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Michael Miller


By Michael Miller

Public Policy Smackdown

Friday, 01 January 2010 00:00

1. For New Yorkers, this year’s federal stimulus mostly was a tax stabilization program, holding off state and local government budget meltdowns. This was a useful, if unromantic, purpose. Unfortunately, it is hard to turn around a national economy when no one really knows what our economy is supposed to look like. Create jobs? There are plenty of new jobs for which Americans can apply; many of them are in Guangdong Province where the salary explosion has jacked up average pay to over $6,000. The 1988 free trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada actually created a boomlet in Western New York, where salaries and other costs were a little lower than those in nearby Toronto. Free trade in the 1990s and 2000s has largely meant free access to cheap, exploited labor. Elsewhere. At this point, the jury is back and those who pushed for the kind of free trade we actually got should probably just take a deep bow and gracefully retire from public life forever…


Patterson’s Promise

Friday, 25 December 2009 00:00
“He has the background, education, courage and ability to meet the challenge of this office. And I stand ready to be of assistance and to serve my county in any manner that he may desire.” These are the words of outgoing Nassau County Executive Holly Patterson at the swearing-in of his successor, the Democratic Eugene Nickerson, on New Year’s Day 1962. Patterson, former County Leader (that was his title) of the Nassau Republicans, was true to his word and played a productive role on boards dealing with planning, recreation and education during Nickerson’s administration.

Who is Gary McKinnon?

Friday, 18 December 2009 00:00

You probably don’t know who Gary McKinnon is, but to millions of people in Great Britain, he has become a cause celebre that has united elements of the political right, left and center and threatens to seriously damage the image of the United States abroad. It is front-page news in every British newspaper, but has barely made a dent in the compliant American media. But when I tell you who he is, you may say, “Oh, yeah,” because what he did in 2001 and 2002 made a splash in our news and in the monologues of late night comedians.



Friday, 11 December 2009 00:00

Before we follow the advice of some politicians and pundits and launch a war on our public schools and the people who work in them, let’s pause to consider the reality on the ground.


A Bunch of Numbers

Friday, 04 December 2009 00:00
2216: The section of the Nassau County Charter law that allows for the appointment of an emergency interim successor in case of a vacancy in the office of County Executive. However, it only applies in the case of a devastating attack upon the United States that threatens the continuity of local government. This section was adopted in 1963. Nassau County may have the only county charter in America that actually mentions “the inevitable hazards of radioactive contamination.”…

Waiting for the Recount Notes

Friday, 27 November 2009 00:00

1. State leaders are talking about across-the-board spending cuts to close growing budget deficits. The across-the-board approach may seem to be the quickest, fairest way at first glance, but in the long run it can cost the most, because all measures of effectiveness and usefulness are removed from the equation. Particularly when dealing with state agencies, Long Island not-for-profit organizations that receive funding to provide needed support services must file detailed outcome reports. Then along comes a budget crunch and across-the-board reductions hurt and even jeopardize programs that do great jobs along with any that don’t.…


Clearing the Air

Friday, 20 November 2009 00:00

1. As of the moment this is being written, Legislator Ed Mangano leads County Executive Suozzi by 497 votes on voting machines. The counting of over 8,000 absentee and other paper ballots might be completed by the time you read this. Most political people believe Mr. Mangano is the favorite to win because more enrolled Republicans returned absentee ballots than enrolled Democrats. However, some of those Republicans are actually older “hidden” Democrats, vestiges from a time when it was smarter and safer to enroll with the G.O.P. just in case you had to do business with the county or town. Are there enough of them to make up that kind of ground? Twenty years ago, the answer was definitely, “maybe yes.” Today, it’s not as clear. Insiders say that the Mangano campaign worked the absentee ballots much more than the Suozzi campaign, meaning they made direct contact with applicants. If so, it’s another sign that the Democratic Party is losing institutional knowledge of even the basic mechanics of campaign making. It isn’t all about collecting large campaign checks.…


The Vote

Friday, 13 November 2009 00:00

It will take focus groups and other research tools to really figure out the reasons voters cast their ballots one way or another. Already, the morning after the county election, with the outcomes of two countywide races and a legislative race on hold possibly for weeks, we are subjected to some very tortured and self-serving explanations, particularly from some disappointed Democrats.

Face the ugly facts. In many parts of Nassau County, four out of five Democrats did not feel that the act of voting was worth their time. Younger, independent voters have turned away from our local politics. The voters most likely to support countywide Democrats were uninspired and unengaged and went on with their lives. Overall, more than seven out of 10 Nassau County voters didn’t want to play this game.



Friday, 06 November 2009 00:00

1. It was barely a blip down here, but the recent sudden closing of the Champlain Bridge was a massive jolt to people in a large region of upstate New York and a warning signal to all of us. The Department of Transportation immediately closed the bridge when inspectors found critical deterioration on two supporting concrete piers. Opened in 1929, the 2,184 foot-long steel truss bridge crosses Lake Champlain and typically carries some 3,400 vehicles a day between New York and Vermont. Commuters, local businesses and dairy farms (some of which have operations on both sides of the lake) have experienced major league dislocation. The detour route around the south end of the lake adds about 100 miles to each trip. Ferry companies are scrambling to increase service and the two states, which co-own the bridge, are scrambling to do repairs. Businesses in both states are likely to go under…



Friday, 30 October 2009 00:00

County, town, city and judicial elections are this Tuesday. I have some very definite opinions about the political campaigns that as you read this are maybe hitting you with last-minute automated calls and postcards that all look alike. Our local political campaigns may spend more and more but they have been saying less and less and engage fewer and fewer voters at a time when we need to build a public vision like never before. Perhaps you’ve picked up on that sentiment from little hints I’ve dropped here and there in previous essays.


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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: