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, email@example.com Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00
From the first moment back in February when Tom Suozzi said he’d be running for Nassau County Executive again, the most common question I’ve been asked is this: Why is he doing this? The debt, the taxes, the coliseum, the whatever, we know, we know. A hundred different people could adequately complain about what. But why? Why should Tom Suozzi be the county executive again?
And his campaign never answered that question to the satisfaction of a lot of voters.The exact same campaign, with the same marketing, the same everything, probably would have worked better with a candidate who was running for the first time. Eight years of incumbency builds up a lot of baggage. Campaigns for third terms are frequently the hardest. Even harder are comeback campaigns for the same office. The people around Tom Suozzi made themselves believe that 2009 was a fluke. After casting blame in every direction, the party line finally settled on this: By accident, a lot of Democrats forgot to vote.
Looking back, this unhealthy denial was evident throughout this fall’s primary campaign. Wisely allowing his opponent’s campaign to sink of its own weight, the Suozzi operation concentrated on Ed Mangano. Most of the Suozzi advertising didn’t mention the primary, and much of the literature was mailed to Republicans. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the Suozzi general election campaign is the lack of any attempt to inoculate against what was coming, and the lateness in mounting a defense against any of it.
I’m holding 13 pieces of Ed Mangano campaign literature that was mailed to my home this fall (I’m not counting taxpayer-funded mail from county agencies). 13 mention taxes, 12 mention pay raise. Some of the wording is lifted from Suozzi’s primary opponent’s literature. This wasn’t any kind of whisper campaign.
Tom Suozzi may have had very good reasons for supporting a one-fifth increase in one-fifth of the typical property tax bill, during two terms in which the county portion of that bill was reduced by about 30 percent. Perhaps bankruptcy was prevented. Perhaps the county could continue to make the lives of children at risk a little easier.
That’s at least as compelling an argument for leadership, a reason to own and be proud of making the toughest decisions in a time of crisis, than “He took the pay raise, too.” Who knows? The Suozzi campaign never gave supporters ammunition. The choice was made to pretend and plough forward.
On Nov. 4, I received 17 automated “robo-calls” delivering endorsements or pleas. I never received a call making sure, in a redistricting year, I knew where to vote or how I could get a ride to the polling place. The memory and priority of that basic political function — make sure your people know where, when and how to vote — has faded away.
Like the “cargo cultures” found on Pacific Islands after the war, in which islanders went through elaborate motions to make the big cargo planes come back, these are “cargo campaigns.” They go through motions without really knowing why. Actually talking and listening to voters, or even gleaning input and field information from the ranks is gone. No percentage in it.
At least 22,000 more voters cast ballots this year than in 2009, but voters with active enrollments climbed 46,000. Turnout was actually down. The first-ever campaign between two county executives should have offered stark choices and captured voter imagination. Why it didn’t is a critical question we all should ask.