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.
Friday, 07 December 2012 00:00
The commencement speaker in one of Woody Allen’s films said that, “mankind is at a crossroads. One path leads to utter despair and hopelessness. The other, to total extinction.”
Too many child television stars have encountered these crossroads after the shows they’ve appeared in were canceled. But Melissa Francis, host of Money with Melissa Francis, a one-hour program broadcast live each weekday at 5 p.m. on the Fox Business Network (FBN), is a notable exception. Francis has arguably found more success as a journalist than she did as a school-age actress in Hollywood, a chapter of her life which peaked when she was cast as Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. The show was a staple of NBC’s prime time line-up until the early 1980s.
Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter (Weinstein Books), Francis’ just-released memoir, offers interesting anecdotes about her experiences in television news and show business, although at the vividly detailed book’s center is Francis’ contentious relationship with her mother, from whom Francis is now estranged. In Francis’ telling, her mother pushed Melissa and her older sister, Tiffany, into the acting business early in life, with both of them appearing in numerous TV commercials while growing up in Porter Ranch, California, near Los Angeles.
Mom Francis is portrayed as a cross between Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest and the author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. How Mom Francis got this way, and whether an undiagnosed mental illness was to blame, are issues which go largely unexplored. True to her reporting roots, Francis lays out the facts as she saw them. An analysis of Mom Francis’ personality is perhaps best left to a psychiatrist anyway. Dad Francis is described as a passive and quiet observer of his wife’s frequent acts of madness but no possible explanation of his behavior is offered here either.
Through it all, Melissa Francis excelled academically and ran on her high school’s track team before moving cross-country to attend Harvard University, an institution from which she graduated with a passion for the television news business.
“I interned at the Fox station in LA after my freshman year and news was immediately addicting,” Francis writes. “It was such a rush to see everyone race to airtime. And there’s no safety net. It’s totally unlike entertainment. There’s barely a script, there’s no rehearsal, no support. You’re responsible for coming up with everything you say. Live or die, it’s all on you. It’s exhilarating. I love it. But it’s stressful, too.”
Francis understandably, and tellingly, liked to keep an entire continent between herself and her immediate family after leaving Harvard, taking a television producer’s job in Maine, and then an on-air reporter’s role in New Hampshire, before rising through the ranks to high-profile positions at national cable networks such as CNBC and FBN.
The author will celebrate her 40th birthday this month and has formed her own family, where she is making sure her mother’s parenting skills are not passed on to the next generation. Francis is married to a former Harvard classmate, and the couple lives in New York City with their two young sons. They have yet to meet their maternal grandmother.