2011-12-02 / Columnists

Beachcomber

Congressman Bob Turner stood up for his beliefs and voted against his party on an important issue two weeks ago. At issue was a new law that would permit people who have weapons and carry permits in one state to also be able to carry the concealed weapon in all the other states, as well. A person who has a carry permit from Florida, where carry permit laws are lax, for example, would also be able to carry that weapon in New York. The NRA and the Republicans loved the bill. The Democrats and Progressives hated it. Turner, new to Congress, was one of a number of Republicans who voted no, and he should be applauded for his vote. “I believe that each state should determine its own gun laws,” Turner said. “It would take away the ability of the city and the state to enforce and monitor its own gun laws.” While the bill passed in the House, it is unlikely that it will pass in the Senate, where a similar bill failed two years ago.

That intersection of Beach 108 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard remains problematical. The city’s DOT told locals a year ago that turn signals would be placed at the intersection, the scene of a number of accidents each year. Then, the DOT reversed course and said that a study revealed that the turn signals are not necessary. Shortly thereafter, work was started on the center median and the street lights were removed for the work. Now, work has stopped and the lights remain missing in action. With the early darkness, the corner becomes more dangerous to school students and those coming from the Beach 105 Street subway station.

Attorney Joe Mure called to say that we had misquoted him in a story we did about the governance of Peninsula Hospital Center. In that story, we quoted Mure, a member of the hospital’s board, as saying that the husband of the new owner, Steven Zakheim, had not been at board meetings. In fact, Mure told us last week, Zakheim had been at board meetings as an observer, but did not participate. The issue arises because Zakheim has signed an agreement with the state’s Department of Health that he would have no participation in any healthcare business in the wake of charges of Medicare fraud and sexual misconduct.

More than three-quarters of all Americans who intend to vote in the next election expected the Congressional deficit reduction Super Committee to fail, and it didnot disappoint them. In a Zogby poll conducted in mid-November, eight in ten who responded to the poll said that job creation should have been the major consideration of the committee and that they supported closing tax loopholes, reducing spending outside of entitlement spending and ending the “Bush Tax Cuts” for those in the highest tax brackets. At the same time, a CNN poll showed that 59 percent of those who identify themselves as Republicans oppose tax increases while 57 percent of those who identify themselves as Democrats oppose cuts in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Nearly 70 percent of those who identify themselves as Independents favor raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations and support cuts in domestic spending.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has long said that he would not increase taxes, but he never said anything about fees and fines. Those are going up at a record rate. For example, the record rise in parking meter fees has already begun, with Rockaway being one of the early victims of the rise. The FDNY will hike its ambulance fee in some cases, with the charge for an advanced lifesaving ambulance going to $1,290 from $850. For those owning an elevator building, the cost of a yearly inspection would go to $3,000 from $1,000.

We have heard this song before, but it is still good to hear that our local state politicians, Malcolm Smith, Michele Titus and Phil Goldfeder, are pushing for a removal of tolls on the Cross Bay Bridge. The politicians say that paying a toll to go to their local police precinct and schools is like “paying a toll to cross Broadway in Manhattan.” While it is a positive move, the three will soon hit the intransigence of the MTA, which will talk of bonds, return on investment and fiscal problems. The rising crime statistics driven by a wave of burglaries in the 100 Precinct seems to have come to an end. The latest numbers, covering the period of November 7 to November 13, show that burglaries are down 50 percent from the same period last year, while crime overall, as measured by the FBI’s “Index Crimes” is the same as last year. Index crime in the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway is down as well, but there is a troubling uptick in both shooting incidents and murders. Last year at this time, there had been five murders in the 101 Precinct (as opposed to none in the 100 Precinct). This year, there have been eight, a rise of more than 40 percent. Four of those homicides took place during the last 28-day cycle. The shooting spree rivals that of the Christmas holiday shootings four years ago, in which a gang war took at least five lives.

State Education Department officials want to give undocumented aliens a break on their college tuition, sparking a controversy among those citizens who have to pay the full tuition. The new law, proposed by State Board of Regents chair Merryl Tisch, Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s next-door-neighbor, would give undocumented minors access to the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, which gives qualified residents yearly grants of up to $5,000 to pay their college tuition.

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