It's not easy, living in a captive state. Taxation without representation is a drag. Recent columns tracing high city and county taxes to Albany rules and edicts, and the folly of sharing county sales tax among overlapping governments, sparked a deluge of reader e-mail.
Mr. Esmonde: New York is no longer a democracy. The Big Three (George Pataki and Legislature leaders Shelly Silver and Joe Bruno) prevent change by not allowing referendums or voter initiatives. Lobbyists and unions dictate the actions of legislators. -- B.V., East Aurora
Dear B.V.: You forgot to mention how lawmakers draw their own district boundaries, stuffing them with partisan voters to assure lifetime re-election.
Mr. Esmonde: New York pays more for Medicaid (public health) than California and Texas combined. Change the rules, cut the taxes and save the state. -- D.B.
Dear D.B.: You should know by now that logic has no place in New York. Pack your bags and join the exodus.
The county's Albany-induced Medicaid bill will rise from $187 million to $193 million, but Albany politicians call it a "cut" -- because the increase isn't as big as in past years. It's like sitting at the Mad Hatter's tea party.
Mr. Esmonde: You didn't look at the bright side of the city vs. county sales-tax battle. By the end of the century, the 10,000 people left in the county and the 3,000 left in the city will all hold politically connected jobs. The rest will be with my kids, living in other states. -- J.C.
Dear J.C.: Those left behind can build an economy selling slices of pizza to each other.
Mr. Esmonde: I remember the steel plant days when Lackawanna was booming. Now with half the population gone, they still have the same number of politicians, twice as many complaints and half the money to solve them. How about merging Blasdell services into Hamburg, Lackawanna with Buffalo and eliminate all the politicians in between. -- J.B.
Dear J.B.: Good idea. But it's a lot easier to just raise your taxes again.
Mr. Esmonde: I never realized how dysfunctional our government was until I lived in Howard County, Maryland. It has 11 high schools and only one superintendent. The police force is consolidated into one unit. The county has only one assessor. You can imagine how low taxes are. -- J.C., Amherst.
Dear J.C.: We believe in more -- more bureaucracy, more public workers, more taxes. If folks don't like it, they can leave. Oh, I forget, tens of thousands already have.
Mr. Esmonde: The county struggling with municipalities over sales-tax dollars is like taking money from your left-hand pocket and putting it into your right-hand pocket. Then politicians crow that they've done us a great service! Kingpin Tokasz says he stopped Medicaid (growth). It's like the firefighter extinguishing the blaze after your home burns down! -- J.G.
Dear J.G.: I'm not sure which is the bigger shell game -- sales-tax shuffling or Medicaid "cuts."
Mr. Esmonde: I am a Genesee County legislator. I feel I am well-paid at $10,500. It is a part-time job! All nine county legislators share one clerk. We are not given "pork" to dole out at will. Perhaps Erie should take a lesson from us. -- J.G., Leroy.
Dear J.G.: Your priorities are all screwed up. Don't you know that government is about finding jobs for friends, family and party faithful? What are you suggesting, that taxpayers come first? Such outrageous notions will never fly in this county.