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Opinion

Making a case for Hempstead monitors

The exterior of Hempstead High School as seen

The exterior of Hempstead High School as seen on July 10, 2018. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

Daily Point

Laying out an argument for Hempstead monitors

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo weighs whether to sign measures that would create monitors for the struggling Hempstead and Wyandanch school districts, the co-sponsors of the Hempstead bill are leaving nothing to chance.

“We’re trying to figure out what we can do to make him feel comfortable to sign the legislation,” Assemb. Taylor Darling told The Point.

Darling, who co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Kevin Thomas, recently sent a packet of letters to Cuomo imploring him to approve the Hempstead bill.

Among the letter writers were U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, Rockville Centre schools superintendent Bill Johnson, Hempstead Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, Hofstra University education professor Alan Singer, several fellow Assembly members including Long Island Democrats Phil Ramos and Judy Griffin and Long Island Republicans Doug Smith and Melissa Miller, and the advocacy groups New York Communities for Change and Circulo de la Hispanidad.

The packet also included a petition signed by nearly 130 people, the vast majority of them residents of Hempstead. 

“There has been an uproar from the community,” said Darling, who lives in Hempstead Village and whose legislative district includes the school district. “Teachers, parents, students, they thought it was a go. When can we be free, they said. When can we expect standards and structure?”

Darling said she has received pushback from the school board and some parents about the bill but is undeterred.

“Without solid governance the school district is just not running,” said Darling, adding that education is primarily a civil rights issue.

Which means, she said, that offering a substandard education “is pretty much the best way to destroy a community.”

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

Disputing the contract dispute

Forget settling the political arguments over the assessment process in Nassau County. Right now the various sides can’t even agree on what they’re arguing about.

Take County Executive Laura Curran’s request for three contracts for outside services. She’s asked for $750,000 each over two years for Michael Haberman Associates and Standard Valuation Services for assessment services and training of employees. Curran also wants a contract for $90,000 to Assessor Educational Services for training assessment employees. 

The county legislature’s Republican presiding officer, Richard Nicolello, is holding up the contracts because, he says, CSEA leader Jerry Laricchiuta argues convincingly that the work in those contracts belongs to his members.

Nicolello says the CSEA and Curran need to negotiate a deal, just as they did last year on the same issue, when the county gave the CSEA an additional $2.2 million of hiring in return for clear sailing on the outside contracts.

Laricchiuta says the administration knows the work is CSEA’s and he took the offered deal last year just “to give Curran time to get the department up and running.” Curran is offering another deal this year, albeit a far chintzier one: $900,000 in new assessment payroll in return for not disputing the two-year outside services contract.

But Deputy County Executive Helena Williams says the work is not the CSEA’s and and it’s well-known that what the CSEA really wants are concessions on how the union’s expired contract with the county is negotiated.

The backdrop to this controversy are two upcoming elections. In the November county legislative races, Nicolello is fighting to keep his strong majority and has made the assessment process the primary Republican talking point. The CSEA and the county’s other unions opposed Curran’s 2017 election, have been on the attack since she won, and want the GOP majority maintained. 

And Laricchiuta is running an election race of his own, for a new post as Region 1 President of the CSEA after four terms heading up the Nassau operation. For him, a tough stand to keep work he says belongs to his members makes sense as a way to publicize how good he’d be in a bigger post, and Nicolello makes a perfect ally.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Bulletproof?

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Final Point

A history of Elizabeth Warren

Today’s presidential contender book review covers Elizabeth Warren’s “This Fight Is Our Fight.”

It’s clear from this 2017 book that Warren, whose star has been rising as we head toward the Iowa caucuses, is a teacher. There are clunky if funny elements of memoir here, from watching “Ballers” with her husband to teaching Sunday school via the Socratic method, but really this is a history lesson. Warren (and co-writer) are intent on telling a sweeping story of American capitalism and how you’re getting screwed. 

The villains? The billionaire Koch brothers, the Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Ronald Reagan, and a host of others who she says have tried to reduce the size of government. 

“Regulations matter,” she writes, which may be the weirdly stirring thesis of the book, and her 2020 campaign. 

Warren’s strength as a teacher — a strength that has been growing on the debate stage, too — is that she can make her history relatively understandable. “Jeez, can you imagine Tony Soprano in a world of voluntary regulations?” she asks when considering the waning power of the SEC. 

She has a good eye for tying injustices like losing a home to larger systemic problems, and she is artful in depicting the forces doing the exploiting. Sections about corporate jets and the violinists suspended from the ceiling at a decadent 2015 Citadel hedge fund party underscore who’s getting paid. 

Sometimes, she uses her own life story to show the benefits of government. If regulation, regulation, regulation is the big winner, “infrastructure” is a close second: she gushes about how the opening of a highway cut down on her commute to law school. 

The drama can sometimes be more wonky than folksy. 

“Guess who wrote the Dodd-Frank amendment,” her staffer asks in a passage about 2014 budget fights. 

“‘Who?’

‘Citigroup lobbyists.’

I clenched my jaw.”

But the message from passages like these is that without sufficient regulation and with CEOs running amok, many Americans have been getting the short end of the economic stick since way before Donald Trump--and Trump, she says, has only made things worse. 

It’s a populist message that has a clear enemy and also a solution, she argues. It begins with an R.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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