understand that, no, I am not a quiter -- 'cause I can't even spell that -- but rather, a quilter, of many fish, who, swimming through the great Alaska pipeline while playing basketball, 'cause I know my analogies, will cross that bridge to nowhere, with my God-fearing family at my side, in and out of wedlock, four 'yes's' and one 'hell yeah,' and, to paraphrase Richard Nixon during Watergate, 'cause fish live in water, and God gave us energy, 'I am not a kook!'"

"I never saw that coming," exclaimed a shocked David Paterson.

In his morning radio tirade, Rush Limbaugh, the presumptive head of the Republican Party, praised Palin.

"She never ceases to amaze me," chuckled the fat prince of thin air. "A multitasker, the likes of which we've never seen before. Who else, within a matter of days, could quit two national posts, not for higher office, but to be closer to real people, her family, her God, and all the pike and sturgeon one could fish for? If only that quiter in the White House, Hussein what's-his-name, would follow her lead. She'll make a great president. For a day. Then she'll resign. Because that's leadership we can count on. How refreshing."

Meanwhile, back in Albany, Pedro Espada breathed a sigh of relief. Sounding a bit like Peter Lorre, Espada proclaimed (translated from the Spanish):

"I am still next in line to become Governor. If Paterson could see me now, a Conquistador hoisted to the pinnacle of success, on the precipice of greatness, by the graces of those old, white men -- my friends and allies in the GOP -- he'd surely keel over and die. Hey, David, come see me now!"

As for Sarah Palin, those close too her [but not too close. Man, those fish really stink, don't they?], have intimated that the former Lieutenant Governor will fill in for the recently departed Michael Jackson on what would have been his comeback tour.

"They can call her "the thriller from Wasilla," said her newly appointed spokeswoman, Amelia Earhart. "So just beat it!"

Asked when she though the New York State Senate would get back to work, Palin opined, "I wish I could predict the next fish run, let alone when those fish heads are gonna get down to business. They should be fighters, like I am."

Yes, fighters, like Sarah Palin. If only those faux fighters in Albany would follow her lead. Advancing the cause of democracy, for the betterment of community, by uttering those immortal words, "I quit!"
- - -
Film tonight, at 11, preceding David Letterman.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Don't Vegetate. Legislate!

Time To Call Upon The Most Effective Lobbyists In America - - YOU!

Never mind Tom Golisano and his billions. They're in Florida.

Fuggetabout George Soros and all the money he can pour into the political stream.

Drug companies? Teachers' unions? Tobacco companies? No, they can't hold a candle to those who hold in their hands the very power to either stay the course or change it in our great democracy.

And just who would those lobbyists extraordinaire be?

Why, you, of course. The citizen voter.

For all the money in the world can't by what our elected officials covet most -- your vote.

And now, comes the time for all good citizens to come to the aid of that democracy, by raising their voices, individually and collectively, as prelude to casting their votes.

The time has come for each of us, as citizens, as taxpayers, as electors, to tell our State Senators we've had enough of their antics.

So today, friends, neighbors, and supporters of community throughout the Empire State, before you do anything else, contact your State Senator -- by phone, by e-mail, by cryptic note, by smoke signal -- and say, DON'T VEGETATE. LEGISLATE!

It is time to get back to work.
- - -
From The Associated Press:

Analysis: NY Senate coup a month-long standoff
Associated Press Writer


New York's senators are stuck in Albany this July 4 weekend in a partisan standoff that has lasted about as long as the founding fathers spent in Philadelphia in 1776, drafting a new government that derived its power from the governed. But in Albany, the fight concerns what is mostly seen as the power government control provides: Patronage jobs, bigger offices, leadership jobs and their stipends, how to dole out $85 million in pork-barrel grants and the power to attract bigger campaign contributions.

Meanwhile, the senators have refused to work together to pass critical and overdue bills for taxpayers and school kids, and taxpayers are picking up the tab for meaningless sessions during a fiscal crisis. Welcome to the close of the fourth week of New York's Senate holding itself hostage. It's been nearly a month of parliamentary plotting, name-calling, frat house stunts and trickery, but little negotiation to make the Senate work again.

That's changing now. Gov. David Paterson has gone from condemning the June 8 coup and the chaos it brought to the usually productive final session weeks to being invited to mediate the dispute. So far, neither side is budging much, but they are finally meeting. In part, that's because in the cool marble, carved oak and gilded ceiling of the Senate chamber, it's been getting hotter. Paterson has ordered the Senate to stay in Albany for mandated daily sessions through the holiday weekend and until they work out a power-sharing arrangement. He's also withholding their pay and $160 daily expense checks, while he spent much of two weeks on the road declaring them derelict in their duty.

Back in their districts, many senators face critical letters to the editor, e-mails, editorials, and robo-calls by lobbyists and partisans telling voters how embarrassed they should be by their lawmakers. The Syracuse Post-Standard found senators "incapable of rising above their own selfish interests" and labeled a raft of critical letters to the editor with, "End this Insanity." "The battle in the Senate is about power for its own sake," stated the Buffalo News. A New York Daily News editorial called the lawmakers dunces in a "shameless Senate." Newsday put it flatly: "Albany has lost its grip on reality."

Uncomfortable brushes with New Yorkers in barber shops, bodegas and in elevators come with lots of free advice for senators on how to share power and get back to work. Most involve a plan to rotate the most powerful positions and creating a bipartisan committee to agree on which bills to take to the floor _ you know, democracy. But this is Albany. And unlike in most states, majority power has always been near absolute and the top priority.

But it's wrong to portray the fight as simply corrupt politicians trying to further corrupt Albany. "I'd do it again tomorrow," said Republican Sen. Thomas Libous from his Capitol office, surrounded by photos from his Southern Tier district. He carried out the swift coup June 8, but he's catching flak at home, too, and is hitting local radio to fend off criticism of the Senate gridlock. His reasons: A bloated state budget negotiated solely by liberal New York City Democrats in secret that won't be affordable after federal stimulus money runs out next year, part of a pattern of silencing the voice of upstate and Long Island New Yorkers paying some of the nation's highest property taxes, and no check on otherwise all-Democratic control.

"The Senate Democratic Conference wants to get back to doing the people's work, but the Senate Republicans are more interested in continuing their desperate attempt at a political power grab," counters Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson of Brooklyn. "We're not up here to play games." He notes that after 40 years of being ignored, Democrats won 32 of 62 seats in the November elections. They sought what they call a progressive agenda, including the long-delayed ending of the Rockefeller-era drug laws to send more addicts and nonviolent dealers into rehab, rather than prison which only hardened the offenders for release back into society; and returning a higher tax rate for the rich while breaking the economic and social forces afflicting minority communities.

Both sides know the pain of being in the minority. The final blow may have been when Democrats decided to keep 90 percent of $85 million pork-barrel funds for their districts in a vote scheduled for June 8, the day of the coup.

More than two centuries ago, it took the founding fathers about the same amount of time as the Senate's standoff to "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" for a greater good. "Perhaps," said Democratic Assemblyman John McEneny, a historian, "they will go to bed and be visited by three ghosts -- maybe Washington, Madison and Jefferson -- and wake up with a new attitude."
Michael Gormley is the Albany, N.Y., Capitol editor for The Associated Press. He can be reached by e-mail at

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

This Land Is YOUR Land

Freedom. Liberty. Independence.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Its All fun And games. . .

. . . Until A Senator Steps Into The Chambers To Constitute A Quorum

“That is probably the most fraudulent, obnoxious, arrogant display of partisanship, and, quite frankly, a total disregard of the institution of the Senate that so many of us care about.” -- Senator Dean G. Skelos, Majority Leader by Coup [or is this simply the Senator's rendition of that Michael Jackson hit, Man In The Mirror?]

Senator Frank Padavan (R-Queens) could have been a hero, of sorts, to all New Yorkers, whose disdain for the way our government operates -- or so fails to function -- grows exponentially by the day.

You see, Padavan just happened to wander into the Senate chambers while the Democrats were holding their session of 31 Senators, his presence on the floor creating a quorum, permitting the disassembled body (if only they could be dismembered) to conduct business -- i.e., vote.

As per the Senate's rules, odd and arcane as they are, he wouldn't have had to vote, or even remain in the chambers, his ephemeral pass-through being sufficient to allow the show to go on.

But no. Padavan, not wanting to be the one Senator with a modicum of courage -- or common sense -- to end this nonsensical stalemate, said he didn't really mean to walk into the chambers. He was just meandering, looking for a coffee, a coke, his coat (in 85 degree weather), or something like that.

All it would take to stop the insanity in Albany (or at least the present lunacy, lo the sanity continue when session resumes), is for one person, Democrat or Republican, to be present in chambers after the 31 gavel in -- even with one foot out the door -- to constitute a quorum.

Don't vote. Vote "no." Head down State Street to Jack's for lunch. Just clock in, so something remotely akin to the people's business could be undertaken.

Of course, such a gesture, as humbling and magnanimous as it may be, would forever upset the scheme of the universe in Albany, where chaos is favored over order, and partisan politics is all encompassing.

Fiorello LaGuardia (the Mayor, not the airport) once opined, “There is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up garbage.”

Alas, there are Democratic and Republican ways to pick up garbage (to which the Town of Hempstead, and now, the Town of North Hempstead, could readily attest), and, apparently -- much to our dismay -- Republican and Democratic ways to provide health care, become energy efficient, tax property, and even educate our children.

Frank Padavan, would-be hero to New Yorkers, his brief stay upon the stage now no more than a political football -- the stuff frivolous litigation is made of -- embodies all that is wrong with our State Legislature.

At 75, having served in the NYS Senate since 1972 (that's 37 years, for those too young to do the math, or to even remember 1972), he's, by passage of time alone, devoid of fresh ideas, too long in the same place, too entrenched to be either emboldened or engaged. [His last election, in 2008, was won by a plurality of a mere 480 votes, so, perhaps, residents in his district are beginning to awaken to the reality that longer -- at least in terms of stays in office -- is not necessarily better!]

At 75, Frank Padavan, like the 61 other members of the State Senate follies, is beholden to partisan politics and party leaders, rather than to his constituents, lest he lose the favors that said leadership -- legitimate, or otherwise -- could bestow: office space, staffing, allowances, member-item fortunes.

Ahh, to be ostracized by your own party, and yet, beloved by the people who elected you to serve.

It would only take one. One maverick. One true leader. One man, or woman, who would stand up for the people of the Empire State by standing up to the partisan power plays -- of both Democrats and Republicans -- that, on the very eve of this great nation's celebration of its Independence from tyranny, have brought New York to a standstill, and New Yorkers to their knees.

We, the people, deserve better.

“I think this is a total joke and a disgrace to the institution,” said Dean G. Skelos, the Republican leader.

Dean, we couldn't agree with you more!
- - -
Happy and safe Independence Day weekend from all of us at The Community Alliance.

Write us with your thoughts, comments, opinions, and Guest Blogs at
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A Better Way To Spend Independence Day

Join our friends at the Citizens Campaign for the Environment for a day at the beach, and help save the plovers. [We wonder, is there a Democratic or Republican way to save Plovers] There has to be!]

Here comes the day when we will celebrate our independence from Great Britain, but don’t forget, we didn’t win this battle on our own. We did it with a little help from our friends. So, while celebrating this 4th of July, let’s do our part to help the Piping Plovers retain their independence on the beaches of Long Island...

Spend your Fourth of July at the beach with friends, fireworks, and of course, the Piping Plovers!

Once again, these endangered birds are threatened by the large crowds that overtake Jones Beach during the annual fireworks display. Volunteers are needed to assist in Piping Plover protection, and monitoring efforts. This will ensure that the important breeding habitats, on Long Island beaches, remain a safe place for these birds on Independence Day and in the future.

Meet up will be at 5 PM at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at the West End of Jones Beach State Park. Free Parking, Free Food and a Cool T-shirt will be provided!

Bring frisbees, bathing suits, your favorite beach chair & friends.

Please call Greg or Maureen at (516) 390-7150 if you have any questions and to confirm your attendance.

The Community Alliance
Common Sense Solutions To Common Community Concerns

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Et Tu, Honduras?

When Coup Becomes All The Rage

Last we looked, Pedro Espada hadn't been elected to lead the junta in Honduras, nor has Dean Skelos tried to seize power -- and hold onto it for dear life, forsaking all else -- in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

No, the darlings of the NYS Senate have stayed put in Albany, persistent of mind -- and mindlessness -- that they are in control.

Control of what, you may ask? Well, let's not be bored with the silly little details.

Suffice it to say that what has now become the lawless gang of 62, dubbed by the Governor as "the do nothing Senate," (we at The Community Alliance blog gave the Senators this dubious distinction weeks ago), has ceased being of service to the people of New York, and it would appear that no one can -- or will -- do anything about it.

Governor Paterson remains just this side of wimpdom.

Were we to stage a coup, deposing the Gov from office, we'd direct the State Police to arrest each and every State Senator, escorting them to chambers, handcuffing them to their wooden desks, where they shall remain until every last piece of legislation is given a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Not within the Governor's power, you say? So, sue us.

The courts appear hog-tied, as well, as concerns efforts to get the albatrosses of Albany back to work. "Settle this among yourselves."

Democrats. Republicans. It matters not. They may not have left the building, in body, but as a whole, and individually -- cowards all -- they have abandoned their posts and their duties to the citizens of New York.

Shameful, to put it mildly.

And will we remember this bad turn come November 2010, when next we have the opportunity to throw the bums out? Doubtful. Short of a Constitutional amendment giving New Yorkers the right of recall, where a vote of no confidence sends the infidels home for good, our recollections of these sordid days in the Capitol will likely fade in a year's time (presuming the Senate ever gets back to business), and we will simply swallow hard, sending the Bozos back to Albany for yet another term.

Maybe we're the wimps, eh? Certainly, we are being played for fools on a daily basis.

Perhaps rather than to try in vain to get State government to work (remember, it was dysfunctional before the coup), we should simply allow the Senate to remain in gridlock, and learn to get along without.

After all, if they can't legislate, they can't spend, something they've been prone to do, in excess, for the past forty years. Why, they can't even borrow.

In a scene straight out of Life After People, downtown Albany would become a desolate place (you mean it isn't already?). No money for roads and bridges. No money for mass transit. No money to feed the coffers of those bloated State agencies and so-called public authorities.

Our roads and bridges crumbling? Mass transit grinding to a halt? Would anyone notice the difference?

Think about it. With no money being appropriated out of Albany, our State income taxes, 75% of which we never see back locally, could be redistributed -- locally -- to build and maintain the infrastructure; to create and improve public transportation; to operate and elevate our public schools.

100 cents on every single dollar staying here at home, paying for the services we need, and not for the pork that our State Legislators want.

Okay. So maybe no State government is an unrealistic goal. For the moment.

Still, it gives us plenty of food for thought, and perhaps, just perhaps, the impetus to do something more, as citizens, to assure that we have a government, not of bobble heads and egotists, but, as it was so memorialized, of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Now, wouldn't that be nice, for a change?
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We are fortunate to have with us, as a regular reader of The Community Alliance blog, Richard Cooper, former Chairman of the Libertarian Party of New York.

He recently penned a piece in which he opines that this gridlock in Albany could be a good thing.

Would Libertarians, who espouse "smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom" (didn't that used to be the credo of the Republicans?), behave any differently than their Democratic or GOP counterparts once in power? Power corrupts, after all. Absolutely!

Could be anarchy is our thing here in New York.

One thing is for sure. Unless New Yorkers seize the day and take back control of government, on all levels, it is not the likes of government officials we must fear, but rather, our own incapacity, or is it sheer unwillingness, to govern ourselves.

How about a new declaration for independence from the citizens of New York, on this, the 233 anniversary of the Declaration of Independence?

Could it be that Pogo was right all along?
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The Albany Legislative Struggle: Gridlock Is Good!
by Richard Cooper

The New York State Senate has been in an uproar for weeks after two Democrats from the majority (32 versus 30 Republicans) elected in November 2008 defected to support former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos as Majority Leader. One of these Democrat defectors (Pedro Espada, Jr. from the Bronx) became President Pro Tem, presiding over the Senate deliberations. The other defector, Hiram Monserrate, has since returned to the Democrats in the organization of the Senate. Tied at 31 to 31, with no Lieutenant Governor to break ties since David Paterson was elevated to replace Governor Spitzer after his resignation in a prostitution scandal last year.

As a an admirer of the writing of H. L. Mencken, I can only wish he were here to comment on this. Currently unavailable due to death, Mr. Mencken will not be able to handle this task.

Therefore, I will have to press on myself.

The media reports that this so-called "coup" was brought about by billionaire Tom Golisano, who founded the Independence Party and ran for governor unsuccessfully.

When Espada and Monserrate were still voting for former (?) Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith (D-Queens), the Republicans pointed out their tarnished records. Former policeman Monserrate was indicted for slashing his girlfriend with glass, while Espada is under investigation for operations of a non-profit organization he controls, his residency and failure to file campaign financial disclosure reports. Suddenly after they voted to install Skelos as Majority Leader, the Democrats had a problem with them. Now that Monserrate is back he is in their good graces.

Democrats, the Working Families and others in their orbit call this a coup and wave signs proclaiming "The Senate Isn't For Sale." I don't recall them saying this when Golisano's political action committee backed Democrats for the Senate races. Golisano's money helped obtain the Democrats a majority in the Senate in 2008.

Do Democrats complain about "coups" when Republicans defect to give working control of a legislative body? No, of course not. Republicans and Democrats are hypocrites.

The Senate's session was supposed to end on Monday, June 22nd. Governor Paterson called the Senate into special session to consider emergency bills. Why is a cigarette tax hike in Nassau and Suffolk Counties an emergency?

While reforms to lessen the opacity, size, scope and expense of government in New York are vitally necessary they are simply not to be expected. I do not care which of the two gangs of statist parasites and predators that call themselves Republicans and Democrats controls the New York legislature. They both stand for legalized theft.

Given the current makeup of both houses of legislature, let these be our watchwords until we have a Libertarian governor and legislature. "Gridlock is good."

Richard Cooper is an international trade executive with a manufacturing firm on Long Island, New York, USA. He is active in the Libertarian Party on eminent domain and other issues. He was chair of the Libertarian Party of New York