The Civic Scene: To balance the budget, gov’t must cut unnecessary waste

By Bob Harris

At the December 2010 meeting of Community Board 8, representatives from the city Department of Finance spoke about registering with them so you will be notified if anyone records a mortgage or deed against property you own. This is called the “Notice of Recorded Document Program.”

Sometimes criminals obtain information about you and your property and then take out an illegal mortgage against your property without your knowledge or they put their names on the deed and then sell the property. By registering with the department, you will be notified if anyone files a deed, deed-related document, mortgage or mortgage-related document against your property, which is what a bank will do if it gives out a mortgage or a criminal wants to put his name on your property to sell it.

The department is required to record all documents that meet recording requirements. They have no way of checking if the document being recorded is being done so by a criminal. You would never know until the bank forecloses on your house because the thief never made any mortgage payments or someone comes and says he just bought your house.

Registration is easy and fast. Register electronically by visiting the department website at nyc.gov/finance. Click on the “Recorded Document Notification” link. You can register by using your property address or the borough block and lot number. There is no fee. The registration remains in effect until you opt out of receiving information. Individual owners of co-ops do not have to register.

If you register and receive notification about a registered document you know about, then you do not have to do anything. If you receive notification about a registered deed or mortgage you know nothing about, then you should call 311. You can also call the mayor’s Financial Crime Task Force for help. Members of this group were the people who visited the December meeting.

In other news, the federal government is now $14 trillion in debt and the deficit increases each year, so some things should be cut. Wasteful U.S. Department of Defense spending is one place to cut money. We need a strong military, but it has too many bases and other facilities that are not needed. Another bipartisan commission should be created to do cutting. There have to be weapons development programs which are over budget or not needed.

The federal government manages to subsidize all kinds of things. The tobacco, corn, cotton, oil and other industries have lobbyists who go to Washington, D.C., present their facts and give campaign money to legislators. Sometimes the lobbyists were former legislative staff members and help write the legislation that will regulate the industry. Somehow we let industries go overseas, taking jobs with them, and do not tax them.

The Medicaid and Medicare programs help ill people but are expensive because of the new high-tech equipment and expensive medicines used, with costs rising each year. One thing that will save the federal and state governments money is to cut the excessive spending. We must stop unneeded tests and medical visits. When some doctors give too many unnecessary tests, it hurts the reputation of the good, hardworking doctors. We must stop the fraud that exists. More inspectors, stricter punishments and greater fines should help as well as informing the public what illegal things to look for.

Big business is active in the health care field. They love to invent new, expensive equipment then have the government and us pay for using it. During the health-care debate, the pharmaceutical industry made sure the government could not get a discount for buying medicines in bulk. That would have saved lots of money.

Another way to save money is to eliminate all those consultants hired to do things. Years ago there were no consultants, but the people on the job did the job and evaluated things. Our military hires consultants or private contractors to do all kinds of things. Private industry is doing a lot of things the military service members used to do. The city Department of Education does the same thing with consultants doing what workers used to do. Then there was that contract to CityTime to devise a computer system to check on illegal payroll activities by city workers. After $720 million, not one payroll has been audited.

There are ways to balance our budgets — but only if our elected leaders have the nerve to do them.

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