Opinion: Supreme questions

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

The great Motown singing group The Supremes had a big hit called “You Can’t Hurry Love.” But what is the rush in getting Judge Brett Kavanaugh safely ensconced on the United States Supreme Court for the rest of his life?

What seemed like a fairly easy road to confirmation albeit partisan is now is now filled with land mines for Brett Kavanaugh. Three weeks ago after the hearings ended, Kavanaugh seemed to answer all the questions in a knowledgeable and legally astute way. Sure he dodged the tough ones like how he might vote on abortion rights and presidential authority, but in fairness, so do all nominees, pretty much. There is no question that his qualifications from the standpoint of experience and scholarship are impressive.

The opposition to Mr. Kavanaugh did not stem from whether or not he was qualified, but rather how he might vote on critical issues and the belief that he will tilt the court unalterably to the political right. His predecessor Justice Anthony Kennedy was considered a centrist. That lurch to the right could easily last for a generation or more.

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Opinion: Strikes and the city

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

There are valid reasons to support a candidate running for governor this year other than Andrew Cuomo. He has certainly failed to reign in corruption in Albany as he promised he would. That is principally because he has been weak on changing campaign contribution laws and gargantuan political donations. These are the very laws that have enabled him to build a bulging $31M campaign war chest. He was slow to try to bring together warring factions of the Democratic majority in the State Senate, so much so that the Republican Party with fewer elected members has maintained control of that House for the past number of years thwarting pro-tenant and pro-consumer legislation in favor of big business.

Governor Cuomo has refused to increase taxes, even by a dime, on the wealthiest one percent in New York State while vital social service and education programs have been underfunded for lack of resources. He has tried to evade responsibility for the deteriorating condition of our mass transit system even though he controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). He has unnecessarily ramped up the feud with Mayor De Blasio, displaying an unflattering vindictive streak.

However, he cannot be taken to task, as “Sex and the City” actress turned governor candidate Cynthia Nixon has tried to do, over the issue of allowing municipal employees to go on strike. Some of us vividly remember the devastating strikes in New York City by the transportation workers, the sanitation workers and public school teachers in the 1960s and ‘70s. We can recall how difficult it was getting around the five boroughs during the transit strikes and the mounds of rotting garbage on the streets during the sanitation strikes. Fortunately, fire fighters and police never went down that road, and that is largely because of the Taylor Law, which Ms. Nixon wants to abolish.

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Opinion: Being mayor in New York City

By former Assemblyman Steve Sanders

Five years ago this month, Bill de Blasio was running for mayor against a bevy of better-known candidates featuring City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Congressman Anthony Weiner in the Democratic Primary. His early standing in the polls was fifth among five.

As the summer wore on, one by one they fell by the wayside.

Weiner’s political career dissolved amid a flurry of revelations about his obsession with sending pictures and texts of the most personal nature to women (and later even girls). He was utterly discredited. Quinn came across as entitled and arrogant and the voters soured on her. Another contender, City Comptroller John Liu, had been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for illegal political advertising and never gained traction. And Bill Thompson could not repeat his impressive showing from four years earlier.

By the end of August just weeks before the primary, voters began to gravitate towards de Blasio by process of elimination. He was progressive and made great promises about a liberal renaissance after 20 years of Republican rule in City Hall.

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Letters to the editor, July 19

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Immigration debate all of a sudden

Re: “Politics & Tidbits: Greats of Cooperstown,” T&V, July 12 

Steve Sanders wrote that one of the reasons he liked his visit to Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame was because of the protest he saw against Trump’s separation of babies from their parents.

Children have been separated from their parents since the first parent in the United States was put in prison hundreds of years ago.  Why have we not heard protests against this by the Democrats until Trump started enforcing immigration law?

What is the solution proposed by the Democrats, to keep both children and their parents in detention? That is against the law. The solution of the Democrats is not to detain the immigrants at all and to let gangs such as MS-13, hostile terrorists and foreign disease invade our country unchecked.

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Letters to the editor, July 12

July12 Toon Liberty

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Upsets at polls not earth shattering

Steven Sanders in his “Politics & Tidbits” column of July 5 could be completely correct that the results of the primary elections for two New York City congressional seats last month “carry (anti-establishment) messages and meanings. And politicians ignore those messages at their peril.”

On the other hand, primary elections often have extremely low voter turnout – which included those two elections cited by Sanders (the defeat of Joseph Crowley and the strong showing in a losing cause against Carolyn Maloney) – and are far from representative of the electorate. Well-organized and financed outsiders often do well in primary elections when 80 to 90 percent of the electorate stays home. In a general election, usually 60 to 70 percent of the electorate votes.

New York City political history is filled with stunning upsets in primary elections due to low turnout. Those upsets proved to have no carryover to any political trends locally or nationally. In 1970, our local member of Congress Representative Leonard Farbstein lost in the primary to Bella Abzug.

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Opinion: Fixing rents and making enemies

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It is said that a good deal is one in which neither party is entirely satisfied. More about that in a moment.

Rent regulations in New York City has been a thorny issue for decades. So a little recent history. The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) was established in 1969 and modified by the passage of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974. There are nine members of the RGB all appointed by the mayor. Of the nine, two are from the real estate industry, two representatives of tenant groups and five “public members.”

The RGB will meet on June 26 to set rent increases for leases that will expire beginning on October 1 through September 30, 2019. Currently, increases are set at 1.25 percent for a one-year lease and two percent for a two-year lease. Based on the proposals that have been recommended for public comment by the RGB, next year’s guidelines will be similar. There have been years where the rent increases rose into the double digits and there have been years that rents have been frozen. Generally speaking whatever the RGB decides, both tenants and owners cry foul. This year will be no different.

The fact is that try as they may, the RGB satisfies nobody. Moreover, it is difficult to do any planning because nobody knows what the rents will be set at from year to year. It is also a very dubious claim that the decision by the RGB is tied to any real economic data in terms of owners’ costs or profits and certainly not taking into consideration the financial burdens on tenants. In short, it is an arbitrary and often political process.

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Opinion: Embassy relocation a bad move

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

The Middle East is a powder keg. Everybody knows that. Well, almost everybody.

It is a toxic cauldron of grievances dating back centuries. Disputed land, hatred between religions, tribal warfare, ancient cultures and grudges abound. Anybody who wants to try to bring a political settlement to these historic forces must be both very knowledgeable and extremely careful. Too much blood has been spilled, and too many lives already lost in that troubled region of the world.

So Donald Trump’s cavalier attitude towards the political reckoning within the State of Israel and the surrounding Palestinian areas was certain to become incendiary with loss of life the result. Anyone could see that coming. Well, almost anyone.

Sure enough, President Trump made good on a campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem against the advice of our European allies and most experienced Middle East diplomats in this country. He did it to satisfy his political base here at home. Did he realize that the fate of Jerusalem is central to any negotiation to arrive at a real peace agreement between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab countries that support the Palestinians? He probably does not, or does not care. After all, it made for good politics at home. The consequence was predictable: violent protests occurred and scores of deaths resulted.

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Opinion: Felder overplays his hand

By former Assmeblyman Steven Sanders

Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder is a Democrat. But for reasons best known to him, he has been caucusing with the Republicans in Albany to help enable that Party to maintain control of the State Senate in spite of having fewer members than the Democrats.

But that’s not where the story ends. Last month, the seven Democratic members who have made up the so called “Independent Democratic Caucus” for the past number of years, reluctantly returned to the reservation. That leaves the Senate composition at 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans. Governor Cuomo for years tacitly accepted that odd political marriage because he felt it worked to his advantage. He no longer thinks so. He has been pressured from the left, and from his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, to stand up for Democrats. So he suddenly got involved and brokered a deal amongst the Senate Democrats.

But with Felder’s continued affiliation with the Republicans, they will maintain Senate control for the rest of this year. In exchange for Mr. Felder’s support, the Republicans have given him legislative perks and pivotal voting deference. But as the current session winds down and the November elections loom large and soon, Mr. Felder’s political strategy may need rethinking.

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Opinion: Great American Pastime

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

On Saturday morning, a great community is tradition will be renewed. Led by President Seth Coren, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League baseball season kicks off its 62nd year. It will be preceded by the parade of players and their parents starting from First Avenue at 20th Street and finishing at the Con Ed baseball facility at Avenue C and 16th Street.

In the early 1960s I played in our Little League organization. But in those days, we were homeless. We did not have a field to call our own. We played on the West Side of Manhattan and on Randall’s Island in the middle of the East River. But thanks to the partnership with Con Edison, land adjacent to the East River was developed into ball fields and became home to our local teams which have grown to over 60 teams more than 700 youngsters and scores of adult volunteers coaching, umpiring and taking care of the grounds.

Baseball is the Great American Pastime. It connects families and generations to each other. To underscore that point, when World War II began in the dark days of 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to the baseball commissioner and asked him not to suspend Major League Baseball games while this country fought for the salvation of civilization. Roosevelt believed that baseball was that important to the American spirit.

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Opinion: Star Wars

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The first Governor Cuomo (Mario) was fond of saying that “politicians campaign in poetry, but govern in prose.” What he meant was that political campaigns are filled with lofty sounding rhetoric, but leading a government takes practical and carefully detailed policies. The place to actually look for what public officials mean to do and their priorities is found in the budget each year. That is the vehicle to literally put your money where your mouth is.

Last week the legislature and the governor put the finishing touches on the state budget for the new Fiscal Year. It was passed during the Passover Seder and hours before Easter Sunday. One thing for sure: There was no candy for Mayor de Blasio in those Albany Easter eggs. Mostly just bitter herbs.

Andrew Cuomo, who has never been shy about reacting to real or perceived slights, is using his powers as governor to the fullest extent to belittle and damage Bill de Blasio. However, he is doing a disservice to the people of New York City. It does not matter how this rivalry began. It has morphed into full-scale war. To make things even more interesting, both men fancy themselves as the progressive champion and alternative to the policies of President Trump. And there is not enough space for two such gargantuan egos in the same room or from the same state.

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Opinion: A nation of laws

By Assemblymember Steven Sanders

“Wouldn’t you like to see one of these NFL owners say to someone who disrespects our flag, get that son of a bitch off the field now… you’re fired!”

With that stunning unprovoked rant against professional athletes engaging in protesting what they believe to be societal injustices, the president of the United States proved conclusively that he has no understanding of our Constitution, our history or our American values.

Donald Trump may be president, but he does not speak for me or most Americans, nor does he represent the democracy and sense of decency that millions of Americans fought to preserve over the many years.

It may be redundant, but I guess it needs repeating, that this nation is founded on laws and not the whims (or tweets) of any particular man or woman.

The bedrock of our democracy is built on our Constitution and particularly the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. These are our unique national ethics and statement of principles, and which sets our nation apart from other governments.

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Opinion: For once the president shuts up

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Say this about Donald Trump, he knows his base… and they evidently know him.

During his campaign rallies, he would preen and strut around the stage and insult his opponents with childish name-calling. On occasions, he would arouse his supporters by saying he’d like to punch demonstrators and see them carried out on stretchers. Music to the ears of the unstable.

As president, he urges police to rough up persons they arrest. He calls transgender individuals unfit to serve in the military in any capacity. He makes up facts and lies constantly. Is it any wonder that violent irrational groups previously relegated to the shadowy fringes of society now feel emboldened to take to the streets?

He labels the press as “enemies of the people.” But when Neo-Nazis and assorted white supremacy hate groups gathered in an incendiary demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, spewing racist and anti-Semitic slogans while parading as the Ku Klux Klan once did, our self-styled “tell it like it is” president had very little to say. He demurred from confronting the gaggle of haters who use Nazi symbols and KKK imagery to intimidate. Instead, he offered muted opposition to bigotry “from many places.” His initial statement refused to identify or condemn the instigators of this violence or single them out in any way.

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Opinion: Is the rent too damn high?

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Let me state at the outset that I like Joseph Strasberg a lot. I have known him for something like 40 years. He used to live in Stuyvesant Town when I did. He is smart and he is savvy, and an all-around good guy. So who is Joseph Strasberg?

Joe is the long-time president of the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA). Their slogan is “we house New York.” They represent hundreds of rent regulated building owners throughout New York City. Much of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village remain under the Rent Stabilization law. As such, thousands of tenants in our community are subject to the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) annual determination regarding rent renewal amounts for leases expiring in any given year.

For the past two years those increases have been small, just about two percent for a two-year lease and zero percent for a one-year lease renewal. In essence for tenants who have opted for one-year lease renewals their rent has been frozen for the past two years. Good news for tenants, but is this unfair to owners? Well Strasberg and the RSA say “for sure!” In fact, as was reported in the T&V, they went to court to petition a judge to overturn the RGB’s freezing of rents. They argued it was arbitrary and capricious and challenged the independence of the board from the political influence of the mayor. Strasberg averred in his court filings that the current mayor had “corrupted” the process. Strasberg and the RSA lost.

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Opinion: Bait and switch

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It was a sales pitch; it was always a sales pitch. It was like the defunct Trump University whose former students now have buyer’s remorse and have won a $22 million restitution of their tuition costs for a product that was promised but not delivered.

For nearly two years since the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to put Americans first and to “make America great again.” He advertised his credentials as the consummate businessman and the ultimate deal maker. Just the kind of tonic Washington D.C.’s unhealthy dysfunctional government needed.

To that end he promised to repeal the current health care law and replace it with something “much better and more affordable for every American.”

But instead he endorsed a plan that would toss 24 million Americans from their current health coverage, increase premiums and roll back benefits.

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Opinion: How many more lies?

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Not wanting to sound too melodramatic I still must ask the question: what more will it take for Donald Trump to say or do something that will cause him to forfeit the confidence of the American people as a stable and responsible leader of this nation? If lying and weird Twitter outbursts based on no facts were an impeachable offense then Vice President Mike Pence would be warming up in the bullpen to relieve this president.

Without recounting the dozens of insults, lies and provocations uttered by Mr. Trump during the campaign and before, it is instructive to remember some of what he has said since being sworn in as president less than two months ago.

He started by claiming that he won the election in an “historic landslide.” And then when corrected that the election was very close and that he actually was one of the very few presidents ever elected without having won the actual popular vote, he concocted a baseless assertion that there were millions of illegal votes cast for Hillary Clinton. He questioned the entire integrity of our political voting system, the underpinning of democracy.

There are no facts to support those allegations.

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