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Good Morning

Letter: Nassau allowing tax base decline

I concur that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should "take a very hard look" at recent legislation to fix Nassau County's commercial assessments ["Albany makes its deals," Editorial, June 22].

Yes, new laws are sorely needed; however, only a blue ribbon committee of professionals with knowledge of assessment law has a chance to reform the system. Not widely understood are the consequences of a declining tax base.

Nassau continues to decimate its tax base. What is needed is some transparency to expose Nassau affirmatively permitting its tax base to decline.

A new culprit is the unprecedented granting of tax breaks to developers by the county's Industrial Development Agency. The IDA tax breaks, combined with freezing residential assessments for four years and granting almost every assessment challenge, resulted in higher school and county tax rates.

To make up for the loss of taxable assessed values, the assessor's office this fall will be required to increase school tax rates to give each district its tax levy amount to the penny. Don't blame the schools; the fault lies with the loss of the tax base.

An audit by the state comptroller to quantify the loss of Nassau's tax base over the last three years would be prudent. If the governor signs this bill into law, it is very likely that school tax rates will go up.

Harvey B. Levinson, Boca Raton, Florida

Editor's note: The writer, a Democrat, was Nassau County assessor from 2004 to 2008.

Teacher evaluation and Common Core

I have to take issue with the simplistic approach to the state's teacher evaluation process ["Albany makes its deals," Editorial, June 22]. I say this as one who has been a strong supporter of the Common Core standards, as well as a member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Practices, which works toward more rigorous and meaningful evaluations for teachers and administrators.

I have argued for more than three years that the evaluations need to be very rigorous. However, the use of student test scores for 20 to 40 percent of a teacher's score, on a very suspect state evaluation instrument, undermines the very accountability we should be looking for. Even the Gates Foundation supports a temporary halt to evaluating teachers based on Common Core tests.

Every part of the implementation of the Common Core was lumped together by critics of one piece or another, with the result that the Common Core itself is under increasing attack. It would be a shame to lose these standards because of sloppy and rushed implementation, which then becomes an excuse for extinction.

The use of test scores to evaluate 18 percent of teachers -- those whose classes require Common Core tests -- has become a blemish on the backside of progress.

Roger Tilles, Great Neck

Editor's note: The writer has served as Long Island's representative on the New York State Board of Regents since 2005.

Involvement in Iraq again?

Sen. John McCain's belief that he is qualified to criticize our nation's foreign policy in Iraq is an assumption that has proved to be unsupported by the facts in the past ["The hawks got it wrong," News Column, June 22].

His analysis and conclusion that the current calamity in Iraq is due to President Barack Obama's failure to keep troops in that country is flawed. The record shows that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded that we leave his country, despite Obama administration proposals that we leave behind a stabilizing force.

If the senator wants someone to blame, he need look no further than his own party and the infamous George W. Bush-Dick Cheney administration.

My respect for McCain (R-Ariz.) as a soldier and a patriot is boundless. As an observer and commentator on our country's foreign affairs, he would best serve our government while resting at his home in Sedona, Arizona, enjoying the beauty of its unique red geology.

William F. Haffey, Massapequa

If our country engages in battle in Iraq, we should hope that a massive coalition of countries steps in to stop the atrocities being inflicted by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The United States should use its might to destroy all of their tanks and sophisticated weapons and get out as quickly as possible.

The world is pushing us around and we need to make a statement.

Ray Collette, Selden

Poorly timed crosswalk signals

I am so sorry for the family whose 13-year-old daughter was killed on June 15 at Hempstead Turnpike and Gardiners Avenue in Levittown ["Tearful farewell to hit-and-run victim," News, June 20].

I have been complaining about this intersection for years. The state Department of Transportation has made some changes, but it has ignored one issue: The crosswalk timers are not right and in certain directions, they are downright dangerous. Traffic is released into the pedestrian walkway too early for the pedestrian to have reached the safety of the sidewalk.

It's not just this intersection, but at every crosswalk I have used.

Tom Caro, Levittown

Editor's note: The writer is the vice president of the Levittown Property Owners Association.