To finalize Nassau County’s 2013 real property tax roll, assessment grievances were filed by owners of 30.1 percent of the county’s 369,827 residential properties, more than triple what used to be the typical grievance rate not many years ago. In some neighborhoods, significantly more than half of property owners have been filing grievances in the last few years, many urged on by elected officials and aggressive consulting firms. So that successful grievances don’t add to the county’s crippling refund backlog, last year county officials settled more than three-quarters of all grievances. This unprecedented tax roll churn isn’t a good thing. It speeds the decoupling of values assessed on a property and the actual tax bill.
County Executive Ed Mangano, unable to contain himself, ordered a freeze in assessment raises. I guess that’s supposed to show that he hates tax increases, or something. Unfortunately, there are currently three distinct real estate markets in Nassau County (holding up, not holding up and disaster aftermath) and property values are not moving at the same rates. Gimmicks make imbalances worse and lower the accountability that’s crucial to public confidence in the tax system. We may as well set assessments by lottery or by spinning a wheel, because we’re dropping all pretense that the property tax rolls reflect objective reality, and not merely the act of filing paperwork.
Copyrights and patents are authorized in the U.S. Constitution to encourage creation and invention by ensuring a reasonable period to make a profit. They were not intended to grant a perpetual monopoly on good ideas, whether it’s an important pharmaceutical or software or a better mousetrap.
Out of the darkness and despair that is Washington, D.C., a faith-restoring proposal has been made that shows we may still have the ability, brains and vision to build a real future. It seemed to come out of nowhere. It stunned the large corporations that increasingly narrow the window of ideas to which Americans are exposed, which explains why this is the first many readers have heard about it.
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed the creation of a national “super Wi-Fi” network that can give Americans universal access to one-gigabit-per-second download speeds, 100 times faster than most of us get now. Kaboom.
This is transformative, problem-solving technology.
For many years, the Post Office Department had an 11-pound weight limit, and by law was required to charge uncompetitive rates for small domestic packages. A century ago, it actually cost Long Islanders using the U.S. Post Office less to mail a 10-pound package to China than to New Jersey. For anything above 11 pounds, you had to use one of the private “express” companies. There was little profit in rural service, so if you lived too far out, you paid a whole lot, and probably had to wait a long time. The Wells Fargo wagon brought the band instruments to 1912 River City because that was the only choice.
Mangano was largely left to wither by the Republicans until the last 20 days of the 2009 campaign. He was opposed by the Conservative Party. Only when State Senate district polling tipped off party leaders that there was a chance to embarrass the ambitious incumbent, Tom Suozzi, by holding him to a smaller-than-expected victory, did the G.O.P. invest modest financial support in the Mangano campaign. Mangano should have recognized that he was elected with little political debt, with freedom to act independently, to step outside the circle and mine the wealth of managerial talent that resides in this county, to make hard choices and appeals to reason.
In the early 1930s, some of our local incorporated villages moved their elections to June, away from the traditional early April day of voting. Why? Because many of the brand-new villages were made up entirely of owners of large estates, who wintered in exclusive enclaves in the South. Some of these villages were run very much like a country club (a few went decades without a publicly contested election), and the members were accommodated.
Nassau County ended up with 69 town, city and village governments not through careful consideration or innovation or planning. We’re still saddled today with some of the worst parts of what 75 years ago was considered a temporary hodgepodge, thrown together in some cases by fear, bigotry, blood feuds, sheer political muscle and, in the once-infamous incorporation of three Cow Neck villages in 1910, apparent outright fraud.
Because this Bunker will act as a working showcase to sell the system to other local governments, the town is getting key elements at half price (last May, the Town Board authorized $456,000 for video cameras and software). Instant facial recognition software is also being utilized to prevent unauthorized entry into certain areas of buildings.
There is still time to do this better. The Nassau County legislature has a statutory March 5 deadline to adopt a districting plan that doesn’t inject more poison into a system that is already dripping with hostile gamesmanship.
Nassau County is still on one knee from a natural catastrophe. Can’t we agree to skip another political catastrophe right now?
How legislative districts are drawn can matter. The situation in Washington is a direct consequence of heavy gerrymandering of districts, encouraging irresponsible behavior by November-proof Representatives who only fear party primary elections. Over the next few months, it may put our national government back on the brink. The continual gear-grinding in our county government is directly traceable to deals regarding a court-ordered restructuring of the legislature cut by some members of the old Board of Supervisors in 1993. We’re stuck with a system that was designed to maintain a status quo that’s no longer valid.
After an ongoing controversy about the future of recreational and catering facilities in the “Roslyn Country Club” section of Roslyn Heights, the North Hempstead Town Board has created a special district to run a tentatively named “Levitt Park at Roslyn Heights.”
Levitt & Sons, homebuilders, was a family-run business. But from the late 1930s on, the front person in every way was William J. Levitt, one of the sons. Bill Levitt was a complicated figure, a man of multiple dimensions and motivations. This was a man who, prior to the Second World War, sold homes in Manhasset with restrictive covenants banning sales to Jews, even though he himself was a Jew who lived in Manhasset. This man had layers.
Does the Nassau County Police Department intend to buy robot drones for surveillance? How about your village police department?
The Federal Aviation Administration was compelled last year to release documents about drone authorizations. Legislators in several cities and counties were stunned to find out that their police departments were already using robot drones for surveillance or investigation.
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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