|May 10, 2009||Remembering JFK (Jack French Kemp)||no comments|
|May 10, 2009||Comptroller Asks Prez for a Boost||no comments|
|April 05, 2009||Project HEAL||no comments|
|April 05, 2009||Unlimited ‘and Taken For a’ Ride||no comments|
|March 15, 2009||NY Film Tax Credit||no comments|
|March 15, 2009||Senate KO's DC Voucher Program (Who Noted Nay?)||1 comments|
|March 08, 2009||When Good Policy Meets Politics||1 comments|
|February 22, 2009||Eric Ulrich and the New Queens GOP||1 comments|
|February 22, 2009||Onward Laptop Soldiers….||no comments|
|February 20, 2009||A Cost Cutting Proposal for the MTA||no comments|
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.
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.
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.
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.