Alas, after 21 years of keeping us in good spirits and good company with his “Late Show” humor, David Letterman announced his retirement this past week. In his honor, I’ll share highlights from our state’s new budget in Letterman style with a “Top 10” countdown entitled: Top 10 — I mean 12 — reasons to like the new, New York State budget
12. This year’s budget is the fourth, consecutive, on-time budget we’ve delivered. That hasn’t happened in nearly four decades. For a little historical perspective, that’s further back than the Knicks’ last championship. (Sorry. I couldn’t help it.)
11. Moody’s Investors Service wasn’t so moody after all. They rated the new budget a “credit positive.”
I think it was sometime after our tenth snowstorm that some of the most die-hard New Yorkers I know said Florida wasn’t looking too bad.
Truth be told, when people leave the Empire State, it’s not in search of better weather, it’s mostly in search of a better life.
Did you know that from 2000 to 2010 New York lost more than 1.6 million residents to other states? They left because life here was just too expensive. That’s bad for our economy and worse for the families and friends impacted by separation.
There is more than one way to make the news.
Last weekend, a couple dozen high schools from Nassau County including Hicksvlle, went to Hofstra University to demonstrate their prowess at building robots in the 15th annual Long Island Regional First Robotics Competition. The teams have been working since early January, when they first got their assignment and parts kits from FIRST headquarters.
Can you hear it? Listen closely and you’ll recognize the harmony of thousands of voices woefully singing, “It’s the Same Old Song” by the Four Tops. They’re parents from Buffalo to Montauk singing because the New York City-led state assembly voted to return three of the four Board of Regents members to their positions this past week. And the fourth one was only replaced because he resigned. That just about locks him in as the smartest member as far as I’m concerned, because he realized he was in over his head.
I see people walking around talking into their cell phone or texting. Kids cross the streets without looking at traffic. Also, I see people talking on their cell phones while driving. This is very dangerous. Driving a car needs all one’s attention. The government should do more to punish violators. Being free does not mean being a fool. Personally, I only use the cell phone to make emergency phone calls. I never text anybody.
Sales tax revenue is the County’s biggest source of income, accounting for over 40 percent of total annual revenues. Sales tax is also a good barometer of the County’s economic activity and economic health. Therefore, it is gratifying that the final sales tax figures for 2013 show an increase of 6.3 percent to $1.13 billion over the prior year. This was on top of another healthy increase of 4.2 percent in 2012.
These sales tax growth figures would seem to imply that Nassau County has recovered well from the recession and Superstorm Sandy, and in fact it has, with unemployment now under five percent, well below the national and state averages.
A few weeks from now, New York’s public school children in grades 3-8 will spend six days taking the poorly designed, expensive New York State Assessments. The overreliance on these tests has pushed school districts to abandon successful curriculum models and confine themselves instead to the limited, unproven and expensive Common Core standards.
“Prepping” for these dreary, mind-numbing examinations greatly reduces the time our kids can spend on appropriate, meaningful educational pursuits. It inhibits excellent teachers from bringing their inspiration and ingenuity into the classroom. The tests penalize children for their creativity and original thinking, and they punish gifted children and those with special needs even more severely. The process also channels tens of millions of our tax dollars out of the classrooms and into the coffers of rapacious testing corporations, who view our children as nothing more than a footnote on their bottom line. These companies also eagerly look forward to gaining access to our children’s confidential personal information.
A day after New York State Regents chose to disregard efforts to dismiss poor-performing teachers based on Common Core testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo fired back, “There is a difference between remedying the system for students and parents and using this situation as yet another excuse to stop the teacher- evaluation process.” Regents listened and agreed to put teacher performance back on the table.
As far as all those additional tests are concerned, editorial and in-depth reporting has broadly pointed out it was educators/unions that asked for additional testing, at the district level, to account for half of their evaluation, which is 40 percent under Common Core. But again, Regents is listening and has proposed several actions to reduce testing. To see their proposals, go to www.oms.nysed.gov/press/regents-adjust-common-core-implementation.html
Your “Patience Is A Virtue” editorial was a good one: a good lesson, plus good advice. Unfortunately, it was probably preaching to the choir, because those of us patient, considerate reader/drivers will just continue practicing our responsible, careful driving habits; while the impatient, reckless fools like the one you describe (who arrogantly think that their time is more important than anyone else’s safety) are likely to continue their public-menace bad driving habits.
If only horn-honkers like that Mercedes owner were the worst ones on the road. It’s more the speeders, swervers, texters and drunkards who cause the most damage and death. I only wish that each and every one of them would hit a vehicle-damaging, disabling, incapacitating pothole before they cause an accident that will kill or maim some innocent person—whether pedestrian, passenger or “pilot” of a patiently-driven car.
Confidence and trust in government appears to continue to erode because of political infighting, and the perception of waste, fraud, and limited transparency. This is why my office has taken small yet significant steps to attempt to restore some trust through transparency.
Our latest step came last week when we made available to the public on the Comptroller’s Facebook page all 2013 Nassau County contracts with vendors as well as all the bills paid by the County. In keeping with my office’s prudent standards of controlling costs and promoting innovation, we used the latest social media tools to make this information available to the greatest number of residents by using Facebook, Twitter and Google Docs. Not a single taxpayer dollar has been spent for this important public service.
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