Monday, May 14, 2007

Let's look at what we have

Hey there, cats and kittens, we're back after a slight break to help out with the grandkids in Gotham City.

A couple of thoughts intruded upon the pleasure of diaper-changing and hand-holding (not being sarcastic -- it is a pleasure).

The first thought has to do with the noise ordinance that's getting some teeth and some attention in the city. It's a good thing, if the law is really enforced. That means you, garbage collectors who make the devil's own noise, slamming Dumpsters against trucks at 5 in the morning or earlier. That also means that if Jeep is ridiculous enough to sell a car with a monster blaster attached to the tailgate, that doesn't give the idiot who bought it carte blanche to demonstrate his or her bad taste in music (sic) at 165 decibels.

By the way, Chrysler is being bought by a private group and one hopes that the buyers are smart enough to get rid of the fool to thought that one up.

I am young enough to still drive through town with the windows and sunroof open and the Beach Boys blasting on the car radio. But not at the point where people in the houses I pass have to close their windows to carry on a conversation.

Yeah, radio noise or even nightclub noise is not equal to murder and robbery in the police hierarchy of things to quash, but quality of life is important for downtown and the neighborhoods. But let's not be ludicrous enough to tell the New Haven Symphony they can't play the 1812 Overture complete with bells and cannons on the Green (I hope they do).

The second train of thought had to do with education, specifically how to pay for it.

The New York Times Connecticut section (which now actually has some Connecticut stuff in it, including New Haven's wonderful Mark Bittman doing restaurant reviews) has chosen to view with alarm the way the state funds its schools in an editorial that appeared in the May 13, 2007 Connecticut Section editorial page .

I agree that property taxes are too high and are not the fairest way to pay for education. I have a couple of quibbles with the editorial.

First, the editorial implies that each town in Connecticut has its own schools. Not true. There are 19 regional school districts, that take in schools in the smaller towns. One, for example, the unforgettable WoMoGo takes in three towns, Warren, Morris and Goshen.

What I'm afraid of is that the editorial writer may want to emulate New York, which is where this editorial was probably written or at least edited.

The New York educational system is so confusing that even those who live there and who care about such things are stumped. I know a bit about these things...I spent more than a decade editing newspaper copy about schools in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties.

In New York, with the exception of cities, school district borders and town and village borders are not the same, sometimes not even close. For example, the Lakeland and North Salem school districts cross not only town and village but county lines. (Counties--that's another New York thing that you should thank heaven you don't have to deal with.)

So, people who live in one village or hamlet within a school district may pay more or less in property taxes than people who live in another village or hamlet within the same district. The school taxes are also billed separately from the municipal property taxes, county property taxes and the like.

This is not a model we want to emulate. Yes, it's not fair the people in Greenwich should have more money for schools than people in Hartford or New Haven. But regionalism isn't the answer because it won't work. It's been tried. People in Connecticut won't go for it.

In Connecticut, home rule goes deep. It's not going to change. Sorry about that, but it's the way it is.

And not just in Connecticut. In Westchester, there was something called Westchester 2000. It was a group of thinkers that got together near the turn of the century and said that if some of the four dozen or so towns, villages and hamlets were consolidated, a lot of money could be saved by eliminating redundant services, like the Ossining village hall, which is down the street from the Ossining town hall.

A poll was taken. Westchester citizens said thanks but no thanks. We like things the way they are, even if it costs millions more each year.

And that's the way it is in Connecticut, too.

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