Category Archives: Opinion

OP/ED

OP/ED: Saving the next generation

 

 

By Dr. Gary Blick
More than a decade ago, I came into contact with the plight of a young HIV-positive Zimbabwean couple who tried desperately to conceive their first child. Tragically, they lost their HIV-positive firstborn who died shortly after birth. But it was more than 30 years ago when I decided to enter the field of HIV/AIDS research and treatment here in the United States. I was emotionally devastated by the amount of victims that this disease claimed in the early years of its arrival, as well as the indifference of politicians toward the most affected communities at the time.

Today, however, a different battle is being waged. Not between politicians and citizens and certainly not by an unknown disease of disputed origins. No, today we are more aware of the HIV/AIDS virus as well as the politico-social atmospheres that lend to its unfortunate and continued spread.

In the United States, just as in countries such as Zimbabwe—where my organization, World Health Clinicians, WHC, runs an entirely unique, health care provider-based HIV awareness and treatment initiative entitled BEAT AIDS Project Zimbabwe, BAPZ—we are not only witnessing a steady decline in certain numbers of HIV infection rates, but also a rapid increase of infections in demographics of youth aged 13 to 34.

Certain factors lend themselves to stigmatize different groups in each geographic location, such as men, health care workers and commercial sex workers in Zimbabwe, or individuals within the African-American, Latino and young gay or bisexual men—known as MSM—communities here in the U.S. But education is key to reducing the HIV/AIDS stigma, increasing awareness and decreasing the number of infections in any community, and that is one of the underlying goals of our outreach as we work to save the next generations here in the U.S. and abroad.

One dramatic and alarming difference in the response to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe compared with the U.S. has to do with those “lost to follow-up,” LTFU. In the U.S., a “developed” nation with the financial ability and structure to treat all Americans with HIV/AIDS, 1 million people have tested HIV-positive, but 50 percent of them, approximately 500,000 people, have been LTFU, with stigma being a strong contributing factor. In Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, a town in a “developing” nation where BAPZ and the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and Child Care, MoHCC, partner to perform HIV/AIDS outreach in the municipality and surrounding rural villages, the LTFU rate is 0.26 percent.

BEAT AIDS Project Zimbabwe is continuously helping local communities and revolutionizing the way that HIV/AIDS treatment is delivered throughout Zimbabwe, a country where 13.7 percent of the adult population—about 1.1 million people—is infected with the disease. We have even brought our popular anti-stigma and testing initiative, HIV Equal, to test and photograph local villagers. In June 2015, we opened our first state-of-the-art HIV specialty clinic in the township of Mkhosana, located in Victoria Falls, where we centralized our efforts to provide care to the nearly 22,000 people who fall within our jurisdiction.

Between 2011 and 2015, World AIDS Day had the theme “Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.” UNAIDS has set a 2030 goal of eradicating HIV around the globe via “90-90-90,” meaning by 2020, 90 percent of individuals will be getting tested for HIV, 90 percent of those who test positive will be started on HIV medications, and 90 percent of those HIV-positive individuals will have undetectable viral loads, which prevents transmission by 96 percent.

Through our continued efforts in Zimbabwe, we not only hope to stem the spread of HIV infection from mother to child, we also hope to provide the next generation with awareness, testing and linkage-to-care services that will help to reduce, if not eventually eradicate, the impact of HIV/AIDS on local communities there while also continuing our important work in the U.S.

 

Dr. Gary Blick is the co-founder and chief medical officer of the Norwalk, Conn.-based nonprofit humanitarian organization World Health Clinicians, whcccc.org, which provides awareness, treatment and prevention initiatives across the U.S. and Zimbabwe. 

 
OP/ED

Op/ED: Living in the dark ages

By CLIFFORD JACKSON
I was speaking a couple of months ago with a man who has worked as a porter in Larchmont for many years. We were talking about how crazy things are in this society with all of the shootings, violence and corruption within corporate America. He said something that truly defines the environment of this country today: “We are living in the dark ages.” His definition was apropos because of the state of the United States today. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in March of 1968, “America is going to hell for all of the violence that it has committed on this continent and around the world.”

We are truly seeing that today, as we have more than 35 people a day that die of gunfire and even more from suicide. The recent mass shootings and killings in South Carolina and Oregon brought that home once again. These killings are becoming normal, and many across this country have become desensitized to such events. There is a homeless epidemic that is unparalleled in so-called industrialized nations, and more than three million people are living on the streets and in shelters. I see it every day working in midtown Manhattan. Millions more people are poor and are living in veritable squalor without decent plumbing, water and with rodent infestation. This barbaric way of living is engendered by a savage and insane lust for money and greed that does not allow people to afford a decent place to live, or give them a sustainable living wage. Twenty percent of all homeless people work, but they are homeless due to the greed and inhumane housing marketplace that puts profit first and their lives second.

The United States has an infant mortality rate that is No. 30 among 168 countries surveyed, the highest in the so-called industrialized world. The U.S. also has the number one incarceration rate out of every country worldwide, but propagandizes itself as the leader of the free world.

What is even more alarming is that there is a prevailing mentality of many white people to demonize and call lazy those who are poor and in need, yet those same people have the temerity to say that this is a Christian nation.

Pope Francis’ recent visit demonstrated a moral and humane tone that is a direct contradiction to the current state of this sick and depraved market-driven culture. Corporate America is wreaking economic violence around the country in relation to the increasing levels of poverty and homelessness, and they have a destabilizing influence around the world that is manifested every day in the Middle East and throughout Africa and Eastern Europe. But America and its white majority continues to live a lie as far as its so-called “greatness.”

The celebration of Christopher Columbus this month is a continuation of that lie. As John Lennon said, “In America, they will chew you up and spit you back out.” Yes this porter working here in Larchmont is right. We are living in the dark ages. This is certainly not civilization.

 

Clifford Jackson is a resident
of Larchmont. The views
expressed are his.

 
OP/ED

Paying homage to the LGBT community

By Clifford Jackson
In light of the recent events in Ireland, I thought it would be proper to bring to the Review the support and acknowledgement the LGBT community deserves that I believe is long overdue. Four years ago, I had the honor and privilege of attending one of the first civil ceremonies sanctioned in New York state for same-sex marriages. I attended the wedding of Steven Goldberg and his partner Wayne Kaplan in Rockland County. Attending their wedding ceremony was an absolute pleasure, and when observing the dais and the ceremony as a whole, it was like attending any other ceremony for heterosexual couples that were Catholic, Jewish and Muslim, which I have experienced many times before.

That contravenes the virulent homophobic views of many, especially in the so-called Christian community that demonizes homosexuality. Homosexuality has always been a part of the human condition. It has been juxtaposed to heterosexuality in every civilization in history, going back to Greco Roman and Greek civilizations to African and Native American civilizations that preceded the Greeks and the Romans.

The problem, especially in terms of Western civilizations, is that they have persecuted homosexuality under the guise of their perverted form of “Christianity,” saying that “homosexuality is a byproduct of immorality and debauchery.” The same Christianity has justified five centuries of enslavement, and the killing and colonizing of African and Native American people. It is reflected in the archaic and barbaric laws of England which defined buggery (sodomy) laws as unnatural and punishable under the edict of King Henry VIII. These laws have been promoted and have been a part of the vicious proselytization, if you will, by the extreme right-winged parties here in America, where senators and congressmen within the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party have frequented countries like Belize, Nigeria and Uganda and helped criminalize homosexuality. In many instances, homosexuals are arrested or put to death just for their sexual orientation. That hatred and ignorance is also a part of the African-American community and the “Black Church.” The Rev. Eddie Long, who is a pastor of a “mega church” in Georgia, has demonstrated ignorance and hatred of homosexuals.

Steven and Wayne’s wedding was full of joy and love, and epitomized the real meaning of a unification for life. Unlike heterosexuals, homosexuals do not have a divorce rate of more than 50 percent. Indeed, divorce has been more of a social malady and destroyer of the concept of family than the homosexual lifestyle.

Please join me in celebrating the union of Steven Goldberg and Wayne Kaplan and their two children of color that they have adopted. They certainly epitomize the real meaning
of family.

 

Clifford Jackson is a resident of Larchmont. The views expressed are his.

 
OP/ED

Ope/Ed: Alert, conscious expose historical negligence

 

By Luis Quiros
“In my past, the combination of luxury and a lot of white people never failed to make me feel invisible” are words from my book, “An Other’s Mind.” Though referring to instances throughout my childhood growing up as a Puerto Rican in New York City, the aftermath of my lived experience under those conditions now in the late part of my adulthood still resonates—ignorance remains this nation’s dominant characteristic.

As my intimate friend Dr. John Hope Franklin often verified, the Reconstruction Era has yet to end. My perspective is this nation has yet to deal with slavery and racial-divisive symbols don’t just come down.

Why then would a white person deny her roots and orchestrate a black identity? Rachel Dolezal exposes the myth of the level playing fields and a “post-racial era.” In fact, the Birmingham, Ala., bombing in 1963 that killed four teenagers in a church and the Emanuel AME massacre in Charleston, S.C., did not lower the Confederate flag any more than it exposed the United States. The attack in Charleston reveals our interconnectedness of the trauma imposed on others.

Intelligent people, concerning the effects of slavery, would not have people of color profiled as shooters and immediately called terrorists, while white people are only labeled mentally ill. The white pilot who flew the plane into the French Alps killing more than 150 people was labeled mentally disturbed. However, the three gunmen who stormed the Paris offices of a French satirical magazine, killing 12, were immediately labeled terrorists.

In 2014, in a place of luxury overlooking the Hudson River with a “progressive” and white audience, a Puerto Rican keynote speaker addressed more than 100 attendees. One white man turned his back on the speaker. For me, that moment was a flashback to first grade—being ignored, denied my language and being made to feel that my history was not worthy of being taught. Too often demonized: our version of a swastika; a burning cross; a Confederate flag; the permanency of our intellectual genocides. Cornell West defines these gestures as the “niggerization of America”—a person of color can never truly earn a place of honor to say what is on his or her mind.

When the New York Police Department turned its back on the mayor in protest, they were not reprimanded. I reacted by addressing this rude gesture and was told to apologize and faced consequences. Yet, on June 28, New York’s highest court ruled unanimously that going on a profanity-laden rant during an encounter with police did not constitute disorderly conduct. Richard Gonzalez, not surprisingly, was sentenced to three-and-a-half to seven years for this “disorderly conduct.” Such racist views have landed tens of thousands of New Yorkers in jail over the last decade. According to the New York Law Journal, the interaction, while not pleasant, is totally legal.

When I hear the words “report suspicious activities,” chills run down my spine. Less than two years ago I was arrested in front of my house and was told I looked suspicious. I was also asked why was I “near a school.” We are suspicious by default.

Brian Williams, a white man who should have been fired for his actions, reminds me of Dr. Franklin’s wisdom once again, “We do not have the right to fail.” There is an immeasurable difference between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter.” There is a lived experience to one who has often been denied a value of being whole, worthy and trustworthy.

Bree Newsome and others like her may scale flagpoles to bring down the Confederate flag; I simply will continue to expose the hypocrites who have signed the confederate gentlemen’s agreement in their heart, while holding positions of power and influence that are perceived as being contrary to their heart.

To correct your ideologies, start by at least paying attention. Spell and say our names correctly and know that we are very visible and highly educated, in every language and color.

My mother taught me “not to believe in gravity” so I could land where and when I wanted–making choices not as a given like the status quo or the culture of this nation, which she knew was deeply rooted in racism and capitalism. Those in power create an unquestioned gentleman’s agreement dictating who the experts are, who is rude, violent, and who should remain invisible.

 

Luis Quiros is a resident of  Mamaroneck. The views expressed are his.

 
OP/ED

OP/ED: Warren Ross was very much a ‘class act’

 

 

By Peter Lane
I was unfortunately unable to attend the recent memorial service for the late former Democratic Rye City Mayor Warren Ross.  I do, however, want to take an opportunity to share some political and personal recollections of Warren; a thoughtful, highly intelligent man (he was, in fact, brilliant in his modest and unassuming way) of great integrity who I considered to be very much a “class act.”

I was the Republican Party chairman when Warren was first elected to the Rye City Council in 1985 and then as mayor in 1989. While I never believed politics should become “personal,” I consider it to be a “contact sport” and I never shied away from exchanging “political hits” when I thought it appropriate. (One of my favorite political quotes is from the late, long-time political commentator, Jack W. Germond, who was fond of reminding us that “politics ain’t beanbag.” This translates to the real world guidelines that politics is not for the “thin skinned” and we who participate in it are supposed to be grown-ups.)

While I’ve always believed that I have never crossed the line from the “political” to the “personal” (and I have Obama-like faith in my political judgment), I am aware that we all have different sensibilities. Thus, my pragmatic guidelines, and assumptions, notwithstanding, I always hope that the subject of any of my particular comments won’t feel himself or herself to have been victimized by a never intended ad hominem attack.

All of this sets the stage for my anecdote about Warren. My good friend, judicial role model and mentor—his feel for the pulse of our city on this very pro-active, “hands-on” bench was unerring—Tom DeCaro was due to retire as the Rye City judge at the end of 1991. That was a position that had long been my professional goal and the one that I very much hoped to be appointed to after Tom stepped down.  According to our City Charter, the appointment is made by the mayor with the approval of the City Council. I was, however, early in Warren’s term as mayor still the Republican chairman, so it fell to me to engage with him politically. I did that in a series of “shot for shot” exchanges in one of Rye’s then weekly newspapers. I wore only the chair’s “hat” and my political gusto was unrestrained by my ambition to don the local judge’s robe in January 1992. I could only hope that Warren would follow the same guidelines that I did and would not be a political “grudge holder” when the time for the appointment arose.

At some point, shortly after our local version of political “point-counterpoint” had ended, I resigned as the Republican chairman, although I remained a member of the Rye City Republican Committee. This turned out not to be the wisest political move that I ever made since as chairman it would have been easier to protect my “flank” against other lawyers from my party who also coveted the soon to be open judgeship.

Late in 1991, Warren diligently began personally interviewing those of us who sought to be considered for the appointment as the next Rye City judge. (My best recollection was that there were some four or five candidates, so it could not have been an easy or brief task for him.) When my turn came, I made the best possible affirmative case that I could for my appointment and then answered his questions. He asked some thoughtful ones, including how I might interact with the community for its betterment in an extra-curricular (i.e. outside the courtroom) fashion.  Fortunately, I had given that some prior thought and shared with him my intent to partner with the middle school and speak with the students about the fact that they were entering an age bracket where the legal consequences of some actions that might merely have resulted in a summons to the principal’s office in elementary school were about to become potentially serious. That must have resonated with him in a favorable way since he made mention of it when he announced my appointment to the press.

What we did not do was to allude to our past political exchanges. That would have been extremely inappropriate (not to mention incredibly stupid on my part).

What Warren was well able to do was to put those exchanges (and my role as a former political adversary) in perspective and to treat those considerations as irrelevant to the task at hand. He appointed the person who he thought would be best for the job to the bench, period. I have been in politics long enough to know that not everyone in his position would have done the same thing. He started me on what was to become a highly gratifying and fulfilling 18-year career as a judge. I will remain forever grateful to him for having the willingness and the strength of character to do that.

 

Peter Lane is a retired Rye City Court judge and current executive director of the Rye City Republican Committee. The views expressed are his. 

 
OP/ED

The endless summer

EndlessSummerBy Richard Ilse
Welcome to the longest summer possible and, after what Mother Nature dumped on us this past winter, father time is going to reward us. This year, Memorial Day is the earliest it can be, Labor Day is the latest it can be and the 4th of July falls on a weekend. This calendar creation is actually a fairly rare event. The last time it happened was in 2009 and it won’t happen again until 2020. After that, it shows up again in 2026 and then not again until 2037.

Of course all of this depends on how you gauge a summer and there are two ways to do so.

First, there is the astronomical, or calendar, summer, which is the 93-day period of time between the summer solstice and the fall equinox: June 21 through Sept. 22.

The second way is called “cultural summer.” The United States is unique in that it offers up two benchmark holidays that redefine summers in America and gives us certain inherent advantages. Cultural summer is the 14-week period of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day and is inherently a week longer than an astronomical summer. This summer, due to the calendar quirk, we get an extra week on top of that.

Our cultural summers, even without the additional time, have other advantages over an astronomical summer in that they capture more daylight. That is to say with the cultural summer, the weeks between Memorial Day and the summer solstice on June 21 offer up much longer days than on the back end, between Labor Day and the fall equinox on Sept. 22. Those days get progressively shorter. Besides, once Labor Day is over, our thoughts turn to fall fashion, football and falling temperatures, even though it’s still summer out.

On the flip side, those first few weeks of June, which we count as summer here, carry with them some of the longest days of the year. A magical time of year where the sun never seems to want to set and life outdoors explodes onto the scene.

This longest summer scenario may remind you of the classic 1960s movie “The Endless Summer,” where a couple of surfers chase summer around the globe, or more precisely, up and down the planet, hemisphere-hopping in search of the perfect wave and a 12-month summer. This summer, here in the United States, we get the next best thing, the longest summer possible and no passport required.

There is something else that happens once in a blue moon this summer. We get two full moons in the month of July, which is rare, thus the phrase. Over the next 240 months there will be 15 blue moons. They can be defined as either the second of two full moons in a month, or the third of four in a season. Both fit for this summer no matter how you measure them. But the meaning of the phrase itself “once in a blue moon” has morphed over the years. Originally, instead of meaning rare, it meant something that is absurd, right along the lines of another idiom “when pigs fly.”

So after last winter, where everything that could and as much as possible seems to have fallen out of the sky, you never know what’s going to drop out of the sky next. So after this summer ends and the leaves have fallen, after pumpkins and then turkeys have been carved and before the pigs wings ice up and they fall out of the sky too, remember the calendar also treats us to a Christmas and New Years that fall on a Friday, giving us two, true three day weekends to end the year.

But before that, if you really are looking for things that actually do fall out of the sky, pay attention to mid-August and the Perseid meteor shower. It is the best and brightest of many this summer and occurs during a new moon phase, so the sky will not be moon-soaked. Just grab a blanket and let your eyes wander to the Northeast. They will average more than 60 per hour, that’s more than one per New York minute.

Richard Ilse is a resident of Stamford, Conn.

OP/ED

Recent killings just more of the same

By cliff jackson
The murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown along with the killing of several other black males since their murders, who were all unarmed, including a 12 year-old boy by a white police officer, as well as the recent revelations about systemic racism and abuse by the Ferguson Police Department vividly illustrates that the deep-seated lawlessness and racism of police departments across this country has been going on for more than 150 years.

Huey P. Newton, Malcolm X as well as retired New York Police Department cop Frank Serpico have all said there is lawlessness on the part of the police in this country when it came to police occupation in black communities.

This has been illustrated throughout the history of the United States.

Tens of thousands of black people since the birth of the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tenn., in 1866 have been lynched, burned alive, beaten to death and mutilated by whites. Many times as part of a Sunday afternoon spectacle where crowds full of white families were entertained to this type of savagery. Many of the members of the Klan were also members of law enforcement in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as in Ohio, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. Also, many police officers who were not officially members of the Klan would stand by and allow these racist mobs to engage in their barbaric and insane brutality.

More than 600 recorded race riots, where whites would inflict this carnage on blacks happened from the 1860s to the 1960s, where we have still had several incidences since that time frame. The lynching of James Byrd in Texas in 1998 that spurred the “Mathew Sheppard-James Byrd hate crime” law is an example, as well as a black man who was run over by a group of whites driving a truck in Mississippi in June 2011 that stated they were “looking to kill a nigger.”

The summer of 1919 called “Red Summer” was an example where thousands of blacks during that three-month period were mutilated and burned alive by whites and local police. Part of the racist rationale was to put “the nigger in his place,” since many of the victims were black WWI veterans that had returned from serving their country.

Indeed the Harlem riots of 1943 and 1964 were precipitated by police shootings of unarmed black men. There have been more than 30 unarmed men of color who have been shot down by the police since 2012. Police killings of civilians reached 409 in 2013; that is unparalleled in the “Western world.”

Police are an expression of the larger community and the racism and pre-conceptions that they have towards communities of color are an extension of the racism and phobia’s that exist in this society. The Knapp Commission’s findings as well as the Mollen Commission’s findings of 1970 and 1993, respectively, of police brutality, racism and corruption clearly express that. The argument is put forth that black and Latino males commit a higher percentage of crimes per their demographics. That may be true. However if you look at the FBI and justice department’s racial categorization of those who perpetrate crimes, in particular violent crimes such as armed robbery, murder, rape and domestic violence, 65 to 70 percent are committed by whites. In 2011, more than 6.59 million crimes, mostly violent, were committed by whites in this country. If you took away every black and Latino person from this country at that time, you would still have a violent crime rate in the U.S. unparalleled by any industrialized country in the world.

Yet, mainly white police officers still have that edge and attitude towards communities of color.

Yes there are many police officers who come to serve their community without racial animus and try to practice proper law enforcement. However, all too often there are many police officers who are not properly trained, who do not look to reasonably deal with communities of color. They have a “shoot to kill” attitude and do not look to de-escalate a situation.

In the 1960s, we had hundreds of racial riots or rebellions in urban centers across the country. A major reason for that was the inhumane and brutal treatment of black people by police departments from Boston to Alabama. Malcolm X and Dr. King both spoke at lengths about this. The riots in Liberty City and the riots involving the incredible decision in a state court absolving four white police officers in the savage beating of Rodney King was expressed in Ferguson recently.

It looks like we will be returning to this type of rebellion against the racist and brutal aspects of the police and the larger white community as a whole unless the humanity of black people is accepted.

Cliff Jackson is a resident of Larchmont. The views expressed are his.

 
OP/ED

Malcolm X was ahead of his time

By CLIFF JACKSON
James Baldwin said, “To be black and relatively conscious in America, was to be in a constant state of rage.”

That exemplified Malcolm X and his understanding of how racist, brutal and evil United States history truly is. Feb. 21, 2015 was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of El Hajj Malik Shabazz, Malcolm X. He lashed out, in a stentorian fashion, against the hypocrisy, racism and brutal nature of this country in a way that no man or woman before him or after him ever did. As Sonia Sanchez, the famous poet and human rights activist said, “He said everything that we were thinking and experiencing here in America. He did it in a manly way, not behind closed doors, but for everyone to see. He took on America for us.”

Biographer Peter Goldman said, “When he spoke it was a declaration of an act of war.”

Malcolm X came from a family that had a great deal of pride in being black, indoctrinated with the philosophy of self determination and independence from Marcus Garvey and the “Back to Africa” movement. Indeed his father and mother attended meetings of the United Negro Improvement Association headed by Garvey. That was sui generis for that time, because in America the daily brutality, lynchings, mutilations and sheer barbarism that whites exhibited upon blacks in every sector of life, north and south, left very little room for “black pride” or the acceptance of the humanity of black people in this country. His father was lynched by the Klu Klux Klan in 1931 in Michigan. Michigan at that time had a Klan membership that was larger than Mississippi. From that, his family was torn apart by the white social welfare system and racism in general, as many black families are to this day by the overt and subliminal messages of “white supremacy” that governs their daily lives.

Once he was exposed to the teachings of the “Nation of Islam,” an organization created to counteract the emasculating and denuding nature of America on the black man, he attacked all of the hypocrisy and contradictions that manifested every day in America. He said, “How can you have the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution passed 100 years ago and say you are living in a democracy, and 100 years later you still cannot vote, you are brutalized daily and are subjected to a vicious cycle of disease, poverty and death.”

The denial of the humanity of black people has been worldwide by the “white western world.” Malcolm X affirmed the humanity of black people telling them that their history, language and very being had been destroyed. Professor John Henrike Clark said, “Malcolm made us feel whole again.” James Baldwin said, “He corroborated our reality.” He railed against the “uncle toms” and modern day negro Republicans that we see today in Benjamin Carson, Allen West and here in Westchester with Deneen Borelli. He knew that their sickness was a by-product of 500 years of “white supremacy” that precipitates their ingratiating behavior towards whites and their lack of identity.

Malcolm X said, “Black people and people of color are not minorities, but part of the worldwide majority.” He went to Selma, Ala., on Feb. 4 1965 at the invitation of SNCC and met and spoke in front of Coretta Scott King. where he talked about taking the United States before the United Nations for its “violation of the human rights of 22 million negroes here in America.”

Malcolm X had a perspicacious sense about how sick and uncivilized the American social order was. What people did not listen to when he was alive, we are experiencing today, because the destruction of the black family is directly attributable to the denial of our humanity and “white supremacy.” He also was prescient in understanding, like Dr. King that capitalism is a brutal system that destroys millions of lives for the benefit of the few. We see that today, with the so-called “third world” which is a by-product of the evils of racism, colonialism and capitalism. We also see it as far as the quality of life for millions across this country that is decaying and deteriorating everyday spiritually, emotionally and physically because of the quest for money. Long live the spirit of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Malcolm X.

Cliff Jackson is a resident of Larchmont. The views expressed are his. 

 
OP/ED

Parker, Morque means SPI 2.0?

On Monday, Nov. 3, Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker held the second of three Playland-related meetings at the Rye library. Poorly advertised so far, they have garnered low turnout, which may just have been according to plan because what came up at this meeting on Nov. 3 would go over in Rye like a lead balloon at this point.

On Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 Parker had Central Amusement International, CAI, come to make a presentation of its plan for Playland. Currently with SPI’s July 15 withdrawal letter and the on-going “evaluation” by Dan Biederman commissioned by County Executive Rob Astorino, the other two finalists—Central Amusement and Standard Amusements—are still ostensibly on the table for consideration.

The meeting on Monday, Nov. 3, was supposed to be a review with the community given by Parker of Playland’s 2014 season numbers, which were up significantly over the 2013 season.  Then apparently the goal was to get public feedback about what direction the park should take in the future. Most of the discussion that night focused on the question of why the county’s elected officials are even moving ahead with privatizing management of this glorious park rather than actually doing the job they were elected to and—instead of farming out all the potential profits to a private company—making the decision to put better systems in place with a commitment to run Playland, a county-owned asset.

About an hour into the event Legislator Parker segued the conversation into talking about how flawed the whole RFP, request for proposals, process has been since its inception. And then the hand off came to none other than Kim Morque, president of Sustainable Playland, Inc., who just so happened to be sitting in the back of the room that particular night. This was no accident.

He talks about how the RFP process was flawed and states that the county needs to go back to the drawing board and start a whole new RFP process. Then, he loops back to that theme SPI had going of “do we want an amusement park or a park with amusements?”

So, even after the enormous public outcry in the first half of 2013 when the SPI plan called for essentially eliminating the amusement park, he’s trying to bring that back into the discussion.

It’s nothing short of astounding that Morque would attempt this. Perhaps the biggest irony that seems lost on him is that when he thought he had the contract in the bag for himself, he wasn’t calling for a new RFP process based on the premise that the one that awarded him the contract had been flawed. He only seems to have decided the RFP process was flawed when it became clear SPI was not going to get the contract after all. Now that he’s out and the other two finalists are still potentially in the running, he thinks the county should bag the whole thing and start all over, which would give him the opportunity to submit a re-tooled bid for management of the park.

Now that’s a sore loser if ever I saw one. But, he did lose a lot of money on the first go-round; so, I guess, this may be his way to try and recoup it.

The current RFP process has been going on for almost five years. And in that time, Playland has seen not an ounce of investment or improvements because everything has been put on hold while it played out. Westchester County residents should tell the county executive and the Board of Legislators loudly and clearly that they do not support going back to the RFP drawing board, thus keeping Playland suffering in limbo that much longer and allowing Morque and his SPI cronies another shot at demolishing our beloved amusement park.

Kim Morque and “Sustainable Playland” were only ever able to answer one fundamental question throughout the review process, and they did it through their lack of ability to answer the specific questions about their plan, funding, community and environmental concerns, etc.

 

Deirdre Curran is a resident of Port Chester. The views expressed are hers. 

 
OP/ED

Charter change opposition bipartisan

By Meg Cameron
In last week’s op-ed piece, Peter Lane, who is a paid political consultant to the Rye City Republicans, dismissed the public outcry against Mayor Joe Sack’s proposals to re-write our city charter and misrepresented the motives of the citizens who have expressed alarm.

One of Sack’s proposals would take the job of hiring and firing the police commissioner away from the city manager and give it to he and the City Council. This would subject our community to the kind of political hiring and firing of city staff that we have been free from since our city charter was adopted over half a century ago.

The other proposed change would require staff to deal directly with City Council members, bypassing our current, standard good business chain of command in which communication is conducted through the city manager.

Many Rye residents fear these changes would invite political patronage and corruption, as well as create confusion and inefficiency by blurring the roles of our elected officials and the city manager.

At a Sept. 10 hearing on the proposed change in hiring and firing the police commissioner, which may be viewed on Rye TV, http://ryeny.swagit.com/play/09102014-1006, Item 12, Sack said he wanted this change because “The police commissioner position is such an important position in the City of Rye that the City Council ought to have the ability to select the police commissioner itself.”

Why is our police commissioner more important than, say, our city comptroller, who is responsible for the city’s finances?

Why is our police commissioner more important than our recreation commissioner, who is responsible for the safety of Rye’s children when they participate in city-sponsored recreation?

No one has explained this. Nor have they explained why the police commissioner’s importance means he should be hired by elected officials whose role until now has been making laws rather than hiring department heads.

At the hearing, Sack said, “We’re not doing it as a power grab,” although no one had said it was.  However, his opening statement at that same hearing suggests that it really is a power grab, motivated by his desire to have the public see him as “strong”.

“Sometimes the city manager form of government has been referred to, incorrectly, as the “weak mayor” form of government, Sack said at the public hearing. “That is, I think, an incorrect way of looking at it…. quite frankly, if you asked most people in Rye on the street whether or not they believe that we have that authority, they’d probably tell you, ‘yes,’ because most people in Rye don’t look at us as weak, they look at us – they expect us to be strong. “

This reasoning is faulty. It is not a matter of “weak” or “strong,” but of clearly defined roles.  Sack’s proposals will undermine Rye’s professionally run government model, which keeps our politicians from hiring or interfering with staff on a political basis.

Lane ignores this and tries to dismiss all objections as politically motivated. This is baloney. I have seen letters to the Rye City Review, the Rye Record and Rye Patch explaining the dangers of these proposals, and most were written by people who have no connection with the Rye City Democratic Committee; one came from a former Republican City Council member. Furthermore, I understand that former elected officials of both parties are organizing against these misguided proposals.

I suspect Lane hopes to deflect public focus from the real problem, which is that the current mayor and City Council are on the verge of making historic and damaging changes to our local government. These changes would replace a clear chain of command with an ambiguous one. They would end Rye’s history of keeping elected officials out of the political jobs game.

This is a matter of good policy versus bad policy, and not, as Lane pretends, Democrats vs. Republicans. I hope at least some of our City Council members will ignore Lane and think for themselves.  I hope they will respond to public input with open minds, rather than defensively. I hope they will resist the temptation to reassure themselves that this is a political matter rather than a policy matter. I hope they will think long and hard and make the right decision for our community.

 

Meg Cameron is the chairwoman of the Rye City Democratic Committee. The views expressed are hers.