Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TWF 230: Welcome to Payport! Or; RVC Light.

Howdy Payporters!

What, our town is called Freeport?  Coulda fooled me!

I know; it's hard to tell what it is.

A few days ago a little internet controversy came to my attention as it was asserted that the Village had installed Rockville Center-style "Munimeters" in its municipal parking lots.  This was sort of a surprise to me, seeing as I live two blocks from one, so I decided to stop by after work.  Sure enough, I was greeted with sights like the above, and the below.

Now, I've checked at all four lots down on the Nautical Mile and can confirm they exist, there; I haven't checked up north due two working two jobs and all, while also having the Human weaknesses of needing to eat and sleep.  There are also no meters (yet) on the streets in that neighborhood.  Wow.  Where do I begin?  Normally, it'd be with some words from Mayor Kennedy, but unlike former Mayor Hardwick he didn't respond to my message.  (Is this a good thing?  Judging from the past could be.)  Instead, let's jump into the debate!

To Tax, or to tax differently.

Let's ignore, for a moment, Freeport's history as a rum-running capital, and/or it's history as a free port (which, according to The Economist, is a booming business!), and/or the fact that these areas were just a year ago devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  And, it's no secret that facilities like Braccos were charging upwards of $20/night for parking, but that's parking on-site in a heavily monitored lot.  Let's look at this in a purely economic standpoint:  Does this make sense?

Well, these parking lots were built with Taxpayer money.  Sea Breeze especially is a recently-constructed facility.  Therefore, Freeporters have paid to have them developed.  We'll touch more into the fairness of this later, but does it make sense - economically - to recuperate losses?  Well...No.  Not in my view.  Here's why!

One of the huge advantages Freeport had going into the post-Sandy recovery was that The Mile's nearest major competitor, in terms of night-life and restaurants, is Rockville Center.  Let me tell you a little secret:  I hate me some RVC.  I despise it.  I hate going there because of one simple reason:  I can never find parking, and I pay through my bum for what little I can find.  I don't just dislike the town, but I actually actively avoid going there.  When I have a choice between doctors' appointments at an RVC or a Merrick one, I go with Merrick 100% of the time.  If I had to go to Bellmore or even Wantagh, I'd be in for that.  Why?  Parking, pure and simple.  I know many, many others who feel the same way.

Now, The Mile is not exactly a year-round place.  Many establishments aren't even open year-round, but those which are?  They became home.  Jeremy's Ale House in particular, but also places like Bamboo (which I recently had the pleasure of dining at!) and, during its pre-Wet days, a place once called Splash as well as Hurricane Charlie's.  These were my spots, and I loved going there.  Why?  At least in the winter, parking was virtually automatic!  Show up, park, eat, leave!  Why is this complicated?

No longer.

If you don't think this will effect where people dine, or how much they spend, think again.  It's $7 for a 14 hour parking slip.  That's not a terrible price, but it is the price of a drink and/or an appetizer.  That's $7 I had to buy myself an order of boneless wings at Jeremy's.  Well, even if I only spend half of that, that's an order of boneless wings I'm no longer buying.  That's money the Village gets...But Jeremy's doesn't!  Now, isn't that lame?  Speaking of money Jeremy's doesn't get, consider the employees of the place!  Your average eight hour shift is $4 in parking money every day, meaning $20/week.  That doesn't sound like much, but think about it this way:  Would you be cool paying an extra $20/week on parking, no matter how much you earn?  Or, as an employer, would you be happy to pay all of your employees an extra $20 for the privilege of paying the Village to come in and enable commerce?

The main argument I've heard in favor of these Munimeters (Punymeters, really; these guys are small!) is that they will help make sure we don't get a tax increase in the immediate future.  That's really the idea, right?  Increase revenue without raising taxes on home-owners?  But, at least for the businesses, employees, and visitors to these businesses?  Isn't the process I explained above the textbook definition of a tax, at least in terms of the "chilling" effect on commerce that taxes cause?

Here's the bottom line:  This is a tax on Freeporters.  It's not a direct tax levy, performed by - say - raising the commercial rate.  It's instead placed upon the employees and patrons.  Sometimes that "broadens" the tax base by taxing non-residents indirectly, but it's certainly a mistake.  If the commercial aspects don't convince you this was a mistake, let's present another...

These Munimeters may cost lives.

No joke.

Because we needed a fun picture, courtesy of Superheroden.

As someone who lives only a few blocks away, I cannot tell you how many times I have had friends (not recently, but during my college days.  I had those - we were all young, once) call me up and offer a more vulgar variant of, "Hey, Jesse, I got pretty messed up last night.  I took a cab home, then left my car at the Mile, can you pick me up and drop me off at it?"  It was always in the back of peoples' minds:  Leave your car because it costs you nothing.  Now, it costs you a parking ticket!  Impaired people may weigh the consequences quite differently; the results may be disastrous.

I know that sounds like a reach, but DWI is one of the leading killers in this country.  Most accidents happen within a few miles of one's house.  I'd post links, but I don't feel like google-searching.  Why not?  Because I am a busy person, and I choose to be lazy with things that are well-established facts both statistically and empirically.  Just like drunk people say, "Ehhh, it's only one time, and I'm not that drunk."

Now, on to what I like to offer - some kind of reasonable solution to a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place!

How to fix the Munimeter problem.

So, with all of these in mind, let's boil our situation down to a simple question:  How do we square the desire to increase income with the prospect of increasing costs on Freeport residents and businesses?  After all, it's not like we Freeporters haven't already paid for our parking spots by paying the tax dollars that built them, right?

Well, some of the costs to residents - besides direct financial loss - are fairly clear:  Increased competition for parking spots on streets will cost locals room they need for their guests or to park.  It's already bad, but now it's worse.  More travelers up and down the mile might stray onto their property and cause damage or leave litter behind.  The roads, driven more, will acquire more damage faster.  Hmm.  Seems like we're focused on the residents, now, but the same applies to businesses...Wait!  I got it!

The answer which jumps out immediately at me is simple, and ironically is stolen from Rockville Center's system and then improved upon!  We need a Resident/Employee permit.  Follow me, here:  RVC has plenty of spaces which are reserved for "Resident/Employee" permits.  These spaces cannot be "rented," but instead it falls upon people to find Munimeter-capable spots.  During business hours, this leads to massive areas of empty concrete and a few crowded, overtaxed publicly-available spots.

Freeport needs to adopt a system wherein residents mail in their license plates along with a photocopy of their drivers' license and/or registration slips.  For security purposes, we could compromise and say that initial permit granting requires an in-person appearance at Village Hall.  These permits are renewed every year.  Employee verification requires an official letter of some sort from a business, and must again be renewed yearly.  Allow me to emphasize that this permit would be absolutely, 100% free to qualified candidates.  This will stress business owners out a little bit, will require some effort on behalf of the Village (surely costing no more than they will earn in new parking tickets) and is an inconvenience for residents; on the other hand, non-resident visitors will kick a little bit of extra cash up, reducing the need for tax-payers to up their direct contributions.  There, problem solved!

Or, y'know, we just scrap the Munimeters because all it sounds like they're doing is reducing the appeal that Freeport has to non-residents.

The Weekly Freeporter is produced by Jesse Pohlman.  Jesse is a writer from Freeport, NY.  If you have some time, check out his five-star rated novel, Physics Incarnate, available in both Kindle and Paperback formats!

Thank you for reading!

Editorial note:  I also happen to work at Randall Park over the summer; I've lost two car mirrors while parked on the street (no, the Village will not reimburse me), and I am now one of those being forced to pay in order to park and work.  Just thought I'd mention this somewhere for journalistic integrity; seeing as I also live in the area, and will likely see increased numbers of people parked on my road?  Neat, huh?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

TWF 226: Jesse Pohlman's Guest Spot on The Strykezone!

Hey Freeporters!

I've been a busy beaver this year, but my lady and I recently got a chance to stop by an old Freeport High School Alumni's place.  CJ Stryker is a NYC mainstay, but few know of his ties to our community.  Okay, that's sort of a fib - he actually runs the FHS Alumni Facebook group!  However, CJ also founded Stryker Network Media, and he hosts a WebTV show called The Strykezone!

Having been Freeport alumni, it was a pleasant surprise when we met up at Adelphi University, from which we also became alumni!  So, I was even more surprised - and honored! - when he asked me to be a guest on his show.  I didn't know what to expect, so I won't spoil it for you -- OKAY!  He tries to get me to make comments about former mayor Andrew Hardwick, comments which I artfully keep my trap shut about.  He also asks about my writing.  Check it out!

The StrykeZone - Episode 19 - Guest Featuring - Jesse Pohlman from CJ Stryker on Vimeo.

I want to thank him again for having me on, because this was an awesome experience.  A real pleasure, even if we didn't agree on everything.

The Weekly Freeporter is produced by Jesse Pohlman.  Jesse is a freelance writer working out of Freeport, NY.  He writes books - Just check out his Amazon Author's Page.  Well, don't just check it out, buy something to support another Freeport artist!

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TWF 225: A Sandy Retrospective, One Year Later

Hello, Freeport,

Well, we've survived our first "Post-Sandy" year, at least according to the generally accepted calendar we all live under!  It's been, well...Rough.  Very rough.  This article is dedicated to the real experience Freeport endured at this time.  I'm keeping it simple, but I would like you to contact me after reading this, and I'd like you to post any images that you have to our facebook pages.

I'd also like to give three up-front shout-outs, one to Jason Bass who helped me record some of this stuff, and one to Friends of Freeport for helping to rebuild our town.  Third, of course, goes to our first responders for the efforts they put forth.

The Hurricane Sandy Timeline

This was, honestly, one of those events that we'll always "remember where you were."  In fifty years, some of us will be asked about the storm and we'll remember where we were.  It's just the way that storm went.  So, I guess in honor of that, here's where I was:

On Friday, October 26th, 2012, this publication posted an article about what was being touted as a "Frankenstorm."  That's right, did you forget that term?  We all did.  We all had a reason to.  By Monday, October 29th, 2012, I reported in one of my 10+ updates that Sandy was, well, hitting hard.  I remember, particularly, that when we lost power in the apartment I was staying at (in Hempstead), I went out to my car, got an ancient and barely-functional battery-powered AM/FM radio, searched through the channels with a broken channel display until I finally got reliable news.  I even tried to post on my smart-phone, an outdated-by-years Blackberry.

It was not a fun night.

The next day, my friend Jason and I went down to Freeport.  Our first stop was my house, in the first of many video recordings we made.  Some people like them, some don't.  Go figure.  And, yes, this is my basement.

Moving on, we checked the entire town out.  This particular house haunted me:

I keep reiterating, it looks like someone took a sci-fi laser to the place and sliced the bulk of it off after the five-foot marker.  It's just...Scary, man.

I remember stopping by Atlantic Pizzeria and speaking to the owner of the flooded-out business.  He gave us the flash memory on his camera to download some video and pictures he'd taken.  They were of Sandy's actual impact into Freeport, and they're not pretty.  Of course, those pictures are no longer with us on the internet.  However, we have some video below:

Of course, we're far from the only community hit by this disaster.  All of Long Island suffered; NYC's subways were inundated; New Jersey's boardwalk was demolished by the floods; and Queens' Breezy Point, in particular was devastated by fire:

Image courtesy of businessinsider.com

To top it all off, just a week after Sandy smashed us and crippled our power and electric grids, on November 7, 2012, a massive Nor'Easter called "Athena" buried our area in snow.  We had officially experienced a "summer" storm and a "winter" storm within ten days of one another, and our communities suffered greatly.

Superstorm Hurricane Sandy's Legacy

I mentioned the now-forgotten term "Frankenstorm."  Most people will remember this as a "Superstorm," because by the time Sandy made land-fall it had supposedly been downgraded out of the "Hurricane" status- as it, of course, melded with prevailing wind patterns and decimated us.  I personally recall it being considered a "Hurricane" by meteorologists as the first effects hit us, so I will always refer to it as a Hurricane.

To me, the "superstorm" title is often semantically mis-applied to either defraud victims or - I know, brace yourself - insurers.  Of course, by defrauding an insurer you weaken it's ability to pay other victims a fair compensation, so in reality it's often used by scammers to...We don't want to hear about that.  We don't, but in order to do a fair retrospective I have to point out the good as well as the bad.

So, let's get another bad out of the way:  I am yet to hear of any actual numbers on how we're going to pay for Sandy damages (I mean really pay for all of them), let alone on how we're going to prevent them.  I wrote an article about this back in January, but it bears repeating that our property tax system is broken.  it is broken, and nobody I know of has offered a solid way to fix it.  Ed Mangano and Tom Suozzi are at it again...But nobody's talking about this, are they?!

What's worse is that even if you win an assessment grievance against the Village of Freeport, they will turn around and assess you at the already-struck-down value in the following year, forcing you to fight it again and again.  I know because my family is engaged in this practice - and, our house was far from totaled, as opposed to some friends of mine who literally don't have floors on their first floors!  So, there's plenty of bad news bears still about.

However, in all of the bad, there's some tremendous good that's come out of this, as well.  As per the link, and the shout-out at the start of the article, I've already said a lot about the Friends of Freeport.  Then there's the Nautical Mile Festival of 2013.  That was a huge success, too!  Our Village has slowly crept back into shape.  Just like after the original "Long Island Express," the disaster which killed well over 600 Long Islanders back in 1938, we have rebuilt in spite of the costs and refused to allow nature to drive us away from our lives.

There is still a very bright future ahead for us, provided we can overcome the true challenges Sandy left behind in her wake - being prepared and stable enough so that "the next one" doesn't have a chance of impacting our lives the way that "the last one" did.

Friday, September 13, 2013

TWF 221: Jersey Shore Boardwalk, Damaged by Sandy, is Ravaged by Flame

Hello, Freeport,

First of all, allow me to say that I'm not convinced, in tonight's loss of the Jets to the Patriots, that D'Brickashaw Ferguson actually threw a punch.  At the very least, I saw not one, but two Patriots draped on him, and I firmly believe he was simply trying to create separation.  I will need to watch replays, but I despise the Pats, so that will have to wait.  (No, I am not a Jets fan, and have not been since 2009)

On to the main event, and it's unfortunately tragic.

We're nearing the one year anniversary of Hurricane (or Superstorm; I remember it hitting as a Hurricane) Sandy's landing, the damage is still present throughout the tri-state area.  I think about one long-time friend of mine whose house remains nothing more than four walls with a wooden skeleton inside - and with no first floor, quite literally, so that you can see the basement's skeleton from where you stand.  It was ravaged by flood and fire, and a year later it remains completely uninhabitable.  I think back to my cousins, whose foundation was damaged and who have had a nightmare trying to get the proper funding to rebuild it to code.

Freeport is still heavily damaged.  It's easy for the lack of gas lines, the return of electricity, and the sands of time to play amnesia-food to our memories.  We remember Sandy, but we don't live it every day.  So many, however, still do.  So many still pay outrageous federal, state, and local taxes based on property values that are unsustainable, and without regard for the total losses they have suffered.  Our infrastructure remains not only damaged, but vulnerable, and unfortunately the fates have decided that we - speaking from a national stand-point, if not a local one - needed a reminder.

Blaze on the Boardwalk in Jersey

This image, obtained from breakingnews.com, was taken today from the rather historic Funtown Pier in Seaside Park/Seaside Heights, New Jersey.  If you've heard that name before, it's possibly because of the nigh-legendary photographs of its roller coasters being swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean during the storm.  This area was devastated less than a year ago, and in the face of an honestly well-executed rebuilding project, this inferno came and stole it away.

As reported by Breakingnews, attributed to @nbcnewyork, Governor Chris Christie has explained that damage from the "superstorm" still compromises the water supplies needed to actually put the flames out.  It's start location is fairly well known, as eye-witnesses have explained when they found the blaze.  But the actual cause?  That's a question, as it may have started under the boardwalk - a very, very unnerving sign.

Fortunately, nobody is reported dead or missing; firefighters have been treated for smoke inhalation, and the blaze has continued on into tonight...Well, more like today.  Continued on into today.  It's 12:30 AM.

I know our friends out in Colorado are also experiencing horrible disasters, with a massive flood sweeping through Boulder.  I know there's a lot of tragedies out there in the world, such as the ongoing civil war in Syria.  But, this one?  We New Yorkers are still suffering, and - with tragic results - are still vulnerable as a result of Sandy.

With Hurricane Season finally underway, quite late in the year for that sort of thing, we need to be prepared in case the worst should happen.  So far nothing is rumored to be ready to hit us, but you never, ever know with these things.  Moreover, we need to take a look around and ask ourselves, "what are we doing to address our town's long-term survival?  What are we doing to make our town safer?  What have we done to bring more resources home?"

Because even when you have an amazingly devoted rebuilding effort, sometimes the smallest spark can ignite a nightmare.  Let's remember them in their time of need, and all of our brothers and sisters across the nation and even the world, as well.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TWF 218: Cancer Benefit for Freeport Native! August 16!


After just celebrating a blues festival (which, of course, helped raised money for "Superstorm" Sandy victims), we have another situation that's a little less...Pleasant.  Call this a "by request" article if you want, but you also know by now that cancer and I have a very unpleasant history.  My mother, Joanne Pohlman (Maiden name Alfano), a native Freeporter as I am, died about six years ago from it.  So, here's the skinny:

Freeport native Joseph G was diagnosed last night with Stage 3 Testicular Cancer, which has already spread to his lymphatic system.  This is not the best news; medical bills as well as the difficulty of cancer treatment as a whole add up to a real problem.

So, other Freeporters and friends of ours have put together a fund-raiser for him.  It will be on Friday, August 16th at the Twisted Shamrock; it's located at 11 Railroad Avenue in Babylon, NY.  There's a $7 cover at the door, with music starting at 9:30, including raffles, prizes and cupcakes!

LIVE Music will be provided by And The Day Is Mine, Mike Miller And The High Life, and many others!  Additionally, www.stupidcancer.org is going to donate some goodies for prizes.  So, I know it's a bit out-of-the-way, but support a Freeporter in their fight against this rather shitty disease.

You can find out more information about this event at its Facebook page!  That includes a link you can donate to, in the event you can't make it but still want to contribute.  Thank you all!

Monday, May 20, 2013

TWF 209: Freeport School Budget and Trustee Vote, May 21st, 2013!

Greetings, Freeport,

Allow me to post the 'ol Editorial Disclaimer:  Jesse Pohlman is a full-time employee of the Freeport Public Schools.

So, let's start at the start:  Tomorrow is "election day," wherein voters in the Freeport School District vote to adopt the budget, the library budget, and also vote for trustees on the school board.  You just need to stroll down to your local polling place before 9:00 PM tomorrow night.  Here's the breakdown step-by-step:

School Budget

You can find all the information you need, here:

Editorial Note:  Jesse Pohlman's part-time second job as Assistant Coach for the FHS Boys Swim Team is one of the 29.5 positions cut out of this budget.

The tax increase is within New York State's "tax cap" limits, and preserves most of the academic programs required by NYS.  And, yes, our finances have historically been pretty strong - until the great economic crash of 2008, we were cutting taxes and increasing programs.  At a budget meeting I attended this year, I recall the speaker notifying those in attendance that the school Administration has taken their raises for this year, a significant chunk of change, but that the primary driver of our fiscal doldrums is, yet again, New York State.  This isn't untrue, for three reasons - only two of which were pointed out in the meeting.  (Aside:  you may visit "See Through NY" to see what all public employees within the state make.)

First, NYS "restores" state aid on a regular basis, but this is aid that it chooses not to give us in the first place.  According to our representative, this region of the state educates 17% of its children, but receives 12% of the educational funding from the "pot" of tax revenue that the state takes.  Second, the cost of retirement plans have been shifted from the state to the districts; this was done without proper planning, so the districts have little help in paying for that.  This factor alone soaked up most of the actual tax increase the budget calls for.

Third, most important and least addressed, is the fact that Long Island's tax base has been broken by a series of natural disasters.  Any house south of Atlantic Avenue isn't worth what it was before Hurricane Sandy - period.  But property taxes depend on assessed values!  The answer I received to my question about tax assessments was simple:  If assessments are challenged, it was explained, then the tax cost will simply be shifted to others in the form of overall tax increases.  If this sounds familiar, it's because that was Mayor Andrew Hardwick's plan to deal with this assessment problem; and, if you ignore New York State, then yes - that's the only fair way out.

This publication, however, has consistently refused to believe that this is an inevitable fate.  If this were the only answer, we would be best served by both the school and Village governments declaring bankruptcy today.  High taxes have already severely damaged the economic viability of Nassau County as a whole; to continue to raise them, especially on those with no collateral (I.E. Property Values) with which to pay, will certainly cause those who can afford to take losses on their initial investments to leave.  It will create an economic black hole which will make the district's finances entirely unsustainable.  Taxes go up, more people leave, so more taxes are heaped on those who are left.  Folks, this is avoidable.  I've already pointed out what we need to do, and that's get our money back from New York State.  And, no, we cannot rely on just our politicians to do this for us.  And we cannot hold one year's budget accountable for these nightmarish circumstances - we have to act.

So, if you're looking for a, "how do we vote on this budget," then you don't know The Weekly Freeporter.  We don't tell people how to vote, and we don't endorse candidates.  My argument here isn't that you should, or should not vote for it.  You decide that based on the virtues of the situation!  I'm simply here to tell you what the vote is about, and what I've been told by School officials.  And, of course, to encourage you to get out and engage in the voting process - whether or not you vote yes, or no!

Trustee Elections

Running once again is Michael Pomerico, returning incumbent; he's joined by Anthony Miller, who nabbed a spot finishing out a previous trustee's term and hopes to take over his own.  Pamela Bierra-Anderson and Joseph Bonilla are running as a team, and are (surprisingly enough!) backed by the Freeport Teachers Association.  Diane Jackson is also running, seemingly supported by our former Mayor Hardwick.  Finally, I've seen signs for Jorge Heras, who ran in the previous election and is giving it another crack!  I'm also told there's a Mr.  Grossman running, but I haven't heard much of him.  It's a wide field!  More could even be in the woodwork!

Once again, no; there's no endorsements here.  My only suggestion is that you vote - and, perhaps, that you vote for someone who you believe, for whatever reason, will take the fight to Albany to get our money back.

That is the real key to this argument, here:  Not one year's budget, or even three years.  Look five years down the road.  Tell me where we are if we simply break even - never mind experiencing another storm half as vicious as Sandy (which, considering we dealt with Irene the year before, seems to be at least a 50/50 chance).  If we don't get tax equity from NYS, then all the budget elections in the world won't change the fact that our state is taking away our ability to run our schools.

And, as I've mentioned before, if all the state plans to do is use us as a piggy bank for upstate NY, as much as I love upstate NY, why do we stick around?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

TWF 208: Sandy Responder Fundraiser, May 3rd, 2013, @ The Patio!

Hello, Freeport!

This coming Friday evening, on May 3rd, the Friends of Freeport are hosting a Sandy Responder Appreciation Night and Fundraiser!  It will be at The Patio, and it's $35 a person for a plate, with all proceeds going to the Friends of Freeport charity!

Now, I've talked about Friends of Freeport before.  They have this habit of locating Freeporters who need help in rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and, y'know, helping them.  Like friends would!  They gut houses, they help put them back together again, and they donate a bucket-load of time and effort.  To help raise funds, and to show appreciation to those who answered the call of duty during the "Superstorm" (Which I will always call a Hurricane, because I remember that's what it hit land as), and to help continue their renovation efforts, they're holding an open bar event with a DJ, 50/50 raffle tickets (inquire on their Facebook page!), and door prizes given away through raffles!

So I donated $50 worth of autographed books; all of my in-print works, up to and including my latest 5-star reviewed paperback novel Physics Incarnate!  Here's a picture of me with Debbie from Friends of Freeport, because that's what journalists would want to show off, because readers supposedly enjoy such things!

Yep!  So join us on May 3rd at The Patio; show your support of our first responders, enjoy the open bar (that means free booze), and if all else fails take a crack at winning some free reading material, or other great prizes like restaurant gift cards!  See you there!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

TWF 205: Freeport Actress Justine Cotsonas in "Double Crossed!"

Hey, Freeport,

First of all, let me just say that, no, I wasn't really bought out by The Patch.  I wish!  I used them as an April Fools Joke because, frankly, there is no reason The Patch doesn't have an outpost in Freeport.  We're twice as populated at Merrick, pretty much, but we don't have one.  Why?  Cuz we're not "gentrified" enough, is my guess.  But maybe you can prove me wrong!  Maybe you can mail their administration, or something; tell them I would make a great professional journalist, getting paid to make a real Freeport newsletter or something...


Freeport Actress Justine Cotsonas in a new web series!

In keeping up with Freeport artists and actresses, Justine Cotsonas - a high school friend of mine who has seen action on As The World Turns, as well as Law and Order SVU - is featured in a new online series called "Double Crossed."  She's got second billing, which is a pretty big deal considering the series has already gone on for three episodes.  I'd encourage everyone to check it out and support her latest career move - we've shown a lot of mutual support in the community, recently, and let's keep it up!

Image courtesy of Facebook
I've always made a habit out of supporting the Freeport artists I know and grew up with, but I know there are plenty more, out there!  Do you have a band that's doing a gig?  Let me know!  Are you a performer in a theater?  Hey, I'm in!  Did you write a book, lately, and want to spread the news?  Well, I don't mind promoting my competition!  *wink*

So, congrats to Justine for having an awesome new role, and congrats to Freeport for having such bona-fides in the art world!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rich Cantwell, of Friends of Freeport, on WDVR!

Hello, Freeport,

This is just a short little post (I've been encouraged to do short ones!) to bring my readers up to date on a particularly awesome group that's getting a lot of well-deserved recognition.  Friends of Freeport formed up after Superstorm Sandy rolled through.  They have been going around every weekend and ripping out peoples' houses, or fixing them up, or whatever they can do to help rebuild after the storm.  This is, of course, months after the storm rolled through - indicative of just how little help our area has gotten.

Rich Cantwell is one of the ringleaders of this here posse, and he was interviewed by another Freeport fellow, on WDVR.  WDVR is located in Delaware, actually, and we have some audio recordings thanks to Barry Goodman.  (Here's hoping the link works!)


The conversation is pretty serious and intense.  They touch on topics like how the Friends have to manage grant money (Rich in particular), and how they decide who gets repaired when, and how that can build up a lot of stress.  So, good on them!

I've linked you to the video, and I've linked you to the Facebook page.  I encourage you to find out about them, and see what you can do to help!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TWF 202: Mayor Elections Over! UHR Victory!

Greetings Freeport,

I'm in little shape to write at the moment, as I've had quite a long, long day.  And yesterday.  So, here's my best, "post-then-pass-out" shot:

A semi-live tally was provided by the Unity/Home-Rule Party, indicating the results of the election.  The banner in question has shifted to "Freeport is Free!," implying a victory!  They've provided a finalized tally which reads as follows:

Freeport Mayor
Andrew Hardwick:  3882 Votes
Robert Kennedy:  4397 Votes (Winner)

Freeport Trustee (Top-Two)
James Caracciolo:  3,579
Annette Dennis:  3,601
Ronald Ellerbe:  4,469 (Winner)
Carmen Pinyero:  4,526 (Winner)

Freeport Judge
Roy Cacciatore:  4,151 (Winner)
Stephen Drummond:  3,931

Results Matter

Assuming these numbers are unchallenged (they seem fairly decisive in that Mr.  Kennedy has a 500-vote margin according to them), and are legitimate, well, Freeport has chosen.  All listed winners are from the Unity/Home-Rule Party.  It's late.  I'm sleepy.  I could sit back and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each campaign and what led it to where it is, today, but I'm sleepy.

I know I'm not your first source of news on this (I'm reacting to news, myself!), but I figured I should put forth the numbers I've seen and make sure they check out.  If they do?  Well, I want to congratulate the winners, and I want to thank those who lost for their efforts.  Being part of this process is hard - and most of all, I want to thank you, the voter.  I will admit, if you add the mayoral votes together you get 8,279.  That's a pretty huge turnout for Freeport; in a town of 45,000 people, well, we had nearly 20% of the community vote!  That's better than in most recent elections, but it's still pretty low if you ask me, and it's one of the things that our next mayor will have to work on in the next four years - bringing power to this process known as "Democracy," lest it be stripped away from us.

Oh.  And I'll come up with some other inanely-rambled "things Mayor (Whoever but probably Kennedy) must do in the next four years" to fill up an article soon.

Farewell, Freeport, and goodnight!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fixing the Property Tax Problem Post-Sandy

Greetings, Freeport!

I hope we're all enjoying the snowy weather?  I know, it's scary - an actual winter!  But I'm here to talk about something different.  A few days ago I asked, via Facebook, if people would like me to write an article talking about property tax; particularly in Sandy's aftermath.  I've done this sort of thing before, and I am going to refer back to it, so keep this link handy.  However, I'll gladly excerpt the most impact-laden statement I made:

"In 2008, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg testified that New York State takes $11 BILLION more in taxes from NYC than the city gets back. So NYC is basically losing eleven billion dollars to the state, as if it were a gift. That money is spent in upstate NY on some very useful - and some very not-useful - projects."

Why am I referring to NYC?  Because the same phenomenon that Mr.  Bloomberg refers to - tax disparity - threatens once again to crush Freeport.

Yes, this is a recycled image.  By me, property of Liberty Free Media.

Property Taxes:  Local And State

Let's get this out of the way:  One, I'm not a tax lawyer, and I can be wrong on -any- part of this; I'm just trying to give an overview of how I've always understood taxes to work.  Two, we pay school and Village taxes based generally on the assessed value of our property.  What's an assessment?  Generally speaking, someone from the government comes, takes a look at your property (including factors like surrounding properties' condition, school effectiveness, whatever a potential home-buyer would look at) and assigns your property a value.

So, for the sake of argument, let's say that they decide your property is worth $200,000.  Also, if you live in an apartment, you may not pay these taxes - your landlord does, and he passes the cost on to you, naturally!

Now, based on your assessed value, you are taxed at whatever rate you're taxed at.  5%, 7%, whatever taxes happen to be.  When you hear about tax increases, you are not typically seeing your taxes raise by whatever percentage of your assessed valuation it is.  A 10% tax increase to 10% does not mean you now pay 20%; it means taxes go up by 10% of 10, or a total of 1% assessed valuation; to a new high of 11%.  We typically hear about this second number, the percentage increase from the previous year, and it can sound deceptively high.  So 10% of $200,000 is $20,000/year in taxes; if that sounds ridiculously high, that's because it is.  I just used 10% for ease-of-math.

I also invite actual tax experts to post in the comments section, or on our facebook page (either-or) about how this stuff actually works.  Correct me if I'm wrong, if you're a professional in this area.

Now, this was just a quick over-view.  I wanna get into the post-Sandy details, because that's where our problem lies.  Remember what Mr.  Bloomberg said.

Post-Sandy Tax Rise in Freeport

Okay.  We just had a massive hurricane come and rip our town apart.  Consequently, our Village has spent an extraordinary amount of money on recovery, and it's going to need more.  Typically, when governments need money, they...What, folks?  Raise taxes?  Yes!  It pays for things like, I dunno, "Rebuilding the fucking town!"  If you're curious, I remember Mr.  Bloomberg saying something very similar, only with less emphasis.


Where is this money supposed to come from?  In case you've been asleep, or you're a tax official, a good chunk of Freeport just slipped under the ocean.  This is both literal and metaphoric; everything south of Atlantic Avenue was pretty much under-water during Sandy, right?  Sandy is not unique.  True, it's the worst we've had in more than fifty years, but let's be realistic - Hurricane Irene, last year, could have been Sandy.  We could have had two Sandys in two years.

Let's pause a moment to reflect on "assessed valuation."

Your assessment is based on what your property can sell for on the open market, correct?  Here's a simple fucking question from someone whose flooded basement is on the internet:  Who, in their right mind, is going to buy a home south of Atlantic Avenue in Freeport when next year could easily bring another massive flood, wiping out everything you own!?  In fact, let's do a quick tally; Within easy viewing distance of my home, three houses were condemned after Sandy.  Property values?  You must be joking.  Overnight, Sandy destroyed whatever property values my home and others might have had.  There is no way that the previous dollar values are accurate, and naturally there are people fighting to have their assessed valuations reduced.  Why?

Because the property isn't worth anything, really, if it can be washed away overnight.

Where Can The Money Come From?

Now, let's move on to the next point.  Andrew Hardwick, our nigh-infamous mayor, spoke to the New York Times.  Here's what he said:

"My thing is to encourage property owners to not seek reassessments because you’re going to pay on one end or the other.  If too many people seek reassessment and are successful with it, that means, how do you pay the bills on the other end? You raise the taxes again? It doesn’t make sense."

Let's get this out of the way:  Technically speaking, without paying attention to anything but the numbers, he's correct.  Factually speaking, he is correct.  Yes, if people get re-assessed and the Village needs money, it will simply raise taxes on everyone to make up the difference.  So that's it, we're fucked, we're debt slaves in Freeport, living in houses that aren't worth a tenth of what the government thinks they are; but we can't re-assess because otherwise we'll just get taxed more, and nobody'll even buy our house if we want to move out!  And that's it, right?

Why have I been talking about Michael Bloomberg so much?

Long Island and NYC have just been decimated, right?  Well, historically, we have given New York State's government far more in tax revenue than we have received.  Mr.  Bloomberg himself said that in one year, the difference for NYC alone was $11 billion.  What if, instead, NYC got to keep that?  Can you imagine if, instead of bleeding $11 billion a year, NYC just broke even?  Can you imagine $11 billion in tax revenue retained by New York City?  Can you, then, extrapolate how much we would save if we were entitled to a similar scheme?

Never mind the state actually giving us a net surplus - just imagine if we kept our money!  Money that, in the article wayyy above, I'd heard has gone as far as fourteen cents to the dollar?  Meaning, by the way, that for every $1 in state taxes we paid, we got back $.14?  Meaning we'd have over five times the money we usually do from NYS?

Are you picturing it?  Yes?  Good, because I'm about to blow your mind:

The Federal Government.

That's the answer, Mr.  Hardwick.  Our state can help us recover, but how do we prevent this from happening again?  Easy!  We get the Feds involved.  The scary part is that they've already been involved, a little.  The scarier part is dumbasses like Republican Stephen Palazzo, a Mississippi congressman who begged for Hurricane Katrina relief, refused to vote for us to get aid because of the federal debt being too high.  Mr.  Palazzo has since been roundly slapped up by the media, has toured our region, and has come to his damned senses, agreeing to vote for us to get some help.

I could get into an argument about the federal debt, but that's not why I'm here.  Suffice to say that its a problem, but not one solved by leaving us screwed.

Instead, the Feds need to pitch in and do some basic disaster mitigation.  In fact, the next time a Freeport mayor feels like globe-trotting, said mayor should visit The Netherlands and study their Delta Works project.  Isn't it amazing how modern technology can allow a nation, virtually below sea level, to protect itself from floods?  Why don't we have that?!  Because it would cost money?!  This is what taxes are for.  Not wars in Libya/Mali/Wherever, not crusades for or against gay marriage, not even health care plans!  Who cares about health care if your town is under water?!

I digress.  The point of this article isn't to talk about ways to protect our Village, Long Island, NYC, and our entire region in general from another major flood.  The sad truth is that, if global sea levels continue to rise, our town might be doomed fifty years from now no matter what we do.  That's too large an argument for me to try to make, here.

The point is that we shouldn't be fighting over raising taxes, versus getting re-assessments on property, versus having to lose services.  For far too long, our area has given New York State a glut of money to invest in boondocks and border-regions alike.  And that's what taxes are for, folks - investments in public works!  But, now, we're the ones in need.  We're the ones who need lower taxes and more services - and we need it badly.  And as much as I love my "We Survived Sandy" magnet, that's chump change compared to the long-term help we need.

We need to organize, to petition our state and federal government, and demand an immediate resolution of our problems.  I feel so strongly about this that I would rather see Long Island and/or NYC as its own state then continue to feed the rest of New York State if we don't get aid, now, and I love New York.  I really do!  But it's time for them to fulfill their end of this taxation bargain, and if they don't then they need to know they will have to deal with We, The People.