Opinion

This is in response to Richard Rupp's letter in the Jan. 28, edition of the Manhasset Press.

Last year Richard Rupp used the same method of misinformation and false accusation against me and the trustees of the Village of Plandome Manor as a campaign tactic in his failed attempt for election as village trustee. It is unfortunate that he finds it necessary to employ the same tactic as he again campaigns for election this year.

Mr. Rupp exhibits a very short memory as he was in attendance at the meeting in October 2008 when the board of trustees approved the settlement agreement that affected the private roads, a case I inherited when elected as mayor. Also, Mr. Rupp lives on one of the private roads that was affected by this agreement. I wonder who he thinks has been responsible for the sanding and snowplowing on his road this year?

Mr. Rupp also criticizes the legal fees when he is fully aware of the settlement of a longstanding legal case, which, by the way, I also inherited when elected as mayor two years ago. The village settled that case this past July and recovered $122,000 in fines and legal fees as well as the ability to enforce compliance of our village code. Due to the settlement of these two litigation matters Plandome Manor's legal fees have dropped substantially and have returned to pre-litigation amounts. Again Mr. Rupp conveniently failed to state all the facts!

Mr. Rupp is well aware that every decision made about village matters is done in monthly public meetings and by a majority vote of the board of trustees. This includes changes in law firms, all expenses, which are approved every month, and the move to a new village office, which took place in August 2007. Mr. Rupp was in attendance at each of the meetings when these votes were taken and approved. Nothing is done without board approval.

As someone who attends most of the meetings and has the opportunity to speak and ask questions during public comment it is perplexing that he only brings up these issues in a letter to residents and only when he decides to run for office.

Perhaps a more productive way for his campaign to proceed would be for Mr. Rupp to focus on his goals for the village and how he would work with the board of trustees and the mayor rather then disparage the accomplishments of this administration.

Barbara Donno

Mayor

Incorporated Village of Plandome Manor

I am writing in response to "NYS Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel: What is a Special District Anyway? And Who Cares As Long As My Toilet Flushes?" Assemblywoman Schimel hits the nail on the head when she makes the point that very few people know what special districts are. For too long these Special Taxing Districts have been flying below the radar. Most taxpayers are unaware that these districts exist and have the ability to tax and spend with hardly any government regulation whatsoever.

In her editorial, Assemblywoman Schimel seems to interpret the proposed legislation put forth by Governor Paterson and Attorney General Cuomo as saying that all special taxing districts should be consolidated into town governments and that all will be affected by the governor's budget. This is categorically untrue.

We at Residents for Efficient Special Districts are devoted to advocating for the most cost-efficient and effective provision of public services. As such, we support the consolidation or elimination of any district that is deemed by citizens or municipalities to be dysfunctional. We support public disclosure of special district elections-and finances-so that constituents can see where their tax dollars are going, and who they are paying to spend them. Thanks in part to Supervisor Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead boasts some efficient districts that certainly should not be compromised.

However, the overwhelming majority of special taxing districts in Nassau County-and New York State as a whole-are costly, ineffective, and contribute prominently to burdensome real estate taxes. These districts often hold elections at odd hours, pay exorbitant salaries, and are the textbook definition of "patronage mills." We need efficient units of government that are transparent and accountable to the taxpayers-and that is what the legislation Assemblywoman Schimel opposes is aimed to do.

Unfortunately, many of these special taxing districts have taken advantage of the taxpayers through inefficient spending practices, bloated wages, and benefits. For example, in Schimel's own district you will find that the Great Neck Water Authority, whose commissioner enjoys a higher annual salary than Governor Paterson, also enjoys absurdly generous job perks. That same water commissioner recently garnered some attention when he publicly expressed that he is "underpaid." Her district is also home to the Glenwood Water District, which, according to Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, "serves no purpose and should be absorbed by larger neighboring districts." Consolidation of these two districts alone would invariably equate to substantial savings for Schimel's constituents.

Schimel is correct in saying that the North Hempstead sanitation districts are by-in-large the cheapest in Nassau County. However, that is only because they contract with private carters. It is also entirely possible that the Town of North Hempstead could get better rates by enlarging the area that the private carters serve. Moreover, the sanitation districts to which she refers, simply renew their contracts annually, and have no employees, and no infrastructure. As such, the districts refer all customer calls to the carter if there is a problem. They are not providing true customer service at all; there is simply no reason for them to exist.

With this being said, no one is proposing that we "throw out the baby with the bathwater." The governor and others are trying to give the taxpayers more control over the special taxing districts. Who can argue with transparency in government? Many areas in Nassau County have taken efforts to consolidate their special taxing districts, but were unable to do so because the deck was stacked against them.

Governor Paterson is hoping to tilt the scales in the taxpayers' favor.

I applaud Governor Paterson's budget for its inclusion of several recommendations made by the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness. We see this as a win for the taxpayer. For too long, most of our local elected officials have been unwilling and unable to promote changes within these districts due to fear of reprisal from the strong voting blocks of individuals who benefit from the special taxing districts presence.

Therefore, we ask Assemblywoman Schimel to remember that an efficient special taxing district in New York State is the exception, not the rule.

Laura Mallay

Executive Director

Residents for Efficient Special Districts (RESD)

(Editors Note: RESD, headquartered in Rockville Centre, is a non-partisan civic organization devoted to advocating for the most efficient and effective provision of fire, sanitation, and water services made up of concerned residents across Long Island. Founding RESD member Laura Mallay was a panelist in the recent forum on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness held at Hofstra University on July 25, 2007. The website is informative www.information@resd.info)


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