Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00
As he was about to assume his new position as senator for New York State’s 7th Senatorial District, Jack Martins took the time to address the Great Neck Village Officials Association. Then senator-elect Jack Martins is senator as of press time for the Great Neck Record. Having served eight years as mayor of the Village of Mineola, Senator Martins focused on very local issues, issues which were generally aligned with the GNVOA and Great Neck’s local public officials.
Senator Martins began by stating that he will have a “quick transition,” and that he wanted to meet his constituents and his fellow officials. “Let’s get to know each other and become familiar with issues in your community,” he said, adding that he “won’t be able to have the kind of transition” that he would like; he had just recently been officially declared the winner.
The senator went on to say that he will be dealing with many of the same issues that face the local mayors — issues such as “the pressures of consolidation.” Senator Martins, who had also served on the Nassau County Village Officials Association executive board and the New York Conference of Mayors, emphasized that he “understands the impact (of consolidation) to the community.” He also said that he fully understands the impact of the tax cap, especially without relief from mandates, health insurance, pensions, and such.
“I have seen government operate at ground level,” Senator Martins told the GNVOA, “and we need to protect our special districts and local services.” He said that “Albany loses sight … they see things from 20,000 feet above.” And the senator said he is anxious to hear from the local communities and he wants to work with local officials so “we can work collaboratively, with your support.”
The issue of school districts, and preserving their autonomy, rose early on during the question-and-answer period. Senator Martins spoke of being “blessed to have the finest school districts” in his district. He said that he believes that each school district (each school board and each community) should have the ability to make its own decisions.
The senator “advocates getting state government out of the way.” He said that mandates “add an additional layer of expense … and it doesn’t belong there.” He said that each school district should decide on mandates; each school district should be able to consider the needs of its own local community and “not be a cookie cutter education.” Senator Martins advocates “getting the state and the bureaucrats out of the way.”
And the senator said that he truly believes in “getting the government away from the school districts and the villages.” He emphasized that the villages are “better able to provide services without the state government.” Senator Martins said that all nine Long Island state senators are “all actively working for that relief.” And he noted that “the bigger the government, the less efficient.”
Senator Martins said that, at the local level, “here we do the right thing.” And he noted that the community also has “a tremendous advocate” in New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel. He said that he “looks forward” to working with Assemblywoman Schimel and that she, too, is against dissolution/and/or consolidation of local municipalities.
The senator said that Assemblywoman Schimel is sponsoring a bill in the Assembly to amend the new law advocating consolidation and dissolution for local municipalities. Senator Martins spoke against the new law and urged amendments: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” He also said that he expects the bill to pass in the Senate and he “credits Michelle Schimel for not backing down.”
The senator also noted some village attempts at dissolution, a very costly, usually failed effort for a village. He told how several attempts have failed and in one case, the town did not want the village. He said that the public needs to be educated as to what happens in such cases. “They don’t realize what they had until they lost it,” he said.
Along those lines of too much state government control, the senator said that he would like “to get the government to give us a break,” to reform the pension system, to stop passing on costs to local authorities and to the taxpayers. He added that he believes there should be a revaluation of how pensions are funded. “We are prepared to take on the initiative,” he said.
When asked about promised state grants that have not yet come through, Senator Martins said that he did not know the status of each promised grant; he had been told that there will be an accounting of those grants being processed. The senator said that he was concerned about grant commitments and if money had already been spent. He said that discovering which grants would be given was one of his first responsibilities. And he added the possibility of a “regional approach,” with the state “being more pro-active … for projects to move forward.”
Questioned about the state’s economy and the economy on Long Island, Senator Martins began a discussion of the importance of downtown revitalizations (including adding mixed uses), something he strongly advocates. He used the “vibrant” Great Neck Plaza as an example of mixed use development and he said there are opportunities for revitalization efforts on Long Island. He said that revitalization will create jobs and build a better retail environment.
Turning to mass transit, the senator said that it is in the best interest of all to have a viable mass transit system. And he questioned the accountability of those involved in his district’s mass transit. He spoke with concern about the MTA payroll tax initiated 18 months ago, and how six months ago the MTA said they were again broke.
And along these lines, Senator Martins spoke of the “issue between urban and suburban communities.” He spoke of the state taking from the suburbs, yet funding the cities (i.e. taking school funds from the suburban communities). Senator Martins believes that if a community has, for example, 16 percent of the children, they should receive 16 percent of the state’s school funds. He also said that he would rather see East River crossing payments rather that the payroll tax.
When Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern broached the issue of his village’s problems with having the LIRR rebuild the Colonial Road Bridge and also the railroad’s plans for a second pocket track in Thomaston, Senator Martins promised to look into the issue.
When the issue of the economy was once again broached, Senator Martins stated that “there are going to be cuts … there’s a hole in the budget.” He then stated: “It’s our responsibility to make sure that Long Island is not the ATM for New York State.” He said that the cuts must be “across the board,” with shared sacrifices. Senator Martins promised that “Our communities will be protected.”
Ending the evening, Senator Martins told Great Neck’s public officials that they will all be called on “to work collaboratively … we should be self-sufficient … we should make sure that your children can stay here and that we can stay here in our latter years.”
The 7th State Senatorial District represents 31 Nassau County villages.