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Will Suffolk County Government Continue To Be Paralyzed?

Written by fatherfrank  |  11. November 2005

Hopefully, by the time you read this column, all the useless propaganda that has been papering our street corners and neighborhoods will have been effectively cleaned up. If we were to convert all the wasted paper from this election that has said little or nothing into cash, we would be able to feed and house every homeless person in Suffolk County for more than ninety days.
The empty literature that blanketed our neighborhoods was a dismal disappointment. So much of the printed matter said little or nothing about the real issues. Both major parties' use of ad hominum attacks directed at each one's opponent was troubling.
This election season was especially negative, with many of the hard-core issues being sidestepped by both the incumbents and the challengers.
By now we know the outcome of this year's election. The question to be raised is "will it be business as usual with just the changing of a few faces or will there be an effort on the part of those who lead us to truly work for social reform that will ultimately improve our quality of life?"
This election season exploited the corruption in government, the problems of the undocumented and rising school and property taxes. Clearly, these are issues of concern. However, those running for office for the first time and all of our incumbents were heavy on a rhetoric that said little or nothing about how they would address these social concerns. Their plans of action were severely short on how to confront these issues.
Even more troubling was the fact that serious social issues were not on any politicians' agenda. The voiceless never seem to make the political agenda.
Drug and alcohol abuse among middle and high school students in Suffolk County is escalating at an alarming rate. It is subtle, but present and very infectious. Resources to address this serious issue are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Our County leadership is obsessed with saving money, even if it means destroying human services and crippling those few human services that are left.
Children in crisis are reaching new heights and this County Executive is eliminating resources that have served the county of Suffolk for over a decade.
Children don't vote; the poor with no fixed address don't vote; therefore their voices fall on deaf ears. Patronage jobs continue to replace professional competence. Band-aiding serious social concerns saves money in the short run, but in the long run it creates crippling disaster.
We have a growing number of adolescents in crisis. Many of these young people have serious mental and emotional health issues. P.I.N.S. Diversion is a mechanism under the direction of the Department of Probation that was created to help troubled kids regain control of their lives.
Unfortunately, our already overtaxed Probation Department cannot effectively manage the number of cases that are in need of diversion services. To save money, senior officers were encouraged to retire. Many who did were not replaced. An already inadequate staff has become even more inadequate and overtaxed.
Money is saved, but people, specifically children, are victimized instead of being served.
Rumor has it that this administration has a special fund estimated in the millions for special needs.
This administration is forcing every service entity to reduce its' budget and streamline its' programs. Some human services are so streamlined that they are on the verge of collapse.
Fiscal accountability is very important. It should not be used to misrepresent the fiscal truth. The only thing that is clear about our business plan in Suffolk County is the pressure to save money at all cost, even if it damages a vital delivery service to our people. That is not fiscal responsibility or accountability. It borders on recklessness.
Countless not-for-profit agencies that have been servicing the needs of people in crisis in Suffolk County are being forced to close and leave our county. These services for people in need are not being replaced.
As the Democratic Revolution takes hold of Suffolk County, we need to be vigilant and not be seduced into accepting business as usual. Many who were elected for the first time were elected because they preached social reform and genuine concern for the people in their respective districts.
Hopefully, that is true and is not empty rhetoric packaged in Democratic wrapping paper.
The next few months will be the litmus test. Will these reformers advocate true reform and change or will they hide behind cosmetic lingo that merely repackages the same old stuff that has paralyzed Suffolk County government for years?
Being fiscally conservative does not mean one is being fiscally responsible. In these troubled times, trimming down key departments that serve the people, especially the poor, is a delicate enterprise. Most people would agree that government wastes a lot of money on many levels.
However, cutting key personnel that deliver vital human services is unconscionable. Crippling those entities by not replacing retired persons and not hiring essential staff to effectively implement vital services is counterproductive and dangerous.
Hopefully, our new leaders will scrutinize all programs with the same fair magnifying glass and represent all their constituents, not just special interest groups.
TK is seventeen and homeless. His parents were killed when he was twelve. He has no extended family. At the time of their deaths, TK was placed in foster care. At age sixteen, he ran away and has been living on his own, working when he can. He sleeps in the woods, in abandoned cars and houses.
He is not undocumented. He has a valid passport. A social worker tried advocating for him. He discovered that in this county of affluence and abundance, there was little or nothing for teenagers in crisis.
The one resource for teens in crisis that was open to assisting him had no bed and a waiting list of twenty-five teenagers clamoring for assistance.
The social worker suggested emergency services. The staff were respectful, but indicated that they had little to offer in the way of supportive services. They offered TK a room and board situation in one of the boarding houses that the County has a contract with. He went there at 9pm. He was petrified. It was filthy; most of the residents were active drug addicts. The bath did not work. His bed smelled of urine. He cried himself to sleep. In the middle of the night, his sneakers and the little he had was stolen.
The next morning he complained to the Department of Social Services. They took his complaint and said there was not much they could do. It was all that they had. That place and a number of other room and board houses continue to abuse the documented poor with your tax dollars.
Hopefully, the new leadership will hear their voices!

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