Sunday, June 17, 2007

Use a Scalpel, Not a Sledgehammer

"Warning: Consolidation can save some money (administrative costs), but will not make big change in tax situation. In past few months, studies in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, other states have disappointed many by finding that school districts consolidations won't save big bucks. It's about service, decision-making, rationale planning. Special districts are service districts. Start there. "

Interesting history of special districts above (click for entire article) and well worth reading. Good information here as well.

I had the pleasure of watching the Glenwood Fire Company's 100th Anniversary Parade this past Saturday in my hometown of Glen Head. Many of the local fire departments were present.

Although I know many of the volunteers from my days as a Town Councilman (I had the pleasure of creating the first or one of the first Fire Advisory Boards to foster cooperation between the town and the fire service) and from growing up in the area, it still gives me a sense of pride in community to see the level of professionalism and sacrifice these folks make on our behalf. There was a large crowd present and they too gave the volunteers a great response.

There is just something special about Long Island and the way it works that we need to be cognisant of before making wholesale changes. It is almost like a great intricate clock filled with moving parts that work in unison to create the heartbeat of our island. Whether it is the fire service or the environment or any of the dozens of other community causes and organizations on our Island, we all share a sense of pride in our communities.

Why do people still want to live on Long Island and continue to move here? I believe most folks know the good far outweighs the bad and they enjoy the sense of a "smaller community" that they have more control over while still having the opportunities that exist within a larger metropolitan area.

Long Island is a unique mix. We can look to other areas of the country and the world for ideas on how we can make Long Island better, but trying to "force" Long Island to become some other region, I think, is ultimately a fool's errand. We have to take what we have, understand what we are and make it work better. That requires a deeper level of analysis and commitment than garden variety comparisons and lists of complaints.

The Community Congress (and now Virtual Community Congress and Long Island Congress) concepts are ideas about how to harness this positive energy for the common good. I also had the pleasure of starting one of the first Marine Education Day educational programs here on Long Island which has now exposed tens of thousands of school children to our environment and how to protect it. This too was part of the Community Congress concept.

I admit to at least a little bias when it comes to our fire companies and volunteers and the the pride residents of Long Island take in their individual communities on all levels. When I was a young man I used to march in bands all over Long Island playing my trumpet and countless Sousa marches in hundreds of community celebrations. You really get a sense of how Long Island ticks at the grass roots level in these unguarded celebratory moments when a community comes together to celebrate itself and its accomplishments.

Do we need to change on Long Island to prepare for a better future? Yes.

Do we also need to preserve the elements that make Long Island a unique and good place to live? Yes.

Can we do both? Absolutely.

All the Long Island 3.0/ Long Island Congress ideas are geared towards a cooperative, productive Long Island. We will always have many "moving parts" on our island, even if the parts change from time to time. If we do not have a methodology to address change in a dynamic way, we will always be "behind the curve" in our decision making capabilities.

Let's be smart about change. Think before we act.

Use a scalpel, not a sledgehammer

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