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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Backwards

1. Some problems need to be addressed and fixed, not just wished away or bandaged up while we hope things break our way and improve. Nassau County is facing an unprecedented and relentless series of challenges not to frilly things hanging around the edges, but to some of the meat that has made this a place to which people moved their families in pride.

2. We’re not really going to fix these things unless we fix our politics.

3. Politics drives our choices, and the people who drive our politics aren’t giving us all the options we need right now. In some cases, we no longer have time to consider every option, which is how you turn a challenge into a crisis.

4. “Public ownership is the last clear opportunity that exists now if we are to have any bus system in Nassau County at all,” said Nassau County Executive Ralph Caso in 1972. Republican and Democratic county legislators voted to begin the process of buying out failing private bus companies, turning daily operation of the bus system over to the MTA in 1973. It now appears that we’re going back to a system that already failed our residents in both quality and cost, turning over the franchise to some undetermined private firm to operate. The same problems that plagued the bus system from the late 1950s forward will still be there. To this day, most routes in less-dense eastern Nassau don’t make money. Some of the bus companies only cared about quality of service and maintenance when their contracts were due to expire. The county had to subsidize the private companies more and more each year. Leaders of the business community were a driving force in moving toward a publicly-owned system.

5. Not everyone in Nassau County can drive. We don’t want them to drive if we want our roads to be passable. We will still have service cuts, marooning people with no alternative to the buses. How will we move people? What good jobs will this create? Backwards.

6. The county is again trying to lease or sell off the parkland it is morally pledged to hold in trust. The athletic fields at 96-acre Bay Park in East Rockaway (that’s the one with the public dog run) may be leased to Molloy College, possibly for thirty years. Until last week, the county had a passive park in Inwood on the real estate block.

7. There’s more. But enough. This is part of a nationwide withdrawal from each other.

8. If it doesn’t move, sell it. If it moves a little, lease it. Not legally authorized to sell it? Not a big problem anymore in New York.

9. Quiet as a mouse, without a press release or a peep or an explanation, as the 2010 session ticked down, the State Legislature passed a bill retroactively authoring Nassau County to transfer the nine parks it handed over to the Town of North Hempstead in 2007. The trust in which those parks were held for the people of New York and of Nassau County was broken. They got away with it. A sliver of county maintenance costs will be saved. The rule of law and civility in our public affairs are lost.

10. Symbolizing everything that is wrong in Nassau County is the decision of the Republican majority in the county legislature to move ahead with its incredible plan to gerrymander the district boundaries two years early, without the public commission required by the county charter, without time for reasonable analysis or input. There is exactly one planned opportunity for the public to respond to the proposal. The entire subject isn’t even mentioned on the county’s website as of this writing. Rule of law.

11. Rumor has it that the one hearing is planned for May 9 and the vote planned for May 16.    

12. County Executive Mangano, who is not being well-served by his party, should veto the gerrymander bill on principle.

13. Things will be rough enough over the next several years. We don’t have to go out of our way to make it any rougher or harsher or more contentious.

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