1. Last week, Michigan adopted a new law giving the Governor the power to appoint private companies and consultants as emergency managers of local governments and school districts that are running chronic deficits. These managers now have the power to take complete control of government functions, to cancel labor agreements and to remove elected officials and dissolve local legislative bodies. These powers are utterly unprecedented for a chief executive in North America. Neither our colonial governors, nor the Governor General of Canada, nor President Lincoln during the Civil War had the ability to negate election results and essentially privatize a town or city.
In some ways, I go further than Governor Cuomo regarding potential school superintendent savings. Some districts can share administrators, and not all districts require national searches for prestige appointees. We can have a reasonable discussion about limiting the pensionable portion of higher public salaries. But lines have been crossed in this latest near– hysterical, over-the-top campaign against the honesty and integrity of public school administrators. When we are commanded by powerful political and media forces to feel angry like this, it’s a red flag that we’re not getting the whole story.
The riveting video of the natural catastrophe in Japan captured attention while a simultaneous human-made catastrophe with grave implications for this island played out on the other side of Asia. In Qatif, on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, security forces opened fire to disperse protesters. Many of the protesters are part of a repressed Shiite minority, who also live over much of Saudi Arabia’s remaining petroleum reserves.
If you buy ten dollars worth of school supplies for your kid, you’re going to pay between 70 cents and 88.75 cents in sales tax, depending on which New York county you shop in. Investors and speculators purchase trillions of dollars in stocks each year in this state, and pay no tax.
New York State has had a stock transfer tax on its books since before the First World War. Currently, the state charges between 1.25 cents and five cents on every share of stock sold or transferred, depending on the stock’s value, up to $350 per sale. Individuals pay the tax in the form of tax stamps that are purchased and attached to the stock (large brokerages and companies can pay the tax without dealing with the stamps). For exactly three decades, those who pay the stock transfer tax have been entitled to a 100 percent rebate. Just fill out the one-page form.
Last week, Governor Cuomo appointed Kenneth Adams, head of the state’s Business Council, to be his economic development chief. Mr. Adams said, over and over, that his priorities are to lower taxes and relax regulations on New York businesses. This will create jobs, say Mr. Adams and Governor Cuomo.
Last week, I was trapped on Route 347 in Suffolk County at rush hour. I don’t recommend it. It took the better part of an hour to travel 13.4 miles, passing endless parking lots punctuated by malls, large shopping centers and chain restaurants, differentiated by slightly changing combinations of anchor stores. Some didn’t have a GameStop. NY 347 was strip zoned for commercial properties to spur rapid development. Today, these malls and shopping centers are caught in a cycle of dying and reconstruction, in search of that elusive, survivable combination of box stores and take-out places.
It may be time to begin breaking up the State University of New York system. The university centers at Stonybrook, Binghamton, Buffalo and Albany and the colleges at Geneseo, New Paltz, Purchase and maybe others could probably do well on their own after an orderly transition period. Tuition and fee increases will close access for thousands, but the state can invest its resources in 57 campuses instead of 64. These are the kind of ugly choices we’re being left with by our leaders, and we may as well make them while there are still any options open.
Last week, both my cell phone and my computer bit the dust within 24 hours of each other. It’s all worked out, no permanent harm done, but it’s been an unexpected hassle replacing equipment and rebuilding a three or four day communications gap in my life. It was like my own personal little Carrington Event.
This actual event was named for Richard Carrington, one of Britain’s leading astronomers, who in 1859 gave us the most detailed descriptions and illustrations of a solar superstorm, the most powerful geomagnetic storm ever recorded.
Most readers know Lake Success as one of Long Island’s exclusive villages. Others know the area mostly as the home of a massive health care complex, with fields of hospital and medical buildings large enough that they now have their own zip code. But some people may not be fully aware that there is an actual lake.
It can be briefly glanced through the trees, as one drives south down from the LIE to the parkway along Lakeville Road, down a hill big enough that it once had a name (Success Hill, of course). If you slow down (very carefully, please), you can at times see the sun gleaming off this big basin of water, behind the wrought iron fencing and the signs posted every few feet that say “No Trespassing” and “Swimming and Fishing Prohibited.”
Assembly Bill 1275 would approve the transfer of a little piece of Fuschillo Park in Carle Place from the Town of North Hempstead to the local water district. The district wants to use part of the parking lot for a water facility, “alienating” the public from a piece of their park. An old, established body of case law and precedent requires the approval of the State Legislature. Some lawmakers take these bills very seriously. Usually, the state insists that lost parkland be replaced in some way. Meanwhile, the same Town and its Housing Authority want to drop a 48-unit housing development over every inch of Alvan Petrus Park in Port Washington, but they don’t believe that this requires any special approval or consideration.
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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: email@example.com