Government efficiency – for most of us those two words don’t go together. We usually hear about government’s inefficiency. For example, there was the spring report that revealed New York State has an incredible 1,719 vendors that all provide it with pens, paper and paper clips. Or just this past week we heard about Solyndra, the solar panel company that took $535 million in federally guaranteed loans and then went belly-up. (There will be investigations and noise on Capitol Hill but the money will never be recouped.) Whatever the case, it’s enough to infuriate taxpayers and shake their faith in government but it is also what motivated me to enter public service.
I want to thank you for the feedback I received on last week’s column in which I shared some thoughts about the tenth anniversary of September 11th. Many of you were as astonished as I was to learn that the events of day are not part of our state’s education curriculum, consequently leaving our young people asking questions that no one answers. We tell them to “Never forget,” but don’t bother explaining what it is we’re asking them to remember.
Nassau County is heading closer and closer to its demise. Following a national Republican trend, the administration is targeting government workers and their unions as the main reason for the county’s financial collapse. It implies our county is being destroyed by overgenerous labor agreements, and if those aren’t amended, massive layoffs will occur.
But a lack of transparency on the county’s part clearly exists. The administration complains that Nassau has the second highest taxes in the nation, yet if the county got rid of all 6,000 of its Civil Service Employees Association workers, Nassau would still hold that regrettable status. In fact, in a $10,000 property tax bill, only $300 is for the services provided by CSEA members.
Jim Crow served in the background of that fine film The Help, the story of southern white women and their black maids. I recall as a wet-behind-the-ears young soldier in 1942 traveling by train from New York to Atlanta. When the train left Washington all the black people began to move to the rear of the train. I asked the conductor what was happening and he said we have “Jim Crow” laws here, boy. Blacks to the back of the train.
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The Village of Mineola did a great job of cleaning up after hurricane Irene.
LIPA caused us all a lot of grief in the week following the hurricane. There were thousands of people who remained without power after Hurricane Irene and it seemed as if my office heard from each and every one of them. We literally logged hundreds upon hundreds of angry calls and e-mails and most had virtually the same complaint: There was no power and LIPA wasn’t telling them anything. People who were already very upset by not having electricity had their frustration further exacerbated by LIPA’s unbelievable lack of communication.
Unfortunately, in regards to power restoration, all my staff could do was continuously contact LIPA with the complaints and wait for status updates we could share with residents. I did promise myself though that as soon as the lights were back on I would draw attention to LIPA’s utter failure to keep us informed.
It’s difficult to write about the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Representing a district that suffered a tremendous loss of life that day, one that saw so many of our first responders involved in rescue efforts, I thought it best to avoid platitudes that bring very little comfort to those still suffering. Instead I will simply share some observations on where we stand now.
September 11 will go down as one of the defining historical events in our nation’s history, much like Pearl Harbor or John F. Kennedy’s assassination. These events spur people to action and generally shape policy for years to come. In this case, it sparked an unprecedented war on terrorism, both at home and abroad. It reminded us just how precious life is, it emphasized that which unites us, and it gave us an appropriate appreciation for public servants who protect us personally and who protect our way of life.
Tragedy struck close to home with the drowning death of NYPD officer Patrick Luca in a kayak accident. Thank heaven his 5-year-old Caden is okay. Our condolences to his widow Stephanie. They also have a young daughter, Brea. Officer Luca is the son-in-law of our neighbors Ken and Gerri Aiello.
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Bobby and Jeannie Franz live on Barwick Boulevard. They have two kids Tim, 10, and James, 6. Bobby is a fireman and works for Albertson Hardware.
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We’ve had hail the size of baseballs, an earthquake, and now Hurricane Irene. Maybe Mother Nature is trying to tell us something. Metaphors aside, each incident serves as an intense reminder that preparation is always the best prevention. Along those lines, we’ve heard debate for a number of years as to whether Long Island is prepared for a hurricane. I think this past weekend we demonstrated that we are.
I’ve been making my way around our district to assess the damage and I’ve seen flooding, downed trees, and many residents and businesses without power as of this writing. Yet, while I ate breakfast in the dark this morning, I was thankful that except for some isolated incidents, we proceeded without major injury or catastrophe.
One size definitely does not fit all or at least it rarely does. It’s a lesson big government needs to remind itself. Case in point would be the State Board of Education’s recent efforts to redesign how our teachers are evaluated.
You may recall that New York was fortunately awarded $700 million from the federal government’s “Race to The Top” program, which seeks to improve student scores by holding teachers more accountable. The idea is a good one and certainly no one wants to turn away much-needed monies for our schools, but as usual, it’s in the implementation of good ideas that problems arise.
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