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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Chefs of the Future

1. One year ago, I wrote about the wild, spontaneous race among municipalities across the country to be considered by the Google company as the test community for its experimental high-speed broadband network (“Request for Information” in issues of April 7, 2010). Some of the attempts by local governments and their enthusiastic residents to gain attention and sell themselves to Google and to the country were imaginative, spontaneous and a lot of fun. There were theme songs and mascots. Some communities pooled their resources and formed strategic alliances, and some used the competition as a springboard to greatly expand and improve their Internet presence and online services. Kansas City, Kansas was selected and the network is expected to be available to residents early next year.

2. Thirteen New York counties and at least 20 other New York municipalities or coalitions of municipalities submitted applications to Google. Nassau County appears to be the only large county in America without a single application among its county, town, city or village governments. The only applications from Long Island were somewhat cursory ones submitted by Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven. The Seneca Nation of New York put in an application, but none of our 70 county, town, city or village governments took a shot, even just to say to residents and businesses that we’re in this for the long haul, into the future.

3. The response to the contest was so good, so enthusiastic, that Google may add more of the 1,077 entering municipalities to the project. Well, the pressures off Long Island, so we can relax.

4. Many Nassau County municipalities are not big enough to compete on their own for the Google prize. Neither are the towns and villages around Lake Placid, way upstate, which formed a Tri-Lake Coalition to enter.

5. And so we have a pretty good example, a little slice of life, a little sliver of reality, of how we have tied our own hands. Our checkerboard of little villages (and un-villages) may work for you on the neighborhood level, but we all lose, over and over, on the big things that affect hundreds of thousands of people. We’re not exactly ready to pivot on our heels to react to new realities.

6. In my town, the new signs in some of the parks now give the name of the local Town Board representative. I’m not sure how we trudged along all those generations without that innovation.

7. Our pool of local leaders are as talented or intelligent as any random group of Long Islanders. Some accidentally missed that competition on purpose. They don’t need the hassle. An actual recent Bloomberg News headline: “Cable Operators Fight Google, Apple Threat in Europe’s TV Market.” Much of our daily news and public conversation is being driven by agendas that go beyond the borders of our municipalities and districts. Large corporations really are not people, and they do not have the priorities of people. Americans used to be taught civics, taught to question what was underneath.

8. School elections on Tuesday, May 17.

9. I doubt that the uninspiring county technology operation was able to set up, within days of its release, the complex, raw, block-level Census data used to create the proposed county legislative district maps. The gerrymander plan to make most lawmakers voter-proof and politically unaccountable will likely be passed next week. If the data and the proposed maps were generated in or by Republican headquarters, then some people have learned nothing about what has happened in this county over the past two decades.

10. No, I’m not letting go of it.

11. The entire public rationale for redrawing those districts two years earlier than expected is that small shifts found by the recent Census have made districts slightly unequal in population and this must be immediately corrected. This has never been the standard. It is a canard, unbacked by any accepted legal or statistical requirements. We all need to know this going in.

12. Some people in authority seem to think it’s a long, long time ago.

13. It isn’t. It just seems that way in Nassau County government.

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