Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Whatever Happened to...?"

A Year (or ten) In Review. . .

As 2010 comes to a close, our Long Island blanketed in snow, with winter's wrath coming early in the season, we look back and ask, "Whatever happened to...?"
  • Whatever happened to resident-initiated referenda to dissolve local governments?
  • Whatever happened to the rehab of Cedar Creek?
  • Whatever happened to the revitalization of Grand Avenue in Baldwin?
  • Whatever happened to the closure and demolition of the Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead?
  • Whatever happened to converting Elmont's Argo Theater into a much-needed supermarket?
  • Whatever happened to the Lighthouse Project at the Coliseum, or Kate Murray's Lighthouse Lite?
  • Whatever happened to the Tax Revolt Party's tax revolt? [Anyone's property tax bill lower this year than it was last?]
  • Whatever happened to Nassau County's "Master Plan" (or any one of them)?
  • Whatever happened to "outing" government secrets being a good thing?
  • Whatever happened to face-to-face conversation?
  • Whatever happened to Guest Bloggers?
  • Whatever happened to "25 miles of ugly" along Hempstead Turnpike? [Wait. It is still there! Never mind.]
  • Whatever happened to the other 75 cents of your tax dollar that went to Albany but never came back to Long Island?
  • Whatever happened to transparency and accountability?
  • Whatever happened to ending the dysfunction in Albany?
  • Whatever happened to a Nassau County 311?
  • Whatever happened to volunteerism? [True volunteerism, without remuneration, pension credits or tax breaks.]
  • Whatever happened to building a better burb?
  • Whatever happened to "Re-Evolution Island?" http://thecommunityalliance.blogspot.com/2010/09/somewhere-between-evolution-and.html
  • Whatever happened to preserving open space, rejuvenating local parks, and all that Environmental Bond money?
  • Whatever Happened to Harvey Levinson's lawn signs?
  • Whatever happened to affordable housing, revitalized "downtowns," the rebirth of "Main Street"?
  • Whatever happened to the New York Islanders? Charles Wang? The dollar hot dog?
  • Whatever happened to the "War on Christmas?"
  • Whatever happened to those Town goats? http://thecommunityalliance.blogspot.com/2009/03/foreigners-displace-american-workers-in.html
  • And what were their names again? http://www.townofhempstead.org/content/home/news/namekids.html
  • Whatever happened to the reason we got rid of LILCO?   Whatever happened to a "free" public education?  
  • Whatever happened to all the issues we've blogged about over the years at The Community Alliance? http://thecommunityalliance.blogspot.com
  • Whatever happened to those who read tweets, reply to tweets and retweet (other than @reidepstein)?
  • Whatever happened to the outrage over that which never happened???
  • Whatever happened to your Assessment challenge? Tax refund? STAR rebate? Tax cap? Tooth fairy?
  • Whatever happened to that "kinder, gentler..." er, ah, um, whatever?
  • Whatever happened to the Town of Hempstead's "Quality of Life Initiative?"
  • Whatever happened to suburbia?

Tweet your "Whatever happened to...?" @CommunityAlli and add to our list. Be a community advocate, not a potted plant.
Happy New Year (whatever happened to that, too?) from The Community Alliance!
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Follow The Community Alliance on Twitter @CommunityAlli.

License To Kill?

Or Was That To Merely Neglect And Abuse?

Another in our continuing coverage of alleged abuse and wrongful conduct at the Town of Hempstead's Animal Shelter.

Come now the great State of New York, offering its seal of approval of the conduct of business at the Town's shelter.

We find the State's nod to be somewhat less than reassuring, given a track record over the years of approving facilities and behavior less than becoming (i.e., the treatment of patients at State psychiatric hospitals. Anyone remember Willowbrook?).

Take these reports for what they may be worth and from whence they came. Also consider the Town's post-abuse allegation window-dressing, ala Red Cross visits to prisoner-of-war camps.

We report. You decide. [Or something like that.] Awaiting the findings of the ASPCA and the Nassau County District Attorney.

And thank you, Kate Murray, for reassuring the public of the Town's love for the dogs and cats in its care. Shame the same can't be said of the people under the Town's thumb!
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From the Town of Hempstead:

Hempstead Town Animal Shelter Receives State's Approval, Shelter and Animal Control Officers Rate Top Scores on Inspection Reports

As Hempstead celebrates one of its most successful "Home for the Holidays" Pet Adoption Programs ever, town officials got even more reason for seasonal cheer in the form of top ratings in two New York State inspection reports on their municipal animal shelter.

"We're working hard to create the best environment for cats and dogs who come to the town's animal shelter," stated Murray. "I am pleased that New York State has given the town shelter positive reviews."

The two reports, both issued by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets on December 14, 2010, gave the town its top ratings (state ratings fall into two categories: "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory"). Furthermore, no deficiencies were noted in all 30 categories contained in the two reviews.

"I'm proud that the town's shelter passed the state's review with flying colors," announced Murray. "Not only did we get positive overall reviews, but the state found no deficiencies in 30 separate categories covered in the reports."

One of the reports, a "Municipal Shelter Report," covered the facilities and services at the town shelter. "Standards of Care" and "Records" categories contained in the Municipal Shelter Report found, among other things, that housing area and equipment were regularly sanitized, dogs were handled safely, veterinary care was provided when necessary and clean food and water were furnished in ample quantity.

The second report, a "Dog Control Officer Inspection Report," detailed practices, procedures and equipment as related to the performance of duties by the township's animal control officers. This report determined that equipment was available to capture and hold stray animals, dogs were safely held and transported, equipment was sanitized regularly and all dogs were licensed before release.

"These reports make it abundantly clear that animals are cared for professionally and responsibly," concluded Murray. "We have a clean shelter that provides proper care to cats and dogs. What's more, we have a staff that works hard and loves the dogs and cats in our care."

Friday, December 03, 2010

"Help, I need somebody, Help, not just anybody, Help, you know I need someone, help..."

Town of Hempstead Helpline Answers The Call

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round.
Help me, get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help me.

For all the railing we do about the folks at Town Hall in America's most blighted township (that's Hempstead Town, for those who may have missed a blogpost or three), there's a bright spot out there in the darkness, and it is known as -- dare we say it -- Kate Murray's Helpline.

Okay. In reality, it's the Town of Hempstead Helpline, but, as we know, the Supervisor likes to put her name anywhere and everywhere (look for it the next time you lift up the toilet seat), from street signs to town vehicles. It's in your face, and, of course, in your mailbox.

But we digress...

Have a problem with any aspect of life in the Town [don't get us started...]? Simply call the Helpline at 516-489-6000, or log on to the online Helpline Form, and a friendly, courteous (they're even nice to us, believe it or not), knowledgable staff member will speak with you or call you back with information, guidance, and a good listen.

Got a pothole in your street? Streetlamp (Victorian or otherwise) out? Illegal basement apartment next door? [No. Not in Hempstead Town. Never!] Get on the Helpline and get help!

Even if your concern is one that comes under the jurisdiction of an entity other than the Town of Hempstead (i.e., Whose roadway is that, anyway?), the Helpline personnel -- the best workers the Town of Hempstead could possibly have, in our humble opinion) -- will not only point you in the right direction, they'll personally make the call.

And this is something we rarely see from a Town where "proactive" is a four-letter word. The folks at the Helpline will actually follow up. [No, your eyes do not deceive you. We said "Town" and "follow up" in the same paragraph.]

Of course, your communication with the Town through the good graces of the Helpline will be succeeded by a perfunctory, pro forma letter* from the Supervisor herself, advising that your matter is being looked into and/or forwarded to the attention of the appropriate party. Oh yeah. Kate will also ask you to contact her if there is "anything else" she can do. Not that she'll do it, but thank you for asking. [We have so many of these letters that we've wallpapered three rooms with 'em! *Make mention to the good people at the Helpline that you'd rather not get a letter from Ms. Murray, and, most times, they will oblige.]

By the way, if you have an environmental complaint (i.e., illegal dumping of waste), there's a form for that, too. Click HERE for Environmental Complaints. Not sure if it's Town, County or State? No matter. Put it in writing, and the Town Helpliners will take care of it.

We are often amazed, given the customary knee-jerk reaction of the Town, and the dilatory, obstreperous nature and behavior of Town Supervisor Kate Murray, at just how responsive the Town can be, from Highways to Engineering to Sanitation (even though the Town claims absolutely no control over the latter), once the Helpline comes into play. It is as if, almost by magic, the problem, from misplaced street signs to graffiti on a commercial building, is resolved, almost before you hang up the phone or hit the "send" button.

Of course, don't expect much in the way of resolution -- or movement -- best intentions of the Helpline employees notwithstanding, if you're calling to complain, for instance, about the Nassau Coliseum and environs, special district taxes, or the blight along "Main Street." Some grievances, as we have come to learn, take a little longer to redress.

For the moment, though, and in acknowledgment of the fantastic -- and most likely, thankless -- job they do, day in and day out, our hats come off and kudos go out to the ladies and gents on the front lines at the Town of Hempstead Helpline.

Take a bow!

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round.
Help me, get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help me, help me, help me, oh.

P.S. When you call, tell 'em The Community Alliance sent you. . .
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Follow The Community Alliance on Twitter @CommunityAlli.

New Ideas for America's First Suburb

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Heard On The Tweet

Things That Can No Longer Be Sustained On Long Island

With all the talk of "sustainability" these days, particularly as concerns our environment, our lifestyles, our "downtowns" and our suburban way of life (as we know it or as we'd like it to become), and with the holidays at hand, The Community Alliance thought it appropriate to make a list -- checking it twice -- of "Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island."

We posted some of our favorite unsustainable things on Twitter (www.twitter.com/CommunityAlli) over the course of two days, and now republish Tweets (to date) below.

We encourage readers of this blog to add to the list, by Tweeting @CommunityAlli, commenting on this blogpost, or e-mailing us at TheCommunityAlliance@yahoo.com.

Rather than to simply put coal in the proverbial community stocking, adding more "Bah. Humbug!" to the communal scene, it is our hope and desire, for the holidays and beyond, to create positives from the negative, taking that which is unsustainable on our Long Island, and recasting these pessimistic attributes into optimistic affirmations. A sustainable community, with a thriving quality of life for all, right here on our Long Island!
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Here, now, the list as Tweeted @CommunityAlli:
  • We're making a list and checking it twice. Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. We'll start you off. 124 school disticts.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Blighted downtowns. Add to the list. Tweet or e-mail TheCommunityAlliance@yahoo.com.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Nepotism/cronyism in local government. Your turn. . .
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Special Taxing Districts. For Everything. Tweet us to add to our list.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Blighted Main Streets.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. The flight of Generation Next.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. A 25 cent return on every tax dollar sent to Albany.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Silence and complacency. Is anyone out there?
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Artists' renderings. Endless visioning. Broken promises. Anything? Anybody?
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Talk of reform, renewal or revolt without corresponding action.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. The apathy of the electorate and the indifference of the elected.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Spending what we do not have and borrowing what we cannot repay.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island.The pillaging of the middle class. Chime in any time, folks!
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. The paucity of affordable housing. The scarcity of open space. The audacity of dopes.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Horizontal design sets. 1950s mindsets. Anything else?
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Erosion of the aquifers. Destruction of greenscapes. Proliferation of brownfields.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Smart Growth dumbed down.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Dysfunction in Albany.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. 124 School Superintendents @$250,000+ a pop.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. The Islanders (with or without a new Coliseum).
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Still further delay in redeveloping the Nassau Hub (with or without Kate Murray).
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Major media outlets all monopolized by the Dolans.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Crumbling infrastructure. Buckling roadways. Twenty miles of ugly along theTurnpike.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. LIPAsuction.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Mass transit that is too expensive and less expansive.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. The list continues. [Feel free to add to it @CommunityAlli.]
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. MTA fare hikes and cutbacks.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. NIMBYism.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Cablevision rate hikes and LIPA/National Grid surcharges.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. New taxes disguised as fees.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. The privatization of public parks. Thoughts? Anybody? Helllllllloooooooooooooo...
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Endless studies, surveys, polls and reports. Same findings. Little result.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Commissions. Blue-Ribbon Panels. Zoning Boards. Planning Councils.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. 5 Special Sanitary Districts, 14 Village Sanitary Districts. 1 Sanitation Department.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. ALL in a single Town!
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. 55 Fire Districts. 18 Water Districts. 2 Sewer Districts. ALL in a single Town!
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. 707 local government entities. ALL on a single Island!
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Property taxes. Income taxes. Sales taxes.
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Did we mention 124 separate and distinct school districts?
  • Things that can no longer be sustained on Long Island. Sadly, the dearth of Tweets on the issue of "things that can no longer be sustained."
And the Tweet goes on (or does it?). . . Folks, a sustainable Long Island is up to all of us!

Don't just follow us @CommunityAlli. Join with us, as we work to take back our towns, revitalize our downtowns, reinvent "Main Street," reinvigorate community, and improve the quality of life of every Long Islander. 

New Ideas for America's First Suburb

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Third Time A Charmer For Dean Of NYS Senate

Or Was That 2 1/2 Times?

New York State Senator Dean Skelos was reported to be all smiles as he emerged from the Republican conference in Albany last night. And why not? He had just been elected by the caucus as the presumptive (pending the ongoing recounts in three races) Majority Leader of the new (old?) New York State Senate for, as he put it, the "third time in two years." [That would, of course, include the Espada/Monserrate/Skelos coup of 2009, also known, as homage to the late Leslie Nielson, as Naked Ambition 2 1/2.]

We, at The Community Alliance, wish Dean Skelos, who also happens to represent the 9th SD here on Long Island, all the luck in the world as he assumes one of the top three most powerful posts in the State. [The other two are Sanitary District Commissioners.] Actually, we wish New Yorkers, and, in particular, our fellow Long Islanders all the luck in the world, in the hope that Senator Skelos can dislodge the partisan stalemate, both in his chamber and in Shelly Silver's Assembly, and begin to turn decades of dysfunction into a renaissance for the people of New York.

While few would argue (none with a straight face) that Dean Skelos is not partisan -- a loyal GOPer to the core (and there's nothing wrong with party loyalty, provided that it neither blinds nor binds when it comes to representing the will of the constituency) -- at 62 (though still relatively young in political circles), and having served in Albany going on 31 years, one has to believe that the Senator's latest ascension to the pinnacle of power is more about creating a lasting legacy rather than merely amassing personal political garnishment.

True, for most of those thirty years (closer to forty, in fact), the Republicans ruled the roost in the State Senate, demonstrating almost as little ability to lead, to reform, to move forward with an aggressive and progressive agenda as have the hapless, listless, gutless Democrats over that past two years.

Still, those were different times, socially, fiscally, politically. [We won't dare mention that those times, when the pot was deemed bottomless, and the party, on both sides of the aisle, often spilled out onto State Street and rolled down to Jack's Oyster House, created, in many respects, the less solvent, more divisive times we have today.]

In Albany, for a seasoned veteran seized with knowledge, integrity, true grit and an iron will -- not to mention a knack for playing the game like no other -- opportunity abounds over the course of the next two years (barring another coup attempt) to truly rebuild New York, from the mouth of the Hudson on down. [We leave Western NY to Carl Paladino and his baseball bat. ;-)].

Imagine a legacy that includes (dare we think it, let alone say it?) property tax relief beyond a 2% cap and out of one pocket into the other STAR rebates. A legacy that, at long last, ushers in real education reform, the likes of which forever changes not only the inequitable State Aid formulae and an asphyxiating pension system, but also a landscape that squanders dollars by the hundreds of millions, carving out more school districts than there are villages and towns. Imagine a legacy that, harsh realities of economics notwithstanding, gives moment to the words of Senator Skelos, to wit, "cutting spending, no new taxes and fees and creating jobs... are going to be our priorities going forward."

Dean Skelos has shown us that he has what it takes, and what Albany needs, to pull New York out of the abyss. And while he has blocked progressive measures such as same-sex marriage, and voted "No" on the special district consolidation bill and the school pesticide ban, he was instrumental in gaining passage of some of NY's landmark legislation, including The Sex Offender Registration Act (Megan's Law), the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC), and the Health Research Science Law, which established a Pesticide Registry within New York State.

He has also brought home the bacon, by the pound, for Long Island, particularly in the areas of aid to education and community development. Frown upon earmarks and member items as we do, we cannot help but break a smile when grants from the Senator's office improve the lot of community locally.

Newsday once reported that Dean Skelos could be the guy to save the local GOP. By our reckoning, Senator Skelos, should he choose to do so, could very well turn out to be the guy who saves New York -- if only from itself.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Great Town of Hempstead Smoke-Out

Town Coughs Up Legislation To Ban Smoking In The Park (Smoldering Is Still Permitted ;-)

First it was the ban on cell towers. Now it is a ban on smoking in Town parks. Could it be that Town officials are truly concerned about our health and well-being? [When they ban taxation by special districts and zoning that creates a mish-mosh in our "downtowns," we may concede the point. Until then, we have to believe that "building healthier communities" is more smokescreen than kickiing butt along Main Street.]

Anyway, it reads well on paper, and makes good fodder for the press around the holidays. It may serve as material for the next Murraygram to hit your mailbox rather than the genuine act of actually caring about constituents, but, for most, yet another smoke-free environment (next step, a ban on smoking anywhere on planet Earth) is a move in the right direction.

So, take that turkey-trot around your local Town park, but if you've got 'em, don't you dare smoke 'em!

Happy Thanksgiving from The Community Alliance.

Remember to follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CommunityAlli.
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From the Town of Hempstead:

Building Healthier Communities: Town Board Adopts Smoke-Free Parks Legislation

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and the Town Board adopted legislation designating the township's 100 parks "smoke free," a step that will protect thousands of children and adults who recreate at the town's facilities from the ill effects of second-hand smoke.

"From swimming and ice skating to basketball, walking and playground activities, Hempstead Town parks are part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle," stated Murray. "Restricting smoking at these facilities makes good common sense and protects children and other neighbors from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke."

The new local law passed at the November 23rd Town Board meeting prohibits all smoking at the town's 100 parks, except in designated areas. Officials have indicated that those areas will be away from playing fields and courts, playgrounds, pools and pool decks, concession areas, bleachers, waterfront beach areas and other locations that would subject park patrons to second-hand smoke.

"This new legislation is an important step in protecting the health of our residents," said Councilwoman Angie Cullin. "Smoking is known to cause cancer and has no place in areas where families and children are exercising and enjoying other healthy pursuits."

Murray indicated that the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island had approached officials in America's largest township, and the two entities commenced a productive dialogue on how to make parks and beaches healthier. Carol Meschkow of the Coalition spoke at Town Board meetings on the dangers of second-hand smoke and subsequent conversations resulted in the smoke free parks legislation.

"The town's exceptional network of parks, playgrounds, beaches and other recreational venues should be places where families can go to enjoy the outdoors and fresh air and not have to worry about exposure to second-hand smoke, which is a Class A carcinogen, particularly our precious children with their maturing lungs," said Meschkow.

"Reducing tobacco use is an effective investment in our next generation, and Supervisor Murray and the Town of Hempstead have clearly placed their children's future as the number one priority, and we couldn't be more pleased."

Hempstead officials and the Tobacco Action Coalition released some sobering statistics and other information in support of the new proposal. Approximately 25,000 adults in New York die from cigarette smoking annually, and nearly 21,000 children under the age of 18 become daily smokers in the state each year. Second-hand smoke contains over 40 cancer-causing substances, and the Surgeon General has declared that there is no safe level of second-hand smoke. In fact, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified second-hand smoke in the same category as radon, benzene and asbestos as far as its carcinogenic designation.

One of the primary beneficiaries of the legislation will be young children, according to the Supervisor. Murray noted that the benefits of smoke free parks coupled with the educational efforts of teachers will send a powerful message to young people. In fact, several students in Ms. Ilene Robinson's third grade class at Levy Lakeside Elementary School attended a press conference earlier this month to express their thoughts on smoking.

"If you smoke it is bad for your health and we need clean air," said Camryn, a student at Levy Lakeside. "Smoke-free parks are a good idea because smoking isn't good for the environment and it could make kids sick when they breathe it in," added Lauren, another student in Ms. Robinson's class.

"With our new smoke-free parks legislation, we're going to protect residents from the dangerous effects of second-hand smoke," concluded Murray.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Long Island 2035?

We Can Hardly Wait!

Actually, we can't wait. Not another generation. Not another decade. Not even another year.

Long Island's economy, infrastructure, mindset of suburbia, all need to come of age now, not some 25 years hence, best laid blueprints of planning councils and "visionaries" (as in the adherents of the "visioning" process, rather than those possessed of any real foresight) notwithstanding.

Long Island 2035 is, in its own words:

The Long Island 2035 Regional Visioning Initiative was funded by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) to help achieve a regional public consensus for where the next generation of Long Islanders could live and work, the transportation systems needed to support these settlements, and the institutional actions required to ensure a prosperous, equitable and environmentally sustainable Long Island. The project's findings are being used to help the Long Island Regional Planning Council produce a Long Island 2035 Comprehensive Regional Sustainability Plan.

So, there you have it, in a nutshell. A study to reach a consesus leading to findings to be used in developing a plan. Hummmph! Imagine that. A consensus? On Long Island? Who's kidding whom?

Not just any plan, mind you, but a Comprehensive Regional Sustainability Plan (CRSP), to be promulgated by the Long Island Regional Planning Council. [Lousy acronym. Try, Comprehensive Regional Action Plan. CRAP. There. That's more like it!]

And this would be Plan Number, what, 100, since Long Island's various planning boards have been generating such initiatives -- and shelving them, accordingly -- from back in the day when Levitt first set eyes upon the fertile Hempstead Plain?

Don't misunderstand. We, at The Community Alliance, are all for planning. Just once in a while -- or in a lifetime -- it would be nice to see one of these "comprehensive" (that which, at one time, was called, "Master") plans evolve from "initiative" (as in "initiate," meaning "to begin") to fruition (as in, "implementation").

Visioning Workshops (which, from the photos, appear to be groups of people trying to piece together a giant jigsaw puzzle that somewhat resembles Long Island). A Visioning Workshop Final Report. [How could it be "final" if this is only an "initiative?"] A Visioning Initiative: Principles and Evaluation Benchmarks. [Benchmarks? Like in Iraq?]

Great stuff. On paper.

Years ago, we used to throw money (when we had money) at projects, with the hope that the more we spend, the better the mousetrap -- or Main Street -- we can build. That didn't work out very well.

Nowadays, we throw money to study projects, to talk about (excuse us, "roundtable") the future, to engage in "visioning" (as myopic as it may be), and to generate "findings" via footnoted reports, stylized charts (the more data, the merrier), and high tech PowerPoint presentations.

How's that working out for Long Island?

Yes, we have read the Visioning Initiative Final Report. [Isn't that an oxymoron?] We encourage you to do likewise. [At least take a look at the highlights. (Where's Warner Wolf when you need him?).

Lots of hard work and copious thought going into those 60 pages. Not all that much, however, that is either new or visionary.

By way of history, for instance, the Report opines:

As early as the 1960s, however, the problems associated with growth in these communities, such as increased congestion and fewer unspoiled open spaces, threatened the very qualities that attracted people here in the first place. A succession of village, town, county and regional initiatives emerged to address these challenges, including the creation of the Long Island Regional Planning Board in 1965, one of the first institutions of its kind...

Frankly, not all that much has happened on our Long Island -- save the sprawl, the Levittownization, the brownfielding, and the demise of downtown -- since.

History, indeed, repeats itself, particularly for those who refuse to learn from it!

Much of the hoopla surrounds a central, textbook philosophy -- the stuff  new urbanists (suburbanists?) might well embrace (and Jane Jacobs, were she still with us today, might deplore).

Yes, we're all for social and economic equity, a healthy environment, and sustainable communities. [Throw in a farmers' market, or three, and we've got a deal!] Somewhere along that long, green line, however, we need to shift from visioning and talking to actuating and doing. [Our old take on The Home Depot motto, Less Talking. More Doing.]

Bright people among the folks facilitating and participating in the Long Island 2035 initiative. [None, we note with more than passing dismay, from the Town of Hempstead, or so it would appear from the listing in the Final Report, where representation by TOH is conspicuous by its absence.] Surely, there must be a few among these visionaires who realize that, going down this road to 2035 (a road now more traveled and less maintained), we have been this way before, and, those Victorian-style streetlamps along Main Street aside, there hasn't been all that much progress.

Beyond the artists' renderings (almost all of which, in one incarnation or another, we've seen before), or allusions to what has been accomplished in suburbs far from Long Island's shores (not to mention the delusions of getting anything of virtually any scale -- short of a storefront facade -- to appear on our neglected and over-burdened landscape), there must be, one would think, a day of reckoning.

After all, one can't be expected to wait for the revitalization of Elmont, the resurgence of Wyandanch, or the reinvention of the Lighthouse at the Nassau Hub (which will happen, by the way, right after the reinvention of the wheel, for the 100th time) forever, right?

True, that day may come when those of us who have long advocated for change, for redevelopment, for the resuburbanization of Long Island beyond the white picket fences, have passed on to our final reward, whatever that may be. Or, perhaps, when the last of Generation Next has abandoned the land of strip malls, big box stores, unaffordable housing, skyrocketing taxes, and special district fiefdoms that consume every last breath -- and every last dollar -- out of a populace perennially promised the moon and too often delivered manure.

We can, as has become custom in these parts, simply keep putting off Long Island's future to, well, the future.

Or, someone -- anyone, really -- in the back of this Long Island 2035 bus, having sustained about all he/she can of "getting there is half the fun," can pull off the seatbelt, stand up, high tail it to the front, move forward of the yellow line, and shout at those behind the wheel, "ARE WE THERE YET?"
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What are your thoughts about Long Island 2035? Better yet, what about Long Island 2011? What are the initiatives you would like to see taken to improve the quality of life of Long Islanders, rekindle our sagging economy, revive our downtrodden Main Streets, and create a truly sustainable community for the next 25 years and beyond?

Write to The Community Alliance with your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and comprehensive plans. Guest blogposts for publication would be most welcome. TheCommunityAlliance@yahoo.com.
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Follow The Community Alliance on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CommunityAlli. Better yet, take the lead in your community!
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Day One, Absolutely Nothing Changes

Looking Ahead To Day Two In The Empire State

Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo has already told us that little will change when he is sworn into office on January 1, a taunt to Eliot Spitzer's, "Day One, Everything Changes."

"Been there. Done that." That's what the next Governor Cuomo had to say, noting that the longstanding dysfunction in Albany, and that government seemingly in the face of the people, thumbing up its nose and picking our wallets clean to fund the next member item, won't be changing its ways anytime soon.

When, we ask, and in what manner, does change come in the new administration? 100 days? 365 days? Somewhere in a third term? The way we finance public education? The manner in which we fund everything from garbage collection to fire protection? The spend and tax ways of the New York State Legislature, itself as incapable of change as the electorate is at changing the cast of characters who run the asylum?

Certainly, looking at Andrew Cuomo's transition team, filled with the old-timers who have "been there, done that," it's hard to envision much in the way of change. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. State Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson. Investment Banker Felix Rohatyn. Long Island Congressman Peter King. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani. To name but a few of the veritable Who's Who of New York, past and present. The list is both expansive and inclusive, with only Jimmy McMillan, perhaps, of the Rent Is Too Damn High party, being left off.]

Question is, will the great and the powerful remember the meek and the crest-fallen who helped catapult young Mr. Cuomo to the seat once kept warm by his dad, Mario? We can only hope!

Truth be told, where do We, The People, the John Q. Publics, fit in? Where and how do we stick in our two cents (or was that a 2% cap)? How will we make sure that while nothing changes on day one, the prospect for change, and the mechanics to make change happen (and not just the loose change we're used to getting back from the tax dollars we send to Albany) are in place for day two, day three, and beyond?

And just what kind of change do we really want to bring about, and what are we willing to give up in order to effectuate that change?

Real (as in actual, dollars and cents) property tax relief? [NOTE: A cap is not a reduction!]
Equitable school finance reform? [Could we ever part with 124 school districts on Long Island?]
Consolidation of the literally thousands of special taxing districts that bleed New Yorkers dry? [How's your local lighting district, by the way?]

Where do we begin to rebuild New York? Its infrastructure of crumbling roads and failing bridges. Its system of public education, from the local elementary school to its great state university. Its costly and mismanaged Public Authorities. From Main Street to Wall Steet. Its integrity. Its financial wherewithal. Its pride. How do we once again become that Empire State?

And who, other than the power brokers who have run the show for that past umpteen years -- make that, decades -- will usher in those changes? Changes that will ensure a sustainable, livable, fluorishing New York for generations to come?

Maybe, just maybe, it will be the little guy -- that man and woman on the street. The folks who, when all is said, if still very far from done, foot those bills that help keep New York afloat.

Day one, nothing changes. What happens after that is up to all of us!

Water, Water Everywhere. . .

But Is It Safe To Drink, Fish, Swim In?

Our good friends at Citizens Campaign for the Environment urge you to join them to protect our waterways.

Help Protect Our Great Waters

Call Congress Today!

Take Action Now

The health of the nation’s Great Waters must be a national priority. Our Great Waters, including Long Island Sound and the Great Lakes, are essential to our economy, recreational opportunities, and quality of life. Unfortunately, our Great Waters are threatened by pollution, invasive species, and habitat destruction. Action must be taken before the problems get worse and the solutions more costly. Congress needs to protect, preserve, and restore our Great Waters now!

Long Island Sound: An Estuary of National Significance, the Long Island Sound is an immensely valuable estuary, contributing more than $8 billion annually to the regional economy. Twenty million people live within 50 miles of the Sound’s beaches. Residents of New York and Connecticut depend on the Sound for recreational opportunities, including fishing, sailing, and swimming. The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act will expire this year unless Congress reauthorizes the legislation. Congress needs to move quickly to reauthorize the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act (H.R. 5876/S. 3119) to continue progress on restoring the Long Island Sound. This critical investment will restore shellfish, upgrade sewage treatment plants, protect sensitive lands, replant sea grass beds, control polluted storm water runoff, and conduct needed research.

Great Lakes: The Great Lakes are a natural wonder of the world that holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. The Great Lakes supply millions of New Yorkers with their drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife, and support billion dollar industries such as tourism and fishing. The Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 4755/S. 3073) will provide the long-term structure needed for Great Lakes protection and restoration. The bill authorizes $650 million annually to address the most critical issues impacting the lakes, including cleaning up toxic hot spots, restoring habitat, fighting invasive species, and preventing pollution.

How you can help:

Call your two U.S. senators and your representative in the House and urge them to protect our Great Waters, including Long Island Sound and the Great Lakes. Your calls are critical, and they only take a moment!

Tips for Calling:
Make three quick calls to the Capital Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask to be connected to the offices of your U.S. senators and U.S. representative. Once connected:

•Tell the person who answers the phone your name and your address.
•Share why protecting Long Island Sound and the Great Lakes is important to you.
•Urge Congress to pass the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act (H.R. 5876/S. 3119).
•Urge them to support passage of the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 4755/S. 3073).
•Thank them for their consideration.

Whom to call:

In New York:
House: Find your federal representative
Senate: Senator Schumer & Senator Gillibrand

In Connecticut:
House: Find your federal representative
Senate: Senator Lieberman & Senator Dodd

Thank you for taking action. Together we make a difference!

Friday, November 12, 2010

If Only We Could Get Someone To Buy "Main Street"

Resurgence Of "Downtown" Requires Private Enterprise And Community Ingenuity

Bringing downtown back!

Seems that's what Town and County officials have been advocating, if not actually doing, for years -- make that decades -- here on Long Island.

From Nassau County's now defunct Operation Downtown, to the Town of Hempstead's typically feeble Facade Improvement Program (all right, so it's all a facade), the movement to revitalize "Main Street" (best efforts of the likes of Vision Long Island and Sustainable Long Island notwithstanding) has been almost imperceptible to the naked eye.

Yes, a reinvigorated block here, and a cleverly parsed rehab there, but on the whole (and this is particularly so in the unincorporated areas of our towns, the last outposts of lawlessness, where the only things missing from the landscape are the tumbleweeds), our "downtowns" (if you can call them that) and our "Main Streets" (blink, and you'll miss them -- if you're lucky) are, for the most part, bastions of neglect, decline, and decay.

The illuminating glow of Smart Growth -- more myth than mainstay on the streets of Long Island -- has yet to light the way for progressive, essential, community-friendly redevelopment on any meaningful scale.

Zoning Boards, Planning Boards, and Zoning Boards acting as Planning Boards, have done little more over the years than to, unwittingly perhaps, best intentions aside, stay the course. Master Plans becoming servant to political expediency. NIMBYism being the rallying cry around which our communities find comfort in the status quo. A Levittownian mindset, miring our towns in the aura of the 1950s.

Amidst the complacency, the apathy, the indifference of a populace, beaten down, perhaps, by decades of governmental malaise, are heard the occasional voices of that new suburbia some of us have heard talk of. Build A Better Burb. Charming on paper. Nowhere near coming to a community near you.

No one said building a better burb would be easy, or inexpensive. The cost, in terms of dollars and cents and the sustainability of life on our Long Island as we'd like to know it, is all that much greater.

The infusion of federal money (when the feds had money). Portended Town and County "partnerships" (the stuff that photo ops and press releases are made of). Conferences, forums, diatribes and visioning sessions. All offering glimmers of hope. All vanishing, like grains of sand in the ebb and flow of the tide.

Followers of this blog have had hopes raised (recall Tom Suozzi's Magical Mystery Bus Tours), only to have them dashed (if not ground into pixie dust), time and time again, by inaction, by delay, by ineptitude, by we, the people, letting dreamscapes fall by the wayside.

Grand Avenue in Baldwin is still not so grand. The old Argo in Elmont is nowhere near being a supermarket. And is that the Courtesy Hotel we still see standing over there in West Hempstead?

So, what, we ask, is the answer? [What was the question again? Oh, yeah. The rebirth of "Downtown."] If government won't get it done, visionaries can't get it done, and the communal spirit doesn't care one way or the other whether it gets done, how do we take back "Main Street?"

Umm. One building, one block, one vacant storefront at a time, through private developers willing to take the risk on the second coming of downtown.

Check out this article in  The New York Times, Ressurecting a Village by Buying Up Main Street. [We'd reprint the story, but for fear of threatened prosecution for copyright infringement!]

Maybe bringing downtown back does take a village. Or, at the very least, one person willing to buy it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Has Town Animal Shelter Gone To The Dogs?

Nassau DA Probes Alleged Abuses At Town Of Hempstead Pound

It looks as though that "Summer of Love" may be drawing to a cold close at the Town of Hempstead's Animal Shelter.

For all those warm and fuzzy photo ops of Town Supervisor Kate "Cheshire Cat" Murray cuddling with her furry friends, word on the street -- and in the press -- has it that animals at the Town shelter are being beaten, abused, and left to die in their cages, this under the not too watchful eyes of Town employees drawing six-figure salaries.

So, it's not only the poor, helpless animals that are allegedly being abused, but the poor, helpless taxpayers as well.

Only allegations, of course, yet to be proven. Allegations.

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Community Alliance, "Charles Milone (acting Shelter Director) is making over $100,000... Another political appointee making over $100,000, Bruce Hallbert, replaced Milone (at the Shelter) but he, too, was replaced by yet another making over $100,000, Pat Horan. The budget of the shelter is over $7.1 million yet I hear there are many inhumane practices going on and that all volunteers have now been banned from the premises - thus no oversight."

The Town of Hempstead itself  is "investigating" the alleged abuses (kinda like the fox investigating pillage at the hen house), with testimony from former shelter volunteers being heard (but not necessarily listened to) at a recent Town Board meeting.

Meanwhile, back in the kennel club that is Hempstead Town Hall  (where inbreeding at the patronage mill has set evolution on its head), Supervisor Murray calls the issue "administrative," telling a reporter at News12 that the investigation does not involve the abuse, mishandling or mistreatment of cats or dogs at the Town shelter. [Hmmm. So what exactly is the Nassau County DA's office looking into at the Town Animal Shelter? Could it be the abuse, mishandling and mistreatment of the taxpayers and their hard-earned money?]

In a town where nepotism and patronage reign supreme; where fiscal prudence is holding up a bond rating with one hand and writing a six-figure check to a political cronie with the other; where denial is a river in Egypt over which the powers-that-be disavow any control; there is a foul odor emanating from an animal shelter cuddled, coddled and held so dear by a Town Supervisor, if not complicit in purported misdeeds, then, most certainly, more than willing to turn the other cheek.

Abuses at the Town's Special Districts (of which the Town wipes its dirty little hands) is one thing. Abuse at the Town's animal shelter is quite another. Or maybe not. Abuse, of any nature, particularly in the public realm, should not, must not be tolerated, let alone ignored.

Stepping up, taking responsibility, the buck stopping with Town officials, should be the norm in this new age of accountability and transparency. In Hempstead Town, as we've come to learn, Norm is merely the Town Supervisor's father (who spent many years on the Town payroll), and passing the buck (as it is pulled screaming from the taxpayers' wallets), is as close as one comes to a public reckoning.

Town of Hempstead residents seem to be blase about the evils of special district taxation, patronage and cronyism, a complete lack of oversight (in and out of town hall), and the general decline (if not untimely demise) of the unincorporated areas of America's most blighted township. Too bad.

Perhaps, just perhaps, exposing the abuses at the Town's Animal Shelter, "administrative" (as in, "where the heck did they spend more than 7 million dollars?"), if not otherwise, will awaken the sensibilities deadened by the excess enjoyment which has accompanied years of paying more and getting less.

The quality of life for each of us is diminished by acts of neglect, be they benign or overt. Surely, we expected more for our fine, furry friends who unwittingly find themselves under what appears to be the heavy hand of the Town of Hempstead.

Our take is that, in Hempstead Town, at least, "Home for the Holidays" will have a whole new meaning this year!
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From Long Island Newsday:

Rescue groups air concerns over Hempstead animal shelter

by WILL VAN SANT / will.vansant@newsday.com

As the Nassau district attorney's office continues its probe of Hempstead Town's animal shelter, local rescuers with long-standing concerns about a bloated budget and abuse of dogs and cats at the agency are saying, "Told you so."

At a town meeting this week, rescuers said animals had been subjected to severe neglect and horrific abuse.

While they won't give specifics, officials insist problems at the shelter don't involve animal abuse.

The town banned several rescuers from the shelter in late October after its own, ongoing, internal investigation and it remains unclear what role, if any, they play in the scandal. For years, the rescuers had sought to find homes for animals at the shelter, which practices euthanasia.

Town officials, who contacted the district attorney last month, would not say why the rescuers had been barred. Supervisor Kate Murray said she was surprised by the abuse allegations, and none of the rescuers had gone to the district attorney with such charges.

Murray wouldn't offer details on the town or the district attorney's investigations, but said administrative matters, not animal abuse, are the focus.

Acting shelter director Charles Milone, a Hempstead employee for eight years, and adoption coordinator Regina Thorne, an employee for 24 years, have been transferred from their jobs pending the outcome of the probes. Milone and Thorne continue to collect annual salaries of $122,559 and $83,612 respectively.

The shelter has a budget of $7.1 million this year.

Frances Lucivero, a Levittown rescuer who was banned from the shelter, said neither she nor any of the other barred rescuers had spoken with the district attorney's office. Lucivero said she didn't know what the office, which declined to discuss the investigation, was looking into, but doesn't think it has to do with rescue work at the shelter. Lucivero said too little of the shelter's money is used to help the animals and she would like to see a full-time staff veterinarian and an animal behaviorist.

"They have a $7 million budget," Lucivero said, "and that outrages me as a taxpayer."
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"Thank You So Much For Yor Patronage"

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Folow-Up from the Town of Hempstead: http://toh.li/content/home/news/ashelteragenda.html
[If only they would care for the humans in their care...]
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What You Can Do To Help: http://www.hopeforhempsteadshelter.com/getinvolved.html

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

NYS Legislature: Under Old Management

Dysfunction As The Norm In The Land Of Status Quo

While voters were busy painting the map red across much of the nation on Election Day (often forgetting that the party now returned to office is the very same that brought us to the economic brink while turning a huge surplus into a record deficit), New Yorkers, with rare exception, were busy maintaining the status quo.

Apparently, we like -- no, we enjoy -- the stagnation and dysfunction of Albany, having dimmed (though not extinguished, the final tallies still to come) the hopes of the GOP to wrestle the State Senate from the weak, clammy hands of the listless Democrats. [Not that putting the Republicans, who reigned in the State Senate for some forty years prior to the Dems taking a slim margin two years ago, would portend much in the way of change, history being our guide].

While both the Dems and the GOPers are claiming to have taken the Senate (several districts still too close to call the morning after the election), a margin of a seat or two -- or even the possibility of a 31-31 tie -- does not for forward progress make.

For Long Island, where being in the red means minority status in blue New York, it would, no doubt, have been a true coup had State Senator Dean Skelos (perhaps the smartest guy in Albany, politically, if not otherwise) were to be elevated from Minority Leader to Majority Leader. This can still happen, of course, in the event that the closest of the races go the Republican's way.

Then again, even assuming, for argument sake, that the GOP retakes the State Senate, what chance do we have of making strides on such significant issues as property tax relief and school finance reform (let alone Gay marriage), with the Senate in the hands of the folks who, for nearly half a century, failed to advance a progressive agenda, and, perhaps even more foretelling, with Sheldon Silver, the Speaker of the Assembly with an agenda all his own, continuing to ride roughshod over that body, an immoveable object in a town where movement itself is imperceptable?

And while New Yorkers were savvy enough to have rejected the notion that afternoon tea parties trump the morning coffee klatsch, sending Carl Paladino and his baseball bat back to Buffalo [Carl said we haven't heard the last of him. No doubt. He'll be back in Albany, sans bat, looking to take more of the taxpayers' money to bolster his personal real estate empire], we are, apparently, still clueless here on the Island, electing, for instance, a neophyte, born and bred in the nepotistic incubator that is Hempstead Town Hall, without a shred of community activism on record, to the Assembly seat vacated by a seasoned veteran who lived and breathed compromise and community. We still don't get it, do we?

No, there's not all that much to cheer about here in New York, the Governor-elect's call for all New Yorkers to unite in rebuilding the Empire State aside.

Whichever way the wind blows in the State Senate, and whatever fresh air Mr. Silver may allow to flow into the Assembly chamber, if any, doubtful that our next Governor, as astute a political strategist as he may be, can upend the stagnation, the partisanship, the inane bickering over minutia, that has become institutionalized in Albany.

"What's old is new again" seems to have been the theme in this year's elections, nationally. Here in New York, one can barely distinguish old from new, or, for that matter, yesterday from tomorrow. It's as though time itself stood still, with yet another dark, cold winter about to descend upon State Street, and an even longer two years towing the line that has been and continues to be the status quo.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Trees And Taxpayer Dollars

I Think That I Shall Never See, A Murraygram That Hasn't Killed A Tree

Not exactly Joyce Kilmer here, but a Letter to the Editor that appeared in this week's Herald newspapers caught our attention.

The suggestion of an "opt out" for all of those Town of Hempstead mailings. Imagine that -- cost effective and environmentally sound e-mails in lieu of those mailbox stuffers, tree-killers, and tax-dollar wasters.

Could it happen? In a heartbeat. Will it? Not as long as Kate Murray, Supervisor, needs to get her smile, and her name, in our collective faces.
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Is Supervisor Kate Murray really an environmentalist? 

To the Editor:

If you live in the Town of Hempstead, you are familiar with the steady flow of mailings from Town Hall. So far this year, I have received 24 mailings from Town Hall (approximately one mailing every 11 days).

On Aug. 3, I spoke to Supervisor Kate Murray at a Town Hall meeting, and suggested to her that the town give residents the option to receive Town Hall news by email. At that meeting she indicated to me that that was a wonderful idea.

Despite the fact that I had given Murray a wonderful idea, nothing got done. I went back to Town Hall on Sept. 7 and 21, Oct. 5 and 19 to press the issue. Each time it came up, Murray ducked the question and refused to give residents the option of receiving Town Hall news by email.

I have estimated that the Town of Hempstead has used more than 5 million sheets of paper (about 600 trees were needed to produce this paper) and spent over $1.1 million this year to pay for the mailings to approximately 246,828 households in the Town of Hempstead.

Murray claims to be an environmentalist and a member of the Sierra Club. You would think she would be more conscientious about the unnecessary use of natural resources.

Contact Town Hall at (516) 489-6000 or on the web at www.toh.li to tell Supervisor Murray you want an option to receive Town Hall news by email.

Felix Procacci
Franklin Square
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We're sure that the folks at Kate Murray's HELPLINE would be happy to pass along the word. Can the Murraygrams. Send us an e-mail!
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I'm The Lord, And I Approve This Message"

When Candidates Converse With The Almighty

"God is the reason I'm running." So said Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell, GOP candidate for Senate in the State of Delaware.

Not only that, but, according to O'Donnell, in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, "God has called me to win." [She also admitted to not watching the news, an homage, perhaps, to Sarah Palin fumbling and failing to think of a single newspaper or magazine she had read.]

So, its not only the ballplayer, eyes toward the heavens, who looks to God for that crucial hit. [We suppose the Yankees simply didn't offer enough in prayer. Damn it!]

And we recall another politico of the not so distant past who, like O'Donnell, said that God had tapped him to run for office. Now who was that again? Oh yeah. George W. Bush. [What was God thinking?]

Since when did the Almighty become so political, let alone so partisan? And how is it that, on the whole, he only speaks to, calls upon, and offers the endorsement of far-right wing Republicans, who poo poo evolution, oppose masturbation, and can't find a separation between church and state in the Constitution -- not necessarily in that order.

Whatever happened to the days when God called upon folks like Noah, to build arks, and Moses, to deliver the Ten Commandments? No, today, the Almighty talks to nitwit politicians and psychopathic serial killers.

Add in the Sean Hannitys and the Glenn Becks, to whom God apparently speaks regularly, having decreed, "Go forth and masquerade as journalists," and you've given new meaning to the expression, "God works in mysterious ways."

One wonders why God has chosen to speak with and call upon the likes of a Christine O'Donnell, channeling His wisdom and energies through so empty a vessel. What with Nobel Prize winners and MENSA members, one would think a more appropriate medium -- and, surely, a more worthy cause -- would be in the offing.

Perhaps, given the Lord's involvement in recent campaigns, and the invocation of His name (as such may enure to the benefit of the candidate, religion clearly being the opiate of a certain segment of the electoral masses), we need to create yet another political party. Call it the, "My Rent Is Too God-Damn High" party.

Says O'Donnell (that's the new Chirstine, Senate hopeful, not the old Christine, Wiccan), "Please pray for the campaign; please pray for our staff; please pray specifically that the eyes of the voters be opened."

"Pray...that the eyes of the voters be opened." Amen to that!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Watch The Closing Doors

Can Mass Transit Save New York? [And What Will Save NY's Mass Transit?]

As we watch our roadways and bridges crumble before our eyes, and see fares and tolls soar (you want how much to cross the Verrazano Bridge?), thoughts on how New York can revive (more like resuscitate) mass transit, and how mass trasnsit could actually breathe new life into the Empire State's sagging economy.

If we're going to talk about sustainability (and these days, who doesn't?), we have to talk about that which cannot, in the long run, be sustained, at least not in an economic environment where the incubator is primed for growth.

High taxes, skyrocketing fares, outlandish tolls, and an infrastructure that makes getting from here to there next to impossible, will not sustain us. Nor will mismanagement and dysfunction, whether by the bungling chieftans at public authorities such as the MTA or in the seat of government in Albany, sustain anything more than the status quo -- a deep, dark hole into which is tossed a shovel, John Q. Public emphatically told, "keep digging!"

New directions, and a new way of thinking -- from inside the box and without (box sold separately) -- are imperatives, both in restructuring and rebuilding New York's system of mass transit, and in turning this once mighty engine of commerce into the powerhouse that catpults our State -- and its tax-strapped residents -- out of that hole and into a new era of prosperity.

A report (actually, several) from our friends at the Drum Major Institute:

How the Next Governor of New York Can Save Public Transit

With New York’s gubernatorial election less than two weeks away, a report jointly released earlier today by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy and Transportation Alternatives urges the candidates for governor to commit to ending the MTA’s costly borrowing and to reinvesting in public transit in order to drive economic growth, create good jobs, boost the state's economic competitiveness, and save state taxpayers significant money.

The report reveals that the disinvestment and debt crippling the MTA are the result of failed decisions by state legislators and recent governors. Evidence and data are presented to show that the next governor must pursue several actions to safeguard public transit and put the MTA back on sound fiscal footing.

To read the report, go here. To read earlier reports on solving the MTA’s debt crisis and ensuring more sustainable sources of transit revenue, go here and here.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is Albany A Mess?

Did The Little Piggy Cry Wee, Wee, Wee All The Way Home?

From the camp of Patrick Nicolosi, Candidate for NYS Assembly:

There's no disputing that Albany is a mess. The question is who do we trust to fix it? The residents of the 21st Assembly District which includes West Hempstead,Franklin Square, Elmont, Floral Park, South Floral Park, Stewart Manor, North Valley Stream and parts Valley Stream, New Hyde Park, Malverne and Garden City have a choice between 2 candidates who have two completely different backgrounds.

The Republican machine has nominated someone to run for Assembly from their Town of Hempstead nepotism and patronage mill. This machine chose a candidate who does not own property in this district, nor has he paid a dime in property taxes, either. How can the 28 year old son of an influential Town of Hempstead political insider, who hasn't paid property taxes in his life, possibly identify with the voters of this district? How can he possibly understand or sympathize with the everyday struggles residents in this district go through year after year just to pay our bills and keep a roof over our family's heads? Strike 1.

Next, we discover he recently got a job in the Town attorney's office. How was he able to find a job in this economy anyway? While our children are out of work and struggling to find any job they can find, all he had to do was call his influential father, and magically a cushy job in the Town attorney's office was created for him. And we expect this candidate to bring home the bacon to this district? He's never had to bring anything home up until now except himself. What makes anyone think this job will be any different for him? Win, lose or draw in this election, the Republican candidate will have a secure job to go to the day after the election no matter what happens November 2nd. Strike 2.

Even worse, during the debates, he could not articulate one coherent or concrete thought of how he would address the real problems affecting this district, specifically property taxes and jobs. His responses were awkward, jumbled and full of political cliches we've heard a million times before. It's clear Republicans actually do view this Assembly seat as an entry level position, and this candidate would be going to Albany just to fill-out time. So in a couple of years if we make the mistake of sending him there, his influential father will find him someplace else better to work (we suspect somewhere in the friendly confines of the Town of Hempstead). Strike 3 and he's out.

Contrast this with Pat Nicolosi, whose paid his dues in life and has earned his community stripes over decades of participation and service to this diverse Assembly district. Pat has a unique universal appeal where he identifies with everyone from a blue collar worker who brings a lunch bucket to work, to a white collar executive who only eats on fine table cloth. Pat's stood with the residents of West Hempstead as they fought the Town of Hempstead at the Courtesy Hotel fiasco, stood by the residents of Elmont as they continue to fight for economic development in their community, and has stood by all residents of this district as he continues to demand efficiency in all levels of government, including our local special taxing districts.

Pat has also gained the reputation of being a strong fiscal watchdog over government spending and has consistently advocated for the creation of private-sector jobs and sustainable economic development in our district. In his first year as a Board Member of the Elmont Library, he was able to achieve a 0% tax increase, with a 0% spending increase, all while keeping existing programs and services at this great facility untouched.

Pat's record of independence is second to none. He has brought together Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives and Independents to work together on a host of issues facing this community no matter what their party affiliation or political background was. With so much at stake in this election, how can we trust this Assembly seat to anyone but Pat Nicolosi.
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The Community Alliance welcomes comment, rebuttal, or at least two-cents, from Pat Nicolosi's opponent in this election, Ed Ra.

Let's hear from all the candidates for public office. Write us at TheCommunityAlliance@yahoo.com. All submissions will be published for the consideration of the electorate.

Remember, folks. If we don't hear from them BEFORE the election, can we really expect results from them AFTER the election?
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nassau County's Royal Flush?

Exec Looks To Imose Fee For Water On Exempt, High Volume Users

Imagine that. Taxing the local Fire District (turnabout is fair play, we suppose), for using water. Okay, they call it a fee, which, by any other name, is a tax.

Hmmm. Taxing the heretofore exempt, and imposing user fees on those who use run water down the drain as if it fell from the sky. What next? Taxing heretofore tax exempt entities -- like the church* -- for all the property they own in the county?

Wait a minute. Maybe that's not such a bad idea after all. . .

*The new fee, by the way, would not apply to religious organizations who own property in the county. Thank God. The holy water is safe!
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From the Long Island Herald:

Legislator: ‘Toilet tax’ could cost taxpayers

By Deirdre Krasula

When firefighters wash down their trucks after making on a run, they may have to pay a fee on that water. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican from Bethpage, has proposed a water use fee in the county’s 2011 budget. At a news conference in front of the North Merrick firehouse on Friday, Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg said the fee is really a tax.

Standing with members of tax-exempt organizations, Denenberg, a Democrat from Merrick, explained how fire departments, school districts and libraries would be affected by what he called the “toilet tax.” The county ordinance states, “The county is hereby authorized to impose service charges upon exempt users and high water users for the use of services of sewage facilities maintained by the district.” The fee is intended to help pay for the county’s sewer facilities, but the county doesn’t use sewer meters, but rather water meters, Denenberg noted.

Based on water use, that could mean big bills for previously exempt organizations. Each facility would have to pay one cent for every gallon of water used. That would mean that the North Merrick Fire Department, which uses 700,000 gallons of water a year, would pay a $7,000 fee.

Denenberg said he was angered that the county executive would be willing to draw revenue from tax-exempt organizations like school districts and libraries. “The county’s idea for revenue is to force tax-exempt organizations … to pay a sewer fee,” he said. “Passing along taxes to other districts is not freezing taxes.”

Dr. James Tolle, executive director of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, noted that schools across the county use water primarily for field irrigation. Mary Jo O’Hagan, vice president of the Nassau Suffolk School Board Association, and a member of the Baldwin School Board, noted that such a fee would cost Baldwin School District $132,000 a year — the equivalent of two staff positions. Tolle added that Nassau County school districts could not afford the fee. If put in place, the fee would be “passed on to the taxpayer, or we would have to cut programs,” he said.

The fee, if passed, would take effect July 1, 2011. In the first six months it was in place, it could bring in $19 million in revenue and $38 million in the following full year.

At press time, Mangano’s office could not be reached for comment.

Comments about this story? DKrasula@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 234.