Bell Verdict, Campus’ Name, Judge’s Pay
I knew Arthur Cooperman, the judge in the Sean Bell case several decades ago. I know him today by reputation. I know DA Dick Brown, both personally and as a newspaperman who has followed his stellar career. There is little doubt that the case was handled as professionally as possible by the two and therefore, we conclude, justice was dispensed.
However, justice was not served.
While the system may have worked, the outcome was unfair (or is it flawed?).
I do not criticize the players or the process in the Sean Bell trial. I criticize the outcome. For police officer Michael Oliver to fire thirty-one shots, reloading his gun in the process, killing an innocent, unarmed man, and walk away scot- free, doesn't work for me. It doesn't work for our understanding of civilized society; it's just not right. As far as I know, he's still a cop and as of now could be sent back on the street with his gun. Absurd!
We know that both the Federal government and Commissioner Kelly still have an opportunity to act. Act they must and act quickly. Everyone concerned, not just Bell's fiancé and family, not just the other victims, not just the black community, but all who believe in fair play and the rule of law deserve speedy justice here.
I find it interesting that the loudest voice serving as the catalyst to make this happen, is the constant protest of the Reverend Al Sharpton. His responsible leadership including civil disobedience should be recognized as a major factor in keeping the civil peace.
With Amadou Diallo, another young, unarmed innocent black man slain by New York City police almost a decade ago, a constant in our memory and the memory of the black community, we hope and expect that a reevaluation, rethinking and retraining will take place within the New York City Police Department.
Sadly, the best legacy I can imagine for Sean Bell is that this City never live through another such incident.
School Campus Naming
For starters, I don't believe public buildings or places should be named for living people. The political process appears to be too corrupting to allow the powers that be another way to reward, cajole, or influence.
However, not all such namings are equal. In the middle of a critical race for control of the New York State Senate, the Glen Oaks School Campus has been named for State Senator Frank Padavan.
We are not - at least at this point - taking sides in the race between Padavan and Councilman Jim Gennaro. We do however, understand that should the Dems pick up two seats from the Republicans, Joe Bruno's decades long strangle hold will end as the Dems gain a majority.
Even though Padavan has been a friend of City schools, it is shameful for the Mayor, the Chancellor or anyone else who could have affected the renaming decision to have allowed our educational system and assets to become so embroiled in the political game.
The people's property should not be named for living people. Even the most honorable elected officials are obviously tempted to cross the line of propriety.
For almost a decade, legislators in Albany have held a pay raise for New York State judges hostage, demanding that they receive a raise too.
Speaker Shelly Silver and his Democratic Assembly are the people to blame for the State's failure to pay a reasonable salary to attract the best to the New York State bench. The Assembly worries that the voters will not approve of them voting a pay raise for themselves, so if they tie it to a judge's raise, it may not look so bad. But, over the past decade, as the people have gotten to know how inept the NY Legislature really is, the Assembly has backed off their raise and punished judges in the process. Certainly after being named the most dysfunctional legislature in the nation by the NYU Law Brennan Commission, it is difficult to explain voting yourself a raise.
The legislators are allowed outside jobs. Many of them, like the Speaker, collect fortunes from law firms and seemingly do very little for it, other than pass favorable laws for lawyers. Judges depend only on their job as judges.
Judith Kaye, NY's Chief Judge has sued the State to try to force them to raise judges salaries which have been frozen since 1999.
Kaye's lawyer, former Clinton White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum is a skilled and resourceful attorney. He has stated his intention to call the Governor, Silver and Bruno to the stand.
We would love to see Silver questioned by Nussbaum and try to deny that the self interest of his members was a factor in the denying judicial pay raises without perjuring himself.
We imagine that Silver would jump through hoops to avoid the potential exposure. They just might grant the judges their pay raise and take an equal (or almost equal) one for themselves.
The people should refuse to vote for any Assembly member who votes their own pay raise as part of a package with the judges.
It would be another shameful legislative act.
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Revenues Declining, Budgets Keep Climbing
HENRY J. STERN
A worthwhile forum was held last week at Baruch College's School of Public Affairs. The topic was "Declining NY Revenues; What to Do?" The topic is timely, considering that the recession we are now in or near is expected to adversely affect tax payments to the city. It was generally agreed that the most sensible way to respond to falling revenue was to reduce expenditures. Saying that, however, is far easier than doing it, and does not solve the problem of where to cut.
Panel moderator expert Dr. Steve Savas, a Presidential Professor at Baruch College, described seven methods which governments use to balance a budget.
The first way to approach a balanced budget, said Savas the sage, is by fiscal trickery, such as the postponement of expenditures. During the fiscal crisis the city's teachers were due to be paid on June 30. By delaying the payment one day, to July 1, Mayor Beame was able to defer millions of dollars into the new fiscal year. No money was actually saved by this maneuver, but it put a much better face on the old year's expenditures.
A second option is borrowing money. A thirty-year bond defers payment for a generation. The opposite of leaving assets to your descendants is leaving your debts for them to pay. This negative inheritance is New York State's gift to its future citizens, if they choose to stay in New York and pay it. Many do not.
A highly touted way to save money is through the reduction of fraud, waste and abuse. New York State provides rich opportunities for scammers. Medicaid fraud is said to run as high as $20 billion per year and could be significantly reduced by more vigorous enforcement.
Fourth is raising taxes, which Savas defined as plucking the most feathers from the goose, while eliciting the least hissing in response. Of course, one must be careful not to actually kill the goose, for she lays the golden eggs, and you will not find a trove of Faberge in her stomach or her uterus.
Fifth is reducing spending, which is most easily done by not filling vacancies. This usually results in the agencies that are the most directly service oriented soon becoming understaffed, while those deskbound employees who are lifers because they will never find anything as good, remain at their posts until they are ready to cash out with maximum benefits.
Savas's sixth suggestion was increasing efficiency. One can cut spending without cutting services by improving efficiency, but that takes a lot of political will and effort and often arouses fierce opposition by public employee unions.
His last suggestion was to rethink the role of government. What should government do? To what extent has it drifted beyond the powers granted in the Constitution? What should be privatized? How are earmarks for members of Congress, "member items" for legislators, and slush funds for members of the City Council legitimate government expenditures? Why are grants that are not clearly related to public functions made to community organizations? Should government revert to its core functions?
Alas, if the city is in a budget crisis, major reforms like these cannot be enacted in time to save money. If the city is not in crisis, major reforms are ignored as there is no pressing need to save money. Inertia wins and budgets grow.
In government, there is far less incentive than in the private sector to save time and money on a project. The employees and their unions rule the roost, but even when they do not, inertia often carries the day with the same results.
There is no doubt that federal, state and local governments have been the instrument of transferring many people from relative poverty to the middle class, which is a great public good. It does cost a great deal of money, which must be paid by all citizens in the form of taxes. There is constant political pressure to keep services up and taxes down. This results in the creative accounting, the deferral of costs, the perpetual and increasing borrowing to conceal deficits.
These are not issues where Democrats and Republicans are primarily split down party lines. Each party is loyal to its funders, and the unions are wise enough to contribute to both, especially when different parties control different houses of the legislature.
Difficult political choices are unlikely to be made on these questions because every other year is an election year for the legislature, and the largest and most powerful lobbies are the public employees unions. Around the country, unionism is in decline, because private corporations must face economic reality or become extinct. Only in the public sector has union membership grown, buttressed by lobbies which both reward and intimidate public officials. They conduct business under the certainty that their employer will never go bankrupt, regardless of how poorly the business is managed, or how much it spends for salaries, pensions, health care and fringe benefits.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato