Friday, March 5, 2010
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer stood in front of the MTA board on Wednesday, December 16th, as it prepared to vote on a “doomsday budget” to fix a $400 million deficit. The cuts will eliminate the W and Z lines along with two dozen bus routes, mostly in the outer boroughs.
Service will be scaled back on off peek hours and weekends, meaning longer waits and more crowded trains. Most contentiously of all – free and reduced fare Metro Cards for school children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
“The fact that you would jeopardize free Metro Cards for children to go to school, and put their parents in harm’s way,” he said, “is something so inexcusable, I had to come here today and tell you, just stop,”
The panel voted unanimously to cut service. The draconian cut backs were blamed on the recession, lost revenue from capitol expenditures and Albany’s refusal to bail them out.
They were also quick to blame a recent arbitration between the agency and the Transit Workers Union.
In the past eight years the subway fare his risen twice. With each increase, service only got worse. This new round of cuts is different, though.
Though the fare itself will not increase, the fact that people who historically have had reduced fare or free transit are losing it at the very moment where they are hurting most. Working families are facing an extra $2,000 per child per year in transportation costs just to go to school.
"Those Metro Cards not only pay to go back and forth to school,” said councilwoman Gail Brewer addressing protestors against the new budget, “but they pay for the tutoring, they pay for the karate, they pay for the soccer. They actually enhance that students' education," When a majority of public school children in the city qualify for free lunch programs, its unthinkable that they should be forced to pay for their way to and from school.
At the meeting, city councilman Charles Barron asked the board about the kids who can’t afford the costs of getting to school without student cards. “What do you want them to do? Jump the turnstiles and turn them into criminals?”
The breakdown of public transportation in New York isn’t just a social justice issue, it’s a climate issue.
On the MTA’s website, the agency boasts that “the energy consumption and CO2 output of New Yorkers is approximately a quarter of the national average. By improving, and expanding these efficiencies, the MTA can serve as a national model and regional platform for sustainable growth in the 21st century.” If they cut service and access that means more New Yorkers will be forced to use cars, meaning more emissions and a larger carbon footprint.
It’s ironic that while the agency voted to reduce service and limit access to public transit, across the Atlantic world leaders are debating a climate change treaty in Copenhagen. The outlook of the talks are just as grim as the MTA’s future. December was a bad month for climate justice.
The cuts in student Metro Cards will be incremental. The value of student cards will be halved in 2010 and all together phased out in 2011. Observers suggest that this is to buy time for Albany or the federal government to throw out a lifeline. “This is the start of a process, not the end of the process,” said MTA chairman Jay Wilder.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested the federal government may step in, “we're willing to work with the State of New York,” he said in an interview on NY1, “with the governor, with the mayor and others, the Legislature to make sure that New York has a first-rate transit system and transportation system”
Right now, little is certain, but what we do know is that the days of New York’s first class mass transit system seem to be ending.
Monday, December 7, 2009
This should be the largest coordinated demonstration against the illegal occupation of Gaza yet.
For more information on the demo:
Gaza Freedom March
Thursday, December 3, 2009
2009 saw Catholic clergy step into two of the major social issues of our day: marriage equality and reproductive rights. NPR’s All Things Considered reported today on this disturbing trend today.
It’s been reported that on the eve of the House’s historic healthcare vote, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) brought two representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Nancy Pelosi’s office. They let her know they wouldn’t support any healthcare bill without an amendment restricting reproductive rights.
The next day, the “Stupak Amendment” was passed 240 – 194. 64 Democrats joined 176 Republicans in eliminating abortion coverage from all plans in the proposed “Insurance Exchange” and the proposed Public Health Insurance Option. The George Washington School of Medicine and Public Health recently released a study stating that the amendment will eventually go reach beyond the Exchange.
The progressive blog Firedog Lake has launched the campaign One Voice for Choice to fight the Stupak Amendment and its ugly twin sibling in the senate, sponsored by Senator Ben Nelson (R – NE).
The Catholic Church has been progressively getting more involved in Congress and in state legislatures. Last month, Rep Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) was asked not to receive communion due to his pro choice stance by Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin.
The congressman’s uncle, President John F Kennedy set the precedent nearly 50 years ago when he made it clear that he was accountable to his citizens, not the Vatican.
It seems as if this precedent is being thrown to the wolves. 2009 saw the Catholic Church take a far more aggressive stance in actively lobbying against progressive legislation.
As has been argued previously in the Fugue State, tax exempt religious groups are restricted from lobbying congress or politicizing the pulpit.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Marriage equality was defeated 38-24. The majority vote was bi-partisan with all thirty Republicans and eight Democrats voting no. The outlook was dubious leading up to the vote. “There is never a good time for civil rights,” said Senator Tom Duane (D – Manhattan), the sponsor of the bill and an openly gay man, “But the paradox is it’s always a good time to be on the right side of history.”
New York State has on of the largest LGBT populations in the country and is considered by most to be a bastion of plurality and tolerance. It is embarrassing that this bill - which would have changed the legal definition of marriage to accommodate same sex couples, did not pass.
“History has time and time again proven” said Senator Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), “that extending civil rights further make our nation more complete,” Albany has denied countless New Yorkers their civil rights.
Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) compared the legislation to when interracial marriage was legalized and rightfully stated that he was not considering any religious dogma when it came time to vote. “When I walk through these doors,” he said on the senate floor, “my Bible stays out."
Religious groups have been at the forefront of the fight against marriage equality, both in the courts and in ballot referenda. The Mormons financed a large portion of the anti-marriage Proposition 8 in California. The religious right was mobilized in Maine when it too struck down a gay marriage bill.
In Albany, just as elsewhere, churches themselves – not just their advocacy groups, were actively lobbying against the bill. The IRS would do well to look into whether this violates their tax exempt statuses.
One of the leaders against the bill in the Senate was Ruben Diaz Sr. (D - Bronx), a Pentecostal Minister. “Not only the evangelicals, not only the Jews, not only the Muslims, not only the Catholics, but also the people oppose it,” he said in his hateful speech.
Senator Adams countered the sentiment perfectly when he said: “because the numerical majority is one place doesn’t mean they’re in the right place.”
Cathy Marino-Thomas, president of Marriage Equality New York, put it best when she said about Sen. Diaz that: “If he wants to be a reverend, then let him go back to the church. If you want to be a senator, then you stand up for the rights and laws of this country!"
At the moment, New York does not even offer civil unions to same sex couples. This means that the thousands of gay couples in New York State have no tax or health benefits which a straight couple enjoys. In this state, according to Marriage Equality NY (http://www.meny.us) “Gay and lesbian partners are treated as legal strangers, often having to fight through the court to see their partner in the hospital.”
It is due time that all people are guaranteed their civil rights, regardless of their sexual orientations. Its due time that, as our nation’s constitution dictates – we keep Church and State at a healthy distance. It’s about time that we take that step forward and finally acknowledge full civil rights for all.
This fight is far from over.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Mike Bloomberg should have never been elected to a third term. In fact, he never should have been able to run.
Though the mayor’s never been fond of democracy – just look at the Republican National Convention protests where thousands of demonstrators were rounded up and held illegally – the term limit debacle takes the cake.