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!

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