The city of Youngstown, Ohio, has lost 56 percent of its population since I was a kid. Forbes magazine named Youngstown one of “America’s 10 Fastest Dying Cities.” The city’s dynamic mayor, Jay Williams, is preaching a philosophy that rejects the kinds of sprawl development strategies we still see too often on Long Island. The emphasis is on “place-making tactics” that will establish Youngstown as a superior place to live, attract a talented workforce and give the city a competitive advantage. For example, they’re converting blighted blocks and brownfields into parks. The city will be smaller, but it will survive and sustain.
Many of us have experienced the horror show. Unfair, unreasonable, unilateral fees, interest rate increases, credit line reductions, payment schedule tricks, foreclosure traps. The biggest banks took our money, and in gratitude there has been an orgy of greedy, predatory behavior. And the bonuses.
Members of the Hempstead Town Board are only the latest in a long line of elected officials of both parties who have voted to give themselves a pay raise in the period between Election Day and the start of their new term. You knew what the pay was before you accepted the nomination. This practice should be prohibited in all New York government units. Don’t count on that, since the state Legislature has done this three times since the 1980s. It will have to be banned one municipality at a time.
We don’t apply a single income tax rate to all the residents of an entire ZIP code or school district, so why do we still do it that way with property taxes? One theoretical partial bandage for the broken property tax system would be to apply state school aid on a household-by-household basis, so that middle-income families are not penalized for living in “high wealth” districts.
1. For New Yorkers, this year’s federal stimulus mostly was a tax stabilization program, holding off state and local government budget meltdowns. This was a useful, if unromantic, purpose. Unfortunately, it is hard to turn around a national economy when no one really knows what our economy is supposed to look like. Create jobs? There are plenty of new jobs for which Americans can apply; many of them are in Guangdong Province where the salary explosion has jacked up average pay to over $6,000. The 1988 free trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada actually created a boomlet in Western New York, where salaries and other costs were a little lower than those in nearby Toronto. Free trade in the 1990s and 2000s has largely meant free access to cheap, exploited labor. Elsewhere. At this point, the jury is back and those who pushed for the kind of free trade we actually got should probably just take a deep bow and gracefully retire from public life forever…
You probably don’t know who Gary McKinnon is, but to millions of people in Great Britain, he has become a cause celebre that has united elements of the political right, left and center and threatens to seriously damage the image of the United States abroad. It is front-page news in every British newspaper, but has barely made a dent in the compliant American media. But when I tell you who he is, you may say, “Oh, yeah,” because what he did in 2001 and 2002 made a splash in our news and in the monologues of late night comedians.
Before we follow the advice of some politicians and pundits and launch a war on our public schools and the people who work in them, let’s pause to consider the reality on the ground.
1. State leaders are talking about across-the-board spending cuts to close growing budget deficits. The across-the-board approach may seem to be the quickest, fairest way at first glance, but in the long run it can cost the most, because all measures of effectiveness and usefulness are removed from the equation. Particularly when dealing with state agencies, Long Island not-for-profit organizations that receive funding to provide needed support services must file detailed outcome reports. Then along comes a budget crunch and across-the-board reductions hurt and even jeopardize programs that do great jobs along with any that don’t.…
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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