Political Potpourri: Gentile blasts ‘all-out war on children’

May 11, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Paula Katinas

Councilman Vincent Gentile, chairman of the Select Committee on Libraries, blasted what he called Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “all-out war on children,” criticizing the mayor for cutting funds from the Out of School Time (OST) programs for elementary school students.

“With inconceivable cuts such as these, the mayor is basically telling 50,000 kids to go take a hike,” Gentile said. “New York is one of the most expensive cities to live in and after-school programming and childcare is of utmost concern for most working parents. This is really just further proof that our mayor has absolutely no concept of reality.”

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The cuts come on the heels of a move by the Department of Youth and Community Development to close seven Beacon community centers, including one at McKinley Intermediate School at 7301 Fort Hamilton Parkway.

In addition to the peace of mind parents get from knowing their kids are in a safe place after school, these programs give children the opportunity to improve on their schoolwork and studies, build social skills, and help them to stay out of trouble, Gentile said.

“The bottom line is that the neighborhoods I serve don’t qualify for many city services and I’m not going to stand for the city taking away funds for the few we do qualify for,” Gentile said.

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Don’t raise the minimum wage!

That’s the position held by members of the New York State Conservative Party, led by Bay Ridge resident Mike Long.

Raising the minimum wage won’t help workers, according to Long, who said it might, in fact, hurt them.

Instead of hiring more workers, an employer might be forced to lay people off, Long said.

Besides, Long said, minimum-wage jobs were never intended to be the means to support families.

“They are considered entry-level positions people need to gain work experience and with increased experience comes increasing paychecks,” he said. “If a family has no other choice than a minimum-wage position, there is an enormous range of government assistance programs available, including the EITC, which actually gives a minimum-wage earner an effective rate of $10.44 an hour,” Long said.

“An increase in the minimum wage brings more than just the amount given to the wage earner, it means an increase in various other business expenses — for example, Workers Compensation costs, Unemployment Insur­ance and Commercial Insurance costs — and employers still do not know what health benefits will be incurred,” Long said. “The most important thing government can do for those in minimum-wage positions is to cut the cost of doing business in New York State and let businesses use the savings to create more jobs.”

Long has written a memo to all members of the state legislature, urging them to vote against increasing the minimum wage.

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Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis wants you to know exactly how she and other legislators voted on every issue that came before them in Albany.

But the freshman lawmaker said the Democratic leadership in the state Assembly apparently doesn’t feel the same way.

Malliotakis sponsored a motion that would have posted voting records for every Assembly member on their individual websites. Malliotakis said she was doing this in an effort to increase transparency in government.

The legislation was blocked from coming to the floor for a vote by members of the Assembly majority, said the frustrated Republican lawmaker.

“Every constituent should have the right to easily access their legislator’s voting record,” she said. “I find it shameful that members of the majority prevented a vote on this bill that would bring transparency to the state legislature. Blocking this legislation is an affront to the concept of open government.”

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Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat running for state Senate, criticized the decision by the Panel for Educational Policy to close 24 public schools in New York City, including John Dewey High School in Gravesend.

During a marathon, late-night session two weeks ago, the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close 24 New York City public schools as part of the Department of Education’s “turnaround” plan.

“Even good teachers will be forced to reapply for jobs that they’ve earned honestly and sacrificed to keep,” Gounardes said. “Worst of all, thousands of students won’t have the slightest idea what, or who, awaits them when they return just four months from now. Instead of focusing on math, science, or the arts, these students are forced to spend their time finding ways to be heard by a panel that once valued student voices. I should know; I was one of the first student advisors to the Panel for Educational Policy in 2002-2003. Our students deserve better. Our communities deserve better.”

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Immigrant youngsters deserve a chance at a college education, even if the students are undocumented immigrants, an advocacy group said.

DRM Capitol Group is an organization working for passage of the New York State Dream Act and other pro-immigrant legislation.

“DRM commends the efforts of the New York state legislature for addressing the issue of access to higher education for undocumented youth, namely through the New York State Dream Act and the Dream Fund. But as an organization comprised of undocumented youth and one that represents undocumented youth, DRM underscores the importance of passing these bills in unison,” a statement issued by the organization reads. “The public support and economic argument are in strong favor of both bills and we urge the Assembly to pass the Dream Act, which would open up the existing Tuition Assistance Program to all students; the Senate to pass the two as a package; and the governor to support both proposals and to lead the legislative process toward enactment of both bills.” 

“With states like Arizona and Alabama enacting the most hostile anti-immigrant laws in history, New York needs to demonstrate that it is committed unequivocally to its principles of our rich immigrant history and equality for those who work hard,” the statement reads.

Community Board Seven in Sunset Park recently voted to support the New York Dream Act. The board vote took place after the board heard from a young woman who described herself as an undocumented immigrant.

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State Sen. Marty Golden said he supports legislation to crack down on drunk drivers and people who drive under the influence of drugs.

He voted in a favor of a Senate bill that would require certain drivers who are convicted of drunk driving to take a motor vehicle accident prevention course.

The bill requires drivers who are convicted of a drunk driving offense to take the motor vehicle accident prevention course if they have previously been convicted of drunk driving, or refuse to take a chemical test, or have accumulated more than six points on their license.

“Programs for drunk driver rehabilitation have proven to be very effective in reducing the number of instances of drunk driving. This added component to the DWI or DUID penalty will help to educate and to deter our most dangerous traffic violators from repeating their crimes,” Golden said.

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