“Now is the time to take our democracy back,” said Justin Brannan, president of the Bay Ridge Democrats.
Those sound like fighting words!
Brannan and his club have joined an effort to change the state law to allow publicly financed election campaigns. Brannan said he sees publicly financed campaigns as a way to get rid of big money in politics.
Wealthy and corporate donors have been dominating elections for years, according to public financing advocates. Brannan cited data showing that, in 2010, wealthy interest groups put in more than $7 for every $1 from small donors to political campaigns.
Publicly funded campaigns have existed in New York City since 1989. But now there’s a push to do it at a statewide level.
The city’s public financing of campaigns has significantly encouraged more candidates, more small donors and more public interest in elections, Brannan said.
“We need to ensure that the voice of all New Yorkers is heard — not just the voices of the rich, or the well-connected. It’s time to give the power back to the people and put our priorities first,” Brannan said.
The Bay Ridge Democrats voted unanimously at their April meeting to support public financing of campaigns and lowering campaign contribution limits.
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Republican-Conservative Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis disagrees with the Bay Ridge Democrats. She opposes publicly financed campaigns and charged that it’s unfair to make taxpayers foot the bill for politicians.
“At a time when people are out of work, underpaid and overtaxed, the concept of using taxpayer dollars for political gain is an absolute disgrace,” Malliotakis said. “Campaign finance laws in New York are in shambles, but a sure way to make it worse would be to rob hard-earned taxpayer money to support this broken system. We must focus on removing the corrosive influence of money from politics, rather than breaking the backs of taxpayers to fund this shell game.”
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Republican-Conservative U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, said a bill he is sponsoring, the National Blue Alert Act, cleared a key hurdle when it was unanimously passed by the House Judiciary Committee, putting it on a path to consideration by the full house.
“I am thrilled that the House Judiciary Committee has given its unanimous support to move this bill swiftly through the committee and to the House floor for a vote,” Grimm said.
The bill would encourage a Blue Alert system throughout the United States to quickly disseminate information when a law enforcement officer is seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.
The Blue Alert system would work in a similar fashion to the Amber Alert system currently used to locate abducted children.
Law enforcement agencies, as well as state and local governments, would implement the system to speed up the apprehension of criminals.
Currently, there is no national alert system to disseminate information to other law enforcement officials, the media, or the general public regarding officers who have been injured or killed.
“The National Blue Alert Act will allow us to act quickly in apprehending suspects and make it clear to anyone who chooses to harm our nation’s law enforcement officers that they will be caught,” Grimm said.
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Democrat Andrew Gounardes, who is running against Republican-Conservative state Sen. Marty Golden in November, is on the same bus as Assemblyman Bill Colton when it comes to transit services.
Gounardes said he supports an effort by Colton and the Transport Workers Union, TWU Local 100, to fight for restoration of full service on the B64 bus line. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority cut the service so that the bus terminates at 25th Avenue in Bensonhurst, instead of going all the way to Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island.
“The current, shortened B64 route has put the squeeze on small businesses, students, seniors, the disabled, and hundreds of residents who have no other means of getting to work or school,” Gounardes said. “Rather than distributing the MTA’s financial burden more fairly, cuts like these have placed it squarely on the shoulders of those who can least afford it.”
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Marty Golden joined Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Ronald Richter, Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond, and other officials at City Hall to discuss an alarming trend of social service workers being assaulted on the job.
Last year, 61 employees working in the social services field were assaulted while performing their job duties, a 10 percent increase from 2010, officials said.
Golden is the sponsor of legislation that would increase the penalties for anyone who is convicted of assaulting a social services worker on duty.
“The city’s social service workers fight on the front line daily to improve the welfare of vulnerable New Yorkers,” Gibbs said. “Often at great personal risk, they go into dangerous situations that others would only do with a partner and a weapon. It is time that we showed our respect for their commitment by recognizing an assault on them as no less than an assault on a uniformed and armed employee.”
Golden said, “I am proud to have sponsored this legislation recently approved by the state Senate that will rightly protect social service workers and juvenile detention agency employees. Ensuring the safety of employees while they are on the job has to be paramount.
The bill has bipartisan support. Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino has endorsed the legislation.
“The current law provides for enhanced criminal assault penalties to protect police officers, firefighters, school employees, transit personnel, nurses, and other service providers, appropriately so. We think such protection should also be extended to our social services employees,” Savino said.
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In another show of bipartisanship, Malliotakis joined Democratic Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and a group of Assembly colleagues at a recent press conference to push for penalties for the sale of synthetic marijuana, also known as “fake weed.”
The New York State Department of Health recently banned the dangerous drug. Legislation being written by Ortiz would impose civil and criminal penalties on vendors of such products.
The legislators were joined at the press conference by Deirdre Canaday, the mother of 26-year-old Aaron Stinson, who died in 2011 as a result of smoking the drug.
“Now that the Department of Health has acknowledged the grave danger of this substance, we need to continue the momentum by penalizing vendors selling the product to our young people,” said Malliotakis. “One out of nine teens has admitted to trying synthetic marijuana, experiencing symptoms worse than those of actual marijuana, with the substance claiming the lives of young people throughout New York State. This penalty will assist our effort to keep our children safe from another all-too-available drug,”
“Our youth do not fully understand the effects that synthetic marijuana can have on their body,” said Ortiz. “Many individuals find themselves in emergency rooms with symptoms ranging from hallucinations to even panic attacks.”
Canaday added, “Time is of the essence — the deceptive and alluring packaging of these products is akin to placing a candy wrapper over a bar of rat poison. It’s too late to save my son, but it’s not too late to save the sons and daughters across our nation.”
May 4, 2012 - 2:45pm