Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!
A special Long Island problem
While the entire nation will be affected by the Republican tax overhaul plan, the big fight is just about us: The Real Taxpayers of Long Island.
The plan’s threat to eliminate the itemized deduction for state and local taxes in high-wealth coastal states -- OK, the blue ones -- is forging bipartisan opposition. Reps. Tom Suozzi and Peter King are linked in opposition and have written an op-ed that will appear Saturday at newsday.com/opinion, and in Sunday’s Newsday. Reps. Kathleen Rice and Lee Zeldin also oppose eliminating the deduction.
Suozzi’s 3rd Congressional District has the highest number of tax returns claiming a state and local tax deduction in the nation, according to an analysis of 2015 IRS data by the Government Finance Officers Association. King’s 2nd CD has the 10th-highest number in the nation.
In Suozzi’s district, the average deduction for state and local taxes is $18,386.03. In King’s district, the average is $20,110.62.
The 4th CD, represented by Rice, has fewer tax returns claiming the deduction, but is first in the nation based on the percentage of returns claiming the state and local tax deduction; the average deduction there is $23,360.96. On a percentage basis, Zeldin’s 1st CD is 11th in the nation and has an average deduction of $17,685.50.
“This is a very big deal for us,” Suozzi said. “It’s not going to be easy to stop this.”
Just one more way that Long Island is special.
Rita Ciolli and Sam Guzik
To the rulebook
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is running unopposed for re-election this year, but he’s come under harsh scrutiny anyway: first for declining to prosecute a case against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and later for taking $32,000 in campaign contributions from Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, in 2013.
And with Thursday’s devastating New York Times story detailing sexual harrassment claims against Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein, Vance is in the crosshairs after accepting $10,000 from Weinstein’s lawyer in 2015, a campaign donation that came after the office of the Manhattan DA took a pass on sexual assault charges against the mogul. On Friday, another report emerged about a law firm and its partners making big donations after getting favorable outcomes for their clients. Vance has denied any impropriety.
But what are the rules about donating to district attorneys?
They’re minimal, considering the office’s unique role in the criminal justice system. There are no specific state Board of Election rules for giving to district attorneys, just the state’s baseline formula: In a general election, non-family donors can give five cents multiplied by the number of active registered voters in the candidate’s district. In Manhattan that comes out to close to $50,000.
An online fundraising page for Vance asks donors to certify that they don’t have matters pending with the DA’s office or recently resolved. But the site says the restrictions “do NOT extend to attorneys representing persons or entities with matters before the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.” Look close enough and there’s always a loophole.
It’s a small world after all
The late broadcaster Paul Harvey was famous for his tagline, “And that’s the rest of the story.”
A chance placement in Newsday this past summer of an unpublished photo from 1949 led to a widely praised story for Oct. 1's 70th anniversary of the first occupants of Levittown: the moment when Mortimer Weiss of the Bronx declined to buy a dearly needed new house in Rosyln after learning that developer William Levitt was barring non-whites from buying his homes after World War II.
As news editor of Newsday’s Opinion pages, I had chosen the photo from our digital database in August to illustrate a letter about Levitt’s restrictive covenants. It showed Weiss simply shaking hands with Levitt after Weiss had gotten a chance to buy a home. He had waited overnight with dozens of other World War II veterans. A story about that event in Newsday on March 7, 1949, included news of Weiss’ wife having just given birth to twin daughters — suddenly expanding his family to five. However, the paper used other photos of the home-seeking veterans, so that photo of Weiss sat in Newsday’s photo archives for 68 years until it was published Aug. 1.
A few days after it was printed, Weiss’ daughter, Dorene Watkins of Manhattan, sent Newsday an email saying what a surprise it was to see the photo of her father, which friends had sent her. But she revealed the rest of the story — about how he encountered demonstrators at the developer’s office and decided not to sign papers to buy the home. Watkins graciously agreed to expand her initial letter into the full essay that appeared in Oct. 1’s Newsday, explaining her father’s opposition to discrimination and his empathy for all working people.
Even after 70 years, America’s first suburb continues to generate new stories.