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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller

Nassau Voters Deserve Real Choices

Friday, 22 February 2013 00:00
For a long time, I cut County Executive Ed Mangano a lot of slack, partly because he was the first countywide elected official we’ve had in a long time who didn’t quickly begin jockeying for another office. There was something refreshing about that.

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.    

 

It’s Drawing Board Time in Nassau County

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 13:04

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.

 

Take Steps to Prevent Surveillance Abuse

Friday, 08 February 2013 00:00
Several months ago, the North Hempstead town government opened an impressive, $26 million community center on Garden Street in the New Cassel section of Westbury. It houses programs for young people and seniors, but the building was constructed with an additional purpose. Already nicknamed “The Bunker” by insiders, the building also houses the town’s public safety and emergency offices. This includes a basement command center that will be fed images from as many as 1,000 high-resolution video surveillance cameras in town buildings, parks and other facilities.

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.

 

Still Time To Make Things Right

Friday, 01 February 2013 00:00

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.

 

What We Name Things Matters

Friday, 25 January 2013 00:00

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.

 

Coming To Local Skies?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013 10:56

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.

 

What Was An Annual Meeting?

Friday, 04 January 2013 00:00
“Give us back the old-fashioned town meeting where one can ventilate his views in a demonstrative way upon all matters of political interest,” lamented the Oyster Bay Pilot newspaper in April 1891, days after the town elections. “This ballot reform business has largely killed out the enthusiasm of these annual occasions where the fate of the town, of the state and of the nation is determined.”

The Pilot, now part of this newspaper chain as the Enterprise-Pilot, was expressing a popular viewpoint. The state’s new Town Law set down new requirements and procedures for voting at multiple polling places in the large the towns. It also laid the groundwork for the slow transformation of a board of officers that met once a year to audit financial records into more of a legislative body that could take independent action without taxpayer consent. Across 250 years, the annual meeting was the basis of Long Island self-government, and “a sort of annual fair for men and boys” according to the recollections of one Oyster Bay old-timer in 1931.

 

The Lost Library

Wednesday, 26 December 2012 09:27

We enter another round, after dozens of rounds over 50 years, of figuring out what to do with the last 97 acres of county land at Mitchel Field. We’re down to less than one-fifth of the original, priceless canvas, and mostly we’ve gotten hundreds of acres of Ugly. What a waste.

The Nassau Veterans Coliseum was not originally intended to sit out there in a sea of parking lots, like a giant white whale. It was designed to anchor one end of a 186-acre J.F.K. Center of Education and Culture that has been the only plan ever offered for Mitchel Field that actually got the public interested and excited. The coliseum, which was to be surrounded by lawns and gardens, was one of seven elements of the complex, which itself was one component in a potential unified landscape larger than Central Park or Eisenhower Park.

 

The Premise

Friday, 28 December 2012 00:00

1. It’s a simple premise. No one should have to see six-year-olds with the 2,000 Yard Stare.

2. Real Americans don’t want to see it ever again. If there is a silver lining to any of this, it’s that rank-and-file citizens, inured enough to mass killings that we can’t remember most of the previous twelve in 2012 without difficulty, are now saying, “No More. No.” We don’t know how and we don’t know what, but we have to change some things.

3. I’m writing this a week before you’ll read it, so you will know much more than I know. Developments are unfolding almost hourly, including some that were unrealistic only days ago. The NRA, whose power and influence is based not in cash but in lists, has taken down its Facebook page.

 

Property Tax Crisis Puts Long Island At Risk

Friday, 14 December 2012 00:00
Earlier this fall, County Executive Mangano suggested that the only way to keep Nassau’s unraveling real property tax assessment system in balance was for every owner to challenge their assessment every year. The Seventh Seal of local public administration has been broken.

Our state and local finance problems are just as much a part of the Superstorm Sandy story as pillorying LIPA officials and refilling beaches. So far, nearly all attention has been focused on Washington for damage relief funding. Already, there is pushback. Some House and Senate Republicans want offsetting spending cuts for the aid, which delayed disbursements for Irene damage last year. This will work itself out, one way or another. What’s really scary are the still-abstract long-range costs that will begin transforming into solid wall, soon.

 

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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