In the wake of the calamitous failure of federal government, we are increasingly dependent on the policies and programs that come from state and local government – everything from environmental and consumer protection to public health, education, safety and infrastructure. And that means we are more reliant than ever before on the competence, intelligence and yes compassion of those we elect to leadership, from our villages and school boards, to our towns and county. These are positions of tremendous responsibility and impact on the quality of our daily lives, and even future opportunities, which are more complicated and demanding than initially appears because inevitably they involve resolving demands of competing constituencies.
Judi Bosworth, seeking reelection for North Hempstead Supervisor, has been tested and come out with flying color as the supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead, responsible for 226,000 people (that is just about half the population of Wyoming) and a budget of $129 million.
“I don’t take the responsibility lightly,” Bosworth said at the League of Women Voters debate. “I’m running for a third term to continue progress – a more open, transparent government, making it easier to get information from the website about the budget, improved fiscal budgeting process.” An indication of solid management is that she can point to the town’s finances rated Triple A by Moody’s –the highest rating a municipality can get, raised up from Double A1 when she entered office. “Now we are Triple A – that didn’t just happen. It’s because of the fiscally conservative way we budget.”
Bosworth’s opponent is Stephen Nasta, whose sole experience to lead the North Hempstead is having headed a New York City Detectives Investigators Unit –that dealt with political corruption and drug dealing in the Bronx. “Two of my role models are Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani – they got the job done – if I’m elected, I will get the job done.” What job would that be, exactly? North Hempstead doesn’t have a police force (that is a county function) and doesn’t need the militarized policing of the Bronx – but what experience does he have with snow removal, street repaving, sanitation contracts, bonding for infrastructure, overseeing special districts budgets, zoning and real estate development proposals and working with local governments on revitalization projects?
North Hempstead is a complicated town,“ Bosworth reflected. “31 villages, where downtowns are, which control zoning. The town is involved in projects in Port Washington and the area around Carle Place. We are always looking to see what we can do to encourage development. Our building department is doing very well – having seminars to encourage people to open businesses in downtown.” Indeed, the town has pro-active entities, including a Business & Tourism Development Commission which works to inspire, incentivize and promote new businesses; Project Independence; recycling center, 311, an intermunicipal cooperation office.
Bosworth brings long-and-strong intimate knowledge of vital and complex issues, such as the ongoing effort to remediate drinking water from the plume of pollution that emanates from the former Sperry Rand (Lockheed Martin) site, going back to her years as Great Neck School Board president. When a truckload of dirt excavated from where Northwell Hospital is building showed contamination, the town immediately summoned the state DEC, which is responsible for oversight.
“We can’t be a shadow DEC but we let the people in the area – New Hyde Park and Great Neck – understand this was happening and what DEC would be doing. It’s important to be on top of things, to get the agencies responsible to do what they are supposed to.”
The pot-shots leveled against every incumbent Town official go back 10 or more years, but Bosworth has a record to prove her mettle. In North Hempstead, the target is the Building Department, but as Bosworth notes, even the Long Island Building Institute has lauded the substantial improvement.
“Now the Building Department in North Hempstead is running the way it should – honest, process and procedure and code. If someone is having difficulty getting a CFO it is most likely because they are not in compliance…We want anything built in the town to be code-compliant. That’s not just for the person living in the house, but neighbors –if there is something wrong with wiring, plumbing, some mishap, we don’t want anyone’s life in danger.” In 2016, the Building Department issued 5720 CFOs. There is “a changed culture. ..People are advocates, not adversaries.” She pointed to adding evening hours, mobile hours and town halls at libraries to inform people how to navigate the permit process.
To listen to Nasta, who has no platform, program or policy, he is only learning about what ails residents by walking around the town for the campaign. He would be a more credible candidate if he actually had any involvement or role in town governance before deciding he was the man to lead it.
Town Clerk Wayne Wink, Jr. is one of the most capable, smart, genuine people ever to serve in elected office. He could fulfill any function. He was brilliant when he was on the Town Council and then the Nassau County Legislature, and now a superbly competent Town Clerk who is responsible for managing vital records. Here, too, people don’t realize what goes into this function – least of all his challenger.
“When the town clerk’s office was brought into the town’s 311 system,” Wink said at the League debate, “we were asked to prepare frequently asked questions [FAQs] for all the various functions. We had to cut off at two dozen different sets of FAQs – that’s how extensive and how pervasive the town clerk’s office is in everyday function of government. The three single most important are dealing with most sensitive documents that make us who we are – birth, marriage, death records where we are a functionary not just of town law but state.” The town clerk’s office is also engaged in providing nontax revenue for the town – issuing film permits, taxi and tow truck licenses. A third area is transparency and making sure records are archival.
Every public official looks to do “more with less” and Wink has done that – his 2018 budget for the town clerk’s office is 10% less than four years ago. “We are doing more services, better, more efficiently, and more transparently than ever – our town clerk’s office is cheaper and better than ever.”
It is certainly a stamp of approval that in the last four years, Wink went from being a newbie town clerk to being unanimously elected president of the Nassau County Town Clerk Association (13 clerks) and elected by the town clerks from 932 towns from New York State, to serve as director of the state association, serving as an advocate on behalf of town clerks statewide in terms of legislation and policy consideration. “Yesterday, the New York State Department of Health wanted my opinion about genealogical research for old records.”
Wink’s opponent, David Redmond, though earnest about being elected to office (any office, it seems), doesn’t seem to know what a town Clerk’s responsibilities are (being the Freedom of Information Officer is not one of them), but says he will use his tech skills to bring the office into the 21st century. Apparently, he is behind the times.
Ellen Birnbaum for Nassau County Legislator, 10th District: Birnbaum has served for the past four years with an overriding sense of public service – and that is not just a slogan because she has been in the role for four years – but has been hamstrung by a Republican majority on the Legislature that, just as in Congress, shuts out Democrats from decision-making and rams things through. Birnbaum has advocated reopening the 6th Precinct (as does Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate for County Executive), and has worked to get the county to fulfill its responsibility in preserving the Saddle Rock Grist Mill.
Her opponent, David Adhami, seems to have a single answer for every problem: tax incentives, which would just happen to benefit his own family’s real estate development company. He doesn’t seem to understand a most basic principle: if you cut taxes for one entity, that money is made up from residential property owners, and property taxes are the most regressive of all, with the result that retirees who want to stay in the homes they had raised their families in are most aggrieved. As simple as that.
Jack Schnirman for Nassau County Comptroller. When I first realized that Schnirman was the manager of the city of Long Beach for six years, I was bowled over. Have you seen Long Beach lately? Especially after being devastated by Superstorm Sandy? That city has been utterly transformed for the better. Devastated by Superstorm Sandy, Schnirman presided over the rebuilding its iconic boardwalk in just one year, on time and under budget. A graduate of the Kennedy School of Government, he brings an impressive resume to this significant role, so essential to helping Nassau County finally get its fiscal house in order.
“I stepped in when the city was on brink of bankruptcy and turned it around put it back in the black, with nine straight favorable credit reviews,” he said. “As Nassau County Comptroller, I’ll lead the charge for a regional resiliency plan and residency audits that will protect our county’s critical infrastructure and ensure there are proper emergency personnel and resources in place for residents.”
Dean Bennett for County Clerk: A Long Island native who came to embrace public service from his father, a WWII vet, a teamster and a union leader, and his mother who was a nurse at the VA hospital in Northport. Bennett earned a Masters in Human Resources from Hofstra, and a BA in management and economics so he knows organization. He has county and state office experience, having served as Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Deputy Director of Minority Affairs under County Executive Tom Suozzi, and at the state level, as Executive Director of Minority and Women-Owned Business for the entire state.
The Village Halloween Parade is not nearly as political and outrageous as it used to be – the goal is to be an expression of creativity and if anything, good will and spirituality. But still, there were a few standouts. Notably, a whole group of Gays Against Guns, and a group calling itself “Rise & Resist” wearing costumes and carrying signs with the message, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!” Indeed, the entire parade wound up being a form of resistance against the terror attack that occurred just hours before and less than a mile away – as one parade regular put it, “a giant F-U to the terrorists.”
Just a few hours and less than a mile away from where a 29-year old used a rented pickup truck to mow down cyclists and pedestrians on the West Side Highway bikepath, killing eight and injuring 12, thousands were gathering in costumes for the 44th annual Village Halloween Parade. With high confidence that the terror attack was by a lone wolf and not coordinated, the decision was made for the parade to go on, albeit with enhanced security. Even with the counter-terrorism officers draped in military-style assault weapons, vests and helmets, and with the heightened sense of security, the police were accommodating and the mood of marchers and viewers alike more playful than seditious.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio and NY Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill marched with the parade – which brings out one million people who line the mile-long route along Sixth Avenue and tens of thousands of marchers, giving a shout out for New Yorkers to defy terrorism by going on with their lives.
While the terrorist committed mayhem, Governor Cuomo said, “He did not stop New Yorkers from being New Yorkers.”
Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN, Cuomo said, “This was an attack that was designed to create terror, and it — it killed and frightened people. It was despicable. But, New Yorkers are resilient, New Yorkers go on. We learned the hard way on 9/11 that we are a target, we are the international symbol of democracy and freedom and we understand that. And since 9/11 we’ve lived with this and we’ve put together the best security force on the globe in my opinion, and we worked together and the response was great. But this afternoon was terrible.
“Tonight we’re at a Halloween parade to say you didn’t win and you didn’t affect us and we’re out and celebrating and we’re doing what New Yorkers do and we’re living our lives because we’re not going to allow the terrorists to win, period. And that’s why I’m here marching in the parade, not because I have a great costume.”
“They are trying to divide. The point is to unite, to show normalcy. To politicize this event [as Trump did immediately] is wholly unproductive,” Governor Cuomo said later in a press conference.
Trump, predictably and unlike the reaction to the Las Vegas massacre which killed 58 and injured hundreds, ridiculously blamed Senator Schumer, and called for a travel ban and even more extreme vetting, in contrast to the call “this is not the time to politicize a tragedy” in response to the most lethal massacre in modern history. (Interestingly, he did not bother to call Governor Cuomo or Mayor DiBlasio as every president would have done after such a heinous event, spending his time tweeting out attacks on Democrat Sen Schumer for a diversity visa program adopted 20 years ago and signed by George HW Bush when Schumer was in the House; Schumer and the “Gang of 8” in their grand attempt to devise comprehensive immigration reform, proposed changes but Republicans blocked consideration of the immigration bill.)
Down Sixth Avenue, you could see the Freedom Tower that rose from the shattered Twin Towers, lighted red, white and blue.
“One World Trade Center was 9/11,” Cuomo told Anderson Cooper. “It was the darkest day that we went through in New York, but what we did is we got right back up and didn’t let them win. and we built back bigger, better and stronger than ever before, that’s who we are. If you think you’re going to beat us, you’re wrong. If you think these terrorist attacks are going to put a dent in the New York spirit, you’re wrong. And New York, America is about freedom and it is about democracy and will always be. And whatever attack you think you can bring is going to fail because our spirit is stronger than theirs.”
Indeed, none of Trump’s bigoted, racist anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies would have prevented this tragedy: not The Wall (this guy came into the US in 2010 through JFK), the travel ban against predominantly Muslim countries (Uzbekistan, though accounting for a large proportion of ISIS fighters, is not one of the countries excluded); or ending sanctuary cities (he was not undocumented or “illegal” but had a green card). While the pro-gun lobby is fast to blame any massacre on mental health rather than political or terror motive (like Dylann Roof or the guy who shot up a Planned Parenthood office), a “suicide by cop” or other derangement is never taken into account if the perpetrator is a Muslim or non-native.
But what is Trump’s solution to terror? He is threatening to cut off funds to New York City for anti-terrorism and policing, the #1 terror target in the US, because of New York City’s stance on making undocumented immigrants feel secure if the New York City does not abandon its sanctuary city policy. Indeed, this guy, who had nothing more than a traffic ticket during his time in the US, was radicalized in this country, and very likely Trump’s policies had something to do with why he was receptive to ISIS propaganda. Obama had a much more effective program to stem and stop this sort of homegrown, self-radicalized, lone-wolf terrorism – working in immigrant communities, forging relationships, making people feel secure and a part of American society with a stake in it, so they report suspicious behavior and do not fall under the spell of radicalism.
But in the end, it is impossible to completely stop such acts of terror. It is mind-blowing the speed with which authorities are looking to harden communities against such attacks — making bikelanes more secure – and yet, completely ignore the pervasive terror of gun violence that takes 33,000 lives and maims thousands more each year.
Those positions were on view during the Village Halloween Parade, which is an opportunity for people to express themselves in creative, even humorous, ways.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a letter to President Donald J. Trump condemning the federal tax plan to eliminate or roll back state and local tax deductibility and calling on the President not to use New York as a piggybank for other states.
Here is text of the letter:
Dear President Trump,
I write to you on an issue that impacts every single American: pending federal tax legislation. I am not writing as a Democratic Governor to a Republican President, but rather as one New Yorker who cares about New York and the country to another. I often say to the New York State legislature, “we are Democrats and we are Republicans, but we are New Yorkers first.”
As you well know, the House is expected to release additional details of a “tax cut” plan this week that in reality amounts to a “tax increase” plan for states like New York. The current proposal primarily uses New York and California as the piggybank to make it possible to cut taxes for other states. By eliminating or rolling back state and local tax deductibility, Washington is sending a death blow to New York’s middle class families and our economy.
I understand the politics at play here. California and New York are “blue states.” I also understand that the political map dictates that most Republican members of Congress come from outside the Northeast and West Coast and their primary motivation is to help their states at any cost, even when it comes at the cost of middle class New Yorkers. But when the economies of New York and California suffer, and they will, the nation follows.
It’s clear this is a hostile political act aimed at the economic heart of New York with no basis on the merits. First, it is an illegal and unconstitutional double taxation that forces our middle class families to subsidize a tax cut for the rest of the nation, and it is contrary to every principle the Republican Party has always espoused. Second, it reverses all the bipartisan progress New York State has made in lowering taxes over these past few years. While we have lowered state income taxes, capped property taxes and are forcing local governments to consider shared services, this federal act would erase all those gains and in fact increase taxes. Eliminating state and local deductibility will result in a tax increase of $5,660 on average for one in three taxpayers in New York, or 3.3 million New Yorkers.
This backward tax plan has encountered much deserved resistance, including from Republicans in the Senate. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said “I don’t think that’s going to go anywhere,” adding that state and local tax deductibility is “a system that’s worked very well.” In the face of this pushback, Republican leadership is now trying to salvage their tax plan with a so-called “compromise.” Their scheme is to allow a property tax deduction, but do away with the deduction for state income taxes. For middle class New York families, the average tax increase attributable to losing that deduction would be $1,715. And considering the original federal proposal would cost New York State taxpayers $18.6 billion, this “compromise” does little to help our state since it would still cost New York State taxpayers nearly $15 billion.
Another “compromise” that is being suggested, where only higher income individuals would lose the state and local deductibility, is a 3-card Monte game that could be played on 42nd Street in Manhattan. New Yorkers are not stupid. We know that if deductibility is eliminated on higher incomes it will have a ripple effect, forcing these New Yorkers to move out of the state, taking their tax revenue with them, thus increasing taxes on everyone else. New York will not be in a position to cut state taxes because both the original proposal, as well as the proposed compromise, will force the highest taxpayers from the state and deplete our revenue stream. As you know, five percent of New York State taxpayers account for nearly two thirds of our annual income tax revenue.
I understand why Paul Ryan would seek to hurt New York, but to ask New York Republican members of Congress to vote to raise taxes on their constituents is a betrayal against their state and their constituents. In fact, seven of nine Republicans from New York are against it. The two representatives who support it—Congressmen Collins and Reed—are the Benedict Arnolds of their time because they are putting their own political benefit above the best interests of their constituents.
Speaker Ryan’s only justification is that other states subsidize New York. He is just wrong. They don’t. The opposite is true. New York subsidizes every other state in the nation. We are the highest donor state which means we send $48 billion more in tax dollars to the federal government than we receive back in federal spending.
To be fair, this is not a new idea to pillage New York and California and send their wealth to other states. Congress tried it under President Reagan, but the gross injustice of it caused all but the most partisan and callous officials to drop support. Today’s proposals are no different. Our Congressional representatives should be saying it’s time New Yorkers get their money back. Instead, the current proposal would be taking even more revenue from the number one donor state. How unfair.
There is no middle ground here. Any of the proposed “compromises” will still destroy New York’s economy and harm the middle class. There can be no elimination, no “compromise,” and no cap on state and local tax deductibility.
New York needs your help. You can stop this. And you should not just as an American, but as a New Yorker.
On paper, Jack Martins, the Republican candidate for Nassau County Executive, would appear the stronger, more experienced candidate than the Democrat, Laura Curran. But you have to probe deeper to examine that experience and more significantly, the record that is attached both in policy, in connections, and the philosophy that the candidate would bring to his office.
On closer inspection, Curran’s resume suits the function well: she’s smart, open-minded, learns fast and has actually has the inside track on county government, as a four-year County Legislator, and before that, a member and president of a school board (overseeing $127 million budget versus $21 million for village of Mineola; school taxes are 65% of property tax, versus county which is about 10%). That tells me she not only knows how to gather facts, use facts, organize facts, but knows local issues closest and dearest to residents and the county. While Martins has been in village and state government, Curran has had a ringside seat to how a county shouldn’t be run.
“I had a front row seat to dysfunction, mismanagement in county,” Curran said at the candidate debate at Temple Israel of Great Neck.
I also like her overarching theme and approach: getting “buy-in” from communities on everything from transit-oriented development in downtowns, affordable housing, and IDA tax incentives.
“We need more transparency in the IDA [Industrial Development Agency]– open up the meetings to the public, let the public give input. When I talk about getting community buy-in for projects, that’s the way. You can’t force things on communities,” she said at the recent New York League of Conservation Voters forum.
“We have to use space we have more wisely – in-fill. You sometimes see suburban sprawl – there is already concrete – you can in-fill with transit oriented development with the buy-in of the community,” she said in response to a question about preserving open space in Nassau County.
“How do we grow the tax base, promote economic development? You have to get buy in from municipalities.. [and] most important [for that is restoring] trust in government,” she said at the debate at Temple Israel of Great Neck.
Martins has a record too.
Martins was a mayor before becoming State Senator. With the exception of breaking with Republican dogma on gun control, he has been a party stalwart, a good ol’ boy in the Republican machine that has dominated Nassau County for all but a few years – basically Tom Suozzi’s administration. Democrats believe in revitalization, in sustainable economic development, in lifting all boats. He literally had the one vote that killed Fair Elections legislation in the state.
His stand on supporting term limits – a dodge for avoiding a position on an independent commission to set voting districts and end the obscenely partisan gerrymandering – that he “voluntarily” stepped down from positions as mayor, state senator – is disingenuous. He “stepped down” in order to step up to higher office. He stepped down from mayor to become state senator. He did not run for reelection as state senator because he thought he would become a US Congressman, and when that didn’t work, set his sights on the Nassau County executive. It is opportunism, not nobility.
He also likes to take credit for “working across the aisle” with his Assemblymembers who happen to be Democrats (Michelle Schimel) and a Democratic Governor (Cuomo). Why should that be something that scores points, as opposed to being obvious, as it was when Michael Balboni was the State Senator. But he also cites as his own successes the very policies and programs that were advanced by the Democratic majority.
“When I went to the state senate,” he said, “the state was not in good shape. In 2010, the challenges were significant, but working across the aisle, with the Democratic Governor, colleagues like Michelle Schimel, I got things done. I had a front row seat to fixing things. This state is better off than 6 or 7 years ago because we were able to proactively work to make things better.”
Martins also affirms “I have zero tolerance ot violating public trust” and understandably tries to distance himself from Ed Mangano, but never fails to spread blame. “The culture of corruption infects both parties and has affected this county disproportionately. Anyone who claims a monopoly on virtue is lying.” Mangano, he says “has been an utter failure, he violated public trust – I called on him to step down a year ago …We’ve had a lameduck county executive for over a year who hasn’t been able to deal with issues, because he was more concerned with himself than his job, and no one to blame than himself. On day one, we need to change that – change the perception of government …. We need someone with experience.”
During their debates they both showed understanding of complex issues and remarkably similar solutions – at least during a campaign.
On many issues they offer similar solutions, both support reopening the 6th Precinct here on East Shore Road, both oppose the referendum for a Constitutional Convention (fearing the Pandora’s Box that would be unleashed), both vow to put the county’s finances on track to be rid of NIFA control but with important differences, especially as I re-read my detailed notes of their remarks.
For example, Curran would put the county’s fiscal house in order through greater efficiency, professionalism, reining in outside contracts (the source of so much corruption and waste) and doing more in-house, and economic development; Martins uses the dog-whistle “courage of our convictions” to mean cutting spending, which to Republicans invariably means social programs.
“We are the only county in entire state that has a babysitter. One of wealthiest counties, we have had an overseer for 17 years because Democrats, Republicans haven’t had the courage to deal with problems head on…This county has to do better than it has – a commitment to balanced budgets, making sure we make ends meet, efficiencies in the budget,” Martins stated. For example, he says he would end the $100 million in overtime that the police department budgets. Really?
“I will balance the budget, refinance debt, show NIFA we can govern ourselves, make investments in our own future.”
That sounds great, but how? On whose backs will you balance the budget? Where do you get the funds to “make investments” in our own future?
Curran has offered a sketch of a plan to put the county’s finances on stronger footing. This begins (but doesn’t end) with fixing the ever-broken assessment system – 70% of property owners have grieved during the past 8 years and of those, 80% won reduction, which has to be made up for by every taxpayer, and costs the county about $100 million a year. Every candidate in history (Mangano and Maragos included) has proposed to fix the system – Martins suggests moving the responsibility for assessment from the county (which then has to pay the refunds) to the villages or towns (which makes them responsible for paying out the tax certs).
Curran proposes hiring a credentialed assessor (as the charter requires but Mangano ignored), staffing the assessment office correctly, and somehow bringing the court into alignment on what is fair, so it doesn’t hand out reductions 80% of the time.
Fair taxes are key, and here Curran has good ideas for balancing the need for economic development with the need to pull back on unnecessary tax incentives granted by the IDA. Who pays for those tax giveaways? Residential propertyowners.
“I truly believe with my every fiber that revitalizing downtown will save us as a region,” Curran said. “It solves so many problems: it keeps young people, empty nesters – and young people attracts businesses. Gone are the days when people go to jobs, now jobs go to where people want to be.”
She used as a model the mixed-use development and traffic calming project in Baldwin, offered strategies to develop more public transit (complete streets, app-based on-demand busing, assessing a fee on ride-sharing to generate revenue for buses, and finally, tackling The Hub.
“Ideas and developments have been planned which include housing, retail, but because of bickering, ego, nothing has happened for 10 years. We can do so much better. It will take diplomacy, working across municipal lines, rebranding Nassau to make sure we live up to expectations of people who live here. It comes back to restoring trust. You can’t have government that is an embarrassment, but government we can be proud of.”
Over the years, I have found Martins a political master at phrasing things the way to score points with his audience. It is insidious to me how he claims credit for the popular reforms and improvements that Democrats have led. On the other hand, he has taken a bold position in contrast to Republican dogma in support of the SAFE Act tightening gun control, and on immigration, seemed to take a position in support of DACA while saying nothing about whether he would be as strong as Curran said she would be in protecting undocumented immigrants from being terrorized.
But on a couple of issues, he could not be more clear: he opposes a woman’s right to self-determination and rejects election reform (including opposing the creation of an independent commission for redistricting to end the egregious partisan gerrymandering and public financing of campaigns) that would shift advantage away from those with the means and therefore access to political power; he also supports expansion of charter schools, while Curran opposes the diversion of public funding from public schools into the largely unregulated, for-profit charter schools.
These differences are deal-breakers in my book.
Curran does offer solutions and more importantly, has the right philosophical underpinnings: sustainable economic development based on the considerable advantages the county holds in health care, medical devices and treatments and scientific research and technology (why doesn’t Nassau County get more of the New York State grants that have been flowing upstate and to Suffolk?), promoting off-shore wind that will bring down electricity costs (good for new business development) and also incubate a new renewable energy industry in wind turbines, batteries, and distribution systems. Why shouldn’t Nassau County be a hub of a renewable energy industry, as it once was a center for aeronautics and defense?
Nassau County needs a bold leader with vision and commitment: Laura Curran.
The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund hosted the 2017 Nassau County Executive Candidate Forum on Environment & Sustainability at Adelphi University in Garden City on October 15. The format was a panel of three posing questions to the candidates individually and separately, first to Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate, then, in a second session, posing the same questions to the Republican candidate, Jack Martins. With the Trump Administration and Republican Congress pulling back on environmental protection and climate action, the stand that localities take becomes more significant. What follows is a loosely edited transcription, putting the candidates’ replies together after each question—Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Laura Curran: I never planned to get involved in politics. I wanted to help my schools, my community, succeed. That sparked my interest to step up and serve the community in a bigger way – I have been in the Nassau County Legislature for four years, I am proud to have worked across the aisle when it was the right thing to do for the people I represent –For example, I was able to restore 10 bus routes that were cut.
As a legislator, I have had a front row seat to the corruption, the mismanagement [of county government]. I know how hard people work, the high taxes we pay. I believe we deserve a government that lives up to us. When I hear about indictments, it’s clear that the machine is breaking down, is not accountable to the people.
Jack Martins: I believe strongly in the Kenyan proverb, we don’t inherit the land from our parents we borrow it from our children. That is motivating. It hasn’t always been the case – water quality, the way we have treated sole-source aquifer historically, the lack of comprehensive sewering, nitrogen outflow to bays and and Sound, have significant environmental issues that is our responsibility to take care of and not simply kick the can down the road. Options for us – priorities, investments in infrastructure – I have had a history of working across the aisle – with Schimel in Assembly – But if there is a critical issue for us here in Long Island it’s water. Environmental sensitivity, wind energy, opportunities for our economy, need to expand bus service.
Addressing Nitrogen Loading
Adrienne Esposito, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment: You know the first question: nitrogen. The Bay Park sewage treatment plant is responsible for 85% of the nitrogen loading into the western bays and the western bays are dying – depleted fish, closed shellfish beds, wetlands degrading. The solution is to combine Long Beach with Bay Park, take treated effluent, use the water viaduct currently in place, and discharge out the Cedar Creek ocean outfall pipe. Will you expedite the process of hooking up Long Beach to Bay Park to the existing pipe to the ocean outflow pipe – so bays can be restored and thrive?
Curran: This is a very exciting project. The county was trying to get outflow pipe for bay…. It’s expensive. The county wasn’t able to get (funding?) from the state, federal government. [But] this is an example of how government works well: smart guys had a eureka moment: they realized there is a viaduct under Sunrise Highway,100 years old from an old waterworks, so big, a grown man could stand up in it .What if we bring water up to the viaduct, out to Cedar Creek, 6-7 miles, then there is 2 mile outflow pipe already in Cedar Creek? Altogether it would be half the cost. A viability study showed the plan is viable – they would put a polymer sleeve inside.
The key is expediting [the plan]. We have to work closely with towns and villages because we’ve got to get the treated effluent from Bay Park up the viaduct and back down. We’ve got to work with communities on either side, so we have to make sure they understand and have buy in –we don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. It will reduce the amount of nitrogen into the bays immediately, restore the shellfish. It doesn’t take long before nature will rebound. It would be good for economy, too. A win- win.
Jack Martins: There is a critical need on Long Island, how we discharge effluent into South Bay. Right now, both Long Beach and Bay Park go to Reynolds Channel and we know the effect. Someone came up with the ingenious proposal to connect via existing viaduct – the most complicated part is how to connect from Bay Park to the water viaduct…The viaduct is viable, we can move forward immediately…There are a couple of different options. The sooner we close Long Beach sewer treatment plant …Connect Cedar Creek – lateral to plant to outflow – and discharged 3 miles out. It’s important because of nitrogen loading [which] killed the shellfish industry, killed coastal wetlands. We realized after Sandy that those coastal wetlands protect against tidal surge during these 100-year storms. That’s my commitment, that’s what we will do.
Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island: This issue is on human level: Nassau County has some of most dangerous roads in NYS for pedestrian, bikers, – restaurants, downtowns, growing 55-plus population, growing number of young people who don’t want to drive – what will you do to encourage walkability, ‘Complete Streets’.
Curran – I often talk about how transit oriented development [TOD] will be what saves us as a region – it keeps young people, empty nesters, creates a tax base, jobs. But [existing] infrastructure doesn’t quite support TOD. There are places where we have to reengineer what already have.
I live in Baldwin in the town of Hempstead. We won $5 million in funding for a Complete Streets project to redo our main road, Grand Ave, to make it more navigable for bikers, walkers, cars and buses. This is called a “road diet“: taking two lanes in each direction and turning them into one lane in each for the part of the road that’s in the plan. There is [often] a lot of resistance because people are concerned about change, that it will take longer. But [delays are mitigated by] engineering traffic lights, making turn lanes that fan out so drivers can get to lights in time – that will make it more navigable. But when people can walk around, ride bikes, have alternatives to using a car, people tend to spend more money – they want to stop, shop – which is good for economic development. We’re built up in Nassau County, so we need to reengineer what we already have. That’s what we are doing in Baldwin. I am looking forward to working with zoning municipalities.
Martins: As we consider the next generation of downtown residents, transit oriented development, how we get around safely. I supported Safe Streets legislation in Albany – it made a requirement that when we reengineer streets, we do so in a way that is safe for cars but also pedestrians and cyclists. For us, it’s a question of who we are as a county. We have to have every option for transit – bicycles, pedestrians. We need to make sure we keep roads safe. I represented one of the most dangerous areas in New York State – Hempstead Turnpike – more fatalities – Complete Streets have to be integral to what we do. The county has hundreds of miles of county roads, some of the most heavily traveled in the country. As roads are redesigned, maintained, [we need to be] using Complete Streets [strategies]. That is my commitment. As we stress the need for transit-oriented development, Complete Streets are more important [including] connectivity to train stations.
Improving Public Transportation
Nick Sifuentes, Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Transit oriented development requires good transit – something that is slipping. Governor Cuomo announced an advisory council to address dual crises: congestion in/out of New York City, and lack of funding for MTA (including Long Island Railroad). As the future leader of Nassau County what are the policies and proposals you would like to see?
Curran: I would make sure we have strong advocate on the council – Suffolk has a strong guy, Nassau, we don’t even know who it is. I am happy that the third track is on track, because we need to ease getting on/off the island – how trains operate. I would also look to buses and encourage more people to ride the bus even if they don’t have to [instead of driving]. The more choice bus riders, the better we will be. There are interesting examples all over the country: ideas include creating smaller, more flexible routes, more app-based routes to make an appointment to catch a bus. I am excited to pursue these: for every $1 spent on bus transit generates many more dollars in economic activity. It’s not just poor people who need to use buses. It is obviously important for people to take buses to doctors appointments, university, jobs. That’s economic development… Also ride-sharing –I’m glad it’s [now] legal in Nassau County – young people aren’t driving as much.
Martins: Make mass transit more affordable. Use it to make LIRR more affordable, encourage people to leave their cars. As a parent, when I take my children into the city, I have to take out a loan to pay the roundtrip fare. We shouldn’t have that consideration instead of taking car. [Transit] has to be affordable . if they do something with congestion pricing, make it affordable for Nassau County.
Climate Change & Sustainable Development
Adrienne Esposito: Climate change is real. There is no debate. And Long Island is at the forefront of impacts. New York State set a goal of 50% renewals by 2030 but we can’t get there unless offshore wind is part of the [energy] portfolio. Will you support offshore wind (with site-specific environmental assessment)?
Curran: Absolutely. We have to look for renewable energy. Wind is a gift and we should be harnessing it and anything we can do to harness wind. Also renewables are a growing industry, and I don’t want to be on the losing end. I fought against the LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] port off Long Beach.
Solar panels have a really hard time with permitting – people have to deal with towns, villages, all with different permits that expire differently. We have to work hard with partners –because that is right to do for the environment and the economy.
Climate change. I am concerned with the rhetoric of the president that [the US] will be getting out of the Paris Climate Accord– especially being a coastal community, we see the ravages [of superstorms, sealevel rise]. I am heartened that governors and mayors around the country say they will stick to the Paris Agreement, and I have vowed as county executive to do the same.
Trump has said it is no longer necessary to [require that tax money used for infrastructure must take climate change resiliency into account]. I would insure that every penny would be used [would take] climate change [into account, that is, sustainable development].
Martins: Absolutely. Curious at [the goal of] 50% [renewable] by 2030. I visited Portugal a couple of years ago – toured their renewable portfolio. Portugal gets 60% of their energy from renewable – hydro, wind, solar, voltaics. We should too. I’m a big believer in offshore wind, a great resource for us – the corridor for offshore wind runs from Block Island to south Jersey. We’re in a great position to benefit from cheap energy from wind. I also understand great strides are being made in developing battery technology to store energy at Brookhaven National Labs. That would be an economic boost for us. Right now, the largest project in New York, the east end off Long Island is being staged from Rhode Island. That means jobs are in Rhode Island, economic development is in Rhode Island. It needs to be here on Long Island. If we make a commitment to offshore wind as energy, we should make a commitment to have those jobs here. We live on an island, we have a maritime history. Embrace it, make offshore wind industry here -manufacturing blades, turbines, opportunities for engineering next generation of offshore wind.
IDA Tax Incentives
Eric Alexander: Sustainability and smart growth, but also economic development. To focus growth in downtowns, the Nassau County IDA over the last 7 years provided tax incentives to thousands of units of affordable housing, mixed-use development by train stations… In an election year, attacking IDA incentives is politically popular but they have been anchors of revitalization efforts such as in Farmingdale’s affordable housing component. Will you continue that policy?
Curran: Farmingdale is a perfect example of transit oriented development.. The biggest problem now is you can’t get parking on a Saturday night. IDAs play a serious role, but are subject to attack because if you have nine self-storage facilities getting tax breaks, they aren’t economic drivers that create jobs. But when done right, [IDA tax incentives] can be real motivator, bring the right kind of development into Nassau County. That involves land use planning, that when we do a deal with a developer or business, that real jobs are being created or real taxes being generated from an enterprise, so the investment of taxpayers is returned. We need more transparency in the IDA – open up meetings to the public, let the public give input. When I talk about getting community buy-in for projects, that’s the way. You can’t force things on communities.
IDA is a real asset but must be used properly and if a developer or business doesn’t do what was promised, that there be a muscular way of addressing that.
Martins: My experience as mayor of Mineola, master plan, transit oriented development, overlay district –I see the effects when a community comes together – the commitment it has to expand housing stock, providing affordability for senior, next generation housing. The role for county government: it needs to work with local communities to identify areas where TOD makes sense – Hicksville, Farmingdale, Westbury, Glen Cove …. We as a county could expedite and incentivize. What I would do differently would be to make sure developers who are seeking tax (rebates) make sure they tell communities. Communities feel let down. Developers come before zoning boards and say they need greater density, etc, and then will have the ability to build this, and the community makes a decision to support that request, gives a variance they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. [The community] expects a revenue stream and a tax base that comes back to community. But the first thing is [the developer] goes to the IDA and gets tax credits which undermines what the community expects. So there needs to be transparency, part of the discussion before the decision, not after, that causes so much friction we see.
Generating Revenue for NICE Bus
Nick Sifuentes: How would you create additional revenue for the NICE bus?
Curran: I have suggested pots where money could come from: there is money that was borrowed 8 and 10 years ago that hasn’t been spent (that is a one-shot); the fund balance has way more than needs to be (also a one-shot). You are talking about recurring revenue. I propose that a small piece of ride-sharing money, Uber or Lyft – say 25 cents or 50 cents a ride – to go to buses. It makes sense because all are part of transportation. We could use a small portion of MTA tax and put that toward buses. And red light cameras are $12 million over budget – use some of that for buses. That’s also within the theme of transportation.
Martins: One of the first things I did in in the senate in 2010 and 2011 – I was identified as one of 50 most influential people on Long Island – my efforts to secure funding for Long Island bus was underpinning – NICE bus has a $130 million budget, $66 million from New York State, $45-50 from the fare box, the county puts in $6 million and the rest from ancillary fees, etc. – unbelievable the County only provides $6 million for a system that is so critical to the economy, when years ago, the county paid $20 million. Our responsibility is to put money in place because most who take bus have no other option – we want them to leave the car home – going to work, school, doctors appointments, that they have access to vibrant bus service. I suggested that for ride hailing, we have a surcharge – Uber, Lyft – that surcharge go toward bus. 10-11 million rides a year, 50c surcharge, would put $5-6 million directly into buses. A 50c surcharge is not only appropriate, but would provide a dedicated, steady revenue for buses.
Protecting Drinking Water
Audience Question: What is the most Important environmental issue facing the county and how would you address it?
Curran: The aquifer. We get our drinking water from one place: underground. I am concerned New York City is looking to open 70 wells in Queens. We don’t get another source of water but the city does [upstate reservoirs]. They are concerned about flooding basements so they want to bring down the watertable, but the consequences for us could be disastrous: saltwater intrusion, and could cause Grumman and Lake Success plumes [of contamination] to shift [direction. The Grumman plume is 4 miles by 2 miles and 800 feet deep, almost reaching Massapequa. I am glad to see Cngressmen King and Suozzi working together to [get the federal government] to clean it up. The fact this has gone on this long and the Navy and Grumman are not held accountable for decades….
Martins: The most critical issue facing us as a region, Nassau County, is water supply, making sure we protect our sole-source aquifer against all comers. We live on an island, and the aquifer is tied to Suffolk, Queens & Brooklyn. Our responsibility is to protect it. New York City has other options to get water from upstate reservoirs. Our only plan, A to Z is the sole-source aquifer. We haven’t treated it well over the years, with industrial and manufacturing years post World War II, a lot of damage done – Lake Success, Bethpage. We’ve seen the water supply under constant attack. We have great water providers – we do a good job in maintaining water supply –it is as clean as you get from bottled water- but we have a responsibility to do more – responsibility to surface water – protect our coastal waterways, make sure we enhance sewer systems, sewer treatment plants, make sure that years and decades of nitrogen charging, loading into bays are a thing of the past.
Preserving Open Space
Audience Question: How would you preserve open space in Nassau County from development?
Curran: A Great question because pretty much [all of Nassau] is developed. We have to keep what we have green – that is good to recharge the aquifer. We have to use space we have more wisely – in-fill. You sometimes see suburban sprawl – there is already concrete – you can in-fill with transit oriented development, with the buy-in of the community. There is a lot of new technology now. For example, the boat basin parking lot was redone with permeable pavement – that’s expensive, so you can only do it in small places but I hope it will become less expensive down the road. But in this way, it also keeps water coming into the aquifer.
Something I am excited about – with all the potential – is to look to a resiliency officer [for the county] to coordinate all these things, work with Public Works, the IDA, and other departments to coordinate efforts for environment.
Martins: The good news in Nassau County: we don’t have farms any more. We don’t have the kinds of open space issues that perhaps they have out east. We do have open space, it has to be preserved. Most of our development going forward – transit oriented – is reusing space already used, and taking and reassembling parcels. We have seen it in communities with TOD has been predicated on assembling parcels downtown – see it in Westbury, Farmingdale – we are mature communities. That development will take place not on existing open space but existing used space that is being recalibrated and brought into 21st century – to meet energy, parking, density requirements – so we have a more robust selection of housing than we have currently. Nassau County doesn’t have the housing stock, the variety, it needs – a lot will take place in downtowns around train stations to be most effective. Protect open space that exists, protect parks, invest in them, make sure are as good as ever have been.
Future of Renewables in Nassau County
Audience Question: What do see as the future of Nassau County when it comes to solar, wind, charging stations for electric vehicles?
Curran: We should have charging stations for electric cars. We have a county employee who plugs in and was written a letter to ‘cease and desist’ from the county attorney for ‘stealing county property’. We should start by the county using electric vehicles.
Martins: Charging stations, infrastructure wise, is easy. If we made a commitment to have more readily available – we can see best practices in other states, countries, where they have taken the initiative so we have more robust use because people trust infrastructure to be there to recharge. We haven’t done it. There is need need for a full array of renewable energy resources. We should look at the entire portfolio and see where it makes sense – voltaic cells as car canopies in parking lots – why aren’t we? Acres and acres of asphalt we can use to create energy and electricity now through EV. We have a corridor of offshore wind east of Long Island. I spoke to Deepwater Wind, no one better positioned than Long Island to build, maintain, develop that offshore wind corridor. Shame on us, New York State, if they aren’t going to prioritize those turbines, and those blades aren’t built here on Long Island. If we are going to spend billions of dollars for commitment to offshore wind, I want to make sure it is here in Nassau County economy.
Communities Impacted by Climate Change
Do you support legislation to provide for equitable distribution of resources to communities impacted by climate change specifically communities of color often left out?
Curran: We have to make sure all communities treated fairly. See the effects of climate change. The south shore still has zombie houses because of Sandy. They didn’t have an adequate advocate to help them rebuild. As legislator, I helped them connect to NY Rising, get small business funds, to get resources to rebuild.
Martins: Tax money, investment. We have to look at how dealing with county that is predominantly viewed as affluent while understanding we have areas of significant poverty – in places you wouldn’t necessarily think of – people have a home but are struggling to pay mortgage, taxes, raise families because the high cost of living isn’t an accident. We have among highest costs, so we have people relatively wealthy given their home, but still living with challenges. How we take resources, distribute, whether having to do with infrastructure improvements, access to cheap renewable energy, water safety quality, we have that synergy. I have never seen in my experience certain areas cut out of resources that way, but we have to be sensitive to it.
Recycle Treated Effluent
Why not recycle sewage and turn into drinkable rather than dispose into the ocean?
Curran: That’s not so crazy – people who run sewage treatment plants are working on a project – try to explain in not-boring way –to treat sewage so it looks like water – Sewage treatment plants use hundreds thousands gallons of water a day to do the work of cooling, etc. – Now, they draw that out of the aquifer. Wouldn’t it be better to take treated effluent, treat a little more and use that to do the work of sewage treatment plant, instead of drawing water out of aquifer? We are close to make this happen.
Martins: It’s an interesting point. I was happy to participate in Great Neck Water Pollution Control District – state of art facility – where they treat to a level where potable. I said, ‘You first.’
I had an opportunity to deal with different groups, where sewage can be treated and used for irrigation, plant maintenance and different things where not wasting potable water, can be reused for different purposes – not quite ‘there’ for drinking water… But if we send [effluent out to ocean] 3 miles – dilution rate for effluent – it will have negligible effect on ocean – it is coastal wetlands that are impacted if released right there – like Reynolds Channel. I would like to see part reused – whether for irrigation. We have to focus on continuing the current process of getting it as far from shore as possible so not to impact coastal wetlands, coastal environment, coastal economy.
Curran: I want to make Long Island environmentally sound, safe, healthy. I moved to Nassau County 20 years ago before we had kids. I came for the Long Island dream: single family house, great school down the block, parks, beaches. We knew we would pay high taxes, but that was part of the deal. As a taxpayer, resident, it is frustrating to see money spent on nepotism, bloated contracts when it could be used to develop technology. Your money is being wasted. I’m in this race because want to restore trust in government, make sure I hire people based on what they know, not who they know, that your money is not part of my reelection campaign. I am eager to get to work. Elect me to give Nassau County the fresh start it so richly deserves.
Martins: There are a lot of issues at play in this year’s election . I encourage you to do your homework, read up on candidates. Whether challenges are environment,t economy – up to county to pay for own budget. For 17 years, we have been under NIFA, not elected – make decisions, affects ability for us to make decisions for ourselves. We need to take control of own finances, pay bills, balance budget – get rid of NIFA so we can commit resources ourselves – whether environment, infrastructure, TOD, creating jobs we all want – so our children have the ability to come home, find jobs, rent apartment and stay here. The best years for the county are ahead, but contingent upon us making decisions about taking control of own county – an idea we haven’t been able to do, so should be shameful to all of us, myself included. Write that check and make that commitment going forward.
North Carolina Joins Climate Alliance, Bringing Total Membership to 14 States and Puerto Rico
Alliance Represents 41% of American GDP and 117 Million Americans, Enough to Be World’s Third Largest Economy
Economies of Climate Alliance States Are Growing Faster than Non-Alliance States, Demonstrating that Fighting Climate Change and Creating Jobs Go Hand-in-Hand
Ambitious Expansion of NY Green Bank to Grow Sustainable Infrastructure Financing and Combat Climate Change
The U.S. Climate Alliance – a growing coalition of 14 states and Puerto Rico committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – are collectively on track to meet and possibly exceed their portion of U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement. The announcement was made after the release of an independent report showing that U.S. Climate Alliance states are on track to reach a 24 to 29 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2025, fulfilling their contribution to the Paris Agreement targets.
The co-chairs of the U.S. Climate Alliance – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York State, Governor Jerry Brown of California, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, along with former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – spoke at a news conference in New York as part of Climate Week where they highlighted how states are stepping in to fill the void of climate action left by the federal government.
The governors also announced North Carolina as the newest member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, bringing total membership to 15, representing 36 percent of the U.S. population and $7.6 trillion in GDP – 41 percent of America’s total and enough to be the world’s third largest economy.
“While the federal government abdicates its responsibility on climate change, governors do not have the luxury of denying a scientific reality, and it is more important than ever for states to take collective, common sense action,” Governor Cuomo said. “Today, New York State is picking up the mantle of leadership and raising the bar in the global fight against climate change. As a co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance, we are committed to upholding our share of the Paris Agreement, driving the clean energy economy, and ensuring a greener future for our children and for all Americans.”
“Governors Cuomo, Brown, and Inslee and other governors who are a part of the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance know the stakes in the climate fight,”former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.“They are leading on climate where the federal government is failing to do so, joining partners in business and local government to ensure the U.S. is making progress every day. Today we are reaffirming to the American people and to the leaders from all over the world that the United States will not abandon the global community and put its children and grandchildren at risk.”
To accelerate progress and drive more critical climate-related investment, Governor Cuomo today also announced an ambitious expansion of NY Green Bank. Building on the success of its $400 million in commitments across 21 projects and robust pipeline of deals, NY Green Bank is today committing to work with the private sector to raise new funds, assist other states in the establishment of new Green Bank offices, and provide capacity to those new Green Banks for back-end services including due diligence, underwriting and general technical support.
The expansion will also allow NY Green Bank to better leverage public dollars and grow its own project development scope to clean energy projects in other states across the country. NY Green Bank is part of the State’s 10-year $5 billion Clean Energy Fund, which supports clean tech innovation and mobilizes private investment in clean energy in New York State. The Clean Energy Fund has already experienced successes beyond NY Green Bank – including its NY-Sun initiative that has helped facilitate over 800 percent growth in solar deployment over five years.
The bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance was launched in June in response to President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Today’s announcement marks the first time the U.S. Climate Alliance has quantified its emissions reductions. The main findings of the report include:
U.S. Climate Alliance states are on track to reach a 24 to 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025, fulfilling their contribution to the Paris Agreement targets.
Between 2005 and 2015, Alliance states reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent compared to a 10 percent reduction by the rest of the country.
During that same decade, the combined economic output of Alliance states grew by 14 percent while the rest of the country grew by 12 percent. On a per capita basis, economic output in Alliance states expanded twice as fast as in the rest of the country, showing that climate action and economic growth go hand in hand.
The report outlines areas where USCA states will focus collective efforts, including to expand clean energy finance tools, modernize the power sector, design energy efficient buildings, develop a green transportation system, build climate resilient infrastructure, and protect natural resources.
The U.S. Climate Alliance’s progress report comes two months before world leaders convene in Germany for COP23, where countries will further detail their plans to meet the Paris Agreement. Countries from around the world have reaffirmed their commitment to continue reducing emissions, despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the climate agreement. U.S. Climate Alliance governors plan to attend COP23 this fall to report on their climate progress and detail further plans and additional solutions to pool resources and confront the global threat of climate change.
The U.S. Climate Alliance builds on other recent advancements, such as the commitment by nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next two decades through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
“Today’s announcements reflect Governor Cuomo’s continued climate leadership, both in convening the U.S. Climate Alliance and through accelerating NY Green Bank to further advance financing solutions for sustainable infrastructure and clean energy. The U.S. Climate Alliance is showing that reducing emissions and economic growth can happen together, and NY Green Bank’s central effort in this regard to raise new capital will provide greater confidence to the marketplace, driving down costs for all while expanding New York’s clean energy economy,” New York State Chairman of Energy and Finance Richard Kauffman said.
Basil Seggos, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation, said,“Governor Cuomo is leading the nation to address what is arguably the greatest environmental threat of our generation by reducing emissions and bolstering community resiliency, while the federal government has abdicated its responsibility. From statewide efforts to increase renewable energy sources and ramp up energy efficiency, to supporting communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, New York is working to address the threat of climate change. We’re not sitting by the sidelines; New York and our partner states in the US Climate Alliance are taking action and clearly reaping the economic rewards of climate action.”
New York’s Climate Leadership
United States Climate Alliance: Cofounded the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the emissions reduction goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change at the state-level. The U.S. Climate Alliance now accounts for nearly $7.6 trillion in GDP, enough to be the world’s third-largest economy.
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Established ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. These targets have made New York a leader across the country in fighting climate change.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Spearheaded the formation of the successful RGGI cap-and-trade program among northeast and mid-Atlantic states, led effort to reduce RGGI’s carbon emission cap by 45 percent in 2014, and recently called for an additional cap reduction of at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.
Reforming the Energy Vision: Established a comprehensive energy strategy to make the vision for a clean, resilient, and affordable energy system a reality, while actively spurring energy innovation, attracting new jobs, and improving consumer choice.
Clean Energy Standard: Established the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history, requiring that 50 percent of electricity in New York come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.
Clean Energy Fund: Established a $5 billion fund that is jump-starting clean-tech innovation, mobilizing private investment, capitalizing the nation’s largest Green Bank, and helping eliminate market barriers to make clean energy scalable and affordable for all New Yorkers.
Coal-Free New York: Committed to close or repower all coal-burning power plants in New York to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.
Offshore Wind: Approved one of the nation’s largest offshore wind energy projects off the Long Island coast in 2017 and made an unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
Report Available Hereand Executive Summary Available Here
New York State is holding a global competition to find the best ideas to re-imagine the New York State Canal System so it becomes an engine for economic growth upstate as well as a world-class tourist destination. The competition, run by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation, is awarding up to $2.5 million to develop and implement the winning ideas.
“The Canal System is a vital part of New York’s storied past and it is critical that it continues to be an essential component of our state’s future,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “We’re looking for bold and innovative ideas that ensure the canal system and its surrounding communities can grow and prosper and with this competition, we encourage bright minds from across the globe to contribute their best ideas to help bring this piece of history to new heights.”
“Originally labeled Clinton’s Folly, the Erie Canal went on to become one of the most significant transportation milestones in our history, putting Upstate NY on the path to a century of prosperity,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “It is fitting that now, as we celebrate its bicentennial, we re-imagine how this iconic Canal can once again become an engine for economic growth across New York State.”
The competition was announced as New York continues the celebration of the bicentennial of the beginning of construction on the Erie Canal, in Rome, N.Y., on July 4, 1817. Next year, the State will mark the centennial of the 524-mile state Canal System, which includes the Erie, Champlain, Cayuga-Seneca and Oswego canals.
“There are many people in the public and private sector who are passionate about the canals,” said Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, which operates the state Canal System as a subsidiary. “We want to translate that passion into sustainable projects that will make the canal corridor bigger and better.”
Quiniones unveiled the competition today at the World Canals Conference in Syracuse, where hundreds of canal experts and enthusiasts from three continents are meeting this week.
“The building of the Erie Canal took persistence, vision and overcoming deep skepticism, but its construction transformed this nation,” Brian U. Stratton, New York State Canal Corporation director said. “Now, we want to transform the canals so they become go-to travel and recreation destinations. The entries can come from anywhere. Good ideas have no boundaries.”
The goals of the competition include soliciting programs and initiatives that promote:
The Canal System and its trails as a tourist destination and recreational asset for New York residents and visitors;
Sustainable economic development along the Canal System;
The Canal System’s heritage; and
The long-term financial sustainability of the Canal Corporation
The competition will seek entries on two separate tracks, one for infrastructure; the other for programs that have the potential to increase recreation use and tourism.
In the first round, entrants will provide information about how their proposal meets core competition goals and outlines the applicant’s qualifications. Finalists will each receive $50,000 to implement their ideas for the second round, where they will partner with either a municipality along the Canal System or a non-profit engaged in canal-related work. A panel of judges will select two or more winners to receive between $250,000 and $1.5 million to plan their projects and implement them.
Submissions for the first round are due Dec. 4. The final winners will be announced next spring.
Donald Trump loves all things “biggest”. Like the charge he gets over the United States being hit by the biggest climate catastrophes in history, Trump probably took a measure of delight at the “biggest” mass murder in US history – at this writing 59 dead and 527 injured in just a few minutes at the hands of a 64-year old white male spraying bullets with a military-grade assault rifle from 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel on an open-air folk-music concert attended by 22,000. Like shooting fish in a barrel.
In fact, there have already been 521 mass shootings in the 477 days since the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, the last record holder, drawing no remark from Trump. But this one is one for the record books.
Trump, predictably, evoked prayer and called for flying “our great flag” at half-staff. He calls for “unity” because it means mindlessly following authority. “God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.” Sure, that will salve the loss of loved ones. And to the wounded, numbering more than 500? “I pledge to you our support from this day forward.” What does that mean, exactly, when he is doing his best to take away health care from tens of millions, when any concept of health care he advocates would remove mental illness from the list of required conditions covered under Obamacare? Who pays for the multiple surgeries and rehabilitation to save and restore victims’ lives?
Imagine the tone he would have taken if the murderer was Muslim or a terrorist or a foreigner.
Trump will do his best to deflect from this tragedy, say “this is not the time” to consider sensible gun restrictions. He will call for greater security (police state), shift responsibility onto the hotel, say that 33,000 deaths a year is the “price of freedom” and move on to tax so-called “reform” aimed at furthering the redistribution of wealth to the already ridiculously wealthy and politically powerful like the NRA. Trump, the Republicans and the NRA would have us be soldiers and martyrs, terrorized and dying on the altar of gun rights. In the same way as he never criticizes Putin, Trump will never go against the NRA.
Will he be a leader and call for sensible gun violence prevention measures that are supported by 80% of Americans including overwhelming majorities of gun-owners and NRA members, like universal background checks? Of course not. Trump has already overturned Obama orders desperate to stem gun violence, including barring people who are deemed “mentally incapacitated” from buying a gun.
Instead, the Gun Lobby – the NRA and its gun manufacturer masters – knowing they have an dufus ally in the White House and a complicit Republican majority in Congress (even after Congressman Scalise was shot and his Republican compatriots at baseball practice fired on), are pushing to ease what little gun regulations there are, for example, opening up the floodgates to the use of silencers so that innocents can be even easier prey and police would have an even harder time locating a perpetrator. In 4 minutes, 1600 rounds fired, dozens die, hundreds face lifelong injury (and how are injuries and recovery paid for with the dismantling of health care?).
The gun lobby now is enthusiastically pushing for “Concealed Carry Reciprocity,”which would overrule any state’s gun restrictions to the weakest states laws. New York State’s tough restrictions would be nullified.
There is so much that could be done and should be done if Congress really cared to stem terrorism and tragedy and promote public health and safety: universal background checks, restoring the ban on assault weapons and mega-ammo magazines; requiring gun holders to register (after all, you have to register to vote) and universal background checks; regulating online sales and ending the gun-show loophole, banning people on the Terror Watch List from buying guns, ending Stand Your Ground. And easing access to mental health care. And while you are removing the ban suppressing pediatricians Hippocratic oath and freedom of speech to counsel parents to lock away their guns; overturning the Dickey Amendment to allow research on gun safety; requiring federal dollars for military and police weaponry be “smart guns” (like smart phones) to turn the industry around.
You can never know who will become a murderer – how often do you hear people say, “Who would have believed”, “He was such a nice man”.
But there is one common denominator for all these tragedies: the ease with which individuals can obtain weapons of mass destruction. ISIS has already invited would-be terrorists to take advantage of lax gun laws. You can’t stop every act of terror – but it is plainly clear that incidents that involve other weapons like knives and machetes and even cars, do not have the same lethal success of assault weapons.
“Accessibility to weapons is the greatest national security threat in the US,” a security adviser tells NPR, and Nevada has some of the loosest gun laws in the US. Combine that with what we like to call a “free society.” A lone wolf is the worst nightmare of law enforcement because they are impossible to track or detect.”
The Bill of Rights does not allow for any restriction on guns? Nonsense: read the full 2nd Amendment, not just the “shall not be infringed” part and you will see that it is the ONLY amendment that has qualifications and limitations built in: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state….” If you would be an “originalist” taking the 2ndamendment literally, you would restrict gun ownership to people who are in the National Guard or military or police – those who provide for the “security of a free state” and the “common defense” – there is nothing about an individual’s unlimited right to have a gun. And if you would be a true ideological, fundamentalist “originalist” you would restrict a gun to a single-ball musket, which was the most advanced technology of the time, a time when people had to hunt their food and protect themselves from Indians and in the absence of a standing army, settlers had to defend against an invading force.
On the other hand, the Constitution provides for a government “by the people, for the people” and for voting, and the Trumpists have no problem whatsoever imposing such onerous voter registration procedures and election site restrictions that become obstacles to the right to vote. Isn’t that interesting: it’s okay to require voter registration but not gun registration. In fact, in Texas, a gun permit is acceptable ID for voting, but a college student ID is not.
You can never know who will become a murderer (how often do you hear people say, “Who would have believed”, “he was such a nice man”) – as is the case of the Las Vegas shooter, who did not seem to conform with any of the usual attributes of a mass murderer (white male, 64 years old, no political or religious agenda, well-off, in a relationship, no history of mental illness). But there is a common denominator for all these tragedies – Tucson, Orlando, San Bernardino, Columbine, Virginia Tech – the ease with which individuals can obtain weapons of mass destruction. You can’t stop every act of terror – but it is plainly clear that incidents that involve other weapons – knives, machetes – do not have the same lethal success of assault weapons.
Consider how much of our GDP goes to security in order to protect the “freedom” of gun owners but take away the security, freedom, and the very lives of everyone else . Just look at the money we spend to safeguard our schools that could otherwise go to actually teaching. Now hotels, amusement parks, churches, shopping malls, and concert venues will also have to allocate their operating budgets. Think of the rights we allow to be trampled in order leave unrestrained the 2nd amendment: 1st amendment rights of free speech and assembly and 4th amendment right against unreasonable search and privacy. Would that they value voting rights as highly.
But as Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us, there have been more mass shootings this year than days of the year, this is just the most sensational.
“..it should be clear to all that we have got to do everything we can to stop guns from falling into the hands of people who should not have them. It is long past time for Congress to take action on gun safety to save innocent lives.”
Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, stated, “Easy access to guns–particularly weapons designed to kill many people rapidly–repeatedly leads to tragedy and loss of life. Rather than ‘thoughts and prayers’ from our elected officials, we need action to address this public health epidemic.”
Jim Dean, chair of Democracy For America, put it more bluntly:
“How is Congress responding to last night’s terror attack in Las Vegas? By getting ready to pass a bill to make it easier to buy silencers — a top priority for the NRA.
“Republican elected officials offer their thoughts and prayers. They lower flags to half-staff. But they will never act to stop gun violence and mass shootings, because they’re in league with the NRA.
“The NRA is unrepentant. They and their allies in Congress don’t think there’s anything wrong with what happened in Las Vegas last night. In fact, they are doubling down in support of laws that enable white men like Stephen Paddock to use guns to terrorize their families and communities.
“Congress has caved to the NRA after every mass shooting this decade, from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino, from Umpqua Community College in Oregon to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and so many more. They will keep doing so until we defeat them at the ballot box.
“The NRA and their Republican allies are not just promoting gun violence — they are promoting white supremacy and toxic masculinity.
“They refuse to acknowledge that these mass shooters are terrorists, because the people doing the shooting are mostly white men. When it’s a person of color, however, they’re quick to call them terrorists.
“The NRA’s primary agenda is to promote a culture of gun ownership among white men — often by demonizing people of color as threats. The NRA vehemently defends “stand your ground” laws that were used to let the man who killed Trayvon Martin off the hook.
“The NRA also openly enables violence against women, including by their past opposition to legislation to keep guns out of the hands of men who have threatened or committed domestic violence. Many mass shooters have a history of violent threats and acts against women. It’s part of the ‘profile’ of these shooters now.”
Gabby Giffords, who was an Arizona Congresswoman until she was shot in the head by a mass murderer only stopped when one of his guns jammed, and now heads Americans for Responsible Solutions, wrote: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this shooting, their families, and their friends. But the truth is, for those who have the power to act and to save lives, thoughts and prayers are not nearly enough.
“So today, I am praying for my former colleagues as well — that they find the courage to make progress on the issue of gun violence in America…
“Some will say that now is not the time to have this conversation, but the truth is that we cannot wait. Congress cannot delay. Now is exactly the right time to take positive action that will keep our our communities safer. The nation is counting on them.
“I also know enough from my time in Congress that action is only possible if people make their voices heard. So today, especially today, I want to ask you to do just that — to demand action from our elected leaders. Action that will save lives:
““Tell Congress: ENOUGH is ENOUGH. Pass legislation to make our communities safer from gun violence. To do nothing is not acceptable. Now is the time for action.”
“We watch, time and time again, as people describe these mass shootings as unimaginable acts of evil, but the sad fact is that this is not true. There is no other advanced nation in the world where these kinds of mass shootings happen with this kind of frequency.
“The only thing that is unimaginable is the continuous legislative inaction on this issue.
“Hopefully this time will be different, but I know that’s only possible if all of us are willing to act.”
Trump, who has already proved himself incompetent as a leader and who condones police brutality and torture and tells rallies, “Your 2nd Amendment is safe with me,” will do nothing beyond tweet his prayers and attack his critics.
Yes, this is one for the history books. The question is will it be surpassed? Thanks to the utter lack of sensible gun violence prevention, it is all too easy to do so.
After listening to very erudite analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics by Mark Rosenblum, a former Queens College Professor of Mideast Studies and co-founder of Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding (CERRU) at a meeting of Long Island grassroots activists, Reachout America, I came to my own enlightenment. It came when Rosenblum, who is also a founding member of Americans for Peace Now, showed us a map of Israel with the Palestinian communities shown as brown clusters on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Then he made this point: 80% of the 420,000 Jewish settlers in the so-called Occupied territory, the vast majority secular and not messianic Jews, live along a sliver of that territory that hugs the internationally recognized border of Israel.
Now, for the longest time, the contention has been that even though the Arab states invaded Israel in 1967 en masse intending to drive the Israelis (Hebrews) into the sea and despite the fact Israel won the war for its very existence, that the Palestinians are entitled to 100% of the land that Israel occupied (forget the fact that Israel has already given back the entire Negev to Egypt in a “land for peace” deal, and has already uprooted its settlers to give back the Gaza Strip). The Palestinians insist on Israel being returned to its pre-1967 borders, including dividing once again the holy city of Jerusalem, which it intends to make its capital. And even after the rest of the occupied territory is given “back” to Palestinians, they are still demanding the right of return into the Jewish State. They want it all, despite being the aggressors.
I happen to support a two-state solution, convinced of the argument as expressed by former President Ehud Barak when he spoke in Great Neck, that Israel cannot swallow up the Palestinians and simultaneously remain secure and democratic – the demographics are such that unless Palestinians are not allowed full citizenship (and the ability to vote and be represented in the Knesset), the Jewish State would fairly quickly become majority Muslim.
But what I don’t understand is that the Arabs who sought in 1967 and still today seek to destroy Israel (despite any calculatedly tempered language) should have all the territory returned without bearing any consequence.
Israel should not apologize for taking the lead on drawing the new borders – it should dictate those borders according to its own self-interest, and that means a unified Jerusalem and a border that includes the vast majority of the settlers, and no right of return.
Israel should be a contiguous nation with defensible borders – not hollowed out with a Gaza strip from which thousands of rockets have rained down on Israel’s civilian communities and would continue to be an incubator for terror attacks. That is intolerable. Israel should take back Gaza and allow the Palestinians to relocate to the new Palestinian state, or if they stay, become loyal citizens of Israel (yes I recognize the issue, but Israel already has Arab citizens). This would not be the same as ethnic cleansing, which is repugnant, because the Palestinians would not be thrown out. They would have the freedom to choose their citizenship, just as they chose to leave in the first place. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers would also have to be uprooted from the territory that abuts Jordan.
This is not to be confused with another sticking point, which oddly is rarely mentioned in terms of why the Israel-Palestine conflict has been intractable: the right of return. There should not be any right of return. In the first place, the Arabs who left, left because they thought they would be able to join the conquering army and throw out the Jews. In other instances, the land was purchased.
So, looking at the map that Rosenblum presented, carve out from that a Palestinian State. Let the Palestinians make their desert bloom as the Israelis did with sweat, innovation and invention.
I heard all of this, and then went to the UN General Assembly and heard Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basically say what Rosenblum said: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the larger Arab-Israel conflict – was the cornerstone, the touchstone about how to think about the Mideast, …the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the driver – if you don’t solve that problem, you don’t solve anything. Today, one has to think of Israel-Palestine in context of Mideast imploding with contagion.” And terrorism that has spilled over from the Mideast.
Netanyahu, put it another way:”We’re in the midst of a great revolution. A revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations. This is happening because so many countries around the world have finally woken up to what Israel can do for them.” This is because, he said, “Israel is THE innovation nation. THE place for cutting-edge technology and agriculture, in water, in cybersecurity, in medicine, in autonomous vehicles” and counterterrorism. Israel hasprovided intelligence that has prevented dozens of major terrorist attacks around the world. We have saved countless lives. Now, you may not know this, but your governments do, and they’re working closely together with Israel to keep your countries safe and your citizens safe.”
Indeed, Netanyahu had very little to say about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, except almost matter-of-factly, “Israel is committed to achieving peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians.” Instead, he devoted a considerable portion of his remarks attacking Iran and a call to “fix or nix” the Iran nuclear agreement and rein in Iran’s terror activities.
But while Netanyahu seemed to breeze through the Israel-Palestinian conflict (the topic of a Security Council meeting on Sept. 25), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in his General Assembly address, went on a tirade about how dare the UN not enforce the 1967 borders, including making Jerusalem the Palestinian capital, how dare the good people of the world not boycott the settlements, how dare Britain not apologize for the Balfour Declaration, and not make reparations to the poor, poor Palestinians, and how could the UN not demand the right of return (with recompense) to Palestinian refugees.
Mind you, Netanyahu had only hours before called the United Nations “the epicenter of global anti-Semitism.”
There is a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict: a two-state solution around practical borders that Israel gets to set. But there does not seem to be the ability to embrace it, as even Rosenblum, who has been working on the issue for 42 years, seemed to conclude:
“They will not by themselves have the will or capacity to pull themselves out of the mud and blood they are soaking in. Leaders on all sides -Netanyahu, Abbas, Trump – represent not the Three Musketeers but the Three Stooges. They will take us no where toward a historic breakthrough.
“The Israeli street and Arab street are stuck as to whether enemy or frenemy for eternity. Every morning, Mideast changes- yesterday frenemy is today ally, yesterday enemy is frenemy today.
“We have to find way of addition through subtraction,” said Rosenblum. “The real hope for a breakthrough toward Israel-Palestinian peace is coming from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Gulf States except Qatar. They treat Israel as an ally, a bulwark against Iran – that’s what the Trump generals are most interested in working on.”
United States Calls Pyongyang Non-proliferation ‘Case Study’, While Russian Federation Cites Fate of Former Iraqi, Libyan Leaders
(This account from the United Nations news bureau)
The de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula should flow from the lessons generated by the diplomacy that shaped the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, speakers in the Security Council said today.
During a ministerial-level briefing on the threat posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the best ways to halt the flow, speakers shared grave concerns about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests, many urging swift collective action.
Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Kazakhstan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program had placed that country on a nuclear-free path, adding that “we should, therefore, convincingly show Pyongyang the right ‘road map’.”
Workineh Gebeyehu Negewo, Ethiopia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, agreed, describing the Plan of Action as one of multilateralism’s most significant achievements and an important example of diplomacy at work. It could guide the Council and the international community in exploring mechanisms to address the serious and imminent threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, adding that Pyongyang’s continuous provocative actions should not weaken Council unity.
Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of State of the United States, described the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a case study in why nations should work towards non-proliferation. The country had joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the mid-1980s, but had never entered into full compliance, he said. That situation offered lessons for Iran, which was on its way to developing its own nuclear weapons, he said. Countries that had given up their nuclear arsenals had travelled on a positive trajectory, demonstrating that acquiring nuclear capability did not provide security. Rather, it presented a path to isolation and scrutiny by the global community, he said.
Vassily A. Nebenzia (Russian Federation) questioned that notion, saying the use of non-proliferation mechanisms to exert pressure on non-popular regimes was well known. He cited the fate of Saddam Hussein, who had no weapons of mass destruction, and Muammar Qadhafi, who had voluntarily renounced his own nuclear-weapons program. While those facts did not justify Pyongyang’s weapons program, it would be short-sighted to ignore the reason behind it, he said. Another reason for the tension in the region was the absence of any mechanism to provide security for all North-East Asian States, he said, adding that implementing the Russian-Chinese initiative would be a step in the right direction.
Wang Yi, China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, underscored the importance of promoting the resumption of talks and dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea while exerting pressure through sanctions. Emphasizing that countries must pursue sustainable security for all, and not just for themselves, he said pressure was necessary where appropriate if they violated rules. However, sanctions were not the panacea, he stressed, cautioning that confrontation and sanctions would only lead to escalation.
Kang Kyung-Wha, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, underlined the need for the Council and the international community to stand together and send a unified message. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had conducted two nuclear tests and launched 24 ballistic missiles in the past year, she noted, warning that continuing such actions would deal a crippling blow to the international non-proliferation regime.
Tarō Kōno, Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, voicing great concern about Pyongyang’s recent ballistic missile launch over his country, warned that “no bright future awaits North Korea if it continues on its present path” and all Member States must fully and promptly implement the relevant resolutions.
Briefing the Council at the outset, Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the same unity demonstrated in reining in weapons stockpiles and programs in Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria was needed to address Pyongyang’s provocative and dangerous nuclear and ballistic missile activities. “The most effective approaches to non-proliferation must involve a mixture of active, robust and wise diplomacy, strong international cooperation and a strong commitment to fully implement the decisions of the Council,” she said. “Addressing the threats and risks posed by weapons of mass destruction will also require new and creative efforts to complete unfinished business, including the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.”
During the debate, speakers also discussed several non-proliferation initiatives, from Council resolution 1540 (2004), aimed at preventing non-State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and related materiel, to the signing of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons at Headquarters on 20 September.
Enrique Loedel, Uruguay’s Vice-Minister for Political Affairs, noted that permanent Security Council members supplied 75 per cent of the world’s weapons. The goal of general and complete disarmament was far from being realized, as most recently seen in the marked absence of nuclear-weapon-States at the signing of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, he noted.
However, Mark Field, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, said his country’s Government did not believe that instrument was helpful.
Meanwhile, some ministers called for scrupulous adherence to existing instruments, with many agreeing that nuclear-weapon-free zones should blaze the trail towards ridding the world of such arms.
SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Egypt’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the Middle East remained an example of the Security Council’s selective handling of threats to the non-proliferation regime. It had failed to implement resolution 687 (1991), which contained an explicit recognition of the need to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, he said.
Also participating in the debate were ministers and other officials representing Ukraine, Sweden, Italy, France, Senegal and Bolivia.
The meeting began at 4:36 p.m. and ended at 7:01 p.m.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, recalled that in 1991, the Council had called upon Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction program, and had effectively normalized that country’s international non-proliferation obligations. On Iran’s nuclear issue, direct engagement and a commitment to dialogue had resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the Council had endorsed in resolution 2231 (2015). As inspectors continued to verify its implementation, a sustained commitment by all remained essential for the historic agreement’s success, she said.
The Council had also taken timely action to ensure the removal of vulnerable chemical weapons stockpiles in Libya, she continued, noting also that, through successful engagement by the Russian Federation and the United States, Syria had eliminated its chemical weapon program. Regrettably, evidence of chemical weapons use continued to appear in that country, she noted, emphasizing that those responsible must be held accountable. The Council’s unity and action was essential in that regard.
Turning to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she said that country’s provocative and dangerous nuclear and ballistic missile activities continued, in defiance of the Council’s decisions and of the will of the international community, undermining global norms against nuclear proliferation and nuclear testing. Following the Secretary-General’s repeated calls for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cease further testing, comply with Council resolutions and resume dialogue on denuclearization, its steady escalation of those actions must be reversed immediately, she said, reiterating the need for Council unity in that regard.
Reminding members that resolution 1540 (2004) remained a pioneering achievement in cooperative action to prevent non-State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and related materiel, she emphasized that maintaining its effectiveness would require keeping pace with global trends and emerging technologies that continuously lowered the threshold for the acquisition and use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material. “The most effective approaches to non-proliferation must involve a mixture of active, robust and wise diplomacy, strong international cooperation and a strong commitment to fully implement the decisions of the Council,” she stressed. “Addressing the threats and risks posed by weapons of mass destruction will also require new and creative efforts to complete unfinished business, including the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.”
REX W. TILLERSON, Secretary of State of the United States, said members of the Security Council talked often about threats to global security, noting that the current nuclear proliferation issue had worldwide implications. The positive trajectory of countries that had given up their nuclear weapons and the enormous responsibility of their stewardship meant that acquiring nuclear capability did not provide security but rather, presented a path to isolation and scrutiny by the global community. The current nuclear Powers should commit to sound practices and robust non-proliferation efforts to keep such weapons out of the hands of others, including terrorists and non-State actors, he said.
Recalling that Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and South Africa had all weighed the risks and made the decision to give up their nuclear programs or weapons, he noted that Kazakhstan, in partnership with the United States, had opted to join the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear State. Ukraine had made a similar choice after the Russian Federation’s incursion onto its territory. The United States was the only nation to have used nuclear weapons in warfare and it bore a responsibility to reduce nuclear dangers, he said, recalling that potential human extinction had loomed during the Cuban missile crisis, when the predominant emotion had been fear.
He went on to note that the Republic of Korea had opted not to pursue nuclear weapons and had grown into one of the world’s great Powers. By contrast, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea may assume that nuclear weapons would assure regime survival, but instead, they would lead to isolationism and ignominy, he said. Threats would not create safety for the regime but rather, would stiffen the resolve of the United States, he warned. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a case study in why nations should work towards non-proliferation. It had joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the mid-1980s, but had never entered into full compliance, he recalled, saying the matter had lessons for Iran, which was on its way to developing its own nuclear weapons. That country seemed keen to preserve for itself the right to resume such efforts in the future.
The Russian Federation and the United States shared the greatest responsibility to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, he affirmed. The two had cooperated together well in drafting the text of what would become the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but in recent years, the Russian Federation had behaved in ways that weakened global norms, violating its own obligations and flouting the security assurances it had made at the end of the cold war. Cooperation from China was essential if Pyongyang’s threats were to be brought under control, he continued. If China desired to help rid that country of nuclear weapons, it was time to work with the rest of the international community. Non-State actors, if given the chance, would seek death and destruction on a larger scale, he warned, pointing out that there was no scale larger than a nuclear attack. The international community must work to secure nuclear technology and disrupt proliferation networks.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said that deliberate non-compliance with sanctions resolutions undermined collective efforts for the maintenance of peace and stability. There was need to develop concrete mechanisms that would dissuade nuclear-weapon-possessing States that regularly violated resolutions on weapons of mass destruction. Concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he took note of the Council’s dilemma, whereby a military solution was not an option but launching a negotiation process was also not easy. Condemning Pyongyang’s actions, he said the continued pressure of sanctions was a step in the right direction. Kazakhstan called upon all parties to reduce tensions he said, urging consideration of the joint proposals by China and the Russian Federation. The role of the Secretary-General as mediator could not be underestimated, he emphasized.
Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, he stressed that the agreement had put Iran on a nuclear-free path. “We should, therefore, convincingly show Pyongyang the right ‘road map’,” he said, pointing out that the Joint Plan had been realized while sanctions were in play. Regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, he stressed that the Council must be united in its approach. Kazakhstan would continue to provide the Astana platform to facilitate a political solution, he said. The country would also continue to support the cooperation mechanism spelled out in resolutions 1540 (2004), he added, noting that his country was an active participant in its work, as demonstrated by its allocation of $50,000 earlier this month. The good of humanity must be placed above national interests so as to keep the world safe from weapons of mass destruction, he stressed.
SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said the total, verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons would depend largely on nuclear-weapon States fulfilling their obligations under article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, that goal remained hostage to misconceptions pertaining to strategic stability. “It is time for us, members of the United Nations, to have an honest and inclusive discussion,” he said. That discussion must question the argument that possession of nuclear weapons and reliance on nuclear deterrence contributed to international security and stability. It was misleading to address non-proliferation while disregarding disarmament, or selectively tackling cases of non-compliance, while ignoring the universal nature of the Treaty.
He expressed full support for the Council’s quest for a peaceful solution to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear activities, supervision of Iran’s compliance and the establishment of credible facts on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. However, the Middle East continued to be an example of the Security Council’s selective manner in addressing threats to the non-proliferation regime, he continued, pointing out that the Council had failed to implement resolution 687 (1991), which contained explicit recognition of the aim to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Furthermore, there was frustration, particularly in the Arab countries, due to repeated failures in undertaking efforts to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons, as stated in the resolution on the Middle East during the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Moreover, the decision by three of the Treaty’s States parties to block consensus on the final document of the 2015 Review Conference was disappointing, he said, underlining that the enforcement of disarmament and non-proliferation commitments should be addressed in a more inclusive manner, with all Member States participating.
PAVLO KLIMKIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said that 50 years after the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s entry into force, the possible use of such arms remained a threat, with some States still aspiring to create their own capabilities. In Syria, there had been blatant violations of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (OPCW), he noted. Meanwhile, the risk of dangerous materials falling into the hands of non-State actors had grown. “The mere fact that we have to discuss again how to enforce Security Council resolutions aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction clearly proves that the existing system of established norms and principles is eroded,” he said, adding that lack of real accountability for defiance only encouraged further breaches.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was the most appalling case, he continued. Recalling his country’s history under the Soviet Union, he said the rulers had created a famine by selling grain for gold, while using slave labour camps to boost their military and test nuclear weapons on their own people. To reverse the current trend, Council members should set differences aside and use every available tool to ensure full compliance with relevant decisions, he said. To address rapid developments in science and technology, cooperation must be strengthened among all stakeholders.
Ukraine had voluntarily dismantled its nuclear arsenal because it believed in international principles, but “we were too naïve”, he noted. Having confronted aggression by a nuclear-weapon State, with the Russian Federation violating international obligations and undermining the United Nations-based security system, Ukraine was convinced that the global non-proliferation regime would benefit immensely from enforceable security guarantees. “Empty proclamations do not convince anyone anymore,” he said, stressing that the Council must spare no effort to prove that the non-proliferation system worked, otherwise the world map would be redrawn by newly emerged nuclear actors.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, called for universal and comprehensive implementation of existing sanctions regimes, in particular the non-proliferation-related sanctions imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The international community must all work together to implement those sanctions fully in order not to help that country’s illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs, she said. Improved monitoring and targeted capacity-building were important measures requiring Council and diplomatic engagement.
Turning to Syria, she commended the OPCW and the Joint Investigative Mechanism on having fulfilled their mandate of investigating the use of chemical weapons in that country and identifying those responsible. The Council must stand united to ensure accountability for the perpetrators, she emphasized. In that context she underscored the importance of resolution 2231 (2015) and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy had described as “an historic achievement for the security of the region and of the whole world, and a success for multilateral diplomacy that has proven to work and deliver”. It was vital that all parties continue to implement their commitments, she said, while stressing that implementing resolutions was just one side of the coin. “We must also nurture and defend the existing multilateral instruments that we have established to curtail the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Unity is key.”
TARŌ KŌNO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, voiced great concern about Pyongyang’s recent ballistic missile launch over his country, recalling that it had conducted its sixth nuclear test earlier in the month, which was on a far greater scale than previous tests. Those actions not only posed grave challenges to the international non-proliferation regime and violated relevant Security Council resolutions, they also posed an unprecedented and imminent threat to peace and security in the region, including Japan.
“No bright future awaits North Korea if it continues on its present path,” he warned, urging Pyongyang to fully implement the related Council resolutions, including resolution 2374 (2017), and take concrete actions towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It must return to compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty of Nuclear Weapons and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement as soon as possible. Denuclearizing the Peninsula would require the strongest possible international pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he emphasized, adding that current measures were insufficient. All Member States must fully and promptly implement the relevant resolutions, he stressed. “No State should be allowed to become a loophole in the North Korea sanctions regime.”
Turning to the non-proliferation of chemical weapons, he reminded Council members about the 1985 sarin gas attack in Japan, underlining that the use of such weapons was unacceptable under any circumstances. He condemned the use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan-Shaykhun, in Syria, while voicing support for the nuclear deal with Iran, which, he noted, was contributing to the international non-proliferation regime and stability in the Middle East. It was extremely important that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action be continuously and steadily implemented, he emphasized. However, Iran’s ballistic missile launches were inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015), he noted, urging that country to play a constructive role in the region.
ANGELINO ALFANO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, said non-proliferation should be defended as a guarantee of peace, security and stability. He condemned Pyongyang’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan on 15 September, saying the Security Council must send a clear message to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that any further attempts would backfire. Noting that Iran had moved in a positive direction on its own nuclear program, he said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had delivered gains for global security by imposing strict limits on Tehran’s nuclear program.
However, the deal was just the beginning, and it was important to ensure that Iran did not sway off the path of nuclear non-proliferation, he continued. There had been no progress in Syria, but rather the repeated use of chemical weapons against innocent people. Concerning sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he emphasized the importance of monitoring their implementation in order to get a precise picture of the country’s compliance. It was also important to address weaknesses in the enforcement of the measures. Sanctions should have an impact on the regime’s proliferation programs, he said, while stressing the need to avoid negative effects on the humanitarian situation.
WANG YI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said non-proliferation still faced challenges, with a few countries defying the international community and conducting tests. Non-State actors may now have access to weapons of mass destruction, and non-proliferation was now a matter of international peace and security. Emphasizing that countries must pursue sustainable security for all, and not just for themselves, he said it was necessary to exert pressure where appropriate if they violated rules.
However, sanctions were not the panacea, he continued, cautioning that confrontation and sanctions would only lead to escalation. Rather, negotiations presented the way out. Non-proliferation must be upheld as a customary international law that was crucial for security and order, having prevented more countries from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, he said. In terms of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he underscored the importance of promoting the resumption of talks and dialogue while exercising sanctions.
JEAN-BAPTISTE LEMOYNE, Secretary of State Attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, described the non-proliferation picture as bleak. With the barbaric use of toxic agents in Syria and Iraq, the world was witnessing the re-emergence of weapons thought to have been banished to the annals of history, he said. Concerning the growing risk in the Korean Peninsula, the regime in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was pursuing military escalation and had provided evidence of its irresponsible attitude through its actions.
There was also an increasing risk of sensitive technology and goods being diverted, he said, adding that proliferation was no longer the exclusive domain of one type of actor. The risk of non-State actors getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction was now a dangerous reality. The case of Iran confirmed that a proactive attitude on the part of the international community worked, but it must respond to Iran’s stepped-up ballistic missile activity that was not compliant with the relevant Security Council resolution, he said.
MARK FIELD, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific of the United Kingdom, said the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was the gravest of international security concerns. Shared rules and norms were designed to keep the world safe, and the Council had the responsibility to respond when such weapons were used, he said, adding that nations should implement measures imposed by the Council and go further when the situation required.
A system of sanctions had been developed against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, recalling that Secretary of State Tillerson had made it clear that regime change and accelerated reunification of the Korean Peninsula were not desirable. Nor was it desirable to harm the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who suffered deprivation and hardship. That was why that nation should be pressed to respect the Council’s resolutions and change its reckless course, he said.
Turning to Iran, he said the multilateral system delivered results, noting Tehran had rolled back its nuclear program and that the IAEA had enjoyed unprecedented access. The situation in Syria, however, posed serious proliferation challenges, he said, recalling that sarin gas had been used earlier this year, in clear violation of the prohibition of its use. The Government of the United Kingdom did not believe that the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, opened for signature yesterday, was helpful.
ENRIQUE LOEDEL, Vice-Minister for Political Affairs of Uruguay, said the goal of achieving general and complete disarmament was far from being realized, and had most recently been seen in the marked absence of nuclear-weapon-States at the signing of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons on 20 September. The only guarantee against the use or threat to use nuclear weapons was their prohibition and total elimination, he said, emphasizing that the Council must remain united on the Korean Peninsula issue. Dialogue and negotiations must be the only viable solution. Those using banned weapons must be held accountable, as in the case of chemical weapons use in Syria. Noting that permanent Security Council members supplied 75 per cent of the world’s weapons, he urged all members to ensure compliance with all non-proliferation agreements.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) expressed concern about non-State actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction, citing the use of chemical weapons in the Middle East and online threats as recent examples alongside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons in contravention of international law. Without real political will to end the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their spread would only grow, he warned. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had launched a test after the Council had adopted a resolution to end such actions, he noted. Stressing the need to pursue a peaceful and diplomatic settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said the lack of effective implementation measures had led Pyongyang to continue its program. To change that, the Non-Proliferation Treaty must become universal, he said, adding that more must be done to strengthen cooperation in areas including border control and cybersecurity.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said he was surprised at the inclusion of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among today’s topics. The meeting was a discussion of general principles, rather than fighting States deemed to be pariahs by certain Council members. The concept note by the United States linked the situations of three countries that had nothing in common with each other, he noted. He recalled that in 2004, the Russian Federation and the United States had reaffirmed the importance of erecting a legal framework for cooperation on non-proliferation matters, but the political landscape had subsequently changed and that concept had been sacrificed on the altar of geopolitical maneuvering, he recalled.
The use of non-proliferation mechanisms to exert pressure on non-popular regimes was well known, he said, citing the fate of Saddam Hussein, who had no weapons of mass destruction, and Muammar Qadhafi, who had voluntarily renounced his own nuclear-weapons program. While those facts did not justify the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s weapons program, it would be short-sighted to ignore the reason behind it, he said.
Turning to Syria, he noted that Council resolution 2118 (2013) contained the obligation of neighbouring States to inform the Security Council of any attempt by non-State actors to obtain weapons of mass destruction. Judging by the lack of reports, however, there was no problem, yet the Russian Federation’s attempts to raise that issue had been suppressed by its Western partners. He emphasized that there had been repeated reports of Da’esh using toxic substances, which should have been investigated but instead had been disregarded.
He went on to underline that Iran was in full compliance with its obligations, adding that the United States leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would be the worst signal to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The reason for the tension in the region was not only Pyongyang’s missile program, but also the absence of any mechanism to provide security for all North-East Asian States, he pointed out. Implementing the Russian-Chinese initiative would be a step in the right direction.
SACHA LLORENTTY SOLIZ (Bolivia) said his country was a constitutionally peace-loving nation, which promoted cooperation with the world’s peoples with full respect for sovereignty. Its Constitution prohibited the manufacture of chemical and nuclear weapons on Bolivian territory, and during its Security Council presidency, Bolivia had held debates on preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors so as to avoid the political and humanitarian catastrophes that could arise from their use. While resolution 1540 (2004) was a platform for assistance and cooperation among States to stop non-State actors from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, Bolivia did not agree with the use of that platform for purposes of coercion, he said. Calling upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its nuclear program and comply with Security Council resolutions, he urged other parties to avoid fanning the flames of tension, curb their rhetoric and avoid the threat to use military force. There could be no military solution to that crisis, he emphasized.
WORKINEH GEBEYEHU NEGEWO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, citing Secretary-General António Guterres’ recent declaration that global anxieties about nuclear weapons were at their highest since the end of the cold war. Most pressing was the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, emphasizing that political and diplomatic efforts must identify a negotiated solution.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was one of multilateralism’s most significant achievements and an important example of diplomacy at work, he said. That lesson could guide the Council and the international community in exploring mechanisms to address the serious and imminent threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, whose continuing provocative actions should not weaken Council unity.
Turning to the broader threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of non-State actors, he emphasized the importance of scrupulous adherence to related multilateral agreements. More must be done to ensure universal accession and full implementation of such agreements, he said, emphasizing that nuclear-weapon-free zones must remain central to the global and regional non-proliferation regime. The Council, for its part, played a critical role in addressing weapons proliferation by using all available tools, including sanctions, he said. “All of us should be able to fully implement Council measures for them to meet their intended objectives,” he added.
KANG KYUNG-WHA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had conducted two nuclear tests and launched 24 ballistic missiles in the past year. In less than nine months this year, it had conducted another nuclear test and launched 19 ballistic missiles. The most recent launch, on 3 September, was the most alarming of all as its explosive yield exceeded by far the sum of all five previous tests, she said, underlining that Pyongyang also claimed to have a hydrogen bomb that would be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile. Yet, even after the Security Council had responded with its strongest-ever resolution, Pyongyang had launched another ballistic missile that had flown 3,700km over Japan, she said.
Amid continuing nuclear tests and missile launches, the initial sense of urgency appeared to be “somewhat lost” and the adoption of new resolutions even seen as a ritual, she continued. The leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was quoted as having said that his country was in the final stages of nuclear weaponization and that it would demonstrate that achievement to the world despite endless sanctions. Warning that continuing such actions would deal a crippling blow to the international non-proliferation regimes, she declared: “We may be rapidly approaching a point of no return.”
Calling for a renewed sense of urgency and full implementation of Security Council resolutions containing sanctions, she emphasized that the measures were not meant to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but to bring it back to the negotiation table for denuclearization. Pyongyang appeared intent on taking advantage of the weakest link in the international community to defeat the resolutions, she cautioned, emphasizing that it was critical that the Council and the international community stand together and send a united message. In close cooperation with the international community, the Republic of Korea would work to denuclearize the Democratic People’s Republic and restore permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, she said, urging Pyongyang to “come to the right side of history”.