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, Millercolumn@optimum.net Thursday, 30 May 2013 00:00
If 18, 19 and 20-year-old citizens are too immature to handle a cigarette, then they are too immature to handle the standard M4 carbine issued by the U.S. Army. Bring the kids back home.
In both the New York State legislature and the New York City Council, bills to ban sales of cigarettes to adults 18-20 years old look like they have legs, and now there’s a race with other states to put selective smoking prohibition laws on the books, maybe by the end of Spring. Some county legislators are probably readying their own press releases.
I don’t object to efforts to get people to stop smoking. Our culture has changed enough that the tobacco companies have written off the American market in the long run and are concentrating on China, Eastern Europe and other markets where intense marketing is already paying off big. We’re trained not to interfere with American corporations selling death overseas, whether it’s cigarettes or land mines or toxic chemicals that we don’t want used here.
Unfortunately, this particular proposal will do little to solve an important problem, and may make it harder to actually get some younger adults off cigarettes. I am also stunned at the nonchalance and hypocrisy with which some public officials seem to be willing to degrade the citizenship of others.
The cigarette ban is supported by some politicians who’ve strongly supported marriage equality, an issue that revolves around equal protection and status under the law. Suddenly they have no compunction to spitting all over the status of a minority that, as a group, has almost no political influence. Easy pickings.
There is no physiological difference between smoking at 20 or at 21, so why stop there? Political convenience.
In fact, 18-20 year olds smoke at a lower rate than most older adults, except seniors. Smoking tobacco ticks up with people about my age (President Obama was still sneaking smokes through his first year in the White House). Notice how politicians aren’t calling to take away privileges from men in their late 40s. We vote, we write checks, we control much of the political infrastructure. In short, we will eat you for breakfast and swallow the bones.
Once you get that Citizen Decoder Ring, you might have privileges restricted for breaking rules, but it should be one set of rules for everyone. That’s how we build good citizens and respect for law.
What makes people start or stop smoking can be a complex web of psychological, social and even political issues. There are regional differences in smoking rates and significant differences between racial, ethnic and age groups. Asian adults, even in their late teens, smoke at less than half the rate of other races, yet they’re getting lumped into prohibition. The thing that caused the single biggest drop in cigarette smoking in recent years was jacking up cigarette taxes.
Most people pick up smoking to relieve stress, which is now a national pandemic.
It doesn’t help that we’re all bombarded with advertising that makes it clear that stress, boredom, depression and all sorts of relationship problems can be solved through substance intake. Beer, liquor, prescription pills, caffeine-laced liquids, sugar, candy bars and more sugar.
Selective prohibition recreates the same punishment-based strategy that has failed so spectacularly in the “war” on some drugs. There isn’t even a health component in current proposals, as if physical addiction isn’t part of this. There are a billion “loosies” (single cigarettes) for sale around New York. Driving 18-20s underground will deprive them of supervision and socialization that can reduce or mitigate the worst behavior, like chain smoking.
We did this with alcohol, and college-age binge drinking is rampant. The payoff isn’t worth the price.