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Michael Miller


By Michael Miller

Random Political Thoughts

Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00

1. There are 41 days until Election Day as of the day this will be published. Serious local campaigns that move votes and change minds typically go into permanent overdrive at the 40 day mark. Mostly, we have silence, as if both parties are hoping that national trends will depress turnout on the other side. We are being failed again.

2. What happened in Nassau County on Tuesday, September 13 was a kind of voter suppression, even if it was inadvertent. It wasn’t until Friday, September 9 that a court ruled finally that there would be Republican Party primaries held in two business days. The Republicans instigated it with their obnoxious, failed plan to create new districts this fall, but the Democrats made it worse by pressing for an immediate Republican primary elections due to conflicting sets of qualifying petitions. The Dems got to send out their “victory” press releases, so I guess they win.


The Opposite of Reinvention

Friday, 23 September 2011 00:00

If Greece goes down and takes some European banks with it, will it affect County Executive Mangano’s plan to have a French transportation conglomerate take over the bus system? This question would have seemed ridiculous only a few years ago, when we had time to reform and adapt, when we had some breathing space. Maybe we still have some. I hope we do.

Mr. Mangano unveiled his latest crisis plan last week. He said, “Government needs to reinvent itself.” This is an incredible statement, because what he plans to do is exactly the polar opposite of reinventing government. Cutting, closing and selling off public assets in panic mode isn’t reinventing. He has squandered 20 months that could have been used to figure out what county residents actually need and expect for their tax dollars, what absolutely has to continue and what can be discarded, what works and what hasn’t worked, what it will all really cost and what is the fairest way to pay for it.


Report Card on Education

Friday, 16 September 2011 00:00

ALEC is the American Learning Exchange Council, an organization of thousands of state legislators around the country who are dedicated to “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.” ALEC creates model legislation for members, which in turn is introduced in legislatures across the country. Among its major funders are tobacco, insurance, pharmaceutical and private prison companies, whose representatives vote alongside legislators at closed ALEC conferences and vote on the wording of legislation. Both legislators and corporations have veto power over suggested bills.

The Wisconsin “Voter ID” bill, which requires all voters to present picture identification at the polling place, was an ALEC bill. More than a dozen state houses have passed identical resolutions asking the EPA to stop regulating carbon emissions, another of ALEC’s hundreds of projects.



Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00

There was a palpable shift in attitude toward LIPA on Wednesday, August 31. Frustration and outright hostility spilled over as the flow of useful information about outages and repairs slowed and sometimes stopped. A lot of good will has been lost by LIPA. Perhaps they can start to earn some of it back.

Is there a way that widespread outages can be significantly reduced, perhaps eventually to the point where they are a quaint memory of the past? What would that be worth to Long Islanders who lost business, merchandise, foodstuffs and patience this past week?



Friday, 02 September 2011 00:00

Perhaps your home sits on land that was seized by the county for delinquent property tax payments.

The Great Depression had hit at full force by 1931, and local governments were faced with a growing problem of “dead properties” on which owners were deep in arrears or had stopped paying property taxes altogether. Budgets were out of wack and it was the county’s responsibility to somehow either collect past taxes or to get the properties back on the tax rolls (“liquidate the liens” in tax talk). An investor could purchase the lien, charge the property owner a 15 percent premium for a year and then take over the title if full back taxes weren’t paid.    


Room 500-J

Friday, 26 August 2011 00:00

From 1964 to 1966, Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature fought a drawn-out legal battle over how New Yorkers should be represented in the state Legislature. The courts had thrown out most of the existing provisions in the State Constitution, which were designed to almost guarantee that Democrats would not control the state legislature by giving dozens of extra legislative districts to rural, Old Yankee Republican counties upstate. Over these two years, dozens of plans were presented, some of them radically different from what we have today. There were plans for multi-member districts and even no districts.

In December 1964, Republican staffers on an extreme deadline moved the desks and chairs out of Room 500-J of the State Capitol and laid out a giant street map of Nassau County. The map was 25-feet wide by 25-feet long and had population totals marked on each block. Slightly bigger than the room, the map actually curled up the walls.


Focus, Hope and XM1044

Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00

1. S&P’s decision to downgrade federal bonds is boomeranging badly and remains ignored by the markets.

2. How many of our local governments still plan to hire S&P to rate our bonds?

3. Until 1968, S&P published ratings of public bonds at no fee, as a public service. S&P claimed at the time that providing the service cost them too much, at least $100,000 a year (about $620,000 in 2010 dollars).


Bigger Than One Building

Friday, 12 August 2011 00:00

It is always 1961 in Nassau County. We only hear 1961 solutions from our decision makers.

The new shopping mall going up in the imaginary “Hub Area” announced its first major anchor, and it’s a store that will be relocating from the somewhat older mall 2,000 feet up the road. This will be hailed as “job creation” by officials in Mineola and Albany.


This Is Thunderdome

Friday, 05 August 2011 00:00

The joke isn’t funny anymore. No one is laughing. Resignation is setting in around the financial world. Trying to sleep, listening late into the night to the international financial news, the markets in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and around Asia are “jittery” about the “American crisis.” A BBC analyst insists that things will not be so bad because “we have been repeatedly assured that bondholders will be paid no matter what.” Another says that “this could be a Lehman Brothers moment for the global economy.” We’re in uncharted territory here. Perception is a large part of the international financial relationships that make and break countries, and right now the perception is that our federal government has been pushed off the rails by some elected officials who do not know how to play well with others.


Hit the Ceiling, Hit the Wall

Friday, 29 July 2011 00:00

Ghosts of the Future who are reading this column next week, you know so much more than I can know right now. [This column was written July 22.]    

The consensus feeling among analysts had been that there would be an agreement made in Washington on the debt ceiling. That has started to change as this is being written, with numerous reports of intrigue and internecine maneuvering in party caucuses and the growing realization that there are about 60 representatives who are ready to steer us towards the sun, crank up the music and watch the pretty colors. The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are now in active preparation for the possibility of the U.S. government running out of the money it needs to fulfill its authorized and legal obligations. They are now trying to assure worldwide markets that no matter what is cut or closed, payments will be made to bond investors.


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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: