Written by Joe Scotch12 Tuesday, 09 June 2009 11:24
Legislation that could dramatically alter the way Nassau County functions has sailed its way through the state government in Albany.
In quick order, both the New York State Assembly and State Senate have approved a bill making it easier for villages throughout the state to be dissolved.
The votes in both chambers were overwhelming in favor of the legislation, entitled the “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act.” It passed the Assembly by a 118-26 vote and was approved by the State Senate by a similar 46-16 margin.
Both Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D.-Great Neck) and State Senator Craig Johnson (D.-Port Washington) voted against the bill. (See, ‘From The Desk of Senator Johnson,’ Page 20.) Johnson, in fact, was the only Senate Democratic to oppose the legislation. However, the bill, titled A08501 in the Assembly and S.5661 in the Senate, had plenty of bipartisan support.
The bill, which is now sitting on the governor’s desk, would stipulate that signatures by only 10 percent of the registered voting population would be required to begin the village dissolution process. Currently, signatures by 33 percent of the registered voting population are needed for that same process to get started.
The legislation has been spearheaded by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who claims that it would streamline governments in favor of a more cost-effective way of delivering services to residents.
“We have the historic opportunity to pass legislation that will empower citizens, streamline New York’s antiquated local government system and reduce the tremendous tax burden that New Yorkers deal with every day,” said Cuomo in a press release about the legislation.
The bill is being opposed by mayors of local municipalities throughout Nassau County.
Local mayors contacted by The Roslyn News are opposed to the changes. In a letter to Gov. David Paterson, Village of Roslyn Mayor John Durkin expressed his reservations with the bill.
“This proposal….could be extremely costly for New York’s taxpayers and have serious negative impacts on communities across the state,” Durkin wrote.
“[The] village dissolution process is expensive and time-consuming for village staff, residents, businesses, property owners, and other community stakeholders,” Durkin continued. “The…dissolution study generally costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes months to complete, and in the large majority of cases, the decision to dissolve is ultimately rejected by village voters. If the signature requirement is lowered to 10 percent, many villages would be put through this costly, cumbersome and disruptive process, due to the actions of a very small number of village residents at the expense of village taxpayers.”
Noting that it would only require 167 signatures to force a vote in Roslyn, Mayor Durkin claimed that: “The decision to begin the dissolution process, with its many far-reaching implications, should not rest with a small percentage of the village electorate, nor should the potential exist for such an expensive and prolonged process to be initiated by a handful of disgruntled citizens. The current requirement that calls for signatures from one-third of registered voters is one that works, and one that makes sense.”
“Obviously, the attorney general is entering the game late and without any facts to support his position,” added Village of Flower Hill Mayor Charles Weiss. “If he had done his homework, he would have learned that many experts dispute the notion that eliminating or consolidating villages would produce substantial cost savings.” Mayors in the Manhasset area, plus Roslyn Estates Mayor Susan Ben-Moshe have also made their opposition to the bill public.