(U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent the following letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and to Anton Newspapers on March 16.)
This past week saw the state legislature, Senate and Assembly, work with the governor to pass significant legislation and reforms in what is being hailed as a week of momentous initiative. Unfortunately, no matter how much was positively accomplished, there will always be special interests that focus on the negatives and attempt to diminish the accomplishments as insufficient to their cause.
The fact is no legislation is ever perfect and I’ve shared my own concerns a number of times with you in the past. That being said, our goal is bi-partisan progress, no matter how incremental. We can’t afford to keep taxpayers forever mired in the mud. And to be honest, this was a pretty big week so I’d like to offer an overview of what we were able to achieve while addressing some criticisms you might have heard.
You might be familiar with the tale of the traveler who journeyed through Europe several hundred years ago. He came upon a village where there was a great deal of construction. He walked directly into the activity and asked a stonemason, “Excuse me sir, what’s going on here?” The worker replied curtly, “Can’t you see? I’m cutting stone.” The traveler approached another worker and asked the same question. The second replied, “Can’t you see? I’m preparing a foundation.” The traveler then approached a third laborer with the same question. The third mason paused and looking up at the edifice, replied, “Can’t you see? We’re building a cathedral.”
I share that story because its lesson can be applied to almost any human endeavor, but especially to our current efforts in Albany. We’ve been pretty busy so it’s natural to view our efforts individually as they unfold. Yet in doing so we may miss the bigger picture and worse, minimize what they mean to the larger goal. I think seeing that big picture is key to maintaining a motivated citizenry.
The New York State property tax cap that went into effect in June, 2011 is not a cap at all as there are many provisions that override the cap that include the pension exemption (Sect 1)(g)ii through iv), making it possible for increases in school budgets.
High property and school taxes in the present economic downturn have become unsustainable. This is the urgent message in Nassau County and across the state. It is time to revamp the entire system. The middle class is being squeezed dry to support outdated school mandates that are killing communities. Case in point: In the Franklin Square downtown area there are many vacated stores, as there are throughout Nassau County. Stores open and close their doors in a short time as rents and taxes continue to go through the roof.
In the South, if you were to make a plan that isn’t particularly sound or useful, you might hear someone utter, “That dog don’t hunt.”
For example, if a husband planned to golf on his wedding anniversary, that’s definitely “a dog that don’t hunt.” His decision to smooth things over by telling his wife he’ll take her along - even more so. If she responds with tickets to a Broadway show on Super Bowl Sunday – well, you get the picture.
It is my opinion that the quality of life in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and surrounding areas has greatly improved, culturally, with the construction and opening of Molloy College’s $28 million state-of-the-art Madison Theatre, where Broadway-quality performances are being presented on a regular basis, closer to our homes and at a great savings, compared to The Great White Way’s ticket prices.
I spent Presidents’ Week break away with my wife and our girls and I guess I relaxed as much as a dad with four daughters who text and email actually can. I can’t say that I totally managed to put my Senate work aside either, but my wife says that I was definitely less compulsive about it than usual, so I’ll take that as progress. Anyway, while on break I discovered an interesting book entitled 100 Quotes to Make You Think! and this particular one struck me as a great metaphor for our government and what we should strive for:
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
With the support of Senator Jack M. Martins, the New York State Senate passed “Tiffany’s Law” (S.2860A) that requires all prior convictions of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, whether it be an automobile (DWI), snowmobile (SWI), or all-terrain vehicle, be considered during sentencing of a subsequent Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) conviction. In turn, any person convicted of BWI would have that charge considered during any subsequent DWI, SWI or ATV offense.
You might call it a pedestrian “no-man’s land,” a 16-mile stretch of roadway where an average of five people die each year. It’s not Manhattan’s Broadway or the Bronx’s Grand Concourse, nor is it notorious Queens Boulevard. It’s actually here in our backyard, Route 24, better known as Hempstead Turnpike.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has identified the turnpike as the most dangerous road for pedestrians in the region for the last three years. This is an unfortunate distinction, but one that is finally drawing attention to a problem many of us have at least intuitively recognized for a long time. If you live, work, or even regularly drive there, you know it can be dangerous.
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