The President’s Bi-Partisan Commission has given us a preview of its soon to be released report on the national debt calling for reductions in spending and taxes. It is a step in the right direction but belt tightening must also begin statewide and locally. Increasing the age for Social Security benefits, reductions in military spending and an end to bail out monies will start the clock. But in addition, statewide, we need to consolidate government, reduce the government work force without reducing key services and expand the work week to six days while at the same time expand both the number of school days and the in-school hours each day in order to compete with students in Asia and elsewhere. Illegal immigrants must be identified and given a path to citizenship. They need to be assimilated and pay income and other taxes. There are approximately 15 million immigrants living and working in this country but in an underground economy where taxes are not paid. We need to develop affordable housing so that people no longer have to reside in dangerous conditions.
I am taking this opportunity to write to you about an important matter to the community that has been the subject of some misinformation lately. That matter is the future of the vacant parcel of land located on Merrick Avenue, which is currently being operated as Friendly Farms.
In 2008, I worked with the Mark family, who had owned the property, to ensure that this property, which is one of the last substantial pieces of vacant land in the community, was protected from imminent development. Under the Nassau County Environmental Bond Act I nominated the parcel for purchase and preservation by the county. I am extremely proud that in my role as both legislator and environmentalist I was able to have this parcel included in the list of properties to be preserved and that it has been purchased and will be preserved from development.
Perhaps it was the double coincidence of the release of the state test scores, and receipt of property tax bills by residents of Westbury that set the stage for the vocally charged and unrelenting questions that characterized the school board action meeting of Oct. 21. Questions ranging from building use policy issues, to unnecessary hiring to justification of the superintendent’s salary and contract extension were posed to the board, and there were also questions as to when the board will begin the process of searching for a new superintendent. This was probably the most vexing matter, which may have been cooled by now since the decision was made by the board to not extend the contract beyond one year for now.
The event was held at Verdi’s of Westbury, and was the brainchild of members of the youth department of the church as part of their fundraising activity. According to Rev. Emmerson Griffith, the group worked assiduously over the past several weeks to ensure that the event was successful and that patrons got their money’s worth.
Governor David Paterson has declared the week of Oct. 25 to 29 to be School Board Recognition Week. School board members have been described as having the most important volunteer job in the country yet face the toughest challenge in elected American government. They are just ordinary citizens with extraordinary dedication to our public schools.
Our school board trustees are individuals who spend countless hours on the job, making many personal sacrifices in order to best serve our children. In addition to concerning themselves with the administration of the Carle Place School District, listening to staff and student concerns; our board trustees are highly visible members of our community, attending many sporting events, award ceremonies and numerous other functions, which take place throughout the course of the school year. Our board members always keep their eyes on the goal of student achievement.
The recent decision by United States Southern District of New York Judge, Hon. Lewis A. Kaplan in U.S. v. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani in blocking the testimony of government witness Hussein Abebe due to the way he was identified and located through duress and harsh interrogation of Mr. Ghailani by the CIA, shows this nation as one of laws and our Constitution as a model beacon for all the world to see. As the learned and courageous Judge Kaplan noted, “The Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction.” Judge Kaplan may be criticized for his decision, but instead he should be hailed as a true patriot. We need more judges like him.
Thomas F. Liotti
Westbury Village Justice
As we all know, distracted driving has become a very serious problem for our state and our country. In New York State at least one out of five motor vehicle crashes has distracted driving listed as a contributing factor. In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver and more than 440,000 were injured.
As commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, I was honored to be invited recently to attend U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s second Summit on Distracted Driving in Washington, D. C. Also participating at that meeting were leading national transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement agencies, industry representatives, researchers and victims affected by distraction-related crashes. Together we addressed challenges and identified opportunities for national anti-distracted driving efforts.
I recently submitted to the Nassau County Legislature a Proposed No-Property Tax Increase Budget for next year that includes ending the so-called “County Guarantee,” which has been bankrupting our great county for years. You may be aware that Nassau County assesses homes and businesses for not only itself, but also for school districts and towns as well. When a business or homeowner successfully challenges their taxes, they are rightfully awarded a refund. However, the “County Guarantee” is a law that requires Nassau to pay back not only its share of the refund, but also the school district and town share as well. Therefore, Nassau is refunding one dollar for every 20 cents it actually receives in error.
To let the people of Westbury know, I wrote a letter to The Westbury Times in July, “Shame on Our School District.”
Well the Westbury School District did go out to the middle school and look. They went on Aug. 26 and again with me on Aug. 30. I also had a representative from Senator Craig Johnson’s office with me. I must say thank you to all. There has been a cleanup at the middle school and there is still more to go and that is in all schools.
(Howard Weitzman is the former Nassau County Comptroller.)
No matter who won the last county election it was clear the County would be going down a tough financial road. A difficult economy, falling tax receipts, an increasing structural gap along with the political difficulty in raising additional revenues have combined to create a perfect storm for all local governments. But the new Mangano administration seems to be drowning in a fiscal tsunami, without a tree to climb. His rescue plan is based on an old copy of Tom Gullota’s guide to County government – borrow, over estimate revenues, under estimate expenses, sell property, and if that’s not enough borrow more.
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