Friday, June 5, 2009

LI Business News Editorial ...

Editorial: In the dark

by the Editors
Published: June 5, 2009
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In case you missed it, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo – yes, we’re also wondering why the governor wasn’t at the command – is pushing a bill that could lead to eliminating or consolidating local governments.

The N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act, Cuomo’s baby, would make it easier for voters to erase special taxing districts, including entire governments.

And, understandably, the proposed bill received a resounding endorsement from business leaders and elected officials in county and state governments.

The argument: The extra taxing jurisdictions are placing an unnecessary burden on Long Island taxpayers, many of whom are already choked by the cost of living here.

Of course taxes on Long Island are extreme and, yes, the layers of government make it difficult to figure out which government entity is supposed to clear which street during a snowstorm.

This bill, which has bipartisan support, would help streamline government responsibilities.

But would it really lead to lower taxes? For many Islanders, school district charges make up more than 80 percent of their property tax bill.

Also, if we’re going to consider the removal of government layers, who is to say that the model used in smaller villages such as Patchogue and Babylon isn’t more productive than the town model, where garbage is often not picked up along highways?

Be careful what you wish for, lawmakers, the voters might be best served by eliminating you.

But generally speaking, Cuomo is right about what has crippled the New York economy. The state, and Long Island in particular, can’t survive without consolidation of some sort.

New York has 10,000 layers of government imposing taxes and fees.

That includes water, sewer and lighting districts.

Lighting districts? If something isn’t done soon, there won’t be any lights left to turn on.

My response:

You have identified a key point. Currently there is no adequate method of assessing the quality of services and the cost of similar services. In fact as Mr. Cuomo has said, he is not even 100% sure how many taxing jurisdictions there are.

That is unacceptable. How can you know how to solve a problem unless you have identified the problem in detail and explored all viable options?

This not the fault of Mr. Cuomo who I’m sure is doing the best he can within the existing structure, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed so that the public can feel reasonably secure that the changes being considered are viable and well thought out and that all informed opinions are heard (most importantly the public) on a level playing field.

This is because, in part, we have data and methods of analysis that are disjointed and not “normalized” on Long Island and New York generally. Also the information is generally if not always presented in a “static format” rather than a “dynamic format” making it difficult to compare and analyze the different options and to react to sudden changes in the “decision making environment.”

Consolidation is one method for change. “Dynamic collaboration” is another (explained here with some proposals on how to construct this new “dynamic environment.”

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