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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

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.


Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing

Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination for Governor in 1958 was partly an upstate revolt against the continued domination of party affairs by the Nassau Republican organization. Rockefeller was a man who always had bigger fish to fry, and throughout his almost 15 years as governor, he often went out of his way not to step on the toes of the touchy Nassau GOP. That’s why Nassau is the only large New York county without a state office building. Respect the turf.

Just before taking office, Rockefeller announced that State Senator William Hults would be Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, but not until the end of the 1959 legislative session, so that Glen Cove, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and a sliver of Hempstead wouldn’t lose their Senate representation until 1960.


Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’

The Nassau County district attorney’s (DA) office makes a cameo appearance in Empty Mansions, an incredible book about Huguette Clark (1906-2011), the Manhattan-raised heiress whose generosity and eccentricities were legendary.

Now that Ryan Murphy, a creator of television’s “Glee,” has optioned Empty Mansions’ film rights, I imagine a scrum of top actresses are vying to play Clark.


Still Time To Make Things Right

There is still time to do this better. The Nassau County legislature has a statutory March 5 deadline to adopt a districting plan that doesn’t inject more poison into a system that is already dripping with hostile gamesmanship.

Nassau County is still on one knee from a natural catastrophe. Can’t we agree to skip another political catastrophe right now?

How legislative districts are drawn can matter. The situation in Washington is a direct consequence of heavy gerrymandering of districts, encouraging irresponsible behavior by November-proof Representatives who only fear party primary elections. Over the next few months, it may put our national government back on the brink. The continual gear-grinding in our county government is directly traceable to deals regarding a court-ordered restructuring of the legislature cut by some members of the old Board of Supervisors in 1993. We’re stuck with a system that was designed to maintain a status quo that’s no longer valid.

Let’s acknowledge the late May Newburger of North Hempstead, who as a member of the Board of Supervisors in 1994 tried to undue some of the damage and proposed superior alternatives that couldn’t even get seconded. She was publicly booed, literally, by well-meaning people who were misled into supporting arrangements that benefited only a few. We ended up with exactly the kind of legislature, dominated by partisanship and careerism, that residents testified they didn’t want when this was set up.

Just as it happened a decade ago, the appointed redistricting commission failed to recommend a plan to the county legislature. This “temporary advisory commission” was designed to fail in the county charter. It was always intended that most legislators would pick their constituents. The 1994 charter amendments were based on an assumption that it would always be Republicans making those picks. What is playing out now is delusional thinking on the part of some that with a little help, the natural order of things will soon be restored.

Well, nuts to that. Some of the population shifts between the 19 districts have been fairly extreme, ranging from a gain of just over 12 percent to a loss of just over 8 percent. There’s some heavy population turnover and churn occurring in some neighborhoods, which is being reflected in changing vote patterns. The political parties, now essentially devoid of their old field structures and lacking meaningful intelligence, are largely clueless as to what is really happening out there or what it all means. They’re mostly guessing, and they might as well roll the dice on something that allows citizens to not feel mugged.

Although Republicans may get to mess around with the political fortunes of some Democratic legislators, the districts they’ve proposed aren’t, in the long run, much of an improvement for them and they will not be able to hold even the illusion of “control” for anything like the next ten years. Of course, some of this depends on Democrats.

It is unfortunate that some observers have hooked onto this idea that as few residents as possible should be moved into another district. This reinforces this misconception that these districts belong to the individual legislators. It isn’t “his” district or “her” district. They are our districts.

We could have fair districting right now. All the parties have to do is agree to do it. Insiders no longer have semi-exclusive access to detailed population data (see the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition web site for one example). Motivated civilians with knowledge of the county can draw a reasonably good map that meets legal requirements in a day or two.

County Executive Mangano can step up. He can appoint such a group and ask the legislature to approve that plan by March 5.