On Politics by anthony.stasi
Oct 24, 2008 | 498165 views | 0 0 comments | 2889 2889 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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The Heat is On… (12.15.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 44279 views | 0 0 comments | 1366 1366 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
On December 5th, New Jersey opened its first retail biodiesel pump, in the town of Maplewood. The pumps are a B5 blend, which means they blend 5% biodiesel fuel with regular diesel fuel. Biodiesel is a non petroleum based fuel that comes from vegetable oil – or in some cases – animal fat. The retail pump is operated by Woolley Fuel Company and the biodiesel is supplied by Sprague Energy Corp.

Regardless of the price of oil, the time to change consumption behavior is now. As I mentioned in a column in April, National Renewable Energy Laboratories, a research wing of the Department of Energy, claims that there are 2 to 4 million gallons of used cooking oil, and 6 to 8 million gallons of trap grease, that can be used for biodiesel fuel each year in the United States. And that figure doesn’t include the tons of fuel we can get from growing soybeans.

New York City, through the work of City Councilman James Gennaro (D-24) now sees almost all of its government vehicles running in a blend of low sulfur diesel fuel and biodiesel. “We’ve already done that,” explains Gennaro “in New York City – our vehicles are using biofuels and low sulfur diesel fuel as a result of an alternative fuels law that I wrote in 2005. In terms of other sectors, where city government can make a difference, out next target would be in our heating oil.”

The American Lung Association has named biodiesel a Clean Air Choice (their own category of safe energy alternatives), saying “biodiesel is cleaner burning than petroleum diesel. In higher concentrations it can significantly reduce air toxins and other harmful emissions. It is a tool that can help lessen our exposure to these air pollutants.”

Retail biodiesel pumps will mean that people driving diesel engines can fill up at these types of stations. Up until now, most retail pumps were in Europe – roughly 85% of the available pumps world-wide. Biodiesel pumps sell fuel at about 12 cents less than straight petroleum. The benefits in price are going to vary, however. But there is certainly no increase in price. Gennaro isn’t sure how wide spread the usage of retail biodiesel will be right now, since most people do not drive diesel engines. But he is quick to point out that the city has made big advancements in regard to cleaner transportation.

Why not have 100% biodiesel? Why only 5-20 percent? In order to keep your diesel engine – or home heating system – you can use up to 20% of biodiesel and it will blend with regular diesel fuel without any changes in the engine or heating unit. Once you climb to a higher percentage, you need a special biodiesel engine because biodiesel can gel if it is not heated enough. What Gennaro is up against almost constantly is the fear that biofuels might be more harmful as it is such a new concept. He wants to see all heating units in the city using a biodiesel blend at some point. “This would go beyond just government – eventually involving all heating units in New York City. We want to do this because furnaces are used all year anyway when it comes to big buildings. We have a situation in New York City where most of our pollution comes from buildings. 79% of our green house gasses come from buildings,” explains Gennaro.

To put the bioheat importance into perspective, consider this; if every home in the United States were using a B5 biodiesel blend (5 percent), it would be equivalent to 700,000 fewer cars on the road. It would be 500 million fewer barrels of foreign produced fossil fuel petroleum.

Is this all from cooking oil? No, of course not. We can get a great deal of heating oil and diesel fuel from cooking oil, but there are even greater quantities in the soybean and vegetable oil. You’ve read the good and bad arguments about corn ethanol. You’ve heard that with ethanol, you really do not get that much energy form corn when you factor in the energy it takes to harvest it. The ratio is roughly 1:1.34, meaning for every BTU of energy to make ethanol, we get .34 of added energy. It’s like eating crabs, they taste good but it’s generally too much work – not enough return. But the soybean is a different ball game. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the soybean gives us a 1:3.20 yield. Now that’s worth it.

One more thing to remember about using soybeans for energy; the soybean can still be used as a protein in foods after the oil is extracted. This is not the case with corn. Corn is a relative one-trick pony, if used for energy, it is not used as food.

How does this help New York? In harder pressed economic areas, like in upstate New York, and in all of our public buildings in the state, we can move toward the B20 blend and burn cleaner. Gennaro explains that once bioheat is mandated, there will be a savings to the consumer because they would all benefit from the tax credit. “The imperative to go green,” says Gennaro “is so ingrained in the public mind now that there is no turning back. Look how far we’ve come in the last few years. Now we have elected officials that have an understanding of green fuels… that was not the case ten years ago.”

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On Books (11.30.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 38135 views | 0 0 comments | 1395 1395 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
At the end of semesters, when teaching college courses in political science, I would submit a booklist, which was in no way a requirement, but instead suggestions that students might find interesting. Since my email at QL is often from students, here are some very good books that are new and exciting:

_In Defense of Food_, by Michael Pollan

You may have seen me reference Pollan in this column. I reach him when I write about food and nutrition issues. Pollan explains how we are in a culture of nutritionism, and that we have gotten stuck in a cycle of eating processed foods, which are not only bad for us, but bad for the environment. It is not a long, dull academic read, however. Pollan explains our relationship to food in a very simple way. How we eat is directly connected to how we farm, and how we use energy.

_The Outliers: The Story of Success_, Malcom Gladwell

Gladwell writes about understanding certain types of phenomenon. He explains in Outliers why some people are successful and why some are not. To Gladwell, genetics are not the main reason for certain extraordinary success. He explains that there is a 10,000 hour rule. The Beatles played 1,200 live concerts before hitting it big (which amounted to 10,000 hours) and Bill Gates logged in an estimated 10,000 hours on a high school computer in which he was lucky to have access. To Gladwell, success stories, such as Asian students having a tendency to be proficient at math, might be a combination of hard work, cultural legacy, and luck. Gladwell has written for the New Yorker, The Washington Post, and logged in ten years at The American Spectator – talk about 10,000 hours.

_The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination_, Gary Ecelbarger

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up this year, this is it. Lincoln was in the lowest of political places at one time, even having trouble in his own party. I’ll try not to spoil the ending, but he winds up doing okay for himself.
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Newt Gingrich to the RNC (11.15.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 38171 views | 1 1 comments | 1370 1370 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
If you follow energy issues and healthcare issues, you may have a new found respect for Newt Gingrich. The last few years have found the former speaker making public speaking appearances with Hillary Clinton, as well as with many conservatives. He has been making an Al Gore-ian impression on the policy wonk crowd.

While he toys with running for president, the speaker has declined interest in heading the Republican National Committee. Unlike the speaker of the house, this is a position that is perfect for Gingrich. He embodies the one thing that conservatives have the hardest time pinning to their identity – that of the intellectual. This is not to say that conservatives are not intellectuals, but there is a stereotype – brought to you by the mainstream media and the occasional aspirant for president – that conservative beliefs and forward thinking are not good bedfellows. Gingrich leading the party addresses this problem head on. Gingrich can lead the battered party to a majority – because he did it once before. He created GOPAC, an organization that does what most Republicans never do – it grooms talent.

While 65 years old, Gingrich brings a youthful approach to new ideas. This leads to wacky statements sometimes, like when Speaker Gingrich proposed giving laptop computers to lower income children, and got lambasted for it. (It’s a successful program now, by the way.)

He wants to run for president. He should instead rescue his party. Even if the GOP doesn’t make significant gains in the next four years, it needs to have a direction and a plan. It needs to have a healthcare plan that says more than ‘leave it up to the market to decide.’ It needs to be ready to lead if for some reason there is a lack of leadership in the coming year or two.
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Free the Market
January 09, 2009
I could not agree more. Well said!

Sun, Sand, and Kmart Healthcare (11.15.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 38144 views | 0 0 comments | 1380 1380 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I spent my week in Hawaii hoping to meet Lt. Governor Duke Aiona who was called out of the country earlier in the week. My hopes were to discuss the lack of low income housing in Hawaii and their failed health care initiative. Hawaii often takes bold steps to address the issues that face its poorest. An example of this is their now failed Keiki Health Care program, which means it targeted uninsured children. The program failed, but it speaks to the state’s willingness to address expensive problems. Remember that Hawaii is not one of the wealthier states. Per capita income in Honolulu hovers around $40,000 a year, to say nothing of the almost $20,000 a year earned by those living in Kalawao County. Yet, this state’s government makes attempts at public policy that the national government has yet to explore on a serious level.

It is an absolute must to point out that this health care plan did not work. Should the new federal administration think that the Keiki model is to be attempted on a grander scale; the kinks would have to be worked out in advance.

The Keiki system left open the door for those families with insurance to drop their coverage and use the state plan – even if they were already insured. This caused the state plan to collapse. The Keiki Plan is a good plan however. No child should be left behind. There is money for this kind of plan, if the income standards are strict. Families with incomes in the $70,000 might be too high on the income level for state sponsored health care. Income level standards based on the standard of living in a specific area might be a good start. Proof of income would be a necessity, especially for those who work in the service industry and show a lower income than might actually be the case.

Perhaps the next few years will not be the very best time for this kind of health care plan at the national or state levels, but soon enough we need to have a basic health insurance plan for children. The Republican Party dropped the ball on this when they had majorities in both houses. It would have been a way to address healthcare without ‘going too far.’ We would still be able to say that people have to go out and earn their own way by working and getting their insurance through an employer – but our children would have the insurance they need, regardless of their parents’ lot in life. It would have been an issued tailor made for a compassionate conservative governor from Texas.

While in Hawaii, I needed to see a doctor for a sinus infection. While the doctor began writing scripts for meds, I told him that I had no prescription drug insurance. He told me that he would write scripts for generics and that I could go to Kmart and I could tell them I had no insurance and they would give me meds for $5. I had heard of Walmart and Target doing this as well. The big box stores do it as a public service. The government has to work with these successful companies to carve out a plan for the uninsured. Above all, however, children need to be priority one.

We will see new policy now, and much of it will come from those who have waited a long time to submit bills to the house floor – many of this legislation will be lengthy and expensive. Let us hope that some of the good stuff doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

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Can We Get Along? (11.08.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 37952 views | 0 0 comments | 1389 1389 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
We heard a lot about reaching across the aisle if elected from both candidates. Now the president-elect has chosen Chicago congressman Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. Emanuel knows DC, and he is good at getting things done. For those reasons, he was a good choice for the president.

Emanuel, however, is not one to play nice. As a Clinton staffer, he once waived a knife at a meeting after the 1996 election, and rattled off a list of names of Clinton’s political enemies, chanting “dead” after each name. Known for his foul mouth and lack of respect for dignitaries, are we to think that this is a good first step in the way of bi-partisanship?

Perhaps bi-partisanship is not what we really want. A friend’s boss told him that he simply cuts off people that are in the opposite ideological camp. Is that something that might start happening as the ideological fault lines are drawn?

If Emanuel was a good pick for getting the job done – meaning, getting legislation pushed through, then maybe we are no longer terribly concerned with bi-partisanship. Already conservatives are blaming Republican primary voters for choosing John McCain. Hard core conservatives were never happy with McCain, as they were not happy with George Herbert Walker Bush and Bob Dole. Moderate Republicans rarely win nationally.

Are we still one country? Or are we two countries living under one social security system? Do liberals and conservatives really see each other as fellow countrymen? It is beginning to look as though the intellectual divide is getting very deep. But maybe it’s just too soon after a campaign that went on too long.

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Re-Inventing Healthcare (11.08.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 38027 views | 0 0 comments | 1460 1460 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Each election cycle we hear of how many Americans are uninsured. The numbers are often very large, although many Americans do qualify for Medicare and simply do not apply until they actually need to see a doctor. The numbers are high even when you minus out those that have not used the insurance available to them.

While trekking the hilly landscape of upstate New York, some young Republicans expressed their concern with the Democrats’ plan, and how expensive it will be. “The Republicans really never put out a plan, however. It’s always the same market based – leave it alone system,” I explained to them. You could hear crickets blinking their eyes it was so quiet. They don’t like to hear that.

The issue of health care should never have been abandoned by conservatives. No party should own the issue. If the Republicans had simply put out a plan that covers all children, and left the current system relatively untouched, it would have played well across the country. It is a way of matching the No Child Left Behind approach, but with heath care. (No Child Left Behind, as much as it was maligned for not being funded properly, was effective in raising math and reading scores).

People need to earn their way and pull their weight, and no one wants the United States to turn into France. There is, however, no reason to not insure children. They cannot be held to hold the bag for parents that have had bad luck, or have made poor choices. We always have money for war; we can find money for sick kids.

This is the plan that the new, smaller GOP needs to embrace. It’s a government-sponsored program (not necessarily a government program), but it’s a lot better than a giant health care plan that will put a hole in the nation’s economy. It also speaks to family values, as well as frees up some money for parents to spend elsewhere – into the economy.

This plan, however, would have to – HAVE TO – come with a real immigration policy. The idea that all children would have some basic coverage would be tempting to a population of would-be immigrants that already needs no more of an incentive to come here illegally. It is time for the country to start taking care of its own. It is time to look inward.

Without jumping to conclusions, and simply going from campaign rhetoric, we do not have much to believe that we will protect our southern border to any real degree. This would be no different if John McCain had been elected. McCain, President Bush, and the new Democratic administration, are all on relatively similar pages on the immigration issue.

The healthcare issue is a serious one. If done right, it can be used as a bargaining tool with rogue countries that have their own healthcare problems. We could share this kind of innovative thought and new technology. Where we used to trade arms as a means of negotiation – we can trade better ideas.

But if we want to help the bottom of economy, we are in no position to saturate that bottom by adding to it. A health-care plan is weighty on a government’s balance sheet. Just look at Hawaii’s state government. They tried their own healthcare plan, which may well be the boilerplate for new healthcare plans in Washington. The Hawaii model failed in 11 months however. If we learned anything from Hillary’s health care plan in the 1990s, it is that the most important part of a plan is how efficient it is – at least when it comes to a vote in congress.

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…The Other Thing People Voted On (11.03.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 44884 views | 0 0 comments | 1370 1370 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
“Republicans Against 8” sounds more like a post apocalyptic gang in a Kevin Costner movie than a concerted fight to keep the California constitution from being amended in order to ban gay marriage. As of Sunday – the polls were showing a dead heat in California. This is a big battle for a few reasons. The people in California voted in 2000 on Proposition 22, disapproving of state recognized gay marriage. A weighty 61 percent said no to gay marriage until the California Supreme Court struck down the initiative in 2008. Now the anti-gay marriage crowd is voting to burn a big old NO into the state constitution with Proposition 8.

This issue is messy …in California. Forget for a second how you might feel about gay marriage. Should the courts be overturning the will of the people, even if you disagree with the result of the vote? Perhaps the court overstepped, and there is room to say that it was legislating. The statute should be voted on again. But amending the constitution is dangerous stuff because it opens the door for all kinds of crazy things to be written into the constitution. Remember that Tom Hayden still lives there –yikes.

On the issue itself, gay couples deserve every right that straight couples enjoy – including marriage. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes Proposition 8, as do a large number of gay and gay-friendly Republicans. Proposition 8 is an ugly step for California.

The issue of law and a changing constitution is a very good paper topic if you are a student. Many of you might have final papers coming up – this is not a bad place to explore.

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Bill Thompson Takes on The World…Kind of…. (11.03.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 48071 views | 0 0 comments | 1330 1330 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Maybe the biggest blow to Wall Street goes to the collective ego that exists there. Walk along Broad Street and you can feel the swagger. In the locker room of my gym, the conversation is almost always about who wears what suits to meetings. Apparently some hot shot finance guy last week took two ties and knotted then into one – so as not to look as though he was wearing the same tie two days in a row. Innovation. Ego. It is where men of all backgrounds, and women, come to stake their claim. Today, many of those egos are bruised.

Fund managers are taking a big hit with this crisis. Why do we care so much? Most of our pensions and 401Ks are tied to investment funds. Fund managers choose what companies in which to invest, and they do not like to be second guessed. But maybe this is a good time to take a second look at where money goes.

Enter New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson. Thompson oversees the pensions for roughly 640,000 city employees. He doesn’t tell fund managers what to invest in, but he is a fiduciary, as well as the city’s financial watchdog. So when Thompson saw that some funds were investing in companies that were doing business with governments that were hostile to the United States, he raised the issue.

Thompson is quick to point out that his goal was more about putting pressure on fund managers to take greater care in where they choose to invest, and less about divestment. Companies like Halliburton and General Electric are very large, and it’s easy for their investment arms to reach into unseemly waters.

The New Yorkers that rely on Bill Thompson to oversee their pensions are firemen, police officers, emergency services workers, and many others. We are not far removed from 9/11, and we live in and around the threat of terrorism still. “How do I look at firefighters and police officers, and say that we are doing business with these regimes, because we can make money?” explains Thompson. He is absolutely right.

This kind of work does not come without companies pushing back. In the end, Thompson’s goal is to see that these pensions earn money and are financially robust. So when companies with very wise financial experts say that investing in a certain place is a good idea – a fiduciary like Thompson does not wish to muddy the water. But there are boundaries, and Thompson has used his office to draw a very patriotic line in the sand.

The comptroller seemed far less interested in politicizing this issue, which is surprising since he is running for mayor. In places where you do not often read about city officials, such as in right-of-center policy books, Thompson gets accolades for his work on raising this issue. More content to let news magazine programs, like 60 Minutes, get most of the exposure in ‘outing’ companies, Thompson is most concerned with these companies not looking for loopholes in which to get out of doing what is safe for the country, not to mention patriotic.

I also spoke with Mr. Thompson at length about housing issues, but that just does not fit in this particular column and I will expand on that another time.

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Ways That The State Can Save Money Without Hurting the City (10.25.08)
by anthony.stasi
Jan 01, 2009 | 37088 views | 0 0 comments | 1389 1389 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
This is a time of great economic uneasiness, which, if history serves us right, will be followed by a period of abundance. What we look for in government policy circles is the best way to cushion the downward spiral and the most responsible way to handle a bubble economy. We call it politics, but it’s really history.

How do we best prepare for a better economy? A few months ago I spoke with Chris Saxman of the Virginia House of Delegates. Chris explained how in Virginia they introduced a transparency bill to allow people to see where their tax money is being spent online. But that was pre-Wall Street meltdown. Now, that idea is even more necessary. Joe Addabbo, running for the State Senate in New York, sees this as a must for the state government. “On a city level – the Independent Budget Office (IBO) – a watchdog group – produces a quarterly report. It’s a good entity. There is no IBO for the state. No independent oversight for the state. I propose an IBO for the state. Because there is no watchdog group in Albany, you have a late budget year after year,” says Addabbo.

A transparency bill would not only do well for ferreting out corruption or innocent budgeting mistakes, but it could allow people to track how discretionary money is spent. Discretionary money is a part of being an effective public servant. But if a legislator is spending money outside of his district, it should be easier to follow. Attorney General Cuomo has already taken a step in this direction with Project Sunlight, an online way of tracking discretionary and campaign money.

This is a time of great anxiety. But if you are a maverick investor or a public policy wonk, it’s a time of great opportunity. There is no other time where it will easier to get budget conscious legislation passed. Addabbo is calling for a one year moratorium on foreclosures for people that are in financial trouble. Senator Clinton was calling for a three month moratorium, but Addabbo explains that the foreclosure process takes a long time, and a three month moratorium doesn’t allow for the lender and the borrower to work things out – if it is possible. Without the fear of a foreclosure, the borrower can continue to make payments in good faith – while trying to get back on his feet. After a year, if things are still the same, foreclosure proceedings could or would happen.

New York State needs to start cutting waste as a means to deal with this difficult time. The state, according to Addabbo, had a 5% increase in its budget this year. In fairness, Governor Paterson and both houses worked to rectify these issues in order to deal with the financial crisis. “There is waste to cut, and the city has not gotten its fair share from the state,” Addabbo explains.

If you follow the money – or lack of money – you see how there is a way to alleviate some of the stress that taxpayers are facing. The city sent $11 billion to Albany last year. It has not gotten $11 billion back. So the city, in order to deal with shortfalls, looks for other ways to enhance revenue (taxes?). Add to that that city agencies are often doing the work of the federal government. “The city spends around $100 million in police and other agency work, training people to guard embassies and other activities. That is not supposed to be the work of the NYPD,” says Addabbo.

So, there are ways to save money. Press the federal government to pick up some of the tab for the tough work that our emergency services units are doing. Re-introduce the Commuter Tax, which taxes people that come to New York City to work when they are not residents. (Addabbo has a bill that would make city employees exempt if they were residents when hired). The Commuter Tax would yield an estimated $400 million a year to the city. Even if the federal government only picks up ¼ of the costs that the city absorbs, that is revenue of $425 million a year – every year. (Joe Addabbo says that the Commuter Tax would yield $500 million to the city. But I still feel comfortable with the more predictable estimate of $400 million. Either way, it is much needed.)

Speaker Sheldon Silver has said that he will consider bringing back the Commuter Tax. This is the time to move on this item. These are the times we live in, they call for smarter policy. This is not big government – its cleaner government. It doesn’t suggest wrongdoing on the part of career politicians, but when begin to think about cutting budgets, we need to see where every dollar goes. We also need to bring back revenue producing vehicles that can help keep property taxes and fares down.

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Shellbank (Canal) Needs a Bailout
by anthony.stasi
Oct 24, 2008 | 52610 views | 0 0 comments | 3180 3180 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I grew up fishing the Shellbank Canal in Howard Beach. We had a boat, but my grandfather and I would sit on the dock, under the "4 Miles Per Hour" sign and fish and crab all day – every day – during the summer months. This year, there is a problem with fish dying in the canal, which makes the bay smell awful. This is the kind of environmental issue where politicians can show some mettle. It also proves that not all fish get wrapped in the Ledger/Star.

The water in the canal this year was murkier than usual, a thicker green. Almost 20 years ago, the canal suffered through a murky summer. That year, however, there was a lot of surveying going on as the old Broad Channel Bridge was being replaced by the Joseph Addabbo (new Broad Channel) Bridge. The odd consistency made some sense then, because there was a lot of activity on the bottom of the bay.

At the end of the canal, near Starbucks, the water is deep. In order to keep oxygen moving in the water, the city keeps air pumping from the bottom. There is some belief that these pumps may have stopped, causing fish, mainly bunker and baitfish, to die. Councilman Joseph Addabbo and the residents of the area are concerned that this may have been a contributing factor.

Closed landfills in nearby Brooklyn are also a possible cause, as are de-icing contaminants from JFK airport. Remember that water in a long canal doesn't really flush out with the tide. So if there are contaminants in the canal, it is hard to wait out such an occurrence.

I wrote a few months ago about how blue claw crabs in Maryland were unable to feed close to the shore because farmers tend to wash nutrients into the water supply. This creates dead zones, where fish cannot live. If nitrates or other chemicals are being flushed into the bay, it can kill the bunker. Without bunker from which to feed, bluefish, weakfish, and striped bass lose a large part of their food stock.

The city needs to find the cause and address it quickly. The oxygen that gets pumped from the bottom could be the problem, but the canal was there long before pumping began – and this was not a problem in the past. And if the problem was purely an issue of oxygen in the water, why are birds dying as well? The issue can be more chemical. If chemicals or high amounts of nitrates got into the canal, they cannot flush out well. Add to that the possibility of diminished oxygen, and you have a foul-smelling problem.

Jamaica Bay itself has the same problem that the canal has – it is very closed in. Water never really goes back into the ocean with the outgoing tide. It moves a considerable distance, and then comes right back.

I posed a question when I was a candidate, as to whether people would support the idea of possibly cutting a canal through the Rockaway Peninsula, connecting the ocean to Jamaica Bay – so fish and water life can flow in and out. The idea was that water would flush out into ocean and stop any stagnation.

It would also create more waterfront property, and allow for boats to come into the bay more easily. The Rockaway Wave newspaper posed the question online. It received about 50 “yes” hits and 50 “no” hits. (The Internet was not as highly trafficked then – and I was three of those votes, I admit.) But the idea goes as far back as 1905, when New York City Comptroller Edward Grout suggested this as a means to build more dock space. It's a bold idea, and I was just curious as to what people thought.

The bay needs more oversight. There are concerned elected officials, and I applaud that. But the city seems to always address the issues of Rockaway and lower Queens with the speed of John Kruk carrying Jason Giambi on his back. Councilman Joe Addabbo pressed the city to move on this issue, and has refused to take rhetoric as an answer.

The Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan addresses the chemical pollutant issues and is a good plan since it focuses nitrogen loading and dissolved oxygen. It was introduced by Councilman James Gennaro and supported by Mayor Bloomberg. But it takes time for such sweeping reforms to take hold. Right now, however, it is most important to let the citizens of Howard Beach know why this is happening and what the strategy is to fix it.

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