A Creative Move By A Queens Legislator
24, 2008) I read about it in yesterday's New York Post online.
First, most regualr readers know I am no fan of our pathetic New
York State Legislature. Regulars also know, my work-week schedule
forces me to write my column which is published Thursdays and
Fridays, on the weekends. Thus, I can only assume the Post got
this great story and chose to play it as a light-hearted spoof
instead of the brave and creative piece of work that I believe
With that being said, I really don't know the star of this creative
investigative effort, Queens State Senator Shirley Huntley. I
may have met her once -- not really sure -- but she was the recipient
of a strong, strong endorsement on the part of the Queens Tribune
and Press of Southeast Queens because she was running against
the wicked witch of the West.
We believed that defeating incumbent State Senator Ada Smith who
had been physically abusive to staff, police and others was an
important thing for the mostly minority south Queens communities
which encompasses the 10th senatorial district (Jamaica, South
Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, Laurelton, South Ozone Park, Broad
Channel, Lindenwood and parts of Forest Hills).
Thus we utilized our South Queens paper, the Press in the Democratic
Primary to try to make the voters aware of the abdominal behavior
of the incumbent. To our surprise and almost every other political
observer, the incumbent lost and Shirley Huntley became the Democratic
candidate and, of course, the winner and new State Senator.
The jury however was still out on her.
Shirley had a real tough job in order to impress us. She was joining
the nation's most dysfunctional state legislature. She was the
junior member of the Democratic minority. All the State Senate
Dems can ever do, because of how Albany works, is to try to win
the majority. They've been trying to do that for more than the
30 years I've been in journalism. They have done so very unsuccessfully.
So how could a rookie member of a powerless minority in a meaningless
body prove herself?
The Post reported yesterday: "A state senator from Queens deliberately
went into mortgage foreclosure to see what the experience was
like - and complained that her bank was at fault for being slow
in telling her she might lose her Jamaica home.
Sen. Shirley Huntley said she stopped making $2,000-a-month payments
in November to verify the mortgage horror stories her constituents
She said she'd planned to pay up when faced with a deadline.
Huntley said that her family was served with foreclosure papers
on Feb. 7 and that she agreed to pay all arrears and fees by the
March 11 deadline."
If you check the web or the clips, since her election, one of
Huntley's central issues has been fighting predatory lending and
informing the public about the horrendous situation with home
mortgages. Like other elected officials from Southeast Queens,
she has been an advocate fighting to keep the financial predators
away from her constituents.
It is a fight that may inform but usually has no teeth and doesn't
go very far.
Huntley took it up a notch by putting herself and her family's
home in the path of the foreclosure threat.
Creative tactics on the part of legislators can often bring needed
attention to the ills of society. In the case of the NYS Senate,
we believe, that such tactics accomplish much more than meaningless
committee meetings, pre-decided votes and playing the tune that
the three men in a room orchestrate.
Shirley Huntley has won our respect and has brought a big smile
to the jaded lips of one longtime observer of the NYS Legislature.
Shirley, how about a cup of coffee and a long overdue interview?
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Huge Turnout Gives Huntley Win In Jamaica
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will tackle the problem? Public Safety & Mental Patients
HENRY J. STERN
On February 12, David Tarloff murdered Dr. Kathryn Faughey.
The sensational case has been widely publicized. Tarloff,
a schizophrenic, had a long psychiatric history. His
family did whatever they could to get him committed
to a mental institution, but he was always found not
to be dangerous and released.
There have been articles, columns and editorials written
about the case in New York City's dailies.
So far, we have not had many reasonable suggestions
about what to do about the problem of released mental
patients who commit crimes when they go off the meds
which keep them tranquil. We offer the following ideas:
1. There should be a central computerized registry of
discharged patients, available to the examining doctor
when a former patient is brought in for examination.
Does this violate the patient's privacy rights. No more
than looking up the rap sheet, fingerprints or DNA of
a person accused of a crime. There comes a time when
society's rights have to be taken into account as well.
In our view, that time has long passed. One aspect of
the problem is that these matters are left to mental
health professionals, many of them empathize with the
patients, who are the people with whom they deal.
2. When a person is brought in for psychiatric examination,
he/she should be physically examined as well. We do
not know whether this was done in the Tarloff case,
but the patient's blood should be tested for medications
or their absence.
3. People released from mental hospitals should keep
regular weekly appointments with testers, who will check
their blood levels. If they do not keep their appointments,
they should be returned to the hospital promptly. If
they disappear, warrants should be issued for their
arrest, and police officers sent out to find them. When
they are found, they should go through the criminal
justice system, rather than simply being returned and
then cut loose again.
4. Judges and district attorneys should be educated
as to the potential danger posed by violent mental patients.
If Judge Barry Kron received no information indicating
that Tarloff was a danger, he cannot be faulted for
releasing the man.
5. Where a judge or a doctor makes a finding that someone
is not dangerous, he/she should write a memorandum explaining
how that decision was reached. The authorities should
keep score on how many times such rulings turn out to
6. When Kendra's Law is invoked, the state or city police
should track down the suspect, or report in writing
why they cannot be found. This work is too important
to be left to employees who ring the bell and leave
when the patient does not answer.
7. Whenever the police are called in an EDP (emotionally
disturbed person) situation, the mental health record
of the person causing the disturbance should be available
on a computer. This will help the police know what to
do, and it may save the patient from being shot.
The secrecy surrounding mental health, the result of
old prejudices, stands as an impediment to the appropriate
care and treatment of patients. It is also a risk to
the larger community which may be put at risk by unsuitably
discharged patients. It is common that people are discharged
when they are well, and then relapse, just as drug addicts
and alcoholics do.
An administration that properly declares war on trans-fats
should show equal concern for citizens murdered on the
streets, in their offices or homes, or pushed off subway
platforms by psychotics who were unwisely discharged
and then unsupervised. The courts should co-operate
in this effort. It may be more politically correct to
go after purveyors of strudel than doctors and hospitals
who serve humanity. But a knife stops a beating heart
even more quickly than a globule of fat.
Again, we ask for suggestions. This should be an important
governmental initiative. Who has the courage to take
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato