2010 marks the 30th anniversary of an event that eventually squeezed the American Middle Class and left a hundred million dreams scattered along the roadside. Long Island was at the center of it all, but I’m not aware of any planned public ceremonies or anniversary journals. After the Supreme Court ruled that banks could “export” interest rates charged on credit cards across state lines, the Citibank people told state officials that unless ceilings on credit card interest rates were significantly raised, they would move their credit card operations from the Route 110 corridor in Huntington to South Dakota.
On February 11, the Google company announced that it would pay for a trial of ultra-high speed broadband networks for between 50,000 and 500,000 Americans in one or more communities. The one gigabyte-per-second fiber optic networks would deliver data at about 100 to 300 times faster than most Americans get in their homes today. Applications were due on March 26, touching off a six-week frenzied, friendly, race-to-the-Big-W-style competition among big and small towns across the country.
In the end, I caved. I lasted until about 24 hours before the vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before deciding that it just had to pass. Whatever happens next, and insurance lobbyists have years to influence and game the final regulations, we had to get past this. I’m done with fear, rage, screaming bullies and cynical political gamesmanship. I am willing to ride the rapids of a flawed and inadequate health care strategy that may eventually make things worse, rather than empower those who would definitely make things worse.
Local governments have limited leverage when dealing with the cable company. Not long ago, the exclusive Westchester village of Pound Ridge was trying to attract a competitor to the local cable monopoly, but refused to grant $12,000 in property tax offsets. The competitor withdrew. A village whose residents include Tom Brokaw, Richard Gere, Michael Meyers, Susan Sarandon and other major celebrities was punished for its recalcitrance.
Numerous contracts between television networks and cable companies are expiring over the course of the next year, so expect more public disagreements and blackouts like the ones that thousands of readers briefly experienced last week.
It turns out that Governor Paterson’s biggest mistake was his controversial and unprecedented appointment of a replacement Lieutenant Governor last year. If he had not appointed Richard Ravitch, then State Senator Malcolm Smith would still be next in the line of succession and there would have been no calls for resignation. Kharma.
I have no desire to pile on Governor Paterson. I am disappointed that he hasn’t been able to regroup and recover, for the sake of our state. Mostly, my criticism here has been indirect, discussing several times our need to revise how we elect Lieutenant Governors.
During the last several recessions, our state and local governments in New York and around the country have played a little game, a little dance. A recession hits and states reduce financial aid to localities. The economic situation improves and the reductions are restored, and sometimes aid is even increased. Now it’s clear that the music has stopped and there are no chairs in at least 47 states.
1. Last week, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill that allows the state to move its funds to credit unions and small banks. The vote was 65 to zero.
In the current New York State budget, at least 559 organizations in Nassau County were granted “member items.” These are grants added to the budget by legislators in support of local programs and include Little Leagues, ethnic fraternities, church groups and special districts. Some call it “pork.”
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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org