[for much much more on all this see TerryGipsonNY.com -- help send Terry to Albany!...also: Rhinebeck Village folks: help Terry, Brant Neuneker now: RhinebeckDemocrats.org !...Joel]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Letters to the editor for 2/19
Poughkeepsie Journal 12:42 AM, Feb. 19, 2012 |
Gay-rights donations to GOP miss other issues
As a supporter of New York's same-sex marriage law, I was dismayed to read that gay rights advocates, many of them outside the state, have poured tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of four Republican state senators whose votes ensured passage of the bill. Among the four is Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, whose 11th-hour conversion to the same-sex cause was followed by more than $400,000 in reported campaign contributions.
I share the elation of supporters of gay and other human rights over this historic legislation, but surely this is not the only issue facing the state or nation. Are the people who contributed to Saland aware he transferred $24,000 of these funds to the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee, which means he contributed not only to the three other Republican senators who supported same-sex marriage but also to the overwhelming majority of the Senate Republican caucus who opposed the legislation?
And are they aware that Saland has voted throughout his 30-year career as a state legislator, in lockstep with other Republicans, in opposing basic women's rights including not only the right to choice in child-bearing but also the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and No-Fault Divorce? He also voted against allowing nurses and pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, including in cases of rape, incest and danger to a woman's health from child-bearing. Study the entire record before you contribute to the re-election of Saland and his fellow Senate Republicans.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
We Need To Address These Issues:
CLEANING UP ALBANY
COMMITMENT TO THE FUTURE
I was born in 1963. I remember from my youth how excited we were about "The World of Tomorrow". There was a creative energy fueling our lives and moving our country forward. We believed that tomorrow was going to be better than today and that idea inspired our nation to do some pretty amazing things. We built a robust economy, we grew our middle class, we tackled civil rights, and we even had the commitment to send a man to the moon.
Something has gone wrong. It seems we have quit believing in tomorrow because we are just too busy surviving today. If we are going to grow our economy, educate our kids, protect our environment and rebuild our faith in government, we need to recommit ourselves to the simple fact that tomorrow can better than today.
It has to start with leadership. We need leaders that are willing to plan for our future, invest in our ideas, inspire us to succeed, and stand up and fight against anyone or anything that stands between us and building a better tomorrow.
The good jobs of tomorrow are likely to come from industries like telecommunications, mass transit, clean energy, health care and nanotechnology - so we need to give the "companies of tomorrow" reasons to come to Dutchess and Columbia Counties today.
We need to think big, and to act on big ideas. Big ideas like creating a Business Development Job Bank where small businesses can get low cost loans and benefits for hiring local employees. We know small businesses are the growth engine of tomorrow's economy. And we know that sustained job growth will depend on our ability to invent new products that can be exported to the global market. That's why we need to encourage development right here in New York.
We should take some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are wasted in our state every year and, instead of cutting them, let's use them to invest in our future. Let's use this "waste" and establish a Jobs Creation Fund. We'll market to small companies, entice them to come here, and use those funds to pay the first 20 percent of local employee salaries for the first two years.
I believe that smart investing is what we must do to revitalize our economy. For the last 30+ years, our current senator has supported a strategy of cutting spending and reducing revenue. Clearly, this hasn't worked.
Everyone agrees that having a first class education system in New York is the key to our future. And we all agree that our next generation will need highly specialized skills for the jobs of tomorrow.
To make this happen, we must form a creative, energized and dedicated partnership between students, parents, teachers, business and government to make sure we are all working together to teach those skills. This will be one more reason for companies of tomorrow to choose the Hudson Valley today.
-- Students must be inspired to tap into their creativity and not just be taught to pass tests
-- Parents need to be encouraged to take a more responsible role in the education of their kids
-- Teachers need to be rewarded for good ideas and have more opportunities for advancement and growth
-- Business should spend more time getting involved in our education system and less time trying to find ways around it by looking for tax loopholes
-- Government is the glue that can hold this partnership together.
Every school system should have a research and development laboratory that is sponsored by local businesses and government, like the Rhinebeck Science Foundation, which fosters development and creative ideas. New York State should support these labs that give K-12 students the opportunity to take part in creative innovation programs that stimulate interest in science, engineering and innovative thinking.
While we're at it, let's stop funding our education system through property taxes and base it on the ability to pay. Our present system is forcing middle class families to leave the state for places where a good education is not so expensive. We know good schools are good for our kids, good for the economy and good for our neighborhoods. We just need to be smarter about how we pay for them.
Our current senator was Chairman of the Senate Education Committee for many years, and as such, was in the unique position to positively effect legislation by looking into alternative ways to fund our education system. He didn't. He refused. He did not hold one single hearing on the topic in all his years as chairman. And that's a shame. We need new leadership in Albany that will make this a top priority, and not just another lofty title for one's resume.
Real tax relief for our working families and middle class will only happen when we stop relying primarily on property taxes to fund education.
Our current senator has fought against a fair and progressive tax structure his entire 30+ year career in Albany. It was only recently, when his political leaders told him to do so, that he voted for a more fair approach to taxation, including a lighter version of the "millionaire's tax". Recall, however, that earlier this term, he was advocating for a bill requiring an unattainable super majority senate vote for any and all spending or tax increases. The goal of this would be to make it all but impossible for the state to raise any revenue it might require to meet the most basic needs of all New Yorkers.
While the recent reform is a step in the right direction, we should be looking at an even more aggressive and progressive revenue structure. When the well-off pay their fair share, we will be able to accomplish two crucial agenda items: relief from crushing property taxes on those that can least afford them and additional funding for a better education system.
We must be able to protect our environment and ensure it will be sound in the world of tomorrow. Without it, without clean air and safe drinking water, nothing else will matter. Good jobs and great education are meaningless if we become sick from poisoned water or farms.
We cannot allow oil and gas companies, or anyone else, to invade our state and pollute our drinking water. We must have the political courage to say "No to Hydro-fracking." If it's not safe for New York City or Syracuse's water supplies, it can not be okay for the rest of us. This is something our current senator has refused to stand up against.
That's a shame. And it's dangerous. It's not a question of if something will go wrong, but simply a question of how soon. The current law will not even hold companies responsible for cost to clean up the damage. These costs will instead fall to the taxpayers.
We can harness the energy of our natural resources without destroying them. This has already been proven in other states (and countries) that have invested wisely in solar, wind and geothermal energy. We should do the same. And we should encourage companies to come here to develop hydro-power using the Hudson River's untapped tidal energy. Hydro-power of tomorrow can look very different than it does today, and we should be at the forefront of this technology and utilization.
Let's also start retrofitting our old buildings with green technology. This will immediately reduce our energy footprint, save money, and create jobs. And the state should continue tax credits for homeowners that update their own homes with such technologies.
CLEANING UP ALBANY
Ethics reform in Albany is far from done, and the current environment does not inspire the types of big ideas and big changes we need to build a better tomorrow. This is the biggest shame of all.
It's an insider's game. Albany operates under rules designed to protect incumbents and the interests that fund their campaigns. The result is a government run by antiquated legislative leaders that have been in power since the Ford and Carter administrations.
This includes Senator Steve Saland, the seated Senator for our district. He recently supported an Ethics Bill that allows current and former State Senators to keep their taxpayer-funded pensions if they are convicted of a crime. The timing of this bill coincided with the trial of his friend, former Senator Vincent Liebell, who was convicted of bribery and of stealing millions from his constituents and fellow New Yorkers. The disgraced former Senator is now in jail. And thanks to all of those that passed the ethics "reform" law, he continues to receive his pension. This needs to be changed. We also need term limits so that no one is allowed to accumulate 32 years worth of power that can be used to benefit convicted felons.
I believe being a public servant in the legislature should be a full time job with term limits. This would serve to discourage the type of unethical behavior that has become a growth industry in Albany. We elect representatives to serve our needs, the peoples' needs, not the needs of their clients and special interests.
Senator Saland and I disagree on this point. He supported the recent "ethics bill" that does not require him to reveal his clients - not even those that have business before the state. As a result, his law firm is allowed to continue representing many of the municipalities within his own district, as well as companies vying for state contracts. By supporting this bill, Steve essentially says that his outside income is none of our business - even when it clearly is.
I am a strong supporter of an independent redistricting process, as well as comprehensive campaign finance reform. This is not the case with Senator Saland. He and the Republican majority in the Senate continue to fight hard to avoid a fair redistricting process that by law was supposed to happen during the last legislative session.
Cleaning up the culture of corruption in Albany is high on my list of priorities as your state senator. We can make no real progress until our government starts working for all New Yorkers instead of a select few. This is essential to building a better tomorrow.
COMMITMENT TO THE FUTURE
There is nothing New Yorkers can't accomplish if we come together and make the effort to make it happen. The first step is to believe it can happen. I'm asking you to join me in my commitment to change not only how our government works, but also how we think it should work.
I believe it will work best if it serves as an engine of opportunity, to generate creative energy by enacting policies that jumpstart its people's entrepreneurial and creative spirit. The old way of doing things just hasn't worked. After over 30 years of Senator Saland in Albany, it's time to change course.
We have to invest wisely, instead of just slashing and cutting. We have to protect our resources instead of handing them over to large, out-of-state corporations who are only looking at their own profits as a measure of success. We must actively participate in growing our economy, instead of increasing our pool of unemployed workers who stand to lose their access to health care and well-earned benefits and the American Dream.
We need to make a NEW commitment to our future. We need to invest in the NEW World of Tomorrow. With your help and support this year, that is exactly what I intent to do as your NEW State Senator.