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 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 12:10
Election campaigns conclude but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) search for additional revenues never ends.
I truly believe Spinal Tap’s Gimme Some Money should be played at the start of the MTA’s Wednesday, Nov. 7, 5 p.m. public hearing at Farmingdale State College, Roosevelt Hall-Little Theatre, 2350 Broadhollow Road, in Farmingdale. The MTA is billing the gathering as an opportunity to discuss 2013’s Fare, Toll & Service Changes. Spoiler alert: the MTA’s fares are going up; it is just a question of how much.
But I must give MTA chairman Joseph Lhota his due. He found well-placed people to justify the upcoming Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), New York City subway, bridge and tunnel fare hikes. They are slated to take effect in early 2013 unless the public objects vociferously to the MTA’s plans. I’m kidding, of course. This thing is a done deal.
The New York Post’s lead editorial on Wednesday, Oct. 24, (‘Paying for TWU Pensions’) stated that “when the protestors line up at the MTA’s upcoming public hearings on fare hikes, they might spend a little less energy yelling at [Joseph] Lhota, and a little more pondering how much they’ll be contributing to [Transport Workers Union] Local 100’s lush benefit plans.” The TWU represents thousands of New York City transit workers and I’ve complained previously about their illegal 2005 strike and the outrageous 11 percent wage increase their members received over a three-year period as the economy collapsed. But this state allows for binding arbitration, and the TWU encountered a friendly arbitrator the last time their contract expired, so they won while transit riders and taxpayers lost.
Rather than demonize public employee unions who take advantage of a flawed system to shake down the populace, The New York Post should ask its best investigative reporters to explore the following passage from the Citizens Budget Commission’s (CBC) just-released A Better Way to Pay for the MTA.
“This project [the Fulton Street Transit Center in lower Manhattan] is a new terminal for multiple subway lines at the existing Fulton Street subway station. The initial plan was for completion in July 2009 at a cost of $750 million; the latest estimates are for completion in June 2014 at a cost of $1.4 billion,” the CBC report states.
To its credit, the CBC in that same study calls for the placement of more tolls on vehicular crossings into Manhattan to fund mass transit and discourage urban driving. But Carol Kellermann, the CBC’s president, ruined everything by downplaying that proposal, and instead highlighting what might as well be the MTA’s current talking points in a Monday, Oct. 22 letter to The New York Times. Ms. Kellermann’s first observation was that “transit riders pay less than half of the cost of their rides,” ignoring the fact that these same riders pay for the rest of their trip via various MTA taxes. She then had the audacity to write “the MTA policy of regular and predictable fare increases is preferable to the historic pattern of large irregular increases in tough times.”
Well, Kellermann does have a point. Governmental agencies overseeing projects which are five years late, and $650 million over-budget, need regular and predictable fare increases.