Government By The People, Money Matters & A Poem
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The scuttlebutt from the New York City Charter Revision Commission has them as expected addressing term limits. A likely scenario the whispers are saying is offering the voters the chance of reinstating the limit of two terms for Council members, Borough Presidents and Citywide electeds – Mayor, Public Advocate and Comptroller.
While the Commission has yet to decide the final form of the ballot proposition, several members have been voicing support for return to the two-term limit originally passed by the people.
The two terms for all was just one of the proposals that the charter commission staff recommended. While many current Council members are crying it would be unfair if shortening the limits from 3 to 2 terms affected them, many of them saw fit to vote for the change to extend their own stay in office. In spite of a commitment from Speaker Quinn that the current Council would be immune from the change, it would be ludicrous for an independent Commission to grant any consideration to the Council that violated the public trust to serve themselves.
This is a chance for the commission to allow the voters to put back in place a law they twice before approved. This is an opportunity to include in the new proposition that the Council cannot change its own term limits passed by a referendum of the people.
Charter Commission Chairman Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor of the City University of New York, is bright and savvy and leads an able group.
This writer is betting that one of the options that will be on the ballot will in fact enable the people to return to a limit of two terms – including present Council members, with Council unable to extend their own terms.
And if it that’s on the ballot, we’re betting the people will pass it for a third and final time.
And in New York City, we will finally have “government by the people.”
Gubernatorial heir apparent Andrew Cuomo has some insurance in the bank. The Democratic candidate has some $20 million more in his campaign warchest than Rick Lazio, the Republican designee.
Cuomo reportedly raised over $9 million since January bringing his total on hand to $23.6 million – a new record in New York State. According to reports, Rick Lazio has raised $1.4 million in the same period and has cash on hand of $600,000.
Now polls show Cuomo will handily win over his Republican opponent and that is before he starts to spend. But as we sit here – and yes we are part of the large majority who prefers Cuomo - we also shudder when we realize how important the almighty buck is in the political game.
We are aware of what it takes to raise the money. We are aware of the special treatment big donors receive. We are aware when numbers like $24 million are raised by a single candidate in a single state, the ability to mold opinions can be for sale.
No budget passed, another week,
Normal people would start to freak.
But legislators seem not to care,
Each of them must have a pair.
One hundred twelve days, it is late,
Without a budget, an endangered State.
Spending more than we take in,
In polite society would be a sin.
The folks we elected have failed so bad,
We’re out of balance, it’s very sad.
Ol’ New York is out of money,
When reality hits, it won’t be funny.
The final budget poem I hope to write,
May they pass a budget and do it right.
Even when it’s my candidate, I object.
This money disparity makes the case for some sort of public financing.
But welcome to New York where we’ve got no money nor no way to pass reform.
Four Hundred Geese Killed. Was It Necessary?
By HENRY STERN
By HENRY STERN
Federal agents swooped down on Prospect Park last week, removing hundreds of Canada geese and gassing them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the culling was necessary to protect air travelers. Others dispute that claim.
The Times initally described the position of the New York City Audubon Society as, “cautiously supportive of the mass euthanizing.” In a later statement, the Audubon Society took issue with the Times’ description of “on culling resident Canada geese within the five boroughs.” They now say:
“NYC Audubon believes that lethal control should be the last resort after all other methods for managing bird populations have been exhausted. The blanket approach of lethal control will not significantly reduce the risk birds pose to aviation safety. We maintain that City officials should reduce the amount of lush, green lawn space available throughout the city, which attracts geese. Without such measures, new geese will take up residence here and populations will quickly rebound to current levels. The City may also limit growth of the resident geese population through egg-addling or nest destruction.
“NYC Audubon also takes issue with the target population size identified by the Department of Agriculture, which calls for reducing the number of Canada geese in the city by 80 percent. This figure is not supported by sound scientific research. The recent cull at Prospect Park included nearly 100 percent of the geese in that area; essentially, this population was ‘managed’ into extinction. NYC Audubon strongly disagrees with that decision.
“When one species becomes so abundant that it has a negative impact on the habitat and resources of other native bird species - as may be the case with Canada geese - NYC Audubon, like most Audubon chapters, supports population management. But the option of lethal control should be a last resort, undertaken only when bird populations threaten the health, safety, and welfare of other wildlife and humans, and only after a rigorous environmental impact assessment has been done and full disclosure has been made.”
Our view of the problem is that important issues have not been answered satisfactorily, and that we lack confidence in the process employed to reach specific decisions on the use of deadly force on animal families.
In fact, Canada geese are often a nuisance in many more ways than causing airplanes to crash, which is very rare. Their droppings litter golf courses and meadows. They eat shoots and small plants, depriving other species of nourishment. They are highly territorial, and hiss and bite when they believe they are intruded upon. Originally migratory birds flying long distances in the spring and fall, many have evolved into permanent residents of local open spaces. They hang around all year instead of flying south in the winter. They can overwhelm ducks, which are smaller waterfowl.
On the other hand, even unpleasant creatures do not deserve the Federal gas chamber to which they have been consigned, in some cases with a degree of arbitrariness. The government’s declaration that geese must be killed if they are within seven miles of an airport, considering that Prospect Park is 6.5 miles from both LaGuardia and Kennedy, has the flavor of contrivance. Do the Feds mean to tell us that if the distance had been 7.2 miles, say, the geese and their goslings would have been spared?
The January 2009 collision with Captain Sullenberger’s airplane was said to have been caused by migratory geese, not their cousins who amuse Brooklynites at Prospect Park. We think that in cases of capital punishment, the burden of proof is on the executioners. Of course, if human life is actually threatened by the geese, we side with our own species. But we are aware that government programs, once under way, are difficult to limit or restrain unless there is a powerful lobby representing the other side. In this case, there is no economic interest in the survival of Canada geese, and there is no spokesgoose to represent them.
Another concern is the lack of public discussion on this issue. The searchlight has certainly not reached this government program. We do not recall any opportunity for local input, on either side. It is necessary to protect air travel, but where is the evidence that the indiscriminate slaughter of non-migratory geese is the best way to accomplish that goal?
Part of this outcry is an increasing lack of confidence in the authorities. One need not be a Tea Party ideologue to question the bureaucracy. It would be reassuring to see the science behind the kill. We have heard that the Interior Department originally declined to do the dirty work, so it was shifted to Agriculture, which had no qualms about the work. Perhaps there should be a Federal Bureau of Extermination to organize activities of this nature.
Another suggestion that has been made is that, if this program is to be continued, the geese should be fed to the poor, rather than dumped in a landfill, as was the case with the Prospect Park 400 (or 368, as we have been told). But the policy of providing free or low-cost food might lead to increasing the numbers of poor people, which is not on the Federal agenda.