I feel for Lois A. Schaffer on the tragic loss of her daughter and am truly sorry that her admirable quest to stir people to demand what she calls “legislative movement” is so unlikely to achieve success. The fact that more than one whole year, four seasons, 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days have passed since the slaughter of 20 Newtown children last year, with no “legislative movement” from our national legislature makes it clear that we’re more likely to see “laxative movement” from its 535 members than any legislative movement. Collectively, these 535 men and women are a disgrace to civilization. I can’t help wondering if the Senate or House of Representatives would have passed any meaningful gun legislation if, somehow, the 20 children killed on “12-14” were 20 of their own children. Or, since between them, these 535 men and women probably have more than 1,000 children; if Adam Lanza had somehow managed to shoot every one of those “children” (even if now of adult age) to death with his assault rifle, would that have “moved” them to action? I’m not even sure that would have done the trick; although I’m sure they would have paid some lip service to the idea of some gun control, and would have made some impressive-sounding, passionate, stirring speeches, oratory and rhetoric. They may not be able to walk-the-walk of genuine legislators, but they sure can talk-the-talk.
I’m going to get straight to the point. Superstorm Sandy slammed into the south shore of Long Island on Oct. 29, 2012. On that date, more than 400 days ago, millions were left without power, and tens of thousands were displaced.
Now I’m reading newspaper articles that are making my stomach turn. Apparently only four (that’s right, four) of the 4,178 Superstorm Sandy-ravaged Long Island homeowners who qualified for federal housing reconstruction aid have actually received a check. Let me elaborate. More than 10,000 homeowners asked for help. Thus far a few more than 4,000 have heard back and only four have actually received a check. We watched press conference after press conference at which eager politicians promised help and took credit for new funding and here we are more than a year later and only 4 people have received a check.
Can someone please explain how this is possible?
If you haven’t already heard, Nassau County has opted into a state program to offer property tax savings to homeowners whose homes suffered a decrease in value resulting from Superstorm Sandy. The program is called the NYS Hurricane Sandy Assessment Relief Program.
Through this program, Nassau County will adjust, retroactively, the property assessment to account for losses in value due to Sandy for the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 tax years. Eligible homeowners will receive either a check reimbursing them for taxes already paid or a credit on taxes yet to be paid. The amount of a tax refund, credit or assessment reduction will depend upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) damage assessment determination and/or inspections that were conducted by the Department of Assessment based on bills paid to licensed contractors or paid homeowner insurance claims.
John Owens’ column reported the Board of Regents announced that on the upcoming April statewide tests, they’d take “10 minutes off the English exam.” Owens wrote, “Of course, in context, it’s not much. Our kids still can expect to sit through nearly three hours of testing.” He’s right, but I’d like to amend his “not much” to “too much: 10 minutes too much.” Because allowing kids to leave the testing room 10 minutes early will do more harm than good — and here’s why: I think the Board of Regents needs some Common Core courses intended to improve both critical thinking and problem-solving, given their foolish plan which stipulates that “students in grades 5-8 will be allowed to leave testing areas 10 minutes earlier on one day ... if everyone in the class completes the exam in less than the time allowed.”
Things happen for a reason and if you look closely enough you may find signs that, no doubt, the universe is progressing as it should. There is a synergy to it, a cycle. I was reminded of this just recently by two seemingly unconnected events.
I’ll begin with Leonard Wurzel, the long-time (22-years, to be exact) mayor of Sands Point who recently passed away at 95. He supposedly retired from his office in 2011 but anyone who knew Mayor Wurzel also knew that was impossible for him. He loved his village and the people in it too much to simply walk away, even if it was much-deserved. I know that his passion and joy were wrapped up in his public service.
I congratulate parents and teachers on their protests on Common Core curriculum and testing. I wonder if the authors of Common Core have any idea of the cognitive readiness of the children for the content at each grade level. The commissioner is throwing at the audience “educanese” policies which are meant to intimidate. To the credit of the audience he is not succeeding. In my 49 years of teaching I have I never witnessed such widespread disapproval of an education program; and confusion. But we have never had such radical change thrust on us.
You may recall that I recently called for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King. The initiatives he has undertaken in his brief tenure as Commissioner of the State Education Department, including his roll-out of the Common Core curriculum, testing, teacher evaluations, and gathering of student data, are shaping up to be among the most controversial issues I’ve ever dealt with as a public servant. It’s easy to see why. These changes have created confusion among parents, anxiety for our children, and put life-long educators at odds with the department of education in Albany. This was only exacerbated when he canceled town hall meetings on the issue.
So on Wednesday, Nov. 13, I moderated a forum, coordinated with the 15 school districts from our Seventh Senate District, at Mineola High School. Dr. King attended and fielded questions from parents, educators, school board members and even students on the Common Core standards and rollout, teacher evaluations, testing, and student privacy. We had more than 800 in the audience and over 2,000 watching on a live feed via the Internet.
While the result achieved on Election Day is not what I had hoped, I want to express my sincerest thanks and appreciation to all the people who supported me in this election and encouraged me to run again. We ran a great campaign, and I am indebted to my supporters and staff who worked so hard over this last 6 months. It was clear that whether you agreed with it or not, we could not overcome the message of not raising County property taxes.
It was the greatest honor of my career to have served the people of Nassau County as Comptroller from 2002 to 2009. I never intended to be nor considered myself to be a politician. I was a financial professional for 35 years in the private sector with a stint as Village Mayor and only ran for Comptroller in 2001 because the County had failed financially, and I believed that applying my skills and experience towards the service of others could make a difference. Working with an excellent, professional staff, I know we achieved that goal. Public service can be a noble profession, and I admire those good people who seek to serve in public office. In no other profession is your work on display for the entire community to see and subject to such intense scrutiny.
John Owens’ column “Public School Data: Numbers Beyond Belief” deserves a great big “attaboy” for going to the heart of the problem. Being a math teacher, I would say to the kids, that in statistics, “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” And when the city presented data that “garbage in results in garbage out,” they are trying to quantify the unquantifiable. In my career I’ve seen some of this, but the use by NYC is mind-blowing.
What fraud. But the New York State Education Department seems to be promoting this in many ways, including coming up with a number to rate teachers. What an insult to teachers to think that the efforts to motivate kids, the creativity, the dedication, the ability to put on a “dynamic show” five times a day, five days a week can be reduced to a number.
If you’re a person who values common sense, then prepare yourself to be disgusted and angry. I’m about to tell you about a sensible piece of legislation that’s long overdue, but is being blocked by the New York State Assembly, which is shamelessly pandering to its constituents with your tax money. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that we even need this legislation at all, let alone that it’s being systematically stymied by some in Albany.
Currently, New York issues something called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to our welfare recipients. It works much like a debit card and it allows us to help our needy neighbors in an efficient yet dignified way. The system conveniently provides a Food Stamp and a Cash Assistance component all on one card. As it stands, strict regulations dictate what can be purchased with the Food Stamp allotment. Cash assistance, on the other hand, is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. To be clear, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the use of the Cash Assistance component. None. It’s doled out like cash.
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