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 Mike Barry Friday, 28 September 2012 00:00
J.R. Moehringer’s stock as an author has risen so high that his publisher is sending him this week on a national book tour which concludes in November. It will include a stop on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m., at the North Hempstead Country Club in Port Washington, where he’ll be the featured speaker at a $50 per person ticketed fundraiser for Friends of the Manhasset Public Library.
Moehringer, who won a Pulitzer Prize while at the Los Angeles Times, spent part of his youth in Manhasset. He is promoting these days the just-published Sutton (Hyperion), his first novel. The book is based in part on the life of Willie Sutton (1901-1980), an infamous New York City bank robber.
There’s little doubt Moehringer has found a compelling literary niche—getting inside, and trying to explain, the mind of a complicated protagonist. In 2005’s The Tender Bar, that role was played by Moehringer himself. His memoir about coming of age with few male role models besides the regular patrons of Publicans, a Plandome Road, Manhasset tavern which sat where Edison’s is today, quickly and understandably climbed The New York Times bestseller list. Indeed, it was so widely praised that retired tennis star Andre Agassi reportedly read The Tender Bar and recruited Moehringer to help Agassi write Open, Agassi’s 2010 autobiography. Open also drew critical raves and generated impressive book sales.
The promotional materials for Sutton posed this question: Are Bank Robbers Worse than Bankers? If Sutton accurately depicts what most bank robbers are like, I’m going to say bank robbers have fewer good stories to tell, and are less interesting, than bankers.
Moehringer’s jumping-off-point to tell Sutton’s story, in the form of historical fiction, is Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s real-life commutation of Sutton’s jail sentence on Christmas Day 1969. Before the governor made the decision to release him, legendary newspaper columnist Pete Hamill wrote that, “If Willie Sutton had been a GE board member, or a former water commissioner, instead of the son of an Irish blacksmith, he would be on the street right now.” That was true, and Sutton at the time had spent the previous 17 years in prison and was said to be in failing health, so Hamill added: “Willie Sutton should be able to sit and watch the ducks in Prospect Park one more time, or go to Nathan’s for a hot dog, or call up some old girl for a drink.”
Having read Hamill’s observations early in Sutton, I eagerly awaited the appearance of a softer, kinder bank robber. Well, Moehringer clearly did a deep dive into all things Willie Sutton, combing through his writings, as well as FBI and newspaper accounts of his exploits. But it is difficult to discern why he was so interested in reimagining this guy’s life. The available record indicates Sutton befriended other criminals, robbed banks, and spent years in jail. The unarmed CEO of Washington Mutual, whose bank wiped out its shareholders, might provide better source material for a novelist.