2006-11-03 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

Nobody Asked Me, But (Election Edition)...
Commentary By Howard Schwach


... There was a frightening program on television two weeks ago, and it had nothing to do with Halloween. One of the morning news programs featured Elizabeth Dole (all done up with a face lift) who tried to prop up the Republican's chances for retaining control over both the House of Representatives and the Senate by claiming that, should the Democrats win, we will all be going to Hell. A Democratic win, she claimed, would mean the end of family values, the rise of terrorism all over the United States, a lowering of America's reputation all over the world and a genuine apocalypse. Chuck Schumer tried to answer her diatribe, but she would not let him get a word in. That she really believes that the Republicans, and particularly its core constituency, the Religious Right, has all the answers is a lot more frightening than Dracula ever could be.

... One of the issues that the Religious Right Republicans is trying to drop on the Democratic Liberal Left is that they have no values and that religion is the key to saving America. If you believe that, I have a question to ask you: Which is worse, a woman who has a baby out of wedlock or a man who confessed to having sex with a young girl and touching several others? That is not a hypothetical question. The pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish right here in Rockaway fired a pregnant unwed teacher because she did not follow the tenets of the Catholic Church and then, a few months later, he hired an organist who had been arraigned in upstate New York for statutory rape and endangering a minor. At the time, a number of parishioners told me that the pastor knew of the man's "problems" and that he hired him despite that knowledge. By the way, the organist pled guilty just last week. Where is the morality and the fairness in that?

... Despite the fact that the majority of City Council members are trying to extend the term limit law to give themselves four more years in office, I really believe that term limits have been a huge success and that they should be extended to the state government as well. The fact that 98 percent of state legislators get reelected, most without ever facing a challenger, should be a hint that the system is flawed. Give state legislators 12 years and then out. That would solve the leadership problem and the seniority problem and the lack of credibility in one quick, surgical move. Look what it took to get rid of State Senator Ada Smith, who was arrested on at least four occasions over the past several years. She lost this year in a close primary, and her victor admitted that it was the media and its stories calling Smith "The Wild Woman of Albany" that helped to unseat her.

... This is the final election where candidates for judgeships will be chosen by the political district leaders rather than the electorate. Good riddance to the old, boss-driven system. In September, the United States Court of Appeals upheld a ruling stating that the city's system of picking judges that allowed the Democratic Party to pack the State Supreme Court with its political hacks is unconstitutional. The State Legislature must now come up with a new system, and we hope it includes a plan for open primary elections for judge as there are for other political positions. I fear that the legislature will instead allow party conventions to pick the nominees, a anti-democratic move if ever I heard one, albeit one that would probably be constitutional. Let's do it right the first time, and turn the vote over to the electorate.

... More than ten years ago, under the guise of protecting minority voters, the state redistricted Rockaway based on race rather than rationality. Communities such as Bayswater were split right down the middle, reducing the influence the community had on the decisions that impact it in half. That move put Rockaway in two City Council District and two Assembly Districts. The districts on the east end were tied in with other communities in southern Queens. The west end district was tied in with mainland communities such as Howard Beach. In neither of the districts is Rockaway a majority stockholder. Congressman Greg Meeks, who splits Rockaway with Congressman Anthony Weiner, says that the splits made Rockaway stronger. Once again, he is wrong. It has weakened Rockaway terribly. There is presently a move to take the redistricting power away from the state lawmakers and that would be a tremendous step in the right direction. Now, the legislature draws the districts to protect its members, not to make the districts more reasonable or fair. There should be an independent commission set up to do the 2010 redistricting. Legislators cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

... One example of the problem with our state legislature is its leadership's refusal to tell the electorate where its pork is hidden. Each year, members of the Senate and Assembly get a set amount of money (depending on their loyalty to the party the past year) to dole out to community organizations as "member items." Most of the pork is benign. It goes to little league programs, volunteer firefighters, local museums and the like. There is nothing wrong with that kind of funding. The problem is, the leadership refuses to tell just who the money went to and has advised its members to keep their "member items" funding a secret. The Albany Times-Union, the newspaper that keeps a close watch on the legislature, has filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for a list of recipients. So far, the leadership has rejected that demand. They say that they have a right to keep the information secret. A judge, however, recently ruled that the public has a right to know where its money is spent. I agree. At the least, our local state legislators, Audrey Pheffer, Michele Titus and Malcolm Smith, should release their member items list. We do have the right to know.

... Look on page four of today's paper for The Wave's political endorsements. While we have reservations about some of the people who we are endorsing, to us, they are the people who deserve your support. If you agree, vote for them. If not, then vote for their opponents (if they have one). In any case, we urge you to go out and vote on Tuesday, November 7. If you are a citizen, it is the one civic duty that demands your attendance each year.

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