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 Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net Friday, 12 April 2013 18:07
The federal government’s complaint against six politically connected New Yorkers last week could only have been derived from real life. No Hollywood screenwriter is imaginative enough to conjure up a plausible scenario whereby State Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) is elected mayor of New York City.
Yet Senator Smith’s delusional 2013 mayoral ambitions are at the heart of the federal government’s 28-page complaint, and it boggles the mind to see how many people allegedly risked their reputations and careers to advance Smith’s City Hall dreams.
Notwithstanding the misleading headlines, the case is not about rigging an election. It is about rigging the ballot access process, a necessary step that takes place long before the election. And to read the complaint is to feel particularly sorry for the people of Spring Valley, in Rockland County. Their mayor and deputy mayor were willing to use eminent domain—the public taking of private property for a public use — for their own personal financial gain, if the federal government has it right.
There are three running themes throughout the complaint: ballot access machinations, land-use decision-making and how money can potentially impact both of those things.
Senator Smith, as a registered Democrat, needed three of the city’s five Republican county chairmen to support his bid to secure a place for his name on the GOP mayoral primary ballot.
Two county chairs would not do the trick; Smith needed three of them to say, “Okay, the city’s registered Republicans should have the opportunity to make you, Senator Smith, the GOP mayoral nominee on Tuesday, Sept. 10.”
The problem was that a few of the city’s GOP county chairmen had already endorsed other mayoral aspirants, some of whom were actually Republicans. In order to get these party bosses to change their minds, monetary inducements would be needed, the complaint alleges, and that is how the Bronx County Republican chairman and the Queens County Republican Party’s vice chairman ended up becoming defendants, along with New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran (R-Flushing).
Once those three men realized someone would pay them to do what came naturally — nominating candidates for public office — Senator Smith, a lifelong Democrat, instantly became a credible Republican mayoral candidate, at least in their minds, the complaint indicates. Councilman Halloran was already envisioning himself as a deputy police commissioner in a Smith administration, according to the complaint. And all signs point to Halloran being sober while plotting this peculiar career move, a surprise given that the Councilman dropped out of the NYPD’s cadet corps 20-plus years ago, the NYPD told the New York Post.
An aside: Councilman Halloran waged an unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in Queens last fall against then-Assemblywoman Grace Meng. Meng’s father, former state Assemblyman Jimmy Meng, pled guilty to a bribery charge in November 2012. His sentence: a month in prison, and presumably a promise to stop trying to shake down his neighbors in the future.
Senator Smith’s interest in using his Albany-based elective office to allocate state highway transportation monies to boost a proposed Spring Valley real estate project is one of the more convoluted, and difficult to explain, parts of the complaint. Why would a state Senator from Queens care at all about Rockland County’s vehicle traffic flow? If this case goes to trial, that question might get definitively answered.