Common Sense: A plague on society

February 9, 2016 JERRY KASSAR
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State Senator Marty Golden (whom I serve as chief of staff) will be hosting a meeting of the New York State Senate’s Heroin Task Force on Friday, February 26 at the Knights of Columbus, 86th Street and 13th Avenue, from 1-3 p.m. Numerous drug counseling and intervention groups, health organization, school-based groups, and law enforcement and community organizations have been invited to testify. And, of course, the general public is invited to come and listen to the testimony, questions and discussion led by the several senators that are expected to attend.

Needless to say, heroin addiction has returned as a terrible plague on many communities in our state. Southwest Brooklyn is no exception, with many overdoses and more than a few deaths recorded over the past three years. The state has attempted to address the growing scourge with emergency intervention drugs like Narcan carried by police and EMS, and more resources for counseling, treatment, intervention and education.

But much more needs to be done to create treatment programs that work for a cure as opposed to a temporary assuasion. That likely means longer times in rehab programs which in turn will require a great deal more of state funding, and the area of law enforcement needs to include new efforts to address gang-related drug sales, which are a growing problem.

This will be an event for those (and it really should be all of us) who are concerned about this issue. Mark it on your calendars.

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City Councilmembers had no right to raise their salaries by 32 percent last week. It was way beyond what a commission recommended. It was well beyond the change in the cost of living since the last raise. It comes when police have been offered one percent and firefighters and teachers following a city bargaining pattern were also offered just a fraction of what the Council gave themselves.

It came with a reform that might actually be counter-productive: a fulltime City Council with a ban on outside income. Many including myself would maintain that having elected officials who have outside experience and to some degree keep their toes in the outside work world makes them more like citizen legislators which gives them more empathy for you and me. And as far as fulltime is concerned, the Council has far less authority then the state legislature. Even on city government constituent issues, much of what their offices need to do is now handled by 311. And in fact the $112,000-plus stipends which put almost all of them at around $120,000 is well beyond what the average New York City resident earns for his or her fulltime job.

And let us not forget that they raised their own salaries during their term. This is not allowed in almost every jurisdiction in the country. It is not allowed in Albany. In fact, it is banned by the State Constitution for the state legislature. But apparently it is allowed in New York City.
It should be noted that many of the Council members due to term limits had nothing to lose, but much to gain since this will increase their pensions benefits down the road.

Seven members including all the Republican members voted no and they should be thanked. The rest, for the most part, including the speaker, refused to answer media inquires to explain their vote. Sounds like they all had the same talking points which said do not talk.

As of this writing, the mayor still has time to veto the raise. He should, but I suspect he will not. The public needs to express outrage and demand an explanation from each member who voted yes the next time they should run into their councilmember.


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