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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller

The Way Things Are

Friday, 23 October 2009 00:00

1. Birmingham, England set a standard for public input and openness in a major planning project with its “Big City Plan.” Birmingham has a population comparable in size to Nassau County, with an additional population the size of Suffolk County in the surrounding suburbs. The City Council declared that they want Birmingham to become one of the world’s 20 “most livable” cities. Big City Plan is an attempt to create a world-class city centre area (“greener, smarter, fairer and more appealing”) that increases employment and leisure opportunities into the future. Every part of the work in progress and every public comment has been viewable online and many thousands of residents have actively participated. The city will even provide reports in another language (“We aim to supply what you need within 10 working days.”) and important elements of the developing plan were generated from the general public. My favorite line: “Birmingham is big enough to challenge the way things are.”…

 

Train of Thought

Friday, 16 October 2009 00:00

1. This is being written 24 days before the General Election for county, city and town offices on Nov. 3. For some of us, these campaigns are literally over because thousands of Nassau County residents will have already mailed in absentee ballots by the time you read this…

2. As of last week’s campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections, the four incumbent countywide officers, all running for re-election, have on hand in their campaign accounts $5.156 million. Let’s just call it 5.2 million dollars. Their four challengers have on hand in their campaign accounts $346,963. Let’s just call it zero million dollars…

 

Final Thoughts on Lighthouse

Friday, 09 October 2009 00:00

Dude, bad vibrations.

That’s what I thought as I read headlines like, “Wang: No More Negotiating” and “Wang: It’s All or Nothing.” By the time you read this, the Oct. 3 deadline imposed by sponsors of the proposed Lighthouse Project for agreement, approval, capitulation, or whatever we decide to call it, will have passed.

 

Ten Years In

Friday, 02 October 2009 00:00

From January 1 through September of this year, Nassau County awarded 107 no-bid “personal services” contracts to some 90 public and private entities, with a value totaling $16.152 million. There were at least 332 personal services contracts granted in 2008, totaling some $97.47 million, putting the total for the current two-year legislative term at just over $113.6 million.

The term “personal services” is a government term of art. In a way, the county government is temporarily hiring an employee or agency to perform some special task, quickly and without the expense or time of setting up some new program or agency to do it. In fact, a few of the contracts are with “temp” agencies, presumably for personnel needed to fill in or handle overflow work.

 

More Government Watch

Friday, 25 September 2009 00:00

1. “I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and - a little lookin’ out for the other fella, too.” I think of that quote from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington whenever I watch video of people screaming, “I don’t want my taxes to go for their health care” at some public meeting or rally…

2. Many teenagers have never seen that film, or any other black-and-white movie. If this is your kid, you need to sit them down and teach them how to watch old movies, for everyone’s sake…

 

Government Beat

Friday, 18 September 2009 00:00

1. In 1998, when previous owners threatened to move the Islanders even temporarily, county officials marched into State Supreme Court and got a ruling and an injunction that said the lease on the Coliseum was ironclad, and that the Islanders could play only in the Coliseum until the lease ran out in 2015. Now it seems like the county administration is shoving Islanders’ owner Charles Wang toward the exit and saying, “See what you’re making him do?”…

 

Can It Happen Here? (Part II)

Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00

We’re in uncharted territory here. We’re way past Exit 73. No one knows what will happen next, really.

I know that we’re all being told that “the worst is behind us” and things are stabilizing or improving. I hope so. I want it to be so. But I don’t want to be delusional about it, as some of our decision makers seem to be. Anticipated bank failures, commercial real estate meltdowns, mounting household debt and falling personal income. Pick your most ominous signal. Collect them all.

 

Can It Happen Here? (Part I)

Friday, 04 September 2009 00:00

In December 1931, Nassau’s County attorney and county treasurer sat at a desk and called each of the 60 banks then in existence in this county. The county government needed some short-term loans totaling $1.6 million to meet some end-of-the-year obligations. One by one, every one of the banks turned them down. The county was able to get almost all the money from New York City banks, but a month later even that source dried up. Local governments at that time ran up much less long-term debt than they regularly do today, but they still relied on short-term borrowing against anticipated tax collections to get through the year. Credit was disappearing everywhere.

 

A Dozen Quick Conversation Starters

Friday, 28 August 2009 00:00

1. Senator Gillibrand has been in office for six months and now has eight official district offices around the state, which is five more district offices than Senator Moynihan had after he held the seat for more than 20 years.

2. This is what insiders sometimes call, “the permanent campaign.” Yes, taxpayers pay for the offices. Do they exist to take more information in or to merely shoot more public relations material out?

 

Dog Days Conversation Starters

Friday, 21 August 2009 00:00

1. Nassau County has a natural and historic “Hub.” The problem is that it’s in a place that some people don’t want it to be. Until the 1960s, when officials busied themselves with removing the last remnants of the old rail links between Mineola, Garden City and Hempstead, the Village of Hempstead was always considered the county’s hub. I’ve collected dozens of articles and advertisements from daily newspapers, from the 1920s into the 1950s, that actually use the phrase “Hub of Nassau County” to describe Hempstead. To my surprise, I’ve found dozens more that call the village the “Hub of Long Island,” a phrase I didn’t know. A concerted effort was made to cut Hempstead out of the “hub” picture decades ago, and it continues today.

 

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