Source: The Independent

January 16, 2013

Cuomo’s Ambitious Agenda

Governor Cuomo has mapped out an ambitious agenda for his second term, and the reforms suggested are long overdue. Cuomo has already proven his resolve by taking on the powerful teachers’ and municipal workers’ unions and prodding the long dysfunctional state legislature into action.

His latest proposals include a virtual ban on assault rifles, which will surely put him squarely in the crosshairs of the powerful gun lobby. Cuomo also wants to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75, and that’s an initiative the federal government should adopt as well. Working a full week for only $290 in an economy where gas, oil, and rent prices are rising makes it difficult to even put food on the table. A higher minimum wage will encourage people on public assistance and unemployment to find paying jobs.

Cuomo said he would push for a Women’s Equality Act that will guarantee equal pay for equal work and at long last address the gender inequality that exists not only in this state but the entire country.

In 1973 New York State enacted the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the most Draconian legislation imaginable. It mandated 15-year jail terms for drug possession, and ruined the lives of countless young people guilty of nothing more than having a little marijuana on them. Cuomo wants to decriminalize marijuana use, and it is about time. Finally, the state will come full circle.

Critics contend Cuomo is posturing with an eye on the White House in 2016. Maybe that’s not a bad idea.

Saving What’s Left

The current East Hampton administration will always be remembered for rescuing us from the fiscal chaos wrought by disgraced former town supervisor Bill McGintee. But the Bill Wilkinson era may leave a more frightening legacy – the erosion of the planning process so carefully honed over the last four decades.

Even its most ardent supporters agreed the planning process was cumbersome and time consuming, and probably deliberately so. But the lengthy reviews caused a backlash from some planning attorneys, businesses, and developers.

Ostensibly, the “reform” of the planning process was designed to simplify the process.

But what has occurred is a frontal assault on the safeguards needed to preserve our virgin woodlands and waterfront.

At first it was mean spirited, personal attacks on the director of the planning department, who is well liked and extremely capable. Then it was a determined effort to limit the authority of the planning department by shifting authority away from the planners.

Worse, a pattern of stacking our planning and zoning boards with malleable appointees who favor the administration’s pro-development mentality has compromised the boards.

Last month the vice president of the zoning board, a Wilkinson appointee, opined that building on dunes might be allowable in certain instances. That statement, so heretical it has probably never been uttered in the history of this town, should send shock waves through every citizen.

Zoning and planning board appointees have terms as long as seven years – the damage that can be done in that time frame is immeasurable.

The Republican town board is essentially a lame duck. With all three seats up for grabs this fall, it is difficult to envision a scenario wherein the party retains power. Dominick Stanzione, a Republican, has been able to stand up to the majority on some issues. He could use some love from the other party -- preserving what’s left must be a bipartisan fight.

We have too many zoning and planning board members who are pliable, weak-kneed, or wrongheaded. We need to get back to appointing the best and brightest and we urge the town board to do just that regardless of political affiliation.