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, 06 April 2012 00:00
Over the years, I have written a couple of times relating to people complaining about politicians and the performance of government. The other day, I said to my audience, I have two questions. With the first question, I want you to raise your hand if you do not feel government is operating correctly.
Every hand in the audience was raised immediately!
My next question started with a request that no hands should be raised, and I asked the audience to just think about what I have asked. The question was, “Who has attended a Republican or Democratic political event in the last year?”
As I finished the question, several people in the audience squirmed in their seats and some looked at their spouse, speaking softly. Clearly, people complain and do not do anything to correct the complaints.
As I personally reflected on my two questions, I thought about the questions a little deeper than I had in the past. These thoughts were not a part of the discussion at the event. But, the more I thought about correcting what is wrong in our country – no matter what side of the political aisle you sit on – the deeper became my concern as to whether, today, it makes any difference in being a participant.
Do elected officials listen to their local political club? Does even making a political contribution make a difference anymore?
With 24/7 cable news, I wonder if the reporters asking questions have more influence than the average voter – even the voter who is active in the elected official’s own political party?
This column is not to put down participation. I still think that showing up in the right places can make a difference. As a volunteer, a person can get to know the people who do make a difference.
Another way to influence elected officials is through letter writing or emails to the official’s office – not just one letter. It takes many letters, and that is something you can do by organizing your friends, who are in agreement on an issue, to all write or email the elected official. As the letters pile up in an office, believe me, they get attention – particularly if they are all from the same area.
One final point. The number of lobbyists in our state and federal capitals are around your elected officials and their staffs day in and day out. You are not there with the same presence unless you get committed to make a difference. And that takes an effort, which many people are just not ready for at this present time.