Discovering New Ways to Reach Albany

In Columns by Hal Peterson0 Comments

My columns, published with the cooperation of The Herald have successfully stimulated interest in reforming our state’s dysfunctional government. In particular, their notice by the Molloy College Institute for Life Long Learning, and the Garden City Men’s Club, gave me the opportunity to share with their members the need for fiscal stability to align state spending with voter interests and concerns.

Without exception, each session ends on a similar note. Those gathered hardly need further convincing. Our political system is broken leaving little doubt that those in office will revert back to business as usual, despite campaign promises. A classic example, more than four years ago, while announcing his campaign for governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo stood in front of the Tweed Courthouse in downtown Manhattan and said Albany’s antics “could make Boss Tweed blush.” He followed with a commitment to put a stop to it. “Job 1 is going to be to clean up Albany and make the government work for the people.” The New York Times, in an Opinion piece written on August 26th stated he “failed to do Job 1 and they believe our “state government remains subservient to big money as ever.”

How to stop the madness is the most frequent question asked. My calmative response is to stay informed, get involved, write letters and call if you do not get a reply. My “power of the pen” suggestion fell on deaf ears. One individual commented writing a le   er though noble, does not create a ripple of change. No amount of effort receives what is expected, and all calls are shielded by gatekeepers preventing the sender from reaching the proper audience.

Are other options available? The answer is yes, if we take seriously the use of social media tools such as Facebook, Linkedin (with over 280 million users) and Twitter to make our voices heard. Also, a new online tool is available called POPVOX.com, allowing users to write a letter to the appropriate lawmaker, be guaranteed delivery, and then see how your story is received by other people interested in the same issue. No doubt social media can influence change.

I agree and intend to use these tools to encourage the passage of Senate Bill S4099-A (drafted on February 25, 2014 by two senators’ from Brooklyn) that provided an Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC) for families with children enrolled in religious or private institutions, and encourage donors to contribute to scholarships, for which they would receive tax credits on their tax returns. For reasons that are hard to discern, and to the dismay of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the New York Catholic Conference, Gov.  Cuomo in March failed to fulfill his promise to provide funding, and the bill never came to the floor for a vote.

According to Newsday in a recent column on charter schools, a Senate majority currently remains committed, and Gov. Cuomo has indicated a desire to get it done. I will be in contact with all the key player’s involved.  Your awareness and support is needed.

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