Judging by the Women’s Marches – 280 of them around the country that drew 2 million activists on behalf of women’s reproductive freedom, health care, workers rights, DACA, climate, gun control – the Democrats were headed for a rout in 2018.
Now, pundits are questioning whether the government shutdown – and then the capitulation by Democrats – will jeopardize the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate and even the House.
And sure enough, the Republicans have proved yet again they are so much better at message manipulation – the signature talent of every autocracy.
It is a curious thing because the 2013 government shutdown, forced by Republicans who held Obamacare hostage and the many instances of Republicans coming to the brink of endangering the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening the debt ceiling, nonetheless won victories in the 2014 midterms, even taking over the Senate.
But it is different for Republicans who want to tear down government, and Democrats, who actually believe that government can be and should be a force for good.
But what did the Republicans actually win besides the message game? A few days reprieve? When instead the government shutdown over a failure to follow through on the deal to reauthorize DACA so clearly demonstrated the dysfunction, dishonesty, bad faith and sheer cruelty of Republican domination?
And is it wise for Trump to crow that Schumer “caved,” for Pence to go to the Middle East and lambast the Democrats as enemies of our soldiers, for the OMB Director Mike Mulvaney to mimic the phrase being hyped by Russian bots, #SchumerShutdown, and the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to show glee that Schumer is “feeling the heat from the left, with #SchumerSellout trending on social media and Democrats who supported reopening the government are being branded as traitors”?
And how cynical is it for Trump to issue a reelection campaign ad blaming Democrats in advance if anyone is murdered by an illegal immigrant, yet taking no responsibility at all for 33,000 gun deaths a year (a woman is shot and killed by a current or former partner every 16 hours. 10 kids and teens are killed each month in unintentional shootings) and the ease with which terrorists can buy guns because of Republicans’ refusal to adopt reasonable gun control measures?
After all, this is yet another temporary spending measure, which Democrats and some Republicans have decried as no way to run a $4 trillion government since the military, municipalities and agencies can’t do long-range planning or contracts, and we will be right back here on Feb. 8. Fool me once….
Schumer and the Democrats really had no choice but to withhold the votes needed for cloture (the filibuster) which triggered the shutdown, and no choice in coming to this temporary arrangement to reopen government.
Let’s be reminded though: it’s not Democrats who caused the shutdown – five Republicans voted against the CR while five Democrats voted with the Republicans (by modern standards, that’s called “bipartisan”).
Indeed, Trump was rooting for a government shutdown. “The country needs a good shutdown” he said months ago, and referred to this shutdown as “a nice present” –because he believed Democrats would be blamed and weakened and (cherry on the cake) hoped it would get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to trigger the “nuclear option” and end the 60-vote threshold for cloture (the filibuster) so that Republicans could rule without any Democratic input whatsoever.
But for the entire first year of the Trump nightmare when Republicans were in full control of all the levers of government, they chose to rule as if a monarchy, shutting out Democrats entirely, and manipulating votes so that they only needed 50 instead of 60 – on several occasions, needing the Vice President’s vote to get to 51 to pass legislation opposed by large majorities of Americans. The only mechanism for Democrats to have any say whatsoever, and get CHIP and DACA reauthorized was to withhold their votes on the short-term spending bill.
For decades, now (when Democrats are in the White House), “populists” have been decrying the dysfunction in Washington, looking to demagogic characters from outside Washington (they are only “outside” until they are “inside”) to break the logjam and get things done. That’s what many Trump voters said they liked about Trump. They fell for his con: he isn’t disruptive, he’s destructively dysfunctional.
But look to the source of the dysfunction: it goes back to Newt Gingrich and the “Contract for America” ( “Contract on America” is more apt) – 1994 was the first time the Republicans used a shutdown as extortion. And it goes back to the Hastert Rule, named for the pedophile who was the longest-serving Speaker of the House, that bars the Republicans from passing any legislation that is not supported by the majority of Republicans, rather than the majority of the House or the American people, a tough thing to do with the Tea Party fringe and now the Trumpers.
It is because of the Hastert Rule that we do not have affordable health care, sensible gun violence prevention, immigration reform, campaign finance reform, environmental protection – all supported by huge majorities of Americans – and a tax code and federal budget that help uplift people rather than steer this country to unsustainable income inequality that is so dangerous for a democracy.
Add to that the end of earmarks – championed by none other than Senator John McCain who felt they were the source of corruption in Congress – and you have no bargaining chips whatsoever to forge a compromise. (Trump wants to bring back earmarks, so he can turn a $1 trillion infrastructure plan into a political slush fund.)
But Democrats – or rather the extreme left wing championed by Bernie Sanders – seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot, and instead of cheering Schumer for getting 12 Republican Senators to pledge to take up legislation to protect DACA recipients before Feb. 8, they blasted him for capitulating.
Really, what was Schumer supposed to do? Republicans were weaponizing the government shutdown, rather than being embarrassed that Trump, The Greatest Dealmaker in the History of the World, was shown to be an emperor with no clothes (he fidgeted while the capital burned) with no actual grasp of policy or long-term impacts so that he could be swayed and steered by the most virulent, anti-immigrant advisers (Steven Miller and John Kelly), and the Republicans being shown as being incapable of governing on behalf of the people instead of just their donors (the 1%).
Now it is likely that no matter how the Senate is reminded they are supposed to be an institution based on compromise and rational deliberation – and that Congress should realize it doesn’t have to wait for Trump at all, but pass reasonable legislation on its own – my prediction is that Speaker Paul Ryan in the House will kill any DACA legislation or any immigration legislation as he did in 2013, tabling Comprehensive Immigration Reform that passed the Senate by a significant majority.
Or that Steve King, Tom Cotton, Steve Miller and John Kelly will come up with something so draconian – legalizing the Gestapo-like roundup and deportations of 11 million undocumented immigrants, throwing out green card holders, shutting borders to refugees and severely curtailing legal immigration for anyone but white people with money to invest in Trump properties – that Democrats won’t be able to vote for it. Ha ha, the irony.
But my money is on the Women’s Movement – no longer a march, but ongoing activism that will result in a major voter registration drive, record number of women running for elected office (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and to get out the vote in the 2018 midterms. #PowertothePolls.
Some 200,000 took over the streets of New York City for the Womens March, exactly one year after Donald Trump gave his dystopic inauguration speech and one year after the first Womens March that brought out millions in the largest single day of protest in history.
The Government shutdown kept Kristin Gillibrand away. It also overshadowed news coverage.
No matter. The women had already learned that the change we need, the rights we want, are up to us. It was important to be together, to see comrades in arms, to be amid a sea of people – 200,000 was the official count in New York City – who despite the fact there were 280 other womens marches taking place across the country including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago with about 2 million turning out – still came from all over the country, all ages and walks of life.
They marched for the Womens Agenda, which includes a score of vital issues: an end to sexual harassment, assault and extortion is one; reproductive rights and the right to self-determination as well as Equal Protection is another (somehow always get overshadowed and put on a back-burner of priorities). But the list encompasses access to affordable health care, gun violence prevention, environmental protection, protection for Dreamers and rational, humane immigration reform that keeps families together and ends the torture of insecurity. They marched for justice and fairness: political, social, economic, environmental and criminal justice.
There was definitely a change in attitude from last year, when people marched to show their despair over the selection by the Electoral College of Donald Trump as president, despite Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be a serious contender for President, winning 3 million more popular votes, and they marched to put the Republican majority in Congress on notice which they didn’t heed. This year, the Womens March was ramped up on anger and a new jeer, courtesy of Trump himself: “Shithole” is what marchers yelled as they passed Trump International on Columbus Circle, his incarnation; otherwise placid grey-haired suburban women giving the middle finger.
Anger and determination. It doesn’t matter whether or not the news media covered – in this case, the conundrum, “if a protest happens but no one reports it, did it happen?” doesn’t apply. The marchers aren’t asking permission, they are marching to register voters, launch the candidacy of a record number of women (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and get out the vote in the 2018 midterms.
Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls”
Instead of Trump and the Republicans heeding the message of the 2017 womens marches, the year has been one long travesty – the news didn’t bother to report – about stripping away women’s reproductive freedom (441 rulings limiting access just since Jan. 1), access to health care, their children’s health care, rolling back the regulations that protected the environment and public health and safety, launching reign of terror against undocumented immigrants, a tax code that literally robs working people to further enrich the already obscenely rich and undermines the ability to reach the American Dream and threatens Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.
“The 2017 Women’s March unleashed a collective energy for change that continues to this day,” Laura McQuade, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City said at a pre-march rally held by New York Planned Parenthood. “President Trump and Congress have spent the last year pushing policies to take away our hard won rights, roll back our ability to make decisions about our own lives, and block access to the fundamental health care we need and deserve. And we’ve responded with the largest grassroots movement in a generation. New York must be a leader in this fight. We have the momentum behind us and we won’t stop fighting until ALL New Yorkers have the ability to live the fullest lives they can.”
“We march to demand full equality for women,” JoAnn Smith, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County.“We know that 2018 promises to be a pivotal year for women’s health and rights. If 2017 taught us anything, it is that woman are a potent political force in fighting for a just world.”
“The Women’s March tapped into an energy that is even more powerful one year later,” Vincent Russell, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic.“In the past year, we defeated Trumpcare and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, witnessed voters turn out to make their voice heard with amazing results, and saw victims of sexual harassment speak out and say ‘No more!’ I continue to be amazed by our dedicated supporters who turn out, sign petitions, and march to ensure that each individual is empowered to determine their own reproductive future and have control over their own body.”
“We must step forward to achieve our goals,” says Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts. “While the Women’s March started in the streets like many other social movements throughout history, the energy and power must transition into deeper action to create lasting change in policies and laws, to counter this harmful federal agenda. We must march toward seats in the halls of power, call out injustice and push for legislative change locally and on a state level. We must protect our people against discriminatory and damaging policies that impact access to justice, health care and progress in this country.”
At the rally before the march, New York State Attorney General declared, “I’m your lawyer.” He was referring not only to women’s rights including reproductive rights, but the due-process rights of the undocumented, of the Dreamers.
“Equal justice means that there is not one set of rules for the powerful and another for everyone else.
“This is a moment of transformation for the US. All of you here and across the country, showing up, registering and mobilizing, have built a movement to transform the country. You are no longer just the opposition. You are committed to justice and making sure government delivers.
“We believe in unions and the right to organize; that health care is a right, not a privilege; in a woman’s right to control her body and reproductive health care. If not, a woman is not truly free. We embrace a vision of America as one of pluralism and diversity, equal justice. We fight for the rights of immigrants. We are against white supremacy, against male supremacy in all its forms.
“I’m proud to be your lawyer, to fight the toxic volcano of bad policy, to fight for justice, equality, fairness, dignity and respect. We can never go back, only forward.”
Halsey, a Grammy winning Jersey girl, told her story on behalf of the many victims of sexual assault and extortion in the way that best captured the emotion, in a stirring poem:
It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
Ashley Bennett, newly elected Atlantic County, NJ Freeholder, said she was motivated to challenge her opponent after last year’s March when he said he hoped the women would get back in time to prepare dinner. “Because you marched, I took the first step toward changing my own community… people standing together for equal citizenship, pay, respect. When ordinary people stand for what they believe, for a common purpose, for the betterment of their community, extraordinary things happen…You don’t have to be perfect, just willing.”
The women marched for workers rights, for a living wage, for the right to collective bargaining.
Nancy Kaufman of the National Council of Jewish Woman, working on behalf of civil rights, workers rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights for 125 years, said, “We work to resist racism, sexism, Islamophobia” battling back against the “repeated, relentless assault on the Affordable Care Act, the goal of ending access to healthcare for millions.” The Republicans, she said, were willing to shut down government rather than allay the anxiety of Dreamers, or to reauthorize health care for 9 million children.
“Enough, we’re fed up. Persist and Resist because our democracy depends on it, for us, for our children and grandchildren. Our voices, our votes will count in November 2018 and November 2020. March on, turn passion into action today and every day.”
Ann Toback of the Workman’s Circle, fighting for worker and immigrant rights since 1909, winning the 8 hour workday, child labor laws, worker safety. “As Jews, we know too well the danger of name-calling, threats, closing borders…. The Jewish community is here to say, ‘Never again, the subjugation of women, immigrants, Muslims. All must be welcomed, protected, empowered. The way to victory is for all to stand united and resist bigotry. Attacks on one are attacks on all. Fight back the attacks on women, the deportation of 800,000 Dreamers whose only crime was not being born here – they didn’t cause the shutdown. Trump caused it…. We will rise up, resist. We will win.”
Actors Veronica Dunne and Rosie Perez spoke to the #MeToo movement and the need for women to mobilize. “This is our time. Power to the Polls. Create the world you want to live in because no one will do it for you.”
Nadina LaSpina spoke up for the rights of those with disabilities. “My body, my choice. We want control over the way our bodies are cared for and who cares for us, choose where care is provided – in home not an institution, not having treatments or drugs forced, never being denied care we need or want, not having strangers grab us, ask personal questions, stare with contempt, view with suspicion of a disability that is not obvious or visible, the assumption that a disability makes us less valuable as human beings. But this is a marginalized group that everyone can join – you never know what will happen. It intersects with all other s- women, color, immigrant, LGBTQ, seniors, poor. Many are forced into poverty by discrimination in the workplace – those with disabilities earn 37% less than persons with equal qualifications. Many are forced into poverty by the for-profit health care system. You have to impoverish yourself to be eligible for Medicare to pay for long-term care. Medicaid is under attack.
Disabled activists were dragged out of Congress and arrested, but stopped a bill that would have taken away your health care. Health care must be equal for all. Medicare for all, and include long-term care.
“We are strong fighters, we’ve been fighting for a half-century. We are not going to let our hard won rights be stripped away by a brutal, vicious administration and Congress. Put an end to this political nightmare. Move forward toward equality for all.”
Sulma Arzu-Brown, an immigrant rights advocate, said, “What 45 has done to this country has taken us back decades, even centuries. I never thought this country would be banning Muslims…. Save the soul of this nation and don’t let 45 destroy what we built. Show up for one another.”
“The Religious Freedom Act has been revived, marginalizing LGBT and repudiating the rights movement. Don’t let them dictate what we do with our bodies, how we choose to live our lives.”
Whoopi Goldberg told the rally, “The only way we are going to make a change is to commit to change.” (See video https://youtu.be/NjpJdF_9JuQ)
On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the first Women’s March that was the largest single day of protest in history, women came out in force again in New York City and more than 250 locations around the country.
They marched for womens rights, reproductive freedom, for health care; for #MeToo and #TimesUp to take a stand against sexual assault, harassment, rape and extortion. They marched for gun control and against domestic violence. They marched for families, for immigrants, for Dreamers, for the LGBTQ+ community. They marched for Mother Earth and the environment, for science and facts. They marched for voting rights, for a free press and for truth. They marched to assert basic American values- its better angels – of tolerance, diversity, and for economic, environmental, political and social justice.
200,000 was the official count in New York City – marchers were lined up from 63rd Street to 86th Street, but all along the side streets as well, where it took as much as 2 hours just to get onto the Central Park West march route.
And unlike last year’s march which brought out millions, reflecting the despair of the aftermath of the 2016 election and was supposed to send a message to Trump and the Republicans who controlled Congress and the Courts (they didn’t get it), this day of marches – some 250 around the country bringing out some 2 million – was about action: it kicked off a voter registration drive to add 1 million to the rolls, the candidacies of a record number of women running for office (16,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List for support in 2017), and a Get out the Vote drive for the 2018 midterms.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed another.
The vulgarity, misogyny, bigotry and racism that Donald Trump brought to the Oval Office came down to the streets, with bursts of profanity in words (“shithole” was a popular one that Trump just introduced to the vernacular only a week ago) and gestures, with marchers giving the finger as they passed Trump International Hotel, the closest incarnation they would ever have. The tone was decidedly more angry, more outraged than a year ago.
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration. America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance,” stated Womens March Alliance.
And they marched with a purpose: to get people to register to vote, to run for office, and to cast their ballot.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed others.
Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls”
Abigail Adams, writing to her husband, John Adams, a Congressman at the time, in March 1776, warned, “Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” That revolution clearly is still going on, despite finally getting the right to vote 144 years later and nearly a century ago.
Even after women staged the biggest protest in history exactly a year ago, swamping Washington DC and coming out by the hundreds of thousands in cities and hamlets across the country, Republicans did not get the message, but spent their first year in total control of all the levers of government systematically dismantling all the elements of a free and equal society, and specifically, waging a war on women’s rights, health and security.
Republicans went full throttle to attack women’s reproductive rights – the House has already passed a 20-week ban on abortion which is set to go to the Senate and is guaranteed of Trump’s signature, while dismantling health clinics.
“The threat for women—and reproductive freedom—is greater than ever,” writes Ilyse Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The consequences of this bill becoming law would be gut-wrenching. Women seek abortion care after 20 weeks for a variety of reasons, including medical problems, difficulty accessing care, and the fear that comes with rape, incest, and abuse.” The bill makes it a crime for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for a woman’s health. The bill would leave a woman—and her healthcare provider—with no safe and legal option.
And hidden in the 429-page Republican Tax Law is a provision that establishes “personhood” by giving legal rights to a fetus for the purposes of college savings accounts. “That might seem innocuous, but once that legal precedent is established, it’s a short step to banning abortion outright.”
Let’s be clear: women’s reproductive rights are not just about the freedom to make choices about one’s body, but one’s future. It is nothing less than the right to self-determination which men claim. It is about Equal Protection under the Constitution. If men have a right to life and liberty, so do women and nothing less. Men don’t require government authorization to get a vasectomy or take Viagra (covered under health insurance). And women should not be made less of a person, less of a citizen than a zygote, with government as its unappointed “Regent”.
“It took us a while to figure out,” Gloria Steinem said in an interview with The Guardian, “but patriarchy – or whatever you want to call it, the systems that say there’s masculine and feminine and other bullshit – is about controlling reproduction. Every economics course ought to start not with production but with reproduction. It is way more important.”
The tax code Trump and the Republicans are so proud of attacks everything that makes the American Dream possible, and everything that women count on for their families. Republicans have yet to reauthorize CHIP, leaving 9 million children and pregnant women without access to health care. And what of that child after the Republicans compel its birth? They are stripping away access to child care, pre-K, health care, special education. Now Republicans will go use the mounting budget deficit – $1 trillion – because of their tax plan, to go after Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, food stamps and welfare – things that women, who live longer but have lower earnings throughout their working lives, or who are more apt to be single parents – depend on to a greater degree than men. (To see what a pro-Woman agenda would look like, read what Governor Cuomo is proposing.)
Not to mention Trump’s executive actions and his appointments to EPA, Interior, Education, Health & Human Services, Energy and the judiciary who are enacted policies that harm women and families, climate and public health.
In each and every category of concern to women: health care, immigration, climate change and environmental justice, domestic violence and gun violence prevention, criminal justice. Trump, who through words and actions has shown nothing but contempt for women, and the Republicans have sent a big F-U to women.
Republicans after the 2017 women’s marches, felt they were safe, that women would just forgive and forget, go away, be too consumed with the pressures of earning a living wage to keep their family with food and shelter, than to be politically active.
Indeed, the furor of last year’s Women’s March was quickly dissipated over addressing the Outrage Du Jour: Travel Ban, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, unleashing ICE to round up undocumented immigrants, gun massacres of historic scale, horror over the government’s failure to address the climate catastrophe Puerto Rico, efforts to repeal Obamacare, then the tax code.
But then there was the #MeToo movement. I can only imagine that the furor has some quaking at the new-found power of Womanhood (but also fear that overuse, amounting to a Salem Witchhunt, will result in a backlash).
This year’s protests are different because 2018 will be the first significant opportunity for voters to take consequential action at the polls. That’s why these protests are so much more important than a year ago.
“[Last year] we marched for even bigger, more systemic issues. We marched because 1 in 4 women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime (as well as 1 in 6 men). Women make up half of the country but only 19% of Congress. Women earn 79 cents to a man’s dollar, and that percentage drops to 63 cents for Black women and 54 cents for Latina women. And there are more anti-abortion laws on the books now than at any time since Roe v. Wade,” writes Caitlin Alesio Maloney, Director of Campaign Operations & Technology.
“None of the issues went away in 2017, but we are seeing progress. #MeToo was a breakout movement that is bringing about real change. Emily’s List had 920 women interested in running for office in 2016, but 16,000 women reached out to them to run in 2017. And with the Women’s March Power to the Polls project launching the day after the anniversary marches, we know this movement can make the difference and get them elected in 2018,” she stated.
“We need to show up for #MeToo. For Time’s Up. For women’s reproductive rights. For equal pay. And we need to show up to remind Donald Trump, on the anniversary of his inauguration, that We. Will. Always. Resist.”
These are the issues but here is the action: March Into Action will be registering voters at the march to support a national effort to register 1 million women to vote by the 2018 elections.
(New York, NY) – Nearly one year after 750,000 people marched through Manhattan in support of women’s rights and civil equality, Women’s March Alliance is gearing up for a second Women’s March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. Dubbed a “March to Action,” and organized by Women’s March Alliance, the demonstration will join a coalition of sister marches from coast to coast in support of the shared vision that all humans are equal and deserve equal treatment.
The “March to Action” kicks off a year-long partnership between Women’s March Alliance, Vote.org, Rock the Vote, HeadCount, League of Women Voters, VotoLatino, and various local groups like Activists Against Apathy seeking to bring women’s voices to the ballot box by registering one million women to vote by the 2018 National Voter Registration Day. (Information regarding the voting initiative can be found here.)
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration,” Women’s March Alliance stated. “America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance.”
“The goal of January’s march is to defend and maintain the basic rights of women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color, and the environment,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and President of Women’s March Alliance. “Over the last year, we’ve heard an overwhelming call for a second demonstration. With each successive degradation of basic human rights, the outpouring of support for this form of social activism grows exponentially.”
The 2017 New York City march was one of hundreds held domestically and internationally, each organized and produced by local teams of activists who had never met nor spoken to one another. These individual, local efforts resulted in the public assembly of millions of people across the world.
“The 750,000 who marched in Manhattan last year, the 250,000 who walked in the ‘Women’s March on Chicago,’ and the millions around the world who participated at the local level, proved that our voices would not be muted or silenced,” Siemionko continued. “We’re proud to be part of a sustained global movement that defends human rights in the face of adversity.”
The march is slated to begin near Columbus Circle and continue south and west through midtown, culminating in an activism fair whose aim is to connect people with the causes they care most about. These logistical plans are currently under review by the NYPD.
MARCH AND RALLY LOCATION
Rally: 11:30-1:00 EST on 61st Street and Central Park West (speakers and musical performances occur in this 90-minute block; the stage is on 61st facing north)
Entry point for marchers: Main entrance on 71st & Columbus, overflow entrances on 64th/Broadway, 68th/Columbus and 75th/Columbus.
Entrance for disabilities and ASL: 61st and Broadway.
End Point: Exits on 6th Avenue and 45th, 44th, and 43rd Street (there are post-march events planned)
Route: The March will begin on Central Park West and 61st and move south; marchers will turn east on 59th Street and then South onto Sixth Avenue; exit long 6th avenue at 45th, 44th or 43rd Streets.
Rising out of the local Women’s March on NYC, Women’s March Alliance is a nonprofit whose focus is on building strategic alliances with grassroots organizations in order to provide our community with a wide range of opportunities that empower them to demand and defend their rights. WMA aims to unify the voices and resources of grassroots organizations to collectively foster an informed and engaged community that both understands the current state of human rights across the globe and has the tools necessary to defend and advance those rights. Our mission is to amplify the collective voice and resources of human rights organizations to foster an informed and engaged community.
WMA, which stands in solidarity with the mission of sister marches across the country, has no official affiliation with the Women’s March National Team or its team of organizers.
Donald Trump issued this statement concerning Steve Bannon:
Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.
Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.
We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.
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.
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.