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, 25 July 2013 08:51
There are already more than 3,000 conventionally-drilled natural gas wells in New York, spread around 22 counties upstate. Go visit some of these places if you’re curious to see what happens to old railroad towns and factory towns when those things go away.
When the suits come by waving a contract that will let them open a high-volume hydraulic fracturing well on your property, it can seem like the only way out. You just want to believe, need to believe, that the stories the loudmouths are spreading aren’t true. The loudmouths who show up everywhere and say, “Don’t do this to the rest of us.”
And the loudmouths tell stories about what has happened in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and other places. The stories are about rashes, headaches, joint pain and children with nosebleeds. They are about flammable faucet water and the smell of benzene.
Since 2008, “fracking” has been on hold in New York while, in a secretive and opaque process open only to insiders, the Cuomo Administration prepares regulations. Hundreds of thousands of acres are under lease and on hold, waiting for a decision that is already overdue and could come at any time.
We are being systematically trained to expect a bright, independent energy future is at hand, based around cleaner burning natural gas. It is the core concept of the Obama Administration’s energy policy. Nothing adds up.
Production from fracked wells declines precipitously after the first year or two. Montana production is down 38 percent since its peak in 2006, despite a significant increase in the number of wells.
The market price of natural gas in the U.S. is $3.68 per million British Thermal Units (MMBtu). The price ranges between $9 and $10 in Europe and between $13 to $18 in Asia. Gas is too cheap here; it’s going to places where it will not be so cheap. That’s why there are now 30 proposed liquified natural gas terminals around the U.S. and Canada.
The case for a natural gas future was predicated on premises that, one by one, have been weakened or kicked aside completely. Most importantly, we now know that “fugitive emissions” (leaked unburned methane) make shale gas at least as dirty as coal.
For hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, fracking is the fight of a lifetime, for a lifetime. Both political parties seem caught between their loyalty to the kind of powerful interests that make New York’s political world turn and an aroused public that is rapidly turning against fracking in New York.
Last week, the governor avoided protesters in Syracuse to attend a fund-raiser luncheon with ticket prices of up to $25,000. Some of the protesters were chanting, “Cuomo Must Go.”
In November 2011, a floor resolution opposing fracking was blocked for consideration by New York’s Democratic State Committee by its then-chairman, Jay Jacobs, still chairman of the Nassau County party committee. It had already been widely reported in upstate newspapers that Jacobs had signed fracking leases with Hess Corporation on some of his properties in Pennsylvania. There were very hard feelings. It came up again a few weeks ago when Pennsylvania Democrats passed a fracking moratorium resolution, embarrassing former Governor Ed Rendell, a prominent fracking promoter.
Phillipp Negron of Freeport surprised everyone last week by filing petitions to run as the Green Party candidate for county executive, potentially taking votes from whichever of the two Democrats in the field is nominated in the September primary. Democrats accused Negron of being a Republican plant. We’ll see. But in a brief statement about why he is running, the three most interesting words were “fracking” and “Jay Jacobs.”
Nassau County is on the front lines.