You may recall that I recently called for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King. The initiatives he has undertaken in his brief tenure as Commissioner of the State Education Department, including his roll-out of the Common Core curriculum, testing, teacher evaluations, and gathering of student data, are shaping up to be among the most controversial issues I’ve ever dealt with as a public servant. It’s easy to see why. These changes have created confusion among parents, anxiety for our children, and put life-long educators at odds with the department of education in Albany. This was only exacerbated when he canceled town hall meetings on the issue.
So on Wednesday, Nov. 13, I moderated a forum, coordinated with the 15 school districts from our Seventh Senate District, at Mineola High School. Dr. King attended and fielded questions from parents, educators, school board members and even students on the Common Core standards and rollout, teacher evaluations, testing, and student privacy. We had more than 800 in the audience and over 2,000 watching on a live feed via the Internet.
While the result achieved on Election Day is not what I had hoped, I want to express my sincerest thanks and appreciation to all the people who supported me in this election and encouraged me to run again. We ran a great campaign, and I am indebted to my supporters and staff who worked so hard over this last 6 months. It was clear that whether you agreed with it or not, we could not overcome the message of not raising County property taxes.
It was the greatest honor of my career to have served the people of Nassau County as Comptroller from 2002 to 2009. I never intended to be nor considered myself to be a politician. I was a financial professional for 35 years in the private sector with a stint as Village Mayor and only ran for Comptroller in 2001 because the County had failed financially, and I believed that applying my skills and experience towards the service of others could make a difference. Working with an excellent, professional staff, I know we achieved that goal. Public service can be a noble profession, and I admire those good people who seek to serve in public office. In no other profession is your work on display for the entire community to see and subject to such intense scrutiny.
John Owens’ column “Public School Data: Numbers Beyond Belief” deserves a great big “attaboy” for going to the heart of the problem. Being a math teacher, I would say to the kids, that in statistics, “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” And when the city presented data that “garbage in results in garbage out,” they are trying to quantify the unquantifiable. In my career I’ve seen some of this, but the use by NYC is mind-blowing.
What fraud. But the New York State Education Department seems to be promoting this in many ways, including coming up with a number to rate teachers. What an insult to teachers to think that the efforts to motivate kids, the creativity, the dedication, the ability to put on a “dynamic show” five times a day, five days a week can be reduced to a number.
If you’re a person who values common sense, then prepare yourself to be disgusted and angry. I’m about to tell you about a sensible piece of legislation that’s long overdue, but is being blocked by the New York State Assembly, which is shamelessly pandering to its constituents with your tax money. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that we even need this legislation at all, let alone that it’s being systematically stymied by some in Albany.
Currently, New York issues something called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to our welfare recipients. It works much like a debit card and it allows us to help our needy neighbors in an efficient yet dignified way. The system conveniently provides a Food Stamp and a Cash Assistance component all on one card. As it stands, strict regulations dictate what can be purchased with the Food Stamp allotment. Cash assistance, on the other hand, is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. To be clear, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the use of the Cash Assistance component. None. It’s doled out like cash.
Karen Heckler writes “Hicksville’s revitalization is nothing to fear.” Courage and confidence in free markets by the leaders in the Town of Oyster Bay are what is necessary for real positive growth and change. Too often a community in their interest for “attractive restaurants, retail shops and maybe even some cultural arts” decides to amend the zoning ordinances to such specifics, attempting to dictate the change desired. Excessive regulation and uncertainty of Government approvals are what drives away entrepreneurs, investment capital and wonderfully innovative new development.
Real positive change comes from freedom and less Government restrictions to use, density and architecture. Sure, there is fear of risk in change. But often if the change is a mistake, the mistake is later corrected and redeveloped into a success.
Could you imagine if, tomorrow, school districts across New York State had to absorb more than 400,000 new students? Or picture your local school enrolling hundreds of new students and the effect it would have on class sizes, let alone our ability to provide books and materials, desks and lockers. Our current facilities could in no way withstand that kind of blow. In each district, new schools would have to be immediately built and hundreds of teachers, aides, and support staff would have to be hired. With the average cost to educate a student in New York at over $20,000 annually, you could bet our already sky-high school taxes would zoom to astronomical levels.
The revitalization of downtown Hicksville is a topic that has been tossed around since the 1960’s. Ever since the widening of Broadway into Route 107 led to the destruction of what was once the downtown, people have been coming up with ideas to revitalize the area. Unfortunately one thing has stopped every proposal from being realized. That one thing is fear.
People fear that their beautiful suburban lifestyle will be ruined. They fear apartment buildings will be cropping up on their block. They fear low income housing, increased traffic and crowds. They fear their wonderful suburb will become another Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx. They fear change.
Like all of you, I was shocked and disgusted by the revelations in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s report that roughly 40 percent of the $570 million raised by non-profits in the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts have yet to be given out to storm victims. This is unacceptable and I commend the Attorney General for making public the malfeasance of these non-profit organizations in keeping the charitable donations of good people looking to help those in need for themselves.
Tom Suozzi is my cousin, so obviously you know I’m supporting him this November. He’s running again for Nassau County Executive, because he believes that this county can be one of the greatest places to live in the country. He’s a deeply caring man that wants nothing more than to use his skills, abilities and leadership to serve his community and provide a better future for our children.
I believe Ed Mangano probably wants to do the same, however, sometimes the things I hear from Mangano and see in his commercials just don’t add up.
Something is very wrong with Nassau County’s assessment system when 87 percent of appeals are successful. You don’t have to look hard to see evidence of a broken system. The county website shows that several nearly identical homes on one block in Hicksville had assessed values that ranged from $322,000 to $436,000. These were homes built the same year by the same builder and had very little difference in modifications yet their 2013 total property taxes, based on assessed value, vary by almost $2500!
You can easily find other examples of this failed system by looking at page 9 of last week’s Illustrated (October 9-15) where two recently sold homes in Hicksville had nearly identical taxes of $8500, but one sold for $404,000 while the other for $650,000! A little research on the county website shows the $650,000 home had its assessment value reduced 4 times since 2010, from $505,200 to the current $366,800. Based on its recent sale price of $650,000, it is clear that this property should not have seen a reduced assessment.
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