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Letter: Let’s Keep Our Villages…and Our School District

Thank you for publishing Mineola Mayor Jack Martins’and the Mineola Village Boards’ thoughtful letter about the threat of Long Island village consolidations and dissolutions. We in Williston Park and Mineola have been sending similar letters to Tom McKevitt in our Assembly and Craig Johnson in our Senate; Johnson has responded in support. Our village taxes seem modest, relative to the level of services we receive. More importantly, if we do not act, the collective histories and cultures over three or more generations in Mineola, Williston Park, and East Williston could be wiped out with the sweep of a pen.   

Mayor Martins and the Mineola Village Board mentioned our school districts in paragraphs four and six, “Mr. Cuomo’s newly proposed ‘New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act’ purports to make it easier for citizens to force the consolidation and dissolution of government entities. These include villages, special districts (water districts, park districts, library districts, sanitation districts, and the like, but not school districts.)”

One hopes that Mayor Martins and the board have merely misspoken.  Surely, they could not have meant to equivocate, listing, such as they have, maintenance services such as sanitation with the decidedly noble task of public education.

Paragraph six of the Mayor’s letter challenges “…it’s strange that school districts are exempt from this consolidation and dissolution proposal.  School taxes make up more than 60 percent of all the taxes we pay. Why in the world wouldn’t Mr. Cuomo include  school districts in his proposal?”

Mayor Martins answers his own question well in his discussion of our beloved villages, “Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have until someone tries to take it away from us…it gives us the opportunity to take stock of what our community is all about…”    

There may be cogent arguments for the consolidation of certain services within our various districts; but the dissolution Mr. Martins suggests would mean that our school district, which just celebrated an 80th anniversary, would cease to be.

Mr. Martins’ call to mobilize against Cuomo’s call for village consolidation is well-taken.  We have so much to lose.  And Mayor Martins has worked side by side with Mineola High School parents and our county legislator, Richard Nicolello, in our recent “Fight for the Light” (a traffic light on Herricks and Crystal for the safety of Mineola High School pedestrians). But to argue for consolidation of our public school districts as an alternative to village consolidations and dissolutions is unacceptable even by his own belief in “…the principle of subsidiarity…the proposition that the best decisions in government are made at a local level, where decision-makers are closest to reality, and not by government officials who are not connected to ... ‘people on the ground.’”   

Let’s all stand together for our villages and especially our schools.  May our children’s future be in the hands of Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Of all the views of this law [for public education], none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe as they are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty.”  (Notes on Virginia Q.XIV, 1782. ME 2:206)

Paul and Patricia Navarra

Williston Park Village Residents