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School bond season begins

A view of Oceanside High School seen on

A view of Oceanside High School seen on Jan. 13, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Daily Point

The name’s Bonds, School Bonds

Long Island is fully in school bond vote season, which is defined as anytime that is not the date of the November general election or May’s school budget votes. Districts often have been criticized for deliberately scheduling bond referendums, which typically ask residents to agree to tax themselves to pay for capital improvements, for times when most voters are not paying as much attention. 

And, indeed, bond votes typically have drawn fewer voters than the May budget votes. Two years ago this month, for example, Newsday’s editorial board examined the issue and found that five of seven bond votes held that fall saw reduced turnouts from the May votes that year. Outliers typically are proposals that are controversial because the bond request is huge.

But the tables have largely turned this fall. Bond proposals in Harborfields, Oceanside, Cold Spring Harbor, Glen Cove and South Huntington saw increased vote totals from their respective May budget votes, while only Commack saw a decrease. Some spikes were huge. Two bonds totaling $78 million in Glen Cove drew 76% more voters on Oct. 22 than turned out in May, and the bonds were rejected. Cold Spring Harbor’s $33.2 million bond proposal was approved on Nov. 19 after turnout that was 170% higher than in May. And South Huntington saw turnout more than quadruple on Oct. 7, when voters rejected two bonds totaling $115 million.

What’s going on? One theory is that since the 2% state property tax cap was passed in 2011, voters have become increasingly less motivated to vote because the vast majority of school districts have chosen to remain within the cap. The numbers bear that out, with mostly precipitous declines in turnout.

Here are the May budget vote turnout figures for the six districts mentioned above for this year and 2011:

Commack — 2019: 2,334; 2011: 4,265

Glen Cove — 2019: 1,396; 2011: 1,601

South Huntington — 2019, 1,027; 2011: 3,241

Oceanside — 2019:1,550; 2011: 2,783

Cold Spring Harbor — 2019:349; 2011: 1,196

Harborfields — 2019: 1,507; 2011: 3,047

All of which might mean that the real action has shifted to the bond proposals, because savvy homeowners have realized these votes have the most impact on their own pocketbooks.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

Spreading the wealth

Sen. Kamala Harris’ aborted presidential campaign raised more than $2.8 million from New York residents — more than those from any other state except her native California, according to Federal Election Commission filings. 

Now that she’s out, where will her big New York donors turn? 

Several Long Island and NYC fundraisers suggested to The Point that the lucky second choices might include former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

It’s a wild race to snap up Harris’ previous donors. One longtime Democratic fundraiser from Long Island describes a feeding frenzy of principals and top staffers making calls and trying to get Harris donors on board before they go with someone else.

Some big Harris donors also have donated to other candidates in a hectic season in which the primary field is so wide and open. But even if they’ve already maxed out to other candidates, they can still help bundle more donations or hold an event. 

Wall Street veteran Charles Myers says Harris was his first choice, though FEC records show he also gave money to the likes of Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who may miss this month’s debate, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both of whom have also dropped out of the race.

Myers, who held an event for Harris in Manhattan in October, already has been a co-host for Biden and is considering doing so for Buttigieg soon. 

He says many big funders are “a bit undecided” now and are waiting to see how the Dec. 19 debate goes, though he’s heard of interest in Biden and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has indicated he will self-fund his campaign. 

The move to someone like Biden makes sense, according to the LI fundraiser, because like Harris, the former vice president is a centrist with a track record. 

“There’s no empirical proof here but I get the sense that there are two magnets that will attract support as candidates begin to withdraw,” writes Steve Israel, the former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head who now directs Cornell’s Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. “Biden (from the pragmatists who believe he’s the best bet to defeat Trump) and Buttigieg (who is not Biden, Warren or Sanders and represents an Obama-style candidacy).”

Of course, with such a big field, Harris’ New York donors wouldn’t necessarily be numerous enough to immediately change the game even if they all went to one candidate. 

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the University of Virginia’s political ratings group, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, notes Harris running out of money was one reason for the end of her campaign. 

“If that is the case, then perhaps there's also not a huge bloc of donors available to migrate to other candidates,” he writes in an email.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Russia's favorite soap opera

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion

Final Point

Looking back on last decade’s tech

As the decade comes to a close, it’s clear that technology has been a dominant force shaping life on Long Island and beyond, from our smartphones to our politics and social media. 

This got The Point wondering: What did the editorial board think about new technology 10 years ago? 

Some of it still felt new to us. In the years after the 2008 presidential election, we noted how President Barack Obama’s “use of the internet helped win him the presidency,” a novel factor at the time. As Obama’s term ramped up, we approved of his and other politicians' attempts to use broadband technology and electronic medical records to improve American lives. 

The board also was interested in how technology could improve government functions, like voting or taping Suffolk police interrogations or smoothing whatever gets done at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Online classes there might be offered through “YouTube-style videos,” we wrote in 2009. 

Despite some hopeful feelings of tech utopianism, we already were concerned about the effect of too much tech in our lives. Writing about dashboard video screens and “3D maps” in cars, we encouraged drivers to turn off and tune out in 2010: “Enjoy the scenery. Talk to passengers. It could catch on.”  Little did we imagine the complex software and images on the consoles in today’s vehicles. 

Some of the tech takes feel right up to the minute. In 2009, we wrote about Iranian protests organized over Twitter and Facebook, 10 years before the recent wave of Iranian demonstrations which were met with a bloody crackdown. In 2010, we noted that Facebook “has ‘poked’ its way into the daily ritual of our lives.” We were concerned about cyber attacks and were already scratching at questions of privacy in a digital world. There was WikiLeaks and red-light cameras and a sense of technology’s growing impact. We wondered who was responsible for the consequences. 

In another editorial against texting and driving, we said “techie entrepreneurs” should develop a way to “automatically disable the texting function while driving.”

This led us to a broader point: “Technology created this problem. Technology should solve it.” We’re still waiting.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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