The prospect of Democratic control of the State Senate, which hangs in the balance by one seat, has encouraged Councilmember James Gennaro that it is the perfect time to challenge the incumbent Republican senator in his district in Queens, Frank Padavan. And if numbers alone are any prediction, that possibility could put him in office: Of nearly 7,000 newly registered voters in Senate District 11, Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1.
If the Democrats take the Senate, they will control the entire legislature and all of the executive offices. In Gennaro’s eyes, that will lead to a more responsive and ethical state government and a better funded city.
The Republican Party is “not getting the people’s business done because the people’s business is not on their agenda,” he said at a rally last month, according to the Politicker.
And Padavan defends the status quo, “saying we’ve made great strides because we vote in our seats now,” he remarked at a more recent forum, the Jackson Heights Times reports. “I think we have a situation where the Republican majority is more worried about hanging onto power rather than doing the people’s business.”
One recent report finds immigrants to be “central” to the economy here – even illegal ones. And another finds that while one in ten immigrants in the U.S. come to New York, only 13 percent of them are actually illegal, compared to 65 percent in Arizona. Still, decisions like that of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau – who would protect illegal immigrants victimized by crime – do not sit well with many of the presidential candidates (or voters for that matter). As such, a majority of the GOP candidates and one Democratic candidate have shown support for cutting federal funds to cities like New York that shield illegal immigrants from the detection of federal authorities. The Next American City elaborates on the situation here.
(Although this is certainly relevant to New York City, this post is a bit of self promotion, seeing how I wrote the American City piece. I have started a weekly column there covering the presidential candidates positions on urban issues. Click here to subscribe.)
The recent edition of Newsweek might as well be called the New York City edition. The national magazine ran three articles this week that featured New York City prominently. An article on school reform spent half its space writing about about how Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking on the teachers’ union. Another lays out for the rest of the country the plans of Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to market the desirability of school to kids. And an article discussing the positive affects immigration can have on crime reduction constantly refers back to our humble city. Maybe they’ll start a Metro section.
The ouster of Debbie Altontaser as principal of the new Kahlil Gibran Academy in Brooklyn represents an example of the “new McCarthyism ,” according to Larry Cohler-Esses in The Nation.
This movement “targets a new enemy for our era: Muslims, Arabs and others in the Middle East field who are identified as stepping over an unstated line in criticizing Israel, as radical Islamists, as just plain radical or as in some way sympathetic to terrorists,” Cohler-Esses writes. Under the guise of addressing “an undeniable security threat,” he continues, the New McCarthyites display “cynical indifference to the truth or decency of their charges.”
Almontaser had persuaded the Department of Education to establish a small public school devoted to Arab language and culture. The school sparked opposition, much of it directed at Almontaser, a Yemeni-born educator, who has promoted religious and ethnic harmony in the city. The Department of Education forced her out after she provoked a furor by discussing the definition of the word “infitada.” Almontaser has since said she would apply to get the job back but the Department of Education has said there is no chance of that happening.
Footnote: One of the leaders of the movement against the Kahlil Gibran International Academy in general and Almontaser is particular has been Daniel Pipes. The Nation writes that Pipes claimed erroneously that Almontaser has denied Muslims or Arabs were involved in the 9/11 attacks. Charging that “Arabic in of itself promotes an Islamic outlook,” Pipes has written , “Imbuing pan-Arabism and anti-Zionism, proselytizing for Islam and promoting Islamist sympathies will predictably make up the school’s true curriculum. He “has called for profiling Muslims at airports and scrutinizing American Muslims in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps,” according to the New York Times. In the same article, paper reports that Pipes serves as a foreign policy adviser to Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential campaign.
Undocumented immigrants in New York will be allowed to apply for driver’s licenses without Social Security numbers, according to a new rule announced by Governor Eliot Spitzer. Since 2004, the Department of Motor Vehicles has required applicants to provide valid Social Security numbers , making thousands of illegal immigrants ineligible for the licenses. Under the new rule, the department will accept foreign passports, birth certificates, previous state driver’s licenses and other verifiable proofs of ID.
What happens to the mobilization of Mexican immigrants in the city now that some older groups have attained legalization while more recent immigrants are denied such a prospect? To answer that question, Alyshia Gálvez, a New York University professor, looks at two successful but competing South Bronx parish-based Mexican volunteer associations that take different approaches towards empowerment. In an article for the International Migration journal, she compares the two groups, which both emphasize amnesty as a primary goal of their actions, but take different approaches to solving the problems their communities face.
The first, run by legalized Mexican immigrants, promotes a transcendence beyond an identity as an immigrant to that of a citizen, although becoming one is impossible for the majority of members of the group. This they argue, will prove their worth to the broader community.
The other is rooted in the collective experience of exploitation from the vulnerable position of an undocumented population. It is organized by undocumented Mexican migrants with a personal stake in the results it gains.
Many of the young residents of the community, though, bear scars from their previous lives. According to one estimate, as many as 80 percent of the people who fought in Liberia’s civil war were children. Assimilation has proved difficult for these young people, who were taught to kill, not to read and write. Detailing the struggles of these young victims with terrible memories, the reporter offers accounts of a hard life in a new country, as the immigrants struggle with their own violent outbursts and with bigotry from local residents.
In light of the New York City Housing Authority’s fiscal crisis, The News is urging Governor Spitzer to sign a bill that would give authority tenants a “fairer” subsidy compared to residents on public assistancein private buildings . Currently, they state, those in privately owned buildings receive nearly triple what authority residents get, which cheats the fiscally handicapped housing agency out of state funding.
The Post reiterates and defends its position regarding Debbie Almontaser’s resignation from the Khalil Gibran International Academy – an Arabic language school recently shoved into the city’s educational spotlight when students sported t-shirts blazing “Intifada NYC.”
In additional thoughts on Spitzergate, the Post is urging the state’s Ethics Commission to conduct its deliberations in public.
The Post throws some cold water on the celebration surrounding the city’s 2008 budget. While City Hall is awash in money now, the paper says, “The city’s fiscal house remains structurally unsound” with $10 billion in budget gaps, a possible economic downturn and maybe even tax hikes looming on the horizon. In light of all that, the Post wonders, “Why must pols live on the edge – spending to the max in good times and hiking taxes (heaven forefend they should trim spending) when the next ‘crisis’ rolls in?”
It takes the Daily News not one but two editorials today to continue its unwavering defense of the police department. In the first, the paper justifies the arrest of 208 people, suspected of being gang members, at Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day parade. While some people may have been swept up by mistake, the paper says, “there is no evidence police engaged in mass, indiscriminate arrests – even if some New Yorkers stand ready to jump to that conclusion at every groundless accusation.”
The other involves another mass arrest – this one the May roundup of 32 teenagers on their way to the wake for a reputed gang leader. While the teens have maintained they were peaceful Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes disagrees.
And education professor Diane Ravitch steps up to defend a maligned minority: public school teachers. Praising the teachers she knows for being “hardworking, earnest and deeply committed to their students,” Ravitch writes in the Sun, “We will continue to misdiagnose our educational needs until we focus on the role of students and their families. If they don’t give a hoot about education, if the students are unwilling to pay attention in class and do their homework after school, if they arrive in school with a closed and empty mind, don’t blame their teachers.”
Also focusing on education, El Diario/La Prensa hails the progress made in education for Hispanics under schools chancellor Joel Klein. But despite that, it says, an “abysmal” gap remains between students who are proficient in English and those learning the language.
Moving away from the controversy over who gets to march where in tomorrow’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, David Garrard Lowe in the Sun looks at another mainstay of the Irish in New York: St. Brigid’s Church in the East Village. Built to serve the city’s growing Irish community in the middle of the 19th century, the church’s “tall twin spires were a political as well as a religious proclamation” for parishioners from a country where “Roman Catholic churches, if allowed at all, had to be inconspicuous,” Lowe writes. Those spires were demolished in the 1960s, and now Cardinal Egan plans to raze the entire building.
“How ironic that a church built to express the jubilant survival of a faith suppressed in Ireland should, in America, be swept away by the Catholic Church,” Lowe says. In the fifth century, St. Brigid, founder of Ireland’s first religious community for women, performed miracles. Now it will take a 21st century version of a miracle to save the church Lowe calls a “monument of Irish faith and pluck.”
With the City Council and Speaker Christine Quinn mulling whether to seat Mathieu Eugene – the person elected to the City Council last month without apparently bothering to live in the district he sought to represent – forces are lining up for and against the doctor, who hopes to be the first Haitian on the council.
Like it or not, Mathieu should not be allowed to take his seat, the Daily News has written. “Council members must live in their districts on Election Day, “That leaves out Mathieu Eugene.”
And today Citizens Union (the sister organization of Citizens Union Foundation which publishes Gotham Gazette) did not take an explicit stand on Eugene but addressed the overall issue of candidates seeking to represent districts they don’t even want to live in. “It is in the best interest of voters for there to be a clear record of residency established at the very least by Election Day, and quite possibly sooner,” the organization says. And it urges to Campaign Finance Board, which currently does not get involved in questions of residency to “clarify that candidates must meet the legal requirements to represent the district for which they are running or forfeit eligibility” to participate in the public campaign financing program.
But Eugene’s backers are not standing idly by. A rally is scheduled for tomorrow at City Hall to demand that Eugene get his seat. The announcement, according to The Daily Politics, was sent out apparently by Uma Clarke, who once held the Council seat now in contention and along with her daughter, Representative Yvette Clarke, endorsed Eugene. “This historic victory is being threatened by legal and political maneuverings that places at risk the WILL OF THE VOTERS of the 40the District,” the email said. “We believe that there is no reason to DENY the immediate seating of our elected representative.’
(Later perhaps to refute charges that Clarke is running the whole show, Friends of Mathieu Eugene reportedly sent out a correction saying that they were responsible for the email.
And The Politicker reports that dozens of activists received another email urging recipients to call Christine Quinn and urge her to seat Eugene – and to make that easier, it included Quinn’s cell phone number. “The email has rapidly circulated among politically active Haitian New Yorkers unhappy that questions about Eugene’s residency have prevented him from being sworn in,” the blog says.
Blog comments indicate feelings are running pretty high in some circles about all this. Some have called Quinn a “political thug” who is trying to deny Haitian their rights. “The Haitians traveled across the ocean in rinky dinky boats to have the right to vote and be free. Now this loudmouth Christine Quinn is trying to say GO HOME,” Petro wrote to the Politicker Others charges, like it or not, Eugene has broken the law and so doesn’t deserve the serve – first Haitian or not.
What happens if Eugene doesn’t get his seat? There will be another election. And, Ben Smith writes in
Room Eight, “It’s pretty clear that Mathieu will win again, probably in even more of a walk, if the 10-way race is simply re-run. So there are quiet talks already underway to present a unified opposition candidate.”
They are still writing about the appearance on October 4th at Columbia University of Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, which describes itself as a “citizens vigilance operation” whose members physically patrol the border with Mexico against “the menace of tens of millions of invading illegal aliens.”
As NY Times columnist Clyde Haberman explains today, (available only to subscribers of Times Select), “his program barely got rolling when protesters from the Chicano Caucus and the International Socialist Organization stormed the stage. What followed was yelling, kicking and punching, with each side later blaming the other.”
In an “open letter” republished on NYC Indymedia, Allen Lang, national student organizer for an anti-Bush group called The World Can’t Wait, praised the protesters’ “moral clarity”, considered it “an alarming and disturbing sign of the times when the press labels a racist armed vigilante group that operates in the public eye as merely ‘controversial,’” and demanded the student protesters “face no threats of expulsion or any disciplinary actions.”
But most editorial writers condemned both the protesters and the university for what an editorial in the New York Sun called a “lack of adult supervision…The failure of Columbia’s administration to make even the meekest effort to secure what it knew would be a heated environment in order to allow open debate is shocking.”
Similar sentiments were expressed widely, including in letters to the New York Post and in an editorial in the New York Observer this week, which said that “the students claimed to be representing the viewpoint of immigrant groups, but what they were actually practicing was the violent thwarting of free speech,” and blamed Columbia President Lee Bollinger for failing to “create an atmosphere of respect, tolerance and dignity.”
Haberman writes today in his column: “Particularly upset last week were the city’s more conservative editorial writers, who accused Columbia of not doing enough to protect speech unpopular on the politically liberal campus. A few weeks earlier, the same editorialists had applauded Columbia for canceling a speaking invitation sent to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the nuke-seeking, Holocaust-denying president of Iran. Someone like that, the editorials said, had no business being invited. Sound familiar? It would seem that where free speech begins and ends may depend, for some, on who’s speaking.”
In the Wall Street Journal today, Peggy Noonan uses the Columbia incident — along with Barbra Streisand’s cursing out of a fan at her Madison Square Garden concert and a couple of other recent controversies – to make the same point, in reverse: “Free speech means hearing things you like and agree with, and it means allowing others to speak whose views you do not like or agree with…Students, stars, media movers, academics: They are always saying they want debate, but they don’t. They want their vision imposed…[A]ll this continues to come more from the left than the right…”
Bradley Saucier, a Columbia junior and a political science major, puts it more neutrally as quoted in Haberman’s column: “[T]o have an opportunity with people you don’t agree with and be able to make them defend themselves is an opportunity you don’t get too often….You have to be able to deal, in an intelligent way, with people who make you mad.”
New York may pride itself for being a melting pot but, when it comes to the current conflict in the Middle East, public opinion seems to break down along religious lines. Or at least that’s the finding of a very unscientific New York magazine poll of 100 passersby, identified by religion. For example, asked who is to blame for the crisis in Lebanon, 12 Muslims and only one Jew said Israel, while eight Jews and no Muslims said Hezbollah. Twenty-two Christians said all sides were equally to blame. Seventeen Muslims (3 Jews and 27 Christians) thought the U.S. is too pro-Israel, while 15 Jews and no Muslims said it was not.
The New York Sun apparently has only consulted some of those New Yorkers. In its editorial today it despairs, “Concern is mounting by the hour in New York that the Bush administration is wavering on the diplomatic front… as Europeans step up pressure on Israel to stop prematurely its battle against Hezbollah.”
And in the Huffington Post, Jonathan Tasini — who has mounted an anti Iraq war challenge to Hillary Clinton without quite the success Ned Lamont is enjoying in Connecticut — now turns to Clinton’s stand on the Middle East. I’ve touched the ‘third rail” of politics in New York: the Israel-Palestine conflict,’ he writes, criticizing Clinton and other politicians for continuing to “blindly pursue a one-sided policy in the Palestinian-Israel conflict, a policy that is causing more death and sorrow for civilians on all sides of the conflict.”
The Nation Newspaper, a newspaper from Barbados, tells the story of a Mary, a West Indian woman without legal immigration documents or health insurance, as a way to show the importance of the city hospital system’s recent assurance that it will keep its patients’ immigration status confidential. [As Wonkster reported earlier, el Diario has also said good things about this campaign]. Mary suffers from diabetes and hypertension but stays away from public hospitals, only seeking health care when her health “reaches the breaking point”, because she fears deportation.
So the Nation Newspaper takes some comfort in the Health and Hospital Corporation’s statement to employees that they would be fired for illegally violating the confidentiality of patients, even those in the country illegally. The paper would like the city to go further and prosecute any employees who do so, but applaud the city’s step as a crucial one towards maintaining the health of its immigrants.
An editorial in El Diario
praises the Bloomberg administration’s campaign to let immigrants know their status will not be reported when they seek medical care. “…what`s at stake here is the public health. As a civilized and compassionate society we must provide medical assistance to those in need. Your main concern when seeing a doctor should be your health, not whether you will be deported.”
Immigration is “a critical domestic issue that shapes our political life for decades to come,” just as civil rights, Watergate, crime and drugs, and welfare dependency have changed the political direction of our country in years past, writes Mayor Michael Bloomberg in today’s Wall Street Journal.
A new immigration policy must be “enforceable, sustainable, and compassionate,” argues Bloomberg. He proposes a four point platform:
1) Hold businesses accountable for verifying that their employees are here legally, and create a federal database that will allow employers to identify workers by fingerprints or DNA data. If businesses won’t give jobs to undocumented immigrants than there will be less incentive for them to come.
2) Ensure that there is a workforce to replace retiring baby boomers by increasing the number of visas for both manual laborers and professionals. Give them the opportunity to get permanent status if that’s what it takes.
3) Secure the borders, a task that is only possible if the number of people trying to sneak into the country is reduced through the first two items.
4) “Get real” and stop talking about mass deportations, which will never work.
Both El Diario and the Daily News have opinion pieces on President Bush’s recent speech on immigration, and neither one seems very impressed:
An El Diario editorial (in English and Spanish) criticizes the president’s lack of consistency: “He used contradictory language, praising most undocumented immigrants as hard workers and law abiding people while at the same time saying illegal immigration ‘brings crime to our communities.’” The newspaper was also disappointed that he didn’t address the need to fix a system that forces immigrants to wait years and pay large sums of money before their families can legally join them here.
Michael Goodwin of the Daily News, meanwhile, writes that Bush’s speech is not likely to be taken seriously because he has little credibility on the immigration issue. Goodwin thinks Bush’s first step must be tougher enforcement of immigration violations. He describes the president’s plan to secure the border with the National Guard as “a system that would be expensive, logistically difficult and probably not very effective”, and says Bush is offering the possibility of tougher enforcement in front of immigration opponents as a trade for his guest worker program and a path to legal citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.
“He doesn’t deserve that deal,” writes Goodwin, “and won’t get it, because the National Guard idea is half-baked and because of his track record. It’s a record of all talk and no action on immigration.”
The Reverend Al Sharpton takes to the Daily News to address African American critics who have faulted him for actively supporting the movement for immigrant rights. While low income workers may lose jobs to immigrants, Sharpton writes, the proper targets of ire are “businesses that exploit and underpay illegal immigrants” and corporations that move jobs overseas.
Calling on blacks to resist a “a dangerous right-wing attempt to divide two communities,” Sharpton invokes previous civil rights struggles, and concludes, “It is no wonder that when we see people’s human value questioned and their legal status denied, those of us who have spent decades fighting for justice, respect and equal citizenship would rush to their aid.”
To the editorial writers at El Diario, yesterday’s “Day Without Immigrants” demonstrations and boycott were an “exhilarating show of unity and power. To those at the New York Post, they “amounted to a nationwide temper tantrum in service of a not-very-subtle effort to nullify the law.” The Daily News says the day of demonstrations, in which immigrants were asked to stay home from work, “proved the foolishness of addressing illegal immigration by deportations and prosecutions…What would happen in the city if every illegal immigrant were given the boot? First, the population would fall by as many as 650,000 people, pushing the census back to roughly 7.5 million. Neighborhoods would empty, buildings would be abandoned and property values would drop. Segments of the economy, such as manufacturing, construction, restaurants and health care, would take huge hits as roughly 10% of the labor force disappeared.”