Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00
If you’re a Seinfeld fan like me, you’ll probably remember the episode “Bizarro Jerry,” in which the gang’s world seems strangely inversed. The writers were apparently inspired by the Bizarro World found in the old DC comic books where good and sensible things were shunned and stupidity and recklessness were embraced.
I think I work in Bizarro Albany sometimes, especially after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent proposal to give convicted felons free college educations on our taxpayer dime. Our governor has actually proposed providing prison inmates with free associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and he’s serious. His public relations machine is already out in full force.
They claim it’s to reduce recidivism, the rate at which released inmates return to prison and base it on one very small, privately funded inmate college program that produced 250 graduates. (There are more than 55,000 inmates in New York.) Their recidivism rate was about 4 percent, compared to the state-wide average 41 percent. But most agree the results were inherently flawed as those inmates were already focused on improving themselves and were the least likely to return to prison.
In any case, we all understand the value of inmate rehabilitation and as I’ve said before, society benefits when you educate anyone. But let’s get real. It may be you reading this column, or it may be a friend or neighbor, but we all know someone being crushed by sacrifice to send their kids to college. They’re refinancing their homes, borrowing against pensions, working countless hours of overtime and two or three jobs. And it’s still not enough. Our children are graduating and starting their lives with astonishing debt, the total surpassing $1 trillion nationally.
Tuition at private universities jumped 474 percent from 1970 to 1990. In 1980, it commanded about 26 percent of the median family income while in 2004, it was 56 percent.
Why not give families who are putting their children through college a reasonable tax credit? Or at least extend it to those working full-time, like single moms, to put themselves through school. Or even minimally lower the cost of our state university. We could restore funding to extend the Tuition Assistance Program to graduate students or offer low-cost, state-backed loans. I can think of countless better ways to invest in higher education, but in all of them, the taxpayer would take priority.
Supporters claim that the “estimated” expenditure of $5,000 per inmate will eventually save some of $60,000 per year on each felon. I suggest their time would be better spent asking why New York prisons cost as much as an Ivy-League education and then looking for savings within that system. Our first responsibility is to be good stewards of public monies, not use it to gain votes via special interests.
It is not coincidence that the governor’s proposal dovetails with a recent national effort to change how convicted felons regain their right to vote. Traditionally, government demands a waiting period with the understanding that if you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you should hardly have the right to shape it for everyone else. This common sense, social contract is now being assailed by partisan groups trying lure a potential new voting bloc.
New York has a long and venerable tradition of taking care of our most vulnerable, but this is simply ill-conceived. If they wanted to make a difference, they’d focus on getting inner city schools on track to give real opportunities and avoid prison all together.
Please sign the petition on my website at http://www.nysenate.gov/webform/say-no-taxpayer-funded-college-inmates-3 and say no to Attica University.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 27 August 2014 09:06) Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00
The Village of New Hyde Park finished its Operation Main Street project just in time, because the town’s eligibility for federal funds is shrinking, officials announced last week.
“The qualifications revolve around money,” trustee Donald Barbieri said. “Like how much income is being earned by people in the area. I guess as seniors move on, you can’t buy an [expensive home] and it changed the demographic, shrinking our eligible area.”
Last Updated (Wednesday, 27 August 2014 11:11) Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
The Village of New Hyde Park will soon hear Manhattan businessman Sam Chan’s proposal to open a 84-seat hibachi-style restaurant at 1215 Jericho Tpke. in New Hyde Park, the former spot of the maligned Empire Billiards Hall. The hearing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
“The board will be hearing the case for restaurant usage,” Mayor Robert Lofaro said. “This will also have to go before the zoning board. They will likely hear the case.”
Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d’Arnaud brightened the day for some patients at Cohen Children’s Medical Center last week in New Hyde Park, posing for pictures and handing out gifts and autographs. The players hung out with the kids in the afternoon, playing video games and answering questions.
They also found the time to make the rounds, stopping by bedsides to spread some cheer. Mr. Met also joined the tour and was a big hit with the children, who peppered him with questions about everything from his four-fingered hand to the whereabouts of the missing Mrs. Met.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
The Sewanhaka Indians football team has a season of change in store.
The Indians have moved up from Conference III to Conference II, due to an increase in enrollment, and are set to face teams that they have never seen before, according to head coach George Kasimatis.
“It is hard to gauge where we will be in this conference,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty as where we fit in.”