Letters (Jan. 30-Feb. 6)

Failing to educate citizens

Open letter to Governor Cuomo:

Recently, many members of the Legislature wrote to you to express urgent concerns about the state of primary and secondary education in New York, noting that “the quality of the curriculum has diminished.”

One of the major shortcomings of today’s curriculum is the failure to provide meaningful civics education to our state’s students. Comprehensive civics education in all grades is critical if we are to have a citizenry that understands the role and functioning of our government. Moreover, without a solid understanding of government, our children will be unable to become effective and responsible citizens or full partners in our democracy.

A recent report by the New York State Bar Association Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship found that civics education is essential to perpetuating an active, informed and engaged citizenry, and advancement of civics education is an association priority in 2014. Our governmental institutions, including our legal institutions and justice system, depend upon the effectiveness of today’s educational institutions to develop Americans who are educated and committed to the maintenance of the rule of law. We need future citizens who understand the institutions of constitutional democracy, including our system of law and justice. No institution in American society other than our schools can accomplish this civic mission, and the need is even greater today as we welcome new Americans to our land during an era of historic immigration levels.

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I urge you to consider the critical need for civics education as you and the Legislature develop the state’s 2014-2015 budget.

David M. Schraver
President, New York State Bar Association
Rochester

 

The big guys score

You may remember (of course you don’t because you have a life unlike most tax reformers who just have more neck wattles every year) that in my last letter I discussed having a problem drawing a Cuomo cartoon for the Taxnightmare.org blog when he (sporadically) did something good.

Every time I tried to make him look nice instead of evil (which is more my cartooning style) he ended up looking nasty/sexy/pornographic. Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know what nasty/sexy/porn looks like because I know the same folks you do and no one in the New Paltz/Gardiner/Kingston/Saugerties/Woodstock nexus can keep a secret.

Well guys, since Cuomo’s “Let’s be really nice to the super–rich” budget just came out, I no longer have the problem of trying to draw him benign.

In a nutshell, here’s all you have to know about the Cuomo budget: the big rich guys score; his circuit breaker is so puny it’s not even STAR Lite; and the freeze will give you brain freeze and nothing else – even if anyone could work the damned thing out. But don’t fret. We are all over this battle – with our wattles and all.

However, those of us who actually watched the budget speech (that would be me and an ESL class of fledgling Serbian diplomats for whom it was a required assignment) were treated to some juicy “court of the Borgias” overtones that leaked out from the governor’s psyche.

State government is usually boring and corrupt in predictable ways – never Shakespearean or truly classy in its malevolence. But I must say that Governor Cuomo really strayed into this interesting territory in his budget address.

He looks good and sounds like he’s talking war and peace from a medieval throne room in Venice and not busy reducing corporate taxes from pettifogging Albany.

At one point, the governor – after reciting his conquests (tax free zones) – actually dissed three preceding governors by name, including Rockefeller, Mario Cuomo and Pataki for overspending and not bringing their budgets in “on time” (the quintessential Cuomo brag).

Considering Rockefeller built Lincoln Center, the SUNY system and the actual Albany government complex from which Cuomo was denouncing him for not having an “on-time budget,” it was a thrilling – if hubristic – oratorical moment.

But for sheer spine-tingling edginess, you couldn’t top Andrew Cuomo’s dissing former Governor Mario Cuomo’s budgets – his father for God’s sake! It was a show of filial ingratitude rivaling the work of the showiest Greek dramatists.

The thrills kept coming as the governor passionately declaiming against corruption in government, turned and looked directly at his guest Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – who was happily seated in the big boy section – and declared that most of the corruption was in the Assembly. If Silver had been pulled off the stage at that moment and summarily executed, like Kim Jong-un’s hapless uncle, I would not have been surprised.

Here in all his contradictory glory is a fearless leader who – on the one hand tells the most militant anti-choice loudmouths, anti-gay bigots, anti-gun control extremists that they should get the hell outta Dodge (strong stuff in an election year) – but on the other hand then conceives a budget so regressive that it grows the wealth gap exponentially and that George Pataki would have been proud to produce (oh right, he did)!

But content aside, I’m sure I – and the 12 other folks who watched Cuomo’s brilliant performance – couldn’t have liked it more…as theater.

So to sum up (don’t think I didn’t hear you say “finally”), although the budget sucks big time, the speech rolling it out was good value for those of us who loved Lawrence Olivier in anything Shakespearean.

Gioia Shebar
Gardiner

 

Short-sighted education spending

I would like to ask Gov. Cuomo how a generation of under-educated children will help New York’s economy. The Governor’s proposed education budget makes promises that are contradicted by the cold hard numbers. The 3.8 percent increase in education funding he bragged about does not even replace the deep cuts of the last three years, let alone prevent many more layoffs.

It is over a billion dollars short of the funds 83 legislators representing struggling school districts asked the governor to invest in our children rather than election year tax giveaways. His response is to propose less funding than he ever has. His budget’s allotment for the much touted “universal” pre-kindergarten would cover only 7,784 four-year-olds next year. His dismissive comment that money doesn’t matter in education is profoundly irresponsible. Well educated children will grow up to create New York businesses, to buy New York’s goods, to pay New York taxes.

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As our children’s class sizes become even more unwieldy, the remaining art and music programs cut, even more guidance counselors laid off – all while the wealthiest New Yorkers have not been asked to pay their New York tax share – we need to start paying attention to what is really happening behind the governor’s facile assurances. An elected official who divests from public education in hard times does not deserve re-election.

Joan Walker-Wasylyk
Woodstock

 

Food Pantry thanks

Sending out a big thank you to the town of Olive and all communities beyond, for your consistent, “on the mark” generosity. Just as with our last food drive in September and November, we were astonished with the response at our Jan. 18 Food Drive at the Boiceville Market on Route 28. The staff of The Reservoir Food Pantry thanks you sincerely for remembering your neighbors, and all those who require assistance during the winter months. We sincerely appreciate each and every one of you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you know someone in our vicinity who needs food, or if you are interested in volunteering with us. You can always reach us online at www.reservoirfoodpantry.org or call 845 399-3967. Have a safe, and happy winter season!

Bonnie Lykes, Thurman Greco,
Prasida Kaye, Sean Bigler,
Juliet Greenwood, Rick Bowles
Reservoir Food Pantry staff