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, MFBarry@optonline.net Friday, 22 November 2013 11:12
The Newsday/News 12/Siena College Poll had County Executive Edward Mangano leading by anywhere from 11 to 17 percentage points in the weeks leading up to Election Day 2013.
The Siena College Poll’s analyses were covered accurately by the reporters at Cablevision-owned Newsday and News 12 Long Island prior to Tuesday, Nov. 5. So, when the county executive was re-elected by 18 points (59-41 percent), a decisive result should not have caught many people off-guard, right? Well, it did if you were a Newsday editorial board member, or a News 12 commentator, one of whom said on-air on Election Night that they were not surprised at the county executive race’s outcome, but stunned at Mangano’s margin of victory. Newsday and News 12 commission the Siena College Poll. Is it too much to ask that the pundits who offer political opinions for Newsday and News 12 either read or occasionally acknowledge Siena College Polls? That’s a rhetorical question.
Siena’s consistent findings were the skunk at the picnic as Newsday’s editorial board spent months trying to convince its readers 2002-2009 was a municipal Golden Age in Nassau. As they did in 2001, 2005 and again 2009, before many of their preferred candidates lost bids for re-election, Newsday’s editorial page predictably sang this year the praises of former County Executive Tom Suozzi and former Comptroller Howard Weitzman while assailing almost everyone affiliated with the GOP at the county level. Newsday endorsed candidates in only five of the 19 county legislative races, a few of which were uncontested, with county Legislator Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), the Legislature’s presiding officer, the lone Republican to win the newspaper’s stamp of approval.
It was up to the Republicans, without the in-kind contributions of major media outlets, to remind Nassau’s voters that, between 2002-2009, the county portion of their property tax bill grew by 20-plus percent, a new county home-heating-fuel tax was imposed, and the county entered into an eight-year contract with its unionized employees which would have given these county employees a 25-percent raise within that time-frame. Ah, the good old days; may they never return, Nassau’s voters loudly said in 2013, just as the Siena College Poll predicted.
The Mangano administration and the Republican-controlled county Legislature (the GOP picked up an additional seat this month, securing an 11-8 majority) have their work cut out for them in 2014.
The South Shore is still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, and the county must repair the Sandy-damaged Bay Park sewage treatment plant in East Rockaway. In addition, the county’s property assessment system needs to be improved, and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA)-imposed county employee pay freeze cannot last forever. There’s little doubt County Executive Mangano, as well as newly re-elected County Comptroller George Maragos, benefited politically and governmentally from NIFA’s decision to set aside contractually mandated pay hikes for county employees.
The future of Bay Park, where the sewage treatment for more than half a million Nassau residents takes place, has been a contentious issue at the county Legislature, with Republican county legislators seeking to borrow more than $700 million to finance the facility’s repairs. GOP lawmakers have correctly pointed out that the federal government’s Sandy relief package will reimburse Nassau for about 90 percent of these expenses. The Democrats have, to date, agreed to allow for Bay Park-related borrowings in the $200 million-plus range.
Meanwhile, 2014 is also when the county’s entire property tax roll will be reassessed, initiating the annual debate over who pays what. I hope someone during that discussion acknowledges it is the county’s share of the state sales tax — and not the county property tax — which funds much of the county’s operating budget, and that’s one of the reasons the county goes through periodic boom and bust cycles. Nassau County government’s revenue stream is driven largely by whether people are purchasing goods and services within Nassau’s boundaries.
Siena College Polls can envision electoral outcomes with great accuracy. But few can judge with any precision the cumulative future spending habits of Nassau’s consumers.