On Politics by anthony.stasi
Oct 24, 2008 | 49057 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Remembering JFK (Jack French Kemp)
by anthony.stasi
May 10, 2009 | 7264 views | 0 0 comments | 112 112 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

My days as a high school student in Mr. James Murphy's history classes at Msgr. McClancy High School take me back to when I first learned of Jack Kemp. Ronald Reagan was president, and one day - we were told - Jack Kemp too would be president.

A few years later, I worked as a press office intern for a woman that had a picture of Kemp on her wall. She too, hoped he would be someday be president. Only a few months ago, while at a meeting about low-income housing, someone was telling me about a low-income neighborhood that is good for business because it was declared an Enterprise Zone. I immediately thought of Kemp, who as a former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, championed the idea of Enterprise Zones.

Jack Kemp was a conservative that thought conservative policy could benefit all Americans. Some disagreed with Kemp on issues (taxes, for example), but few in Washington ever questioned his motives. He was one of the most inclusive conservatives to ever have that kind of influence in Washington. In order for the Republican Party to make the gains it wants to make, it needs to learn from Kemp's legacy.

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Comptroller Asks Prez for a Boost
by anthony.stasi
May 10, 2009 | 6778 views | 0 0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

On May 1, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson wrote the president of the United States asking him to re-consider the $2 billion for bus and rail transportation that was taken out of the original stimulus package.

The stimulus bill, as it exists, allows for $6.9 billion to rebuild existing transportation facilities. Thompson's point is that there is a middle-income population that - even with the stimulus package as it stands - will face rising fares. "The need for Federal operating funding is compelling," wrote Thompson. A letter to the president is a big “ask” to a big guy, but the city is in tough times. And this city has been good to the president.

It's important to point out that Thomson is in the middle of a campaign challenging Mayor Michael Bloomberg. If a boost comes from Washington, it certainly looks as though his plea was effective. So, it's not bad politics, but the transit issue is a major one for both Bloomberg and Thompson, and the city benefits if they just happen to be competing to get something done about fares.

The advantage we have as New Yorkers, in this case, is that we are set up to receive stimulus money and many cities are not. The turnaround time for this money is fast. Cities need to show what they are going to use the money for and why. The process of requesting the money, submitting plans, and actually receiving it is about two months. That is quick. There is little time for community debates and other muddy processes.

This is where responsible policy is so important. Missouri for example, asked for $750 million, but nothing for St. Louis, the largest city in the state. Seattle was left out of Washington State's original request as well. Cities need to be smart too. Bridgeport, Connecticut, requested $1 billion in stimulus funding from Connecticut. Really? One billion dollars? The entire state of Connecticut is only receiving $600 million for the entire state. The president knew this would happen when he warned mayors to manage their money wisely or he would “call them out.”

Good governance means matching this federal money - or stimulus - with responsible planning. You might remember the bridge accident in Minnesota in August of 2007, where 13 people died. The bridge collapsed. A year later, a new bridge was completely operational. In one year! The state of Minnesota changed their bidding process. They allowed the contracting company to design the bridge - instead of having bureaucrats volley ideas back and forth (Freedom Tower, anyone?). The contracting company was offered extra money to finish early, and the result was a non-stop effort to get the bridge built.

Minnesota also completely closed that artery of traffic, which makes you wonder if the NYC policy of “close one lane at a time” (which drags the process on for years) is really worth it. Instead, it might be worth closing the entire road - and re-routing traffic - and getting it done quicker, saving time in labor hours and overtime.

It was an innovate idea that Minnesota put into play, and it worked. We owe it to our country, as it is shelling out such money in stimulus funding, to try to find new and innovative ways to save money. The I-35 bridge was under construction in less than three months after it tragically fell. Compare that to the Freedom Tower, which has done nothing more than change its name to World Trade Center One, in eight years.

Here is hoping that we wisely use all that we have coming our way, because there is a good chance we will not get more federal attention until things get better economically for the country.

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Project HEAL
by anthony.stasi
Apr 06, 2009 | 8092 views | 0 0 comments | 105 105 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Some elected officials have begun to focus on eating disorders as more young people are suffering from esteem issues. Think it’s not really an issue? If someone you’re related to doesn’t have an eating disorder, then someone you know probably does.  It wasn’t always like that.  Eating disorders are becoming more and more common as advertising and television tells us who and what is beautiful. Add to that the explosion of social networking sites, where people share photos with the world, and you have a real reason to feel self conscious.

 

Self image disorders are no longer relegated to young women. 1 in 10 people that are reported as having an eating disorder are men. Kristina Saffran of Douglaston, along with two friends Becky Allen and Liana Rosenman, started Project HEAL (www.theprojectheal.org) in order to raise money for young people with eating disorders. The goal of this organization is to help place people that want help with eating disorders in treatment facilities.

 

This is by no means a make-shift vanity group for these young women to put on their resume. Project HEAL was incorporated in May of 2008, and they are now pending 501-c3 status. They have already placed people in facilities due to their ability to tap funding streams.

 

Project HEAL is planning a dress sale in Douglaston on Saturday May 23rd between the hours of 2pm -5pm, at The Douglaston Club.  The group focuses on three types of eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, and binge eaters. These three women met and became friends when they were hospitalized with eating disorders. They decided a year ago to help other people with esteem issues.

 

Legislatively, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (New York AD 51) has been pretty active in starting The Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders, which has a 24 Hour Toll Free Hotline: 1-888-747-4727. New Jersey State Senator Joe Vitale is helping to launch STAR (States for Treatment, Access, and Research). Vitale wants medical professionals to be trained and familiar with eating disorders. He also wants to see health care organizations recognize eating disorders as real illnesses.

 

Eating disorders are often about empowerment, or the false sense of it. “You want control over your body, so you think that by controlling your weight, you are exercising control – but it really is a lack of control”, says Saffran. What eating disorders do is similar to depression – it takes the individual out of their lives. Suddenly a person that was very focused on their career or schooling is now obsessed with how they feel about their identity.

 

A few years ago, I became good friends with Ben Kramer of Vancouver. Ben was autistic, as well as a mountain climber, photographer, and a marathon swimmer. Like these young women, Ben raised awareness and money for his cause. He stayed at my apartment one weekend and wound up telling me that he suffered from depression. He told me was on medication, and that if he had not gotten help, he never would have accomplished such amazing things, such as swimming around Manhattan (21 miles non-stop) for 16 years in a row. He got himself back on track, and his life became incredible.

 

Project HEAL aims to get people back on track. Visit their website, and you will be able to read about the experiences of the three founders. They openly tell their story, and they openly wish to help you if you need it. The three of them are around seventeen years old, and they run a completely professional organization.  Here is hoping you never need the help of Project HEAL, but also that you will help them in their mission.

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Unlimited ‘and Taken For a’ Ride
by anthony.stasi
Apr 06, 2009 | 7576 views | 0 0 comments | 119 119 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This is the absolute worst time for the city to raise the price of public transportation fares. While it may be easy for the non-elected to make such claims, the people that are elected are expected to offer some creativity in this situation. The government, both local and national, has been encouraging people to use public transportation ever since oil prices shot up a few years ago. The 30-day unlimited ride metro card will go up from $81 to $103 if the MTA’s now approved plan becomes reality.

 

Much has gone wrong; the economy tanked in the last year and this is still a very expensive subway system to run.  If fares went to $2.50 per ride, although it is pricey, it is still a good deal considering that you can get to almost any place in the city for a relatively low price. The 30-day Metrocard increase, however, is an entirely different ballgame. These are people that are making a commitment to our transportation system on a daily basis. Monthly users are doing exactly what the government asked, and now they stand to be punished.

 

The Straphangers Campaign has been active in listing alternative plans on their website – such as the Ravich plan – and notifying people as to where hearings will be. But where is the New York State Green Party in all of this? This is an environmental issue that has a dramatic effect on the city. It’s also an issue where there is still room to win. If the Green Party got as involved in this as the Straphangers Campaign, you might see a change in attitude in Albany. This is a golden opportunity for this party to claim legitimacy. Instead, their state website mentions little about the New York City subway fare hikes. Go to their Twitter account (http://twitter.com/gpny/) and you will see comments on things that completely irrelevant to being an environmentalist. A few tweets from the Greens:

 

·         Obama should reverse course and reject Bush-Cheney policies on the drug war, illegal surveillance, executive power, and Social Security

·         New York Finds More Votes for President from Last November

 

Really?! Is this what the NYS Green Party is thinking about? Are they really that concerned with how many lost votes Obama may have gotten? Is anyone disputing that he won? Someone should reach this party – tell them there is a real environmental issue happening in a very popular city.

 

The focus in this fight should be to fight for a partial victory. Keep the 30-day Metrocard at $81 a month. It encourages people to use the system more often. If they use the TransitChek Program, they can have their employers take that money from their earnings tax free. It’s a little bit of help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NY Film Tax Credit
by anthony.stasi
Mar 15, 2009 | 7706 views | 0 0 comments | 114 114 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Paterson and the NY Film Tax Credit Anthony Stasi

Not long ago, I walked along a street lined with brownstones, and black painted stoops. A few potholes on the ground were illuminated by drooping street lights. Some garbage pails were covered, some not. There a few ‘For Rent’ signs in the windows. A genuine ‘New York’ street…in Los Angeles. I was visiting a few friends from a past life that work at Paramount Pictures. New York Street is the street they contract out for commercials or use for New York-style television shows and movies. It felt real enough for me to think I couldn’t afford anything on this plastic set.

This great backdrop aside, our city draws a lot of business from filmmakers and producers that want to shoot here in the real city. Governor Paterson is now weighing whether the New York Film and Tax Credit is worth holding on to, when there are so many other areas (police, teachers, and emergency services to name a few) that might need funding more. Those areas do need whatever funding we have the most – no questions asked. But the TV and Film Tax Credit allows New York to keep its identity to some degree.

The industries that made New York what it is have either left, or are on life support (namely, manufacturing and Wall Street). Film, television, and theatre are part of what make New York special. Even though other cities have entertainment, nothing can compare to that of New York City.

The Tax Credit was increased by 30% not long ago. Times changed fast, and maybe we need to lower the rate of increase from 30% to perhaps 20%. This would keep the profitable government effort alive.

What many of us are too young to remember is when New York was home to major beer breweries, before losing them to New Jersey over production costs. Those were good union jobs. We may not remember the garment district as it was once, with factories pumping – even though so many of those women earned less than they should have gotten.

Now, what is left is our mystique. New York – people get so angry over the city and then defend it vehemently should it be criticized by an outsider. What is left is a stock market on welfare and an entertainment industry. We have to show good faith with the entertainment industry, or we might lose them to a plastic replica of our city. This is why we need to hold on to the Film and Television Tax Credit.

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Senate KO's DC Voucher Program (Who Noted Nay?)
by anthony.stasi
Mar 15, 2009 | 6142 views | 1 1 comments | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink


Score one for typical Washington politics. The Washington DC vouchers program was defeated in the senate last week by a 58-39 vote. Last week I wrote about how important this program was to kids on the lower economic scale. I know that I benefitted from a school where education was a priority and discipline and values were always a part of the curriculum. Private schooling does not work for every child, but the kids in the Washington DC area had a chance to try something new. What’s more, if the public school system complains of overcrowding, wouldn’t they benefit with some kids going to a different school? Well the votes are in. Here are the senators that sent these kids back to a failed school system:

NAYs ---58

Akaka (D-HI)

Baucus (D-MT)

Bayh (D-IN)

Begich (D-AK)

Bennet (D-CO)

Bingaman (D-NM)

Boxer (D-CA)

Brown (D-OH)

Burris (D-IL)

Cantwell (D-WA)

Cardin (D-MD)

Carper (D-DE)

Casey (D-PA)

Conrad (D-ND)

Crapo (R-ID)

Dodd (D-CT)

Dorgan (D-ND)

Durbin (D-IL)

Feingold (D-WI)

Feinstein (D-CA) Gillibrand (D-NY)

Hagan (D-NC)

Harkin (D-IA)

Inouye (D-HI)

Johnson (D-SD)

Kaufman (D-DE)

Kerry (D-MA)

Klobuchar (D-MN)

Kohl (D-WI)

Landrieu (D-LA)

Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Leahy (D-VT)

Levin (D-MI)

Lincoln (D-AR)

McCaskill (D-MO)

Menendez (D-NJ)

Merkley (D-OR)

Mikulski (D-MD)

Murkowski (R-AK)

Murray (D-WA) Nelson (D-FL)

Nelson (D-NE)

Pryor (D-AR)

Reed (D-RI)

Reid (D-NV)

Rockefeller (D-WV)

Sanders (I-VT)

Schumer (D-NY)

Shaheen (D-NH)

Snowe (R-ME)

Specter (R-PA)

Stabenow (D-MI)

Tester (D-MT)

Udall (D-CO)

Udall (D-NM)

Webb (D-VA)

Whitehouse (D-RI)

Wyden (D-OR)

There are good arguments on both sides. I know the unions spent a lot of money trying to shut this down. But the most compelling argument for the DC Voucher program was that it was working. We’re one country – and this week we defunded a program that was working, and sent kids into another program that was not working so well. Change we can believe in?

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anonymous
|
March 27, 2009
Our coach has some wobbly wheels so instead of changing the tires, they changed the coach into a pumpkin.

Change will be the only thing we have left in our wallets at the rate we are spiraling down.

Voters need to protest changing programs that work. If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

When Good Policy Meets Politics
by anthony.stasi
Mar 08, 2009 | 6304 views | 1 1 comments | 115 115 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
When Good Policy Falls Due to Politics Anthony Stasi

Most students of good government policy look at school vouchers programs with a degree of skepticism. Vouchers that would allow a student to attend a private institution can make civil libertarians worry that government money might fund a religious based school. Another concern about vouchers is that as public funding comes into a private school, will the private schools lose the much needed control they have over the academic process? Teachers unions are another major roadblock to voucher programs. Unions know that once students in poorly performing schools get a taste of private education, the public school system, as the lumbering and wobbly machine that it can be, is at risk. And that’s a system that works for careers, even if it fails children at times.

Vouchers are a hot button issue, and the concerns are understandable. Our current economic times, however, are an opportunity to try new things. Washington DC has an experimental vouchers program that was put in place by the Republican controlled congress five years ago. It was an experiment. The kids in this school district had nothing to lose. Their public school system had failed them. Now, the children and parents want this program to remain. But the current congress has no intention of extending the voucher program. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, (D-Washington DC) said to the Washington Post, “I can tell you that the Democratic Congress is not about to extend this program."

Give credit to congressional Democrats for sticking to their guns on the issue. But what is the consequence when they shut this program down? After all of the ‘Thank You’ notes from the opponents of the program (none of whom have children in these poorly performing schools) are sent to congress, these kids get sent back to schools that have not improved since their exodus to better education five years ago.

Remember that the kids in this district were in such a bad school district that this program was attempted in the first place, and it is welcomed by the current DC schools’ chancellor Michelle Rhee – appointed by Democratic Mayor of Washington DC Adrian Fenty. Any member of congress that votes to send these kids back to a failing school should be willing to send their children to these schools.

Perhaps as a national educational program vouchers are not the answer. Maybe some of the opponents are right. But in a situation where it is hopeless – where everything else has been tried – why not give kids in a rough area a chance?

Michelle Rhee is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. She has taught in Baltimore and Washington. She started The New Teacher Project that recruited 10,000 new teachers in 20 states. She was told recently that she had to prepare to re-enroll the students that will have to come back to the public system, once the current congress lets this program fizzle out in the fall of 2010. Her words, "I don't think vouchers are going to solve all the ills of public education, but parents who are zoned to schools that are failing kids should have options to do better by their kids."

This is not about helping rich kids get richer. It’s about helping poor children not get poorer.

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anonymous
|
November 16, 2009
Thanks for writing about this.

Gold

Eric Ulrich and the New Queens GOP
by anthony.stasi
Feb 23, 2009 | 6097 views | 1 1 comments | 109 109 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Talking to Vince Tabone of the Queens GOP, you can feel the enthusiasm he has for newcomer Eric Ulrich, who is running for the vacant city council seat left by Sen. Joe Addabbo. Like Ulrich, I ran for office in this neck of the woods at a young age. It’s a good place to jump into to politics – even though Ulrich’s campaign slogan reads ‘People First. Not Politics.’ Ulrich, according to Tabone, has mounted this very professional campaign from very early on.

The field gets crowded in this neck of the woods. There are some formidable Democrats in this race. Oddly enough though, the only candidate that reminds one of now-State Senator Addabbo is Ulrich. Ulrich is a younger candidate that canvasses the district and doesn’t get distracted by other candidates’ agendas. Addabbo has that same trait. Is it enough for a 23 year old to get elected? Well, it’s still a district where the Democrats outnumber the Republicans 3-1.

Election Day is Tuesday. We will just have to see if Ulrich is able to get the vote out.

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Sherry,M
|
November 06, 2009
I talked to a number of people at Ulrich's election celebration and came away with this interesting information:

http://blogs.journalism.cuny.edu/interactive2010/2009/11/06/eric-ulrich-unplugged/

Onward Laptop Soldiers….
by anthony.stasi
Feb 23, 2009 | 7008 views | 0 0 comments | 111 111 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Solidarity has such a noble ring to it that you can see where students can get riled up in the word alone. The protests at New York University this week were viewed by many people, and many students, as less than stellar. The tactics used by the students was brought into question, but the reasoning for the protest is more interesting.

Written everywhere is how these were rich kids that were trying to show their muscle as malcontents when they really have little for which to complain. In fairness, they may not all be wealthy, but they probably knew what the tuition was before they agreed to attend NYU. A friend of mine that works for the Clinton Foundation went to Hunter College on a full scholarship. I asked him why he chose Hunter when he could have gone anyplace. He said that it was a good school and the price was right. An NYU education is worth every penny (and there are a lot of those) but the costs are something that students need to consider when they attend a private university.

Look closer at the protesters’ ‘occupation demands,’ and the protest is even more questionable. First on their list of demands was that they get amnesty for protesting. That’s first on their list! In other words, of all these things that matter to them, first on the list is that they cannot get into any trouble for this. Part of the romance of a hard fought protest is that you take the consequences.

The second demand is even better; “full compensation for all employees whose jobs were disrupted during the course of the occupation.” They’re referring to the disruption that they caused.

Here are ‘occupation demands’ seven and eight:

“Annual scholarships be provided for thirteen Palestinian students.”

“That the university donates all excess supplies and materials in an effort to rebuild the University of Gaza.”

There is no question that Gaza could use help as the city sits in the middle of a chaotic bombing campaign between Israel and the ruling Palestinian government. But where does NYU come in as having to be the source of this. Are there no Americans that can use this scholarship money? Are there no troubled educational institutions in the US that can use NYU’s excess supplies?

You’ve read about the closing of many Catholic schools in the city and around the country. There are clearly schools, both private and public (of higher and lower education) that are struggling and closing. There are students in the United States that need financial assistance.

The protesters demanded that all university workers earn a living wage, which makes sense. But while you might nod in agreement, consider that some these demands cost money. And where will that come from? See complaint #9, “Tuition stabilization for all students.”

I do agree with these students that tuition is too high and that most financial aid offices are not helpful enough.

Perhaps the most awkward part of this movement is the name, TakeBackNYU! This is a private university where people are very lucky to attend, after they applied to get in. It was never their institution to take back. It sounds similar to a kid living with his parents threatening to take back the house, from the owners that allow him to live there.

In the end, nobody got hurt – and that is a good thing. It was only a few years ago that NYU had a rash of suicides where students were jumping off of the top floors of the library. Passive resistance is never the worst thing in the world, even if the cause questionable.

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A Cost Cutting Proposal for the MTA
by anthony.stasi
Feb 20, 2009 | 5271 views | 0 0 comments | 104 104 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
City Councilman John Liu (D-20) is the transportation voice in the New York City Council. Recently Liu helped pass a law that made it illegal for automobiles to idle for more than one minute in school zones. The idea is that this is a step toward helping children with asthma.

The city may be in a better position today to introduce new legislation than it has been in years past. When Mayor Giuliani pushed for ‘workfare’ as an answer to welfare, there was a lot of opposition from unions. Today, however, there may be some wiggle room to push for similar types of policy that can improve transportation. Instead of looking at raising fares as the only means to cut costs, perhaps there are ways to get people to volunteer in order to get a break on fares.

A monthly Metrocard costs $81. Would I work for three hours a week (12 hours a month) cleaning subway cars for a free Metrocard? You bet I would. That’s a paltry $6.75 an hour. Think you can get subway cars cleaned for less than that? ‘Public works’ projects are the essence of climbing out of economic potholes.

Liu should think about something along these lines. Even if only 20 people (of the 3 million that use the subway every day) signed up, the city gets 240 hours of person-power at a cost that is so low it would otherwise be thought illegal.

But remember, I’m an Italian from Howard Beach, and I just might cover the seats in plastic.

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