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Michael Miller


By Michael Miller
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Nine Summer Conversation Starters

1. A reader wants to know if it is legal for Nassau County to borrow money through bonds to pay for the cost of employee retirement incentives. The very short answer: No. That’s why a special law must be passed by the state legislature authorizing the action. Villages, towns, school districts and other taxing districts borrow money all the time without state legislative action, but only for purposes already outlined in law. This is a special situation which a local government cannot take on its own authority. Whether or not long-term borrowing to meet personnel expenses is a good idea is another question.


2. The scare tactics are getting uglier and uglier from some village and special district officials, some of whom are throwing around the usual code words that some of us have heard our whole lives. City. Urbanized. People from Queens. Let’s take a reality check. There is no conspiracy afoot to “consolidate” villages, school districts, library districts or anything else right now. Actually, at this rate no district will ever be consolidated, dissolved, merged, folded, spindled or anything. You can’t replace something with nothing, and no elected official has come forward with an actual plan to consolidate anything. You can’t “consolidate” a water district without providing for someone to pump water. There has to be a plan that suggests who will provide what services in the most efficient and responsive way to what neighborhoods. As long as consolidation is a nebulous concept, officials of individual districts can play residents off each other, claiming that the problems are in other places. Seen it, been there, bored with it.

3. If you revert to the code words, you lose the argument. Most Nassau County residents no longer buy the concept that anything tainted with the word “city” means that your children will be going to school with the wrong people. The wrong people are already here, and good for us. Accept it, deal with it and enjoy the great ethnic cuisine.

4. For the umpteenth time, I don’t care if consolidation, streamlining, reform, re-engineering or whatever else you might call it saves a single red cent, and in most cases it probably wouldn’t save much. However, the way we make some critical decisions has to change if we are to survive as a region.

5. I love it when this happens. On June 8, political polling results released by The New York Times, Cornell University and NY1 News found that 40 percent of New York City residents surveyed thought that the city was “generally headed in the right direction” and 51 percent thought that “things had pretty seriously gotten off on the right track.” Eight days later, polling results released by Quinnipiac University found that 59 percent of city residents surveyed said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the way things in the city are going. The wording of the questions makes a big difference.

6. A Harvard Medical School study released last week found that in 2007, 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States were directly related to medical expenses.

7. If we didn’t provide elected officials with top health insurance, we’d have had a serious overhaul of our melting health care system a long time ago.

8. Worldwide spending on military weapons reached a record $1.46 trillion in 2008, an increase of 45 percent over the past ten years. The U.S. alone accounts for more than half of that total increase.

9. Power in Nassau County lies in the streets, waiting to be picked up. You can be elected to represent your neighborhood, or a nearby neighborhood, on the County Committees of either the Democratic or Republican parties in the September 15 primaries. Committee members will have official votes on designating candidates in the 2010 and 2011 political cycles. Qualifying petitions to run must be filed at the Nassau County Board of Elections or postmarked by Thursday, July 16 (it’s not hard to qualify and, in some cases, merely filing is tantamount to election). If you would like to run and don’t know how to get petition sheets, or if you are a sitting member of the committee and are being shut out and can’t get your hands on petition sheets, I can send you generic petitions that you can fill out and file with the Board of Elections.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.

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