2018-01-24 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Discounts Minorities

A copy of this letter was received at the
offices of the Queens Gazette.
January 18, 2018
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

Dear Secretary Ross:

We write to strongly oppose the Department of Justice’s request to add a question regarding citizenship status to the 2020 decennial census. This duplicative, unnecessary effort seriously threatens the accuracy and integrity of a census, which has tremendous consequences for our country. We urge you to reject this request from the Department of Justice and focus on the goal of conducting a comprehensive, accurate, and cost-effective decennial census in 2020.

The addition of a citizenship question, along with the other recently reported actions of pending and/or already appointed unqualified political operatives to the Census to positions that have never been political, calls into question whether this administration is serious about an accurate count or is instead actively working to hurt the integrity of the Census and ultimately discount minority voters.

As you know, the distribution of over $600 billion in annual federal funding and the redistricting of legislative seats for the next decade depend upon a well-executed census. If a citizenship question were to be added to the 2020 questionnaire, we would likely see a significantly dropped head count of already-undercounted minority groups – particularly immigrants, non-citizens, and Latinos. This attack on civil rights would only serve to suppress the minority vote, drop the numbers necessary to apportion federal funding, and push immigrant communities even deeper into the shadows.

The December 12 letter from DOJ General Counsel Arthur Gary to Dr. Ron Jarmin of the Census Bureau argues that further information on citizenship is “critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting.” We find this argument to be disingenuous considering questions on citizenship have been included on the American Community Survey (ACS), distributed on a monthly basis for the last 13 years. The information derived from the ACS has long been effectively utilized to address voting rights abuses across the country.

Additionally, the final census questions that are due to be submitted to Congress by April 1, 2018, will have undergone an extensive screening process constituting years of focus groups and field tests to ensure a high response rate coupled with effective data collection. Including a new question this late in the process allows no time for testing or the correction of wording problems, and only serves to increase the risk to a census that has already experienced massive cost increases and heightened levels of public mistrust.

New qualitative research from the Census Bureau confirms that survey respondents and focus group participants are expressing an “unprecedented” level of concern regarding the confidentiality of the data they provide to the Bureau and whether that data will be improperly shared with other government agencies, especially immigration officials. While we recognize that Title 13 of the U.S. Code has strict protections against the use of census data for law enforcement, it provides little reassurance to those who have seen their loved ones detained and/or deported under this administration. Pretesting respondents were observed explicitly falsifying data or leaving household members off survey rosters for fear of incrimination. These trends suggest that the addition of a citizenship question could exacerbate confidentiality concerns and severely undermine accuracy and initial response levels. This, in turn, would increase the cost of the census by hundreds of millions of dollars in non-response follow up, the most expensive component of the decennial census operation.

Mr. Secretary, you have testified before Congress regarding the challenges that the 2020 Decennial faces; adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census will destabilize and politicize the decennial process at a time when we can least afford it.

As Congress has not provided you with the additional funds that you requested, threatening the already fragile response rate will only jeopardize data accuracy and increase cost to the American taxpayer who will eventually foot the bill when the costs skyrocket because of this proposal. We strongly urge you to show us that you are committed to an accurate Census by denying the Department of Justice’s request and working to ensure a full, fair, and accurate decennial census. Signed by Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Co-Chair of the House Census Caucus and sponsor of the 2020 Census Investment Act; José E. Serrano (NY-15), Co-Chair of the House Census Caucus; and Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-4), member of the House Judiciary Committee, and

a group of 125 Members of Congress.

Peacemaker JFK

To The Editor:

We all share the same earth. We all share the same drinking water. We all breathe the same air. We all rely on the same oxygen to exist. We all need the food that is produced from the soil. We all need the sound of birds and the touch of sunlight. We all need to feel and to love. There is so little that separates us when it comes to what we need to thrive as a species. Politics and religion make us sick of this world. Economics and warfare make us scared to dream of real freedom. The pressures of being right and powerful become an obsession that eliminates all other values. This is the awful condition that we find ourselves in. Despite our momentary episodes of happiness and enlightenment, the majority of our time is wasted in sustained anxiety.

John F. Kennedy was no saint. But the man was a prophet. He knew that our shared hopes and experiences are more than what keeps us apart. In his most important speech – the one that likely got him killed a little more than five months later – Kennedy charted the only course that has a future. Speaking at an American University commencement – and cleverly addressing the Soviet Union head-on – the president stated with heroic conviction:

“Today, should total war ever break out again—no matter how—our two countries would become the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours…. [W]e are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counter-weapons.”

It is now necessary to amend JFK’s speech to include the entire globe as that which is in danger of devastation. The world itself is now a target. If there is a conventional nuclear war, or the use of a major electronic weapon in the atmosphere over a massive population zone, it will not be the United States and Soviet Union which suffers the aftermath. Every land-dependent nation will be at risk. Every coastal city will be threatened. Every island will be under siege. And every remote wilderness will come under attack. There will be no place to hide. There will be no escape route. The world itself will be a trap; one that consists of toxic gases, omnipresent radiation, pouring acid rain, incessant panic, rampant disease, sweeping delusion, and far worse. It will be hell.

So let us heed Kennedy’s vision. Let us use his words as our signpost. Let us proceed with confidence that we have the power to resist this temptation to self-destruct. This ability to commit suicide exists inside every human heart. It does not take much to activate the existential crisis gene. But the human heart is also capable of producing tremendous powers of compassion, insight, fortitude, bravery, and excellence. We have slaughtered ourselves in genocides. But we have also built gigantic metropolises of artistic genius and scientific advancement. We have harbored the most pathetic sins of cowardice and omission. But we have also garnered the strength to go beyond our solar system and explore other galaxies. Despite our potential for destructive stupidity, there is nothing that the human race cannot achieve if it puts its mind to the task. Kennedy knew this better than any other leader of his generation.

George Cassidy Payne, M.A, M.T.S.
Founder, Gandhi Earth
Keepers International
Rochester, NY

Get It Running First

To The Editor:

New York City Transit Presidents such as newly appointed Andy Byford come and go every few years. Without proper financial support and the ability to obtain real work rule flexibility from employee unions, he is doomed to failure, like all who came before him. Don’t be surprised (if) after several years he leaves, just as his predecessors have.

Here is how to find some of the billions more he will need to deal with the current NYC Transit bus and subway crises he has inherited.

Ask the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board to reprogram (the) $695 million Metro North East Bronx Penn Station Access, $1.7 billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, $1.95 billion LIRR Main Line Third Track, $573 million to Cubic Transportation Systems for a new fare collection system to replace Metro Card and $23 million Customer Service Ambassador program worth over $4.9 billion!

These dollars could be better spent providing $400 million to fully fund the emergency $836 million “Subway Action Plan” to deal with the current crises. They could also provide a $4.4 billion down payment against the current $17 billion shortfall needed to bring the subway signal system up to a state of good repair.

All five canceled projects can be funded out of the next MTA 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan. This still provides ample time for both Metro North East Bronx Penn Station Access and LIRR Main Line Third Track project completions to coincide with LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal by December 2023. What good are Customer Service Station Ambassadors or a new fare collection system when you are still stuck on the platform waiting for a train?

Neither Governor Cuomo’s congestion pricing initiative nor NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s millionaires tax to support the MTA will ever be implemented due to political opposition. They both are already dead on arrival in the Albany legislature. Instead ask Governor Cuomo to be brave and bold and call for raising the state gasoline tax by pennies per gallon. New Jersey did this last year and will raise billions for their Transportation Trust Fund. Why not do the same in New York? What about a statewide bond issue dedicated to transportation? Other cities and states around the nation have adopted both of these ideas. Any of these actions could easily raise the billions necessary for maintaining a state of good repair for highways, bridges and mass transportation, including the MTA, along with potential system expansion.

Ask Mayor Bill de Blasio to come up with the balance of $2.5 billion the city still owes toward fully funding the $32 billion MTA 2015 – 2019 Five Year Capital Program, add several billion more and match dollar for dollar any additional state assistance. Ask Governor Andrew Cuomo to deliver the outstanding balance of $5.8 billion toward his original $8.3 billion pledge, plus his most recent new commitment of an additional $1 billion. The MTA can’t afford to wait until 2019 for both de Blasio and Cuomo to make good on their respective promised financial commitments. Neither can transit riders and taxpayers who are looking for accountability, and efficient and timely completion for both capital projects and routine maintenance to assure more reliable and safe transit service.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Maloney’s The Best

To The Editor:

We must check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors during this winter season to make sure that batteries are working properly. It is dangerous to have non-working detectors since fires kill, destroy lives, property, injure and adversely affect the quality of life for all. I am glad that Community Board 1 held its meeting in January. Their resolutions for the New Year have to do with homeless services, Girl Scouts and development.

Homelessness is a blight on society and these people are entitled to shelter and housing, since shelter is one of our basic rights. Living in a safe environment is a right, not a favor, and not a privilege.

I hope that the agreement on a federal budget will come soon. The government must not be shut down due to not compromising.

Pollution from fossil fuels must be stopped from neighboring states that (drifts over and) pollutes the air in New York.

I am appalled that transportation – whether by plane, bus, subway, and railroad – is full of chaos. Every day there is a train delay, a derailment, a crash on the expressway and delays at the airports. This is the modern age and if we want to put a man on Mars we first have to take care of transportation here on Earth, especially in NY. Our state pays $58 billion dollars in taxes to the federal government and I applaud Reps. Maloney and Gottheimer and Governor-elect Murphy, as well as Rep. Crowley, for trying to get full tax deductibility for state and city income taxes. We give to the federal government and now they are taking our deductibility away. Our city and state will be adversely affected.

I am appalled at the finding of 13 children or offspring who were starved, chained, and abused. This is cruel brutality, punishment, and abuse. What is wrong with mothers nowadays? They can create a birth but do not know how to raise children and treat them with respect. There must be parenting classes as I had mentioned before in many letters to the editor over the past 18 years. There should be a license and test for parenting. I applaud Congress Member Carolyn Maloney for doing a great deal for breast cancer. She is one of the best and has done so much for all people.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

Vision Zero Success!

To The Editor:

I would like to commend Mayor de Blasio’s program of Vision Zero. This has saved more lives, as the Mayor has just reported. It was mentioned at his news conference that since Vision Zero was launched in 2013, traffic fatalities have dropped 45 percent, and pedestrian fatalities have also fallen 45 percent. I only wish this was done by previous administrations. I live in Glen Oaks Village and not long ago, on Commonwealth Boulevard on a rainy night, a good neighbor of mine named Joe was killed with his son’s dog named Sandy while crossing the street. The driver stopped and waited for police to arrive after calling 911. Joe was 86 years old. Some neighbors said the car might have been speeding while trying to make the light on Union Turnpike. Now things have improved with speed bumps being installed, which slow down the cars, vans and trucks. Added to that we have schools on Commonwealth Boulevard, and that has saved many students from being hurt or killed. All in all I hope the decline of pedestrian deaths will continue. The other issue I feel strongly about is hit-and-run drivers, like the case where a 77-year-old woman was killed in Flushing. I also have a friend named Bob Duffy who was hit by a hit-and-run driver and is now in a wheelchair. They never found the hit-and-run driver. I feel more needs to be done to track down these hit-and-run drivers. We all must do something. When we see a person who is hit and the driver takes off we need to report this criminal act. That would entail description of car, truck or van and if possible a license number. We all must do our part in ensuring that Vision Zero continues to succeed.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

False Alarming

To The Editor:

The person who accidentally pushed a button that triggered a missile alert warning in Hawaii should be fired immediately! Why did this person hit that button? Obviously, it was a mistake, one that could have triggered accidental conflict with North Korea. Not only that, this false missile alert caused major panic and chaos across the state of Hawaii, needlessly frightening thousands of people. An immediate investigation needs to be started by the Pentagon to make sure something like this does not ever happen again. One only has to remember the movie, “Fail Safe,” which was about the accidental firing of missiles towards the Soviet Union by the United States. We certainly do not need that same frightening scenario to happen now, with all of the world tension that prevails!

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

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