Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has Show More
Nassau and Suffolk County residents, lend me your ears.
Actually, send me your political mailings.
Because we may want to spotlight or fact-check some of them as the fall election season edges closer. Maybe it's an informational post card or flier from an elected official that looks suspiciously like campaign material.
Send it over.
Or a communication with information that you feel needs vetting.
Send it over.
Why should you bother?
Well, with Nassau and Suffolk counties facing budget deficits, the last thing residents need is their hard-earned tax money funding political mailings.
It's becoming an issue in Nassau, where Madeline Singas, the acting district attorney, is in a standoff with Nassau's majority leader, Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).
This week, Singas -- following up on an earlier April missive -- chided lawmakers for failing to approve proposed rules to bar Nassau elected officials from using public money for political purposes.
Singas cited a recent taxpayer-funded mailing from Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown) to 29,000 households in his district.
Gonsalves, in a statement to Newsday reporter Celeste Hadrick, said Tuesday that the two-sided postcard -- which six other Republican lawmakers sent to their constituents as well -- met the standard of legitimate governmental messages to constituents.
Singas, who complains that current laws make it almost impossible to prosecute public-paid political mailings, wasted no time in blasting back, with her spokesman calling such postcards "self-promotional political mail."
Dunne's postcards cost taxpayers 25 cents each in bulk-mailing rates, plus the cost of the county labor, ink, paper and other materials. That pushed the cost higher than the $7,250 mailing cost.
Multiply that expense by the six other Republican lawmakers who used the postcard, and the cost to taxpayers jumps to $43,500 for mailing alone.
What did residents in Dunne's district get for their money? A large, two-sided postcard -- all of which, save one sliver, was devoted to Nassau Republican campaign talking points.
It said Dunne and the legislature "passed four consecutive no-tax increase budgets." That ignores hefty fee increases, and a tax increase this year that Republican lawmakers initially had fought but ceded to.
It credits Dunne, County Executive Edward Mangano and Nassau lawmakers with "Holding the Line on Property Taxes ... One Creative Solution at a Time." There's no mention of the canceled school speed camera programs, a stalled plan to build giant billboards along some major thoroughfares and other now-dead initiatives that were designed to bring in millions of dollars in new revenue.
It says that Dunne and the legislature "created public-private partnerships" for services including jail health care and public buses -- which ignores criticism that performance in both areas has deteriorated. It also does not mention a private ice-skating rink on public land that declared bankruptcy last month.
The sliver of information Dunne wanted to communicate to constituents? It's a series of what the postcard calls "property tax exemption workshops." They're really sessions on how to challenge Nassau's broken property tax assessment system -- one more thing that needs fixing.
There likely will be more such communications as candidates gear up for election. Let's see them. Snap a photograph, front and back, and email it over, or send it in the mail.