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 Michael A. Miller Friday, 19 October 2012 00:001. We have not had a redistricting year election in Nassau County that didn’t have pockets of problems or confusion in the polling places. Be prepared.
2. Changes in federal and state legislative district borders, effective on January 1, have forced the merger or splitting of some election districts (neighborhood level voting precincts). It didn’t help that the Nassau County Board of Elections, run by the two major parties, was late in finalizing new election district-level maps (making ballot qualification problematic for outsiders).
3. Protect yourself and your loved ones by taking about 15 seconds, preferably right now, and confirm your voter registration and your polling place using the New York State Board of Elections online voter database. Put in your name, address and birthdate and it will give you all relevant district numbers and even a map link showing the location of your polling place. Just type this into any web browser address bar: voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us
4. For every election district voting station, there will be two Democratic and two Republican inspectors, appointed by the parties. Well, theoretically. These are the people who sign you in and direct you to the machine. It is rare that there is any kind of actual malice or mischief on the part of inspectors.
5. In large swaths of this county, the parties exist only on paper, and in some places not even on paper. For a long time, being an Inspector was a respected neighborhood position throughout the year. They conducted local registration drives and were considered party officials and local community representatives. Not so much anymore. Some inspectors are well-meaning, sometimes baffled people with little quality training. Some were pulled in at the last minute, left to flounder by an irresponsible county government.
6. Chances are, the inspectors are just as confused or frustrated as you. In case of emergency, everybody stay calm and the neighborhood will get through it together.
7. Remember this phrase when you go to vote: “Please call Mineola.” In addition to the official main number (571-2411), the county Board of Elections issues inspectors with internal numbers where an Election Day chief can answer questions, dispatch technicians and issue emergency instructions.
8. They have to let you vote, even if you’re challenged. If there is a serious question that can’t be worked out, you can vote on a paper “Affidavit Ballot.” Officials will rule later if your vote will count.
9. If you aren’t sure, ask. 1-866-OUR-VOTE connects to the nonpartisan voter Election Protection Coalition that can help you navigate absentee ballots, Election Day illnesses and other complexities.
10. Last December, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission issued a disturbing report on the optical scan voting machines now used in Nassau and nine other New York counties, including New York City. These DS200 machines, manufactured by the ES&S company of Omaha, were found to occasionally freeze up without warning. They also sometimes failed to create a proper error log file that would let election officials know about and trace problems. They also sometimes misread ballots. In short, the objective tests confirmed what some of us had already figured out by watching. The State Board of Elections was supposed to approve software updates to the DS200 machines, but even minor corrections or changes takes too long. Even after public vetting of the huge testing reports and independent review of the computer code, it takes at least two months for machines to be updated at the county level. In September, the state board punted and will not move forward with improvements until next year.
11. You are warned.