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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller

Random Thoughts About Taxes

Friday, 04 March 2011 00:00

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.

 

Greyfields, Ghostboxes and Gasoline

Friday, 25 February 2011 00:00

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.

 

Should We Destroy SUNY in Order to Save It?

Friday, 18 February 2011 00:00

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.

 

The Carrington Event

Friday, 11 February 2011 00:00

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.

 

The Lake Success Horror II: A Big Pond

Friday, 04 February 2011 00:00

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.”

 

Why One Little Patch of Land Matters

Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00

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.

 

Final Thoughts (For Now) on the Coming Austerity

Friday, 21 January 2011 00:00

1. By the time you read this, a state financial oversight board may be taking control of Nassau County’s finances, limiting the ability of locally-elected officials to make decisions regarding budgets, revenues, debts and contracts.

 

Dominoes

Friday, 14 January 2011 00:00

Six years ago, I wrote at length about massive federal government deficits and the eventual possibility of slashed spending “cutting off not only the most vulnerable individuals but also every state and local government program that relies on Washington dollars.” Federal government debt at that time was just closing in on $7.4 trillion. This week it hit $14 trillion. The federal budget deficit six years ago was a mere $430 billion ($560 billion if Social Security funds were excluded). Child’s play.

 

Less

Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00

Four days after the big storm and highways with two lanes still have only one open, and shops along major thoroughfares are losing revenue because no one can come close to parking near a curb. Yesterday, I passed a small street that looked like no plow ever came through.

I grew up in an unincorporated neighborhood. Back in the day, not long after a big snow, town crews using dump trucks and backhoes would clear roads to the curb, dumping large piles of snow in parks and other strategic locations. All winter, kids sledded down the snow hills, sometimes maybe 15 feet high. But the streets, corners and intersections were cleared. Around much of Long Island, this is a lost municipal art. We’re losing institutional memory of how to attack a major snow fall. But there’s more to it. Over the last twenty years, my town has reduced its highway crew by about half, without significant improvements in technology or in deployment theory. It’s just less.

 

Trojan Horses and Black Swans

Friday, 31 December 2010 00:00

There was a Trojan Horse in the big Washington tax cut compromise last week. As part of the deal, the Build America Bonds program will be allowed to expire in a few days.

The Build America Bonds were created as part of the 2009 federal stimulus. The federal government pays 35 percent of the interest costs on these taxable bonds in order to drive down borrowing costs for local governments and funnel money into infrastructure projects that create or maintain jobs. The program has been wildly popular with investors and underwriters. $185 billion worth of bonds have been sold, restarting the slumping market for municipal credit, which puts dollars into the pockets of every state and local government taxpayer. The popularity has only been growing. In November, states and municipalities issued $15.8 billion in Build America Bonds, the highest one-month total since the program began.

The bonds are helping to build and rebuild bridges, highways, dormitories and more.

 

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