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.