Vol. 17, No. 18 Sept.. 9 - 22, 2004



Vote Locally
hile 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 York 
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 will be. 

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 final 
action to pave the way for the filtration plant to be built in Van Cortlandt Park.

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 city. 

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.

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