Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Putting LI together Spitzer should push hard for his plan to merge layers of local government

Newsday Editorial

Duplication upon duplication of services.....Long Island is drowning in bureaucratic waste and redundancy......some local towns have 3 or 4 separate school districts....each with their own high priced administration...no wonder our school taxes are through the roof........and young folks just starting out can't afford to purchase or maintain a house.......andy

Gov. Eliot Spitzer tossed out so many ideas last week in his first major addresses that you could be pardoned for missing one intriguing initiative with the potential to change the face of local government on Long Island. If pursued diligently - and cooperatively, with agents of reform who are already at work in Nassau and Suffolk - Spitzer's proposal to seek ways to streamline and eliminate duplicative layers of local government could help deliver more and better services for less money. Nassau's chief fiscal watchdog, Comptroller Howard Weitzman, and its leading tax official, Assessor Harvey Levinson, have led a number of state and local officials in looking for economies in sanitation and fire districts. And the Nassau and Suffolk county executives have spurred studies aimed at more efficient school spending.But many of the local taxing districts - especially those for fire and sanitation - are zealously guarded fiefdoms that are challenged at great political risk. And our region has more than any other. "We need a partner in Albany on this," Weitzman says. "You need someone at the top who will take the heat."This effort needs to be more than a line in a policy address or press release with no follow-through, a political tactic Albany has engaged in time and again. If Spitzer doesn't adequately staff the Commission on Local Government Efficiency he wants to create, and use his clout and negotiating skills to enlist support in the multitude of local jurisdictions, then it will just be one more lost opportunity.Certainly, in his State of the State speech, Spitzer showed he gets the problem. "We must consolidate New York's multiple layers of local government ... that cost taxpayers millions each year in duplicative services," Spitzer said. "Together, we must summon the political will to face the reality that 4,200 taxing jurisdictions are simply too many."Although Spitizer's is a statewide proposal, clearly Long Island is the mother lode, with nearly 25 percent of all special districts in New York. If he can't get approval for a statewide program, he should push for a pilot project for Long Island.Spitzer does not need to reinvent the wheel on this issue; he just needs to push on it hard, very hard.

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