2017-01-04 / Political Page

Here’s To A Happy 2017

AFTER 2016 SURPRISES, HERE’S TO A HAPPY 2017: 2016 brought us many surprises politically, but thankfully ended with the US and Russia clearing up their differences sensibly; although we have no way of knowing what the strange relationship of President-elect Donald Trump, a millionaire, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, a dictator, may bring us in 2017 and beyond.

But for the moment, let’s all welcome 2017 on a high note, wishing the spirit is spread throughout the world. Here at home, we will be inaugurating a new president, Donald Trump, who easily held off more than a dozen Republican presidential rivals, then just as easily defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College vote, although Clinton defeated Trump by millions of popular votes on election day.

This imbalance between the popular vote and the Electoral College tallies demands a sensible national discussion regarding our elections, taking into account conditions that prevailed in 1776 and conditions that prevail now.

Getting back to the present, we’ll be electing a mayor in New York City, and present indications are that incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio may face stiff opposition in the Democratic primary election, where the party’s candidate will be chosen. Generally, the Democratic choice will hold a major edge over any opponent. So the primary campaigns will bear close watching.

Besides electing a mayor this year, elections will also be held for public advocate and comptroller, and also for the City Council. All are elected for four-year terms. Borough Presidents also stand for election this year for four year terms.

AVELLA TO GET CLEARVIEW RAMPS: This month, state Senator Tony Avella received responses from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), indicating that work on entrance and exit ramps he and his constituents have been asking for will be completed in 2017.

Specifically, the two ramps mentioned by DOT were the “Exit 1 ramp for the Grand Central Parkway eastbound, off of the Clearview Expressway southbound” and the entrance and exit ramps at 188th Street and the Grand Central Parkway, Avella (D–Queens) said.

In their letters, DOT informed Avella that the Exit 1 ramp work was expected to be done in time for the New Year, and repairs on the 188th Street ramps would be completed by the end of 2017.

“I am thrilled to announce that these entrance and exit ramps will be repaired and repaved in the New Year. I want to thank the New York State Department of Transportation for evaluating these areas, as well as for assuring me that this work will be completed in the coming year. These repairs are necessary for the thousands of drivers who use the aforementioned ramps on a daily basis, and I am glad to see our infrastructure receive the attention it deserves,” said Avella.

NYPD OKs TURBANS FOR SIKH OFFICERS: Assembly Member David Weprin (D–Queens) issued the following statement on the NYPD announcement authorizing Sikh officers to wear turbans:

“I was elated to hear today’s NYPD announcement authorizing Sikh officers the option to wear Turbans and beards. As a longtime proponent of religious freedom and as the prime Assembly sponsor of the ‘Religious Garb’ bill in New York State, I believe no one should have to choose between their religion and profession; and all Americans of all faiths should be allowed to freely exercise and display their religious choice at their place of employment. I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill for championing the cause of religious liberty with this historic step; and congratulate the Sikh Officers Association and the Sikh community for achieving this milestone which makes it easier for people of the Sikh faith to serve in our country’s largest police force, the NYPD.”

CROWLEY WELCOMES NYPD DECISION TO ALLOW OBSERVANT SIKH AMERICANS TO SERVE: Congress Member Joe Crowley (D–Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus and a leader on Sikh- American issues, welcomed the announcement that the New York Police Department will allow observant Sikhs to serve in the force while maintaining their articles of faith. Crowley sent a letter in 2014 advocating for this change, and has had numerous discussions with city officials on the effort over the past four years.

“This is good news. Allowing observant Sikhs to serve in the NYPD is not only the right thing to do, it will foster stronger relationships in our communities and strengthen the security of our city,” said Crowley. “At a time when Sikhs have been targeted for hate crimes including in New York, it also sends a powerful signal that Sikhs are part of this great city and every bit as accepted as anyone else.”

A recognized leader in Congress on issues related to the Sikh-American community, Crowley spearheaded a multi-year, successful effort to convince the FBI to begin collecting data on hate crimes committed against Sikh-Americans and Hindu- Americans, an important issue brought to nationwide attention by the massacre of Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012. He has also helped lead a major bipartisan coalition urging the Department of Defense to allow Sikh-Americans to serve in the US military while still abiding by their articles of faith, such as wearing a turban or beard.

ROZIC ON CUOMO’S VETO OF INDIGENT DEFENSE BILL: Assembly Member Nily Rozic (D, WF–Fresh Meadows) said she was disappointed by the Governor’s decision to veto legislation that would have brought equity to indigent defense funding across New York, a long overdue criminal justice reform measure.

“The cost and burden of indigent defense is most onerous on our state’s poorest counties,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “This is a missed opportunity to sign legislation that had strong bipartisan support in both houses of the state legislature.”

“As an issue of fairness, state funding of the indigent defense program would have ensured defendants from all economic backgrounds have effective representation. It would have also put all counties in the state on the same footing and provided important mandate relief for taxpayers,” she added.

While the New York constitution mandates that those unable to afford counsel be provided with legal representation, counties have struggled to properly fund and operate consistent, quality public defense programs. Currently, the state pays roughly 10 percent for indigent legal services for each county.

A recent settlement between the state and five counties called for the state Office of Indigent Legal Services to reform the system of legal representation for defendants who cannot afford counsel. Rozic added, “That is why we passed this legislation – so that all New Yorkers, regardless of where they live, have access to quality legal representation.”

As a strong supporter of this effort, Rozic will join her colleagues in the fight to ensure this legislation is a priority in this year’s budget deliberations.

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