The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Giving up is not “reform.” County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposal to transfer property assessment from the county to the towns might possibly speed up assessment decisions by replacing one large and overwhelmed bureaucracy with several somewhat smaller ones. It will likely recreate problems that were major motivations in creating our highly centralized county government 75 years ago.
The 1938 county charter merged the town Boards of Assessors and the County Board of Equalization, ending three decades of complaints, lawsuits and hard feelings about the lack of specific, uniform levels of property assessments between the towns. In a tax system screaming out for simplification, clarification and a sense of certainty, spinning off assessments to the towns will reintroduce “equalization” as an annual issue. Tens of thousands of residents are still trying to figure out why their assessment went down but their tax bill still went up. The division of taxes heading up the tax food chain in an equitable manner is the most complex subject in local government, and it’s all going to make people very sad, particularly in villages and school districts that are split between townships.
Manhattan District Attorney (D.A.) Robert Morgenthau was facing a spirited Democratic primary challenge from a former judge in 2005, but his opponent had trouble finding anything substantively negative to say about Morgenthau.
The reason I know this: a city-based tabloid newspaper reporter called me weeks before the election, asking whether it was legal to have a Manhattan driver’s license while at the same time registering and insuring a car in Dutchess County, where auto insurance premiums are much lower. The answer: yes, so long as the insured vehicle is primarily garaged in Dutchess County. I was the director of public affairs for the New York State Insurance Department at the time and knew immediately the question pertained to Morgenthau because he met those criteria.
Written by Michael A. Miller Wednesday, 23 January 2013 10:56
Does the Nassau County Police Department intend to buy robot drones for surveillance? How about your village police department?
The Federal Aviation Administration was compelled last year to release documents about drone authorizations. Legislators in several cities and counties were stunned to find out that their police departments were already using robot drones for surveillance or investigation.
By 2020, 30,000 domestic drones are expected to be zipping around American skies.
It’s not just the government. News Corp. used an md4-1000 “microdrone” to take pictures of disaster areas in North Dakota and Mississippi. On the French Riviera, paparazzi flew one to get photos of Paris Hilton at a beach resort. The advertising pitch: “Wherever the human eye reaches its limits, they are getting used…”
The md4-1000 is about the size of a basketball, with four small propellers that allow it to take off and land vertically and quietly. It’s one of several commercially available drones.
In December, documents revealed that DARPA (the military’s technology development agency) has tested “Gorgon Stare,” which uses up to 12 wide-area cameras to capture video of an entire city. Computers analyze the feeds simultaneously, monitoring everything that happens.
Every Supreme Court nomination invites debate about an implied Right to Privacy in the Constitution. You still have these rights, if you want to live in a forest. You still can say pretty much anything you want in this country. Just understand that someone may be watching and recording.
If there are any phone calls, messages, or files that aren’t being directly collected by our federal government, most corporate conglomerates are happy to hand them over. Verizon and AT&T alone responded to 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. Your smartphone automatically sends location information back to home base, making 24/7 tracking pretty easy.