The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Giving up is not “reform.” County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposal to transfer property assessment from the county to the towns might possibly speed up assessment decisions by replacing one large and overwhelmed bureaucracy with several somewhat smaller ones. It will likely recreate problems that were major motivations in creating our highly centralized county government 75 years ago.
The 1938 county charter merged the town Boards of Assessors and the County Board of Equalization, ending three decades of complaints, lawsuits and hard feelings about the lack of specific, uniform levels of property assessments between the towns. In a tax system screaming out for simplification, clarification and a sense of certainty, spinning off assessments to the towns will reintroduce “equalization” as an annual issue. Tens of thousands of residents are still trying to figure out why their assessment went down but their tax bill still went up. The division of taxes heading up the tax food chain in an equitable manner is the most complex subject in local government, and it’s all going to make people very sad, particularly in villages and school districts that are split between townships.
Manhattan District Attorney (D.A.) Robert Morgenthau was facing a spirited Democratic primary challenge from a former judge in 2005, but his opponent had trouble finding anything substantively negative to say about Morgenthau.
The reason I know this: a city-based tabloid newspaper reporter called me weeks before the election, asking whether it was legal to have a Manhattan driver’s license while at the same time registering and insuring a car in Dutchess County, where auto insurance premiums are much lower. The answer: yes, so long as the insured vehicle is primarily garaged in Dutchess County. I was the director of public affairs for the New York State Insurance Department at the time and knew immediately the question pertained to Morgenthau because he met those criteria.
Written by Robert McMillan Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00It was in June of 2008 – three and one half years ago –that I wrote a column entitled “A Closer Look at Gasoline Prices.” At the end of the piece, I concluded by saying, “Without a national energy policy soon, watch out, because you may very well see the comeback of the horse and buggy.”
Now, that comment was partly humor, but the reality is that we have no national energy policy!
Look at some of the facts. President Obama, as other presidents on both sides of the political aisle, stated, he wanted to help “…families at the pump and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Has the president taken any real action to reduce the dependence on foreign oil or to create a national energy policy? No – is the simple straightforward answer.
After the BP disaster, in the Gulf of Mexico, the president shot down all drilling in the Gulf. And under President George W. Bush, no drilling was permitted off the Gulf Coast of Florida. Yet, just some 60 miles off the Southern Coast of Florida and close to Cuba, China is drilling for oil. We just do not get it. While our presidents are asleep at the switch, gasoline prices are heading to, according to the experts, $5 a gallon. With the increase in prices, the rhetoric heats up, and politicians talk about action, but they do nothing. Why?
Beyond the challenges we face from the importing of foreign oil, which I will get to later, we do not do enough at home. For example, there is probably more oil in the oil shale fields of Colorado than in the entire Middle East. Yet, there is no effort to really figure out how to extract that oil in economically prudent ways.
Now, take a look at where oil comes from. We consume around 20 million barrels of oil per day with around 60 percent of that oil produced at home. In fact, back in 1970, we were not at all dependent on foreign oil. It was all produced in the United States.
Canada is the largest exporter of oil to the United States with two and one-half million barrels coming to the United States each day from Canada. And that figure could have grown significantly if the president had not shot down the Keystone pipeline.
Interestingly, the Middle East only supplies around 15 percent of our total imports from foreign countries.
So, “Here We Go Again.” There will be much political rhetoric over the next several months, and as we head into heavier gasoline consumption in the spring, summer and fall, the price of gasoline will get higher. But, there will be little focus on burning clean coal, developing safe nuclear plants, using more natural gas, or using innovations to develop the use of shale. Why?