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, email@example.com Friday, 22 November 2013 11:10
1. Wow. Low turnout. Who could have seen it coming?
2. Don’t underestimate voters. They are so, so much smarter than they used to be. Generations have grown up being disappointed when the toy in the cereal box didn’t look like it did on television. They see right through all the plastic postcards with the witty catch lines. If you don’t get your head around this, you don’t get your head around why Governor Christie may be the next President.
3. Good for County Executive Ed Mangano’s campaign. On November 1, they mailed a personalized-looking letter to Republicans, in a stamped envelope, hand-signed “Ed” (by someone). At least it was a try. Marketers are desperate to make everything seem personal, closer, sincere. Most Long Island campaigns, utterly misinterpreting an entire era, seem to crave making their candidates seem distant, manufactured, insincere.
4. Even social media is being used by local political campaigns and organizations mostly as one-way bulletin boards. Part of it is the inconceivability of releasing “control” to outside civilians, which is exactly what businesses successfully navigating “new media” have learned to do. Part of it is campaigns driven by “metrics” (statistics) and not about building relationships and connecting in a more meaningful way.
5. Back in June, a media placement company posted two available positions on a popular job site, an entry-level staffer and an intern, who wanted to learn about media buying by working on a Democratic campaign in Nassau County. No experience necessary. Think that campaign was the firm’s highest priority? Was the campaign provided with the latest creative, cutting-edge strategy?
6. So many political candidates and government officials are satisfied at seeing their pictures on the ‘puter thing. No clue that what they’re doing is dull, difficult and ineffective.
7. Nassau County’s online property database and its online assessment appeals system are important tools for thousands appealing their tax assessments. They are buggy and confusing to use. Neither tool has been updated or refined in any significant way since they were launched during the Bush Administration.
8. It’s been a while now since
either major party in Nassau County took a stand for higher standards.
9. On September 26, Democrats in the county legislature complained that Republicans had cut off their taxpayer-funded mailings. They made the same public argument that they made regarding the vulgar, highly partisan legislative redistricting. Instead of presenting a serious proposal for reform or a positive change in culture, here is what they said to the people of this county, over and over: “We didn’t get ours.”
10. On October 30, five days before Election Day, taxpayers received another mailing from their county government. This one featured the name of the county executive six times, with his photograph, in color, on each side. The mailing was ostensibly about a job fair at the Coliseum. The job fair was scheduled for the day before Election Day. For bonus points, the card twice says “Follow Ed Mangano on Facebook,” and the Ed Mangano page on that private site features lots of photos of banners that suggest we vote for him on Row B.
11. If this was Washington or Albany, he couldn’t do this. It isn’t allowed. In Nassau County, no standard is too low. No action is too partisan. There are no checks. We are Ethical Dodge City.
12. From consistent, reasonable standards comes trust, both between individual decision makers and between the public and their government.
13. It isn’t just some pleasant idea that you might see on a greeting card. It’s also good politics. More than that, it’s the only hope we have of fixing what is broken and maintaining the daily quality of life we’ve come to expect.