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Few Clouds 44° Good Morning
Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Voting is quickest way for LIers to influence policy, government practice

Residents vote for their candidates at a voting

Residents vote for their candidates at a voting booth on March 20, 2012. Photo Credit: AP

Tuesday is Election Day.

Why should you care?

In Hauppauge, residents last week complained during a Republican-led legislative hearing about the spread of red light cameras in Suffolk.

In Hempstead, in Nassau, and in Mastic Beach, in Suffolk, property owners said they were angered by town actions that, in the first instance, demolished a home, and in the second, served owners with eviction notices.

In Oyster Bay, preservationists are steaming over demolition of the historic Maine Maid Inn -- which, town officials last week acknowledged, was allowed under permits issued without the required paperwork.

The state attorney general's office -- fresh off a court victory on behalf of relatives of a patient who died in a nursing home in Suffolk after staff ignored alarms and later tried to cover up -- has turned its sights on Nassau's jail, sources told Newsday last week. Investigators for the attorney general are probing medical care that inmates received from a private contractor. They also are looking at deaths at the jail, and reaching out to former inmates for information.

In the courts, the state Appellate Division upheld the reversal of a Wyandanch man's murder conviction -- because Suffolk prosecutors withheld evidence from the defense that might have led to an acquittal.

This was your government at work -- just last week.

In Suffolk, police last week were roiled in the wake of the surprise forced resignation of James Burke, the chief of department. He remains under investigation by federal authorities in connection with allegations that he punched a Smithtown man later convicted of taking a duffel bag from Burke's county-issued vehicle. Burke has been accused of no wrongdoing.

County Executive Steve Bellone said in an interview last week that Chief of Support Services Stuart Cameron would be his choice to replace Burke.

So, what's the point of this litany of resident complaints, disputed policies, judicial findings, government decisions, investigations and crisis-related personnel changes?

It's that the public's business -- no matter the village, city, town or county -- is conducted by those the public elects to serve: the town board members and county executives, lawmakers, judges and top county prosecutors.

Some of those offices are up for election on Tuesday; some are not. Still, the surest, quickest and easiest way for Long Islanders to influence policy and government practice is to do one thing -- and do it consistently.


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