Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sanitary District 2: Will the Politics of Destruction Trump Honesty?

 [NEWS UPDATE 10:54 pm, 12/12/2012:  Final vote to Dissolve the local district was 1682 yes, 4597 no.  Local residents crushed the out-of-town political nonsese by almost 3:1!  Congratulations to Baldwin, Baldwin Harbor, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt!!!]

I was raised for the first 24 years of my life in Baldwin Harbor, on Long Island’s south shore.  Born into – and living among – other blue-collar, working class families, I was a Republican for most of my life.  

 But, as happens to many of us, time and experience change us, and I have since become an advocate for largely liberal and progressive causes.  As I eye eventually returning to Long Island in my retirement, I have looked at the political party structure in New York, and found myself drawn to the Working Families Party, a recent addition to the NY electoral scene with stridently liberal views.  Sustainable development, energy sanity, environmental stewardship, and election reform all make more sense to me than ever before.

How disheartening, then, to discover that, like the major parties who use the money and muscle of Super PACS to do their dirty work,  the Working Families Party is no different.  Operating under the parallel name of the “Long Island Progressive Coalition,” and, most recently, by the fly-by-night invented group, “RESD” (Residents for Efficient Special Districts), these so-called progressives are anything but progressive, good-government advocates; rather, they have become as nasty, dishonest, and destructive as the  Republican and Democratic SuperPACS.

The current battle – to be settled at the polls in a few days (December 12), is an effort to dismantle a special sanitary district – “Sani 2” – serving 55,000 people in the communities of Baldwin, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt on Long Island.  The stated purpose for the drive to dismantle the district is ‘cost savings,’ though no credible figures have been supplied yet.

Let's cut to the chase: the entire circus is an invention of a failed candidate for Sanitation Commissioner who, in a fit of super sour grapes, has decided that if she can’t rule the district, she will ruin it.

In 2005, Laura Mallay ran for election as a Commissioner against incumbent Gerard Brown. Apparently, at the time, she felt the special district was important enough to ask voters to give her some responsibility in managing it.

But Mallay didn’t quite understand that Long Island voters do not simply ‘award’ politicians with an office simply because that politician wakes up one day with a brilliant idea and expects applause.  Mallay was trounced in the election, losing by a margin of more than 20 points.

So, rather than consider why voters rejected her, she invented a group, “RESD,” annointed herself as its Executive Director, and began a campaign to force a vote to dissolve Sanitary District 2, and to have 55,000 residents' garbage, recycling, and hazardous materials handled by some other as-of-yet unspecified entity.

"The District," claims Mallay, “is not economically sustainable.”

This, of course, flies in the face of the reality of the District’s existence for some 85 years, and the fact that the District’s annual budget increases for the last five years have been less than the annual rate of inflation...meaning that the District actually continues to more with less, and becomes more efficient each year.

Mallay has compared Sani 2's costs with other districts, and found them to be higher.  But Mallay’s calculations conveniently neglect to mention that Sanitary District 2 engages in additional, non-mandated activities that improve life for its residents, increase environmental quality and awareness, and which are not carried out by other ‘cheaper’ services.

Sanitary District 2 purchases bulk oil contracts for other area services, saving the local fire departments, school districts, and, therefore, taxpayers -   thousands of dollars annually.  Unlike other sanitation departments, they sponsor community cleanups, waterways cleanups (the picture above is from the recent Milburn Creek cleanup), graffiti removal efforts, and greening/planting projects. The value added to the community by this community-run district is enormous.

But that means nothing to Mallay, RESD, and the LI Progressive Coalition. Rule or Ruin is the battle cry.

Flyers promoting district dissolution fail to reference any credible  sources for their secret financial information. As an Economist, I see this as a highly troubling - and disingenuous - aspect of their campaign.

Letters delivered door-to-door this weekend failed to even contain a single signature assigning responsibility for their tirades. And in fact, almost 100% of the effort to destroy the district is coming not from within the district, but from paid campaign operatives who live nowhere near Baldwin or Roosevelt.

Meanwhile, the workers at Sani2, while understandably concerned about being tossed to the curb themselves if the vote to dismantle the district passes…have become heroes to those who know them best.
 One month ago, Hurricane Sandy slammed Baldwin Harbor with unprecedented fury. Neighborhoods that never saw water found themselves under several feet. Rugs, furniture, soaked sheetrock, and personal belongings of every kind were heaped in traumatized residents front yards. When destruction like this takes place in an area several square miles large, how do you even begin to deal with the clean-up?

The employees of Sani2 – all of whom are working-class, home-town local community members – worked round the clock for weeks to help homeowners sort through the wreckage of this storm.  While Mallay was safely ensconced in her dry home and political headquarters elsewhere in the state, the working men of Sani2 whose jobs are on the line performed Herculean tasks to clean up their community and share the heartbreak and burden with their own neighbors.

 If sanity prevails, the voters of Baldwin, Roosevelt, and South Hempstead will see this charade for what it is, and soundly defeat the effort to dismantle an 85-year old community institution.

And if the Working Families Party has any sense, they will distance themselves from the loose cannons that have taken control of their Long Island apparatus. 



Carol Schwartz said...

Wow, your characterization of RESD and Laura Mallay is totally off the mark. If you knew the facts, you would know that when Laura Mallay ran for Sanitation Commissioner, it was with the intent to consolidate Sani 2 into the Town of Hempstead garbage district, to lower the residents taxes.

In the seven years since she has not wavered from that goal and this upcoming vote proves the point. Not disgruntled, but angry at the 6-7% increase in the taxes every year.

RESD is non partisan and a very local group, five of it's Board Members are overtaxed residents served by Sani 2. Laura Mallay and RESD stand together with many other Long Island organizations in their quest for smaller government and lower taxes. Organizations like the Conservative Society of America, the Rockville Centre Tea Party Patriots and yes, the Democrats too.

You lived in Baldwin Harbor, do you think it's fair that a house there paid over $2700 in taxes to Sanitary District No. 2 in 2012. Dismantling the Special Taxing District system is the only way to start the process of lowering these local taxes.

We too, like our Sani 2 workers and hope they will all wind up at the Town of Hempstead Garbage District, despite how some of our local politicians lie about this issue. They hold these workers jobs hostage to scare the residents in to believing it's acceptable to pay more than your neighbors to have your garbage picked up, well it's not acceptable and it must stop, right here, right now.

Lonnie Glassman said...

The home in Baldwin that pays over $2,700 in taxes to sanitation has a total annual tax bill of $58,000. This home is listed for sale at $1,800,000. Not your typical Baldwin home.

In Baldwin, the Sani 2 portion of our property taxes is 5% and typically between $400-$600 a year. In Merrick, the Town of Hempstead portion is 3.75%. This equates to a best case savings scenario of 1.25%. That's 110-$150 a year or about 40 cents per day but in reality, nobody can assure that disolving Sani 2 would achieve any tax savings. What we are assured is fewer service and loss of jobs for dedicated workers.

Im not willing to lose this important service in our community. We already lost our First Pricinct. These guys were our heros after Hurricane Sandy and we owe it to them to vote No on 12/12

Carol Schwartz said...

At last, someone finally admits that there is a tax savings coming from a YES vote. The only question now is how much.

Harry Reimer said...

We are all naive that there will be a tax cut if Sanitation District 2 is dissolved. All this will mean to residents is poorer service. The money will be spent elsewhere and taxes will continue to rise. I have been pleased with the job Sanitation 2 has been doing, and there has been zero quantifiable numbers as to what my tax savings will be. And there is good reason for that. It wont happen. Ill keep my Sanitation District, thanks.

Harry Reimer said...
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