If you’re a person who values common sense, then prepare yourself to be disgusted and angry. I’m about to tell you about a sensible piece of legislation that’s long overdue, but is being blocked by the New York State Assembly, which is shamelessly pandering to its constituents with your tax money. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that we even need this legislation at all, let alone that it’s being systematically stymied by some in Albany.
Currently, New York issues something called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to our welfare recipients. It works much like a debit card and it allows us to help our needy neighbors in an efficient yet dignified way. The system conveniently provides a Food Stamp and a Cash Assistance component all on one card. As it stands, strict regulations dictate what can be purchased with the Food Stamp allotment. Cash assistance, on the other hand, is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. To be clear, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the use of the Cash Assistance component. None. It’s doled out like cash.
This year, the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District has a major goal to improve communication in all aspects of its operations. At the board of education meetings, residents are asked to leave their e-mail addresses when they speak during the visitors’ portion of the meeting.
The board is committed to responding to residents’ questions within 24 hours as a way of improving communication. On the school level, we follow the communication chain-of-command to ensure questions can be answered right at the source of the inquiry.
Is love a candle
to keep a flame burning
in the vast open night?
Is love the match
that lights the candle?
Could you imagine if, tomorrow, school districts across New York State had to absorb more than 400,000 new students? Or picture your local school enrolling hundreds of new students and the effect it would have on class sizes, let alone our ability to provide books and materials, desks and lockers. Our current facilities could in no way withstand that kind of blow. In each district, new schools would have to be immediately built and hundreds of teachers, aides, and support staff would have to be hired. With the average cost to educate a student in New York at over $20,000 annually, you could bet our already sky-high school taxes would zoom to astronomical levels.
In what I suppose was an unusually rash moment, the distinguished columnist Murray Kempton, who not infrequently transmuted newspaper argot into high-brow literature, declared that before Richard Nixon even took the Oath of Office as our 37th president, he was one of the five worst presidents in American history. Such adventurous and ill-conceived thoughts are, of course, not unknown in fits of passion, like when a euphoric Karl Rove stated that George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 was evidence of a permanent Republican majority.
Long before Lee Seeman became my successor on the North Hempstead town board, she was my friend and she remains so to this day. And that is because of who she is. Nobody cares more deeply about the good of our community than Lee.
For Lee, public service is the goal, not the means to a self-serving end. She is totally committed to the needs of all of her constituents and has the innate ability to unite factions to achieve a common good. Lee Seeman is able to do this time and again because she is hard-working, graceful and most importantly, she cares. Her dedication to the community is evident in the Town programs to which she has dedicated her efforts, such as the 311 call center which is a model for accessing public information and Project Independence which enables our area seniors to age in place in their own homes.
Halloween has never been nearly as frightening as the current state of affairs in Washington. Debt ceilings, sequesters, threats of a government shutdown, a $17 trillion deficit and a train wreck of a rollout called Obamacare. The nation’s capital has turned into a haunted house without the fun. Perhaps Edward Bulwer Lytton, a mid-19th century English novelist, best described the heavy atmosphere when he minted perhaps the most famous line in all of Gothic literature: It was a dark and stormy night. Our politics are indeed dark and stormy.
Obamacare is the eye of the storm, both because of the ensuing chaos and ineptitude regarding the near impossibility of signing up for it, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent creating a user friendly website and Republicans overplaying their hand in responding to its unprecedented incursions. Ulysses S. Grant may not have been a political genius, but his descendants in the GOP would have been well served if they followed his sage advice: The best way to repeal a bad law is to strictly enforce it.
Make no bones about it. I have been consumed with nonstop questions and concerns regarding the state education department’s rollout of the Common Core curriculum. I’m approached by constituents with questions at almost every event I attend in our district. But more than answer questions, I’ve been trying to listen because it’s abundantly clear to me that people are truly upset. There’s something wrong and they want something to be done.
To resolve this issue is going to take time and a whole lot of patience. That’s why I was so flabbergasted this past week when State Education Commissioner Dr. John King Jr. announced he was suspending his scheduled town hall meetings to discuss the roll-out of Common Core and answer questions. Apparently, the commissioner was challenged by concerned parents and teachers at a town hall meeting upstate. Blaming “special interests” (i.e. concerned parents) for what he felt was an unconstructive atmosphere, he chose to suspend subsequent meetings including the Long Island event that was to be held right here in Garden City. This was an incredibly poor decision on his part. Anyone involved in government must understand that just because you don’t like the score, doesn’t mean you can take your bat and your ball and go home. This is especially true as Dr. King not only chose the game, he set the rules by which our children will be gauged. It’s wrong.
The way in which the North Hempstead Town Board and the Hempstead Town Board recently handled similar situations is, in my mind, a testament to the true distinction between the GOP machine and the North Hempstead Democrats.
Faced with the need to appoint a town clerk in the wake of the Republican town clerk being convicted of harassment charges involving employees in his office, the GOP-controlled Hempstead Town Board took the “typical politics route”— appointing the individual currently running for election as a Republican to the position of town clerk. This gives their candidate a tremendous advantage as an incumbent, with the full power of the office, as she runs in the November election.
We are now more than a week into the government shutdown and no end in sight. So things are not exactly hunky-dory in the nation’s capital. Both political parties are at loggerheads and the frustration of the American people continues to mount.
First things first: Despite the fact that there have been 17 shutdowns since the mid-1970s, it was foolhardy for Republicans to come to the table with “a take no prisoners” attitude. I have as many reservations about Obamacare being another government boondoggle as the next guy. But there is no sense in ignoring the political arithmetic. The Democrats have the White House and the Senate. That’s a deal breaker when it comes to defunding Obamacare, no matter how long Ted Cruz wants to filibuster on the floor of the Senate.
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