Letters 2003 Is Mixed Bag
2003 Is Mixed Bag
To The Editor:
Now that the regular 2003 legislative session has drawn to a close, I believe it is appropriate to look back on the overall record of the session and to examine both its accomplishments and failures.
While the state budget passed by the legislature and adopted over the governor’s objections isn’t perfect, I believe that it demonstrates a welcome bipartisan commitment (an accomplishment in itself!) to meeting the most important needs of the people of New York City and New York state. In contrast to the governor’s original proposal, the legislature’s budget makes critical investments in our public schools, higher education, health care, senior services and other programs vital to all of us.
Obviously, these vital investments do not come without a price. There is certainly pain in this budget, including temporary increases in the state sales tax and personal income tax for higher-income New Yorkers. However, in comparison to the governor’s initial proposal, I strongly believe that the final plan shares the pain of closing the state’s $11.5 billion budget deficit much more fairly.
While the budget battle this year clearly took center stage, marking the first time in more than 20 years that the senate and Assembly joined together to override a governor’s budget vetoes, the 2003 legislative session was not without other accomplishments.
For example, we passed legislation to outlaw "video voyeurism" and punish those who secretly photograph others for sexual purposes. We strengthened New York’s sexual assault laws, and passed New York City schools governance legislation to provide parents and other community members with greater input in local educational policy through the establishment of community district education councils.
But unfortunately, there were more disappointments than victories. The new eight-year extender of the rent stabilization and control laws, which I voted against, does nothing to reform the system and will not stem the continuing loss of regulated units. I am also disappointed that the legislature and governor were unable to come to an agreement on giving judges more discretion in sentencing non-violent drug offenders, and that a consensus wasn’t reached on providing mentally ill New Yorkers with greater access to health insurance coverage.
Nor was the final agreement reached on renewing and reforming New York’s power plant siting law, or refinancing the state Superfund, which pays for the cleanup of toxic waste sites (although this latter issue came very close to being resolved). The legislature also failed to pass legislation to curb spiraling auto insurance rates, address abuses in adult homes, and hold HMOs and other health insurers liable if their decisions to deny medically necessary treatments result in a patient’s serious injury or death.
All in all, I believe the 2003 legislative session can most easily be described as a mixed bag. I remain hopeful, however, that at least some of these issues will ultimately be resolved—if not later this year, then in 2004.
State Senator, 12th District
To The Editor:
I was terribly offended by John Szarejko of Maryland’s Op-Ed, "Protests Democratic Treatment," in the June 25 issue of the Queens Gazette. He complains about Holocaust reparation money and disparages Senator [Hillary] Clinton for "working to promote the interests of Holocaust victims…asking President [George W.] Bush to intercede with the Polish government on behalf of the senator’s Jewish constituents…without understanding the economic struggles of…the Polish community."
How astounding that Mr. Szarejko complains about reparations, the affect on Poland’s economy, and his comparison to stereotyped ethnic jokes. What nonsense!
Mr. Szarejko needs a history lesson. Prior to World War II Poland had 10 percent of Europe’s Jewish population, or 3.5 million people. Three million Jews died in Poland—one million alone at Auschwitz. Who can forget the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943? My husband’s grandparents died in Poland during the Holocaust—because they were Jewish, not because they were Polish. This, Mr. Szarejko, was anti-semitism.
The fund to compensate victims of Nazi persecution was established by the German government and financed by a dozen German companies including industrial and military giants, banks and chemical companies to help slave laborers (who were primarily Jewish) and forced workers who were not. In addition, family property was returned as were frozen assets, bank accounts, etc. These funds did not come from the Polish government.
Mr. Szarejko’s statement that "information and direction should be offered those legislators who, unwittingly and unknowingly traverse the obstacle-laden path of political expediency" is ridiculous. The Democratic National Committee, as well as our senators, speak out against injustice and prejudice all the time, as they should.
Poland is emerging as a strategic ally of the United States in forging ties to democracies on a broader agenda. Its prospective entry to the European Union is widely anticipated and hopefully will improve its economy.
As a legislator, I do not take the "path of political expediency" as Mr. Szarejko claims. If I did, I would not have voiced my concerns.
Toby A. Stavisky
16th Senate District
Have A Safe Fourth
To The Editor:
During the long Fourth of July weekend, it’s important that adults who choose to drink make responsible choices, such as drinking responsibly and designating a driver, whether on the highway or the waterway.
When we make responsible choices while driving, on the water or at picnics and barbecues, our Fourth of July celebrations with family and friends will be safer and more enjoyable. And our highways and waterways will be safer as well.
Fortunately, there are significant signs of improvement when it comes to preventing drunk driving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Fourth of July drunk-driving fatalities are 53 percent lower today than in 1982. And nationwide drunk-driving fatalities are down 37 percent in the past two decades.
Let’s continue to drive drunk-driving fatalities lower by making responsible choices this Fourth of July. We all make a difference in the fight against drunk driving.
& Education Coordinator
& Service Of New York, Inc.