17, No. 18
9 - 22, 2004
While the country and the world focus on an important
presidential election, it's important to keep in mind that choosing the
president is only one of our civic obligations. Local races for state
legislature are also critical and arguably have more of an effect on the
lives of our communities than the occupant of the White House.
Take any issue -- education, health care, the environment, drug laws
-- and Albany controls all of it.
Unfortunately, our so-called "lawmakers" are better known for
the avoidance of their collective responsibility for lawmaking, and for
their silent collusion in a legislative system that renders the
participation of an individual representative virtually irrelevant. If
all the legislators left town, no one would much notice as long as the
speaker of the Assembly, the majority leader of the state Senate, and
the governor stayed behind. They are the "three men in the
room" who decide everything.
The Empire State's dysfunctional legislature has been well documented
in newspaper editorials and a new report by the Brennan Center at New
University that rates it the worst in the country.
So why vote for these lawmakers-in-name-only? Because they are, for
better or worse, a permanent part of our democratic system and the more
voters there are in these races the more accountable the politicians
The state legislature is probably the least known level of government,
probably because it's not the subject of high school civics lessons (in
Texas, it's required) and because of how little gets done in Albany.
But not voting on critical issues like the reform of the draconian
Rockefeller drug laws or a fairer system for funding New York City
schools is an action that legislators should be held accountable for.
Of course, it doesn't end with voting. Get to know your state
legislators. Learn their positions. Hold them accountable. After all,
you pay their salaries.
Note: The primary election is on Tuesday, Sept. 14. If you are
not yet registered to vote, it is too late to register to vote in the
primary, but there is plenty of time to register in time for the general
election on Nov. 2. Just call (212) VOTE-NYC.
"No" to Filter Plant
Before month's end, the City Council will
vote on a "memorandum of
understanding" submitted by the state legislature that could be the
action to pave the way for the filtration plant to be built in Van
This should be an obvious "No" vote. There's not enough space
here to sum up all this project's faults. Suffice it to say that the
city has no business building massive industrial facilities in parkland,
particularly across the street from residents, many of whom suffer from
asthma; there's a better, more remote site in Westchester County that
local officials there approve of; and putting the plant in a park would
set a dangerous precedent for the disruption of parkland all over the
This should be a public policy no-brainer for Council members. But the
political system has been greased with the vague promise of money for
Bronx parks. And Council members from other boroughs who vote yes will
most likely be motivated by backroom horse trading with Bronx officials
that we will never know the details of.
Council Member Oliver Koppell is a vocal opponent of the plant. But
Council Members Maria Baez and Joel Rivera will almost certainly vote
for the project unless they hear from residents. Call them today and
tell them how you feel.
Call Rivera at (718) 364-3700. Call Baez at (718) 584-6955.
to Opinion Index Page
News | Opinion | Schools
| Features | Continuing Stories | Home
About Us | Past Issues