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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Center Cannot Hold.

The inspiration for my post today comes after some reflection upon recent events in the news.  Last week federal prosecutor, Preet Bharara, charged New York Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of accepting bribes for lucrative business contracts involving adult day care centers in the city.  Charges against Stevenson came less than 72 hours after authorities accused state Sen. Malcolm Smith of trying to rig New York City's mayoral race by buying a place on the Republican ticket. In the Smith case, five other politicians -- three Republicans and two Democrats were also arrested and charged with bribery.

Read more:

Not wanting to waste a crisis and to "strike while the iron is hot", NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, today, proposed three new laws aimed at stopping corruption by elected officials.

It remains to be seen how these proposals will fly with the motley crew that leads the state assembly and senate.  New York's Corruption Risk Report Card, a partnership of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, has given New York State a grade of D and a ranking of 37 out of 50 states.  The State Integrity Investigation is a data-driven analysis of each state’s laws and practices that deter corruption and promote accountability and openness.           

In my humble opinion, this is a pretty poor ranking here in the Empire State.  While the corruption itself is often subtle and others might say it doesn't affect me in my assembly district, the trickle down effects are apparent.  New York, despite an on-time budget for the 2013-14 year, has cut funding for the most vulnerable of our society  Small Businesses don't seem to be opening as the sight of many empty strip stores indicate.  Large scale employers, like the defense contractor Grumman who used to employ tens of thousands in my area, no longer look to this region to hire large numbers of people.

I had spent a number of years out in the Phoenix, Arizona area in the early 1990's.  At that time much revenue was spent to build up the infrastructure of that area (i.e., freeways, downtown attractions, light-rail).  New York continues to spend valuable money servicing crumbling infrastructure.  Can anyone name an important infrastructure project that's opened in downstate NY in the last 30 years?

It seems that we waste money in NY on projects that provide people with something they really don't need.  For example, the 4.45 billion dollar construction of the Second Avenue subway has caused a lot of problems for residents and businesses operating on the east side of Manhattan.  People living there have always used the Lexington Ave subway line or buses and certainly weren't clamoring for a major change.  Also, the LIRR East Side access project which will allow LIRR riders access to Grand Central Station has cost 8.2 billion dollars when access to Manhattan via Penn Station is functional.

Combined these two projects approach 15 billion dollars while our roads are falling apart, schools are crumbling and business won't open which in turn erode our tax base.  Here on Long Island, it seems they always use the same talking points to describe our economy: lack of affordable housing, a greying population, trending toward service oriented (i.e., low paying) economy.  While it's true housing costs are high here, what have our leaders done to improve that situation?  What have they proposed to improve our infrastructure?  Why can't there be a direct link (bridge of tunnel) from Long Island to Connecticut?  Why couldn't a sensible "downtown" plan been worked out for the concrete jungle called the Nassau Coliseum?  Now we're going to lose the Islanders, and while I'm not much of a hockey fan, it's terrible for the service workers who earned some bucks working the events there.

Every citizen needs to become informed and know what their local leaders, state assembly/senate representatives, and governor support.  Become informed, ask questions, write letters, follow on Twitter and most importantly, since we have no term limits, if you aren't satisfied with what they are doing vote them out on election day. 

Finally, in honor of National Poetry Month this April, here's a poem from William Butler Yeats whose verse provided a title for my reflections on the body politic:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

P.S. Here's two excellent articles on another topic our politicians need to clean up: the abuse of our disability insurance by those who do not need it.  Warning, you will get angry when you read about this problem.


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