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 Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:00
The late New York City Mayor Ed Koch (1924-2013) once said that if all of the taxpayer money intended for the poor got to the poor, “the poor would be rich.”
That observation about the high cost of government-funded service- providers has resonance to this day and, thanks to Koch, a documentary directed by first-time filmmaker and former Merrick resident Neil Barsky, a new generation of New Yorkers will get to see Mayor Koch in his prime.
The 95-minute film began its theatrical release in New York City on Friday, Feb. 1, the same day Mayor Koch died at the age of 88. It opened on Long Island on Friday, Feb. 8 at Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre and, on Friday, Feb. 15, Koch will hit the big screen at Roslyn Cinemas and Malverne Cinema 4.
One thing that got lost in the tributes to the former Congressman, who first won election to the mayoralty in 1977, was that Koch was 65 years old when he left office in December 1989. David Dinkins ousted Koch in that year’s Democratic primary, and Dinkins went on to win the general election in 1989 against Rudy Giuliani.
Despite his electoral defeat after serving three terms at City Hall, Koch remained a highly visible figure on the public stage, with his endorsements still carrying weight long after he left public office. The most recent example I can think of is when Ed Koch avidly backed Robert Turner, the Republican nominee, in the special 2011 Queens/Brooklyn Congressional election held after Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned. Turner won for many reasons but Koch’s endorsement was one of them.
Koch is primarily about the New York City of the late 1970s and 1980s, an era when the city’s finances and its streets were in a constant state of turmoil. Th e 1977 mayoral election could be a film unto itself. New York Governor Hugh Carey wanted neither incumbent Mayor Abe Beame nor Bella Abzug, seen initially as Beame’s main rival, to hold City Hall’s top job.
This is why Carey recruited Mario Cuomo, then-New York State’s Secretary of State, to run for mayor. Th en-Rep. Koch was considered in early 1977 as a long shot to become Mayor Koch, but he prevailed in the Democratic primary, and then again in a two-candidate run-off against Cuomo, before emerging victorious in the general election. While all of this was going on in 1977, Son of Sam was in the midst of his murderous rampage before being arrested in August 1977, and a city-wide power outage that summer lasted for days, with criminals taking advantage of the situation by looting the city’s retail stores.
The Koch administration is widely credited with shoring up the city’s finances and making some headway in combating crime, even though a 2013 audience is sure to be shocked at the raucousness of the city’s governmental and political scene as it views the archival footage which is sprinkled throughout Barsky’s documentary.
For viewers wanting to read a darker view of the Koch years, I strongly recommend City For Sale, co-authored by the late Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett. It chronicles in great detail the municipal scandals that enveloped City Hall in Mayor Koch’s third term. The hero of City For Sale was then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who successfully prosecuted the higher profile thieves who had access to the city’s treasury in the 1980s. In a fi tting twist, Koch and Barrett, one-time combatants, would eventually agree they had little use for Mayor Giuliani.