Friday, February 18, 2011

Bronx BP Diaz Holds Sweethearts Luncheon for Senior Couples

  Thursday afternoon 40 couples each married over 50 years were the guests of BP Ruben Diaz Jr. for a "Sweethearts Luncheon" at Villa Barone in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx. Couples married as long as 62 years were on hand as the PS 51 Ballroom Dancers entertained them, had a filling lunch, and were greeted by the Bronx BP.
  The event was co-sponsored by HealthFirst who provide health coverage to young and old residents of the Bronx. With the new federal and state cuts to health care many are worried that eligible people for low cost or free health care may not find those services as facilitated enrollers will be the first to be cut. Without these vital people to connect those eligible with the needed services many community residents will not have the knowledge to find the health care services that they need.
BP Diaz with a few of the attendees.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Senator Rivera Releases Video, Urges Fellow Legislators to
Keep Their Campaign Promises to Pass Ethics Reform
54 of 62 current State Senators signed the
“New York Uprising Heroes of Reform” pledge during 2010 Campaign

Bronx, NY – Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) released a video today posted on, urging the 54 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, to keep their campaign promises to reform Albany by passing former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s reform pledge. Senator Rivera introduced legislation that would make it mandatory for legislators to disclose all sources of income in order for their constituents to know whose interests their legislators are representing in Albany.

“New Yorkers are frustrated by the scandal, corruption and dysfunction that has plagued Albany for years and been a road block to passing common sense legislation time and time again,” Senator Rivera said. “Too often, politicians have put special interests or their own interests ahead of those that they serve. I am committed to passing reforms that will help restore New Yorkers' confidence in their government and elected officials because it is what our constituents deserve and Albany needs."

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is among the 54 Senators who have pledged to pass ethics reform. The Senate has been in session for almost five weeks and yet Senator Skelos has shown no interest in bringing this legislation to the floor. Senator Rivera is calling on his colleagues that have pledged to reform Albany to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote and expedite the passage of ethics reform.

During the 2010 campaign season, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch received a commitment from 54 of the 62 current Senators, pledging to pass his “New York Uprising Heroes of Reform” pledge. Mayor Koch’s reform pledge includes calling for the immediate passage of ethics reform that includes financial disclosure, campaign finance reform, independent redistricting, and budget reform legislation.

Here is the transcript of what Senator Rivera said.

“Last November, New Yorkers spoke loud and clear. They said “we’ve had enough of Albany’s dysfunctional and corrupt politicians.”

“My neighbors weren't being served. And instead of representing the people, the senator from our district represented the worst of government in Albany. I’m here to say we defeated him and I am ready to be an agent of reform.

“I have pledged my commitment to reform Albany, and 53 of my colleagues have done the same. We heard their message, we heard it loud and clear –  and now we must deliver.

“At the top of our list is ethics reform. Albany has seen its share of unethical politicians who stole taxpayer money, abused their offices and held themselves above the law. Common-sense legislation has been bogged down for decades because of partisan politics and special interests -- and for too long, money has had a louder voice than the people of the state from Western New York to the Bronx and out to Long Island.

“That's why I'm sponsoring a bill that will require comprehensive financial disclosure from all elected officials. So I say to all my colleagues, and the 53 other senators - Democrats and Republicans - who signed Mayor Koch's pledge – Keep Your Promise, Pass the Pledge and put government back where it belongs—in the hands of the great citizens of New York.”


  New York City Comptroller John C. Liu stated the following in response to inquiries about his reaction to Mayor Bloomberg’s FY 2012 Preliminary Budget Proposal: 
  “As New York City emerges from this recession, added tax revenues are certainly welcome but they are by no means a solution to our problems. Before layoffs are even considered, the City must find savings in our own backyard - including putting an end to runaway contracts that have spent upwards of billions of dollars to employ high-priced consultants. 
  “We will continue to identify savings potential at City agencies to ensure that the budget is not balanced in a way that punishes our students, or unfairly singles out our City’s employees. 
   “There are still many moving pieces and uncertainties in this process, especially at the State level. My office looks forward to reviewing the Mayor’s Preliminary report and presenting testimony in the coming weeks on our findings.”


  State Senator Jeff Klein (D- Bronx/Westchester) joined by Claire Buffie, Miss New York 2010 and Kameran "Kamie" Crawford, Miss Teen USA 2010, delivered Valentines to Veterans on Wednesday. As part of the annual event, Klein, Ms. Buffie and Ms. Crawford visited with veterans at the Bronx V.A. Hospital and presented them with gifts and cards from Bronx students. Other guests included members of the local American Legion Posts, AMVETS, Catholic War Veterans, Jewish War Veterans and local civic groups.

  “We can never repay our veterans for their selfless sacrifice but we can continue to recognize and honor their service to our country. I look forward to this event every year when we come together to celebrate our brave veterans to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude,” said Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester).

   Schools participating in Klein's Valentine's for Veterans program include: P.S. 19 of Woodlawn, P.S. 83 of Morris Park, P.S. 108 and P.S. 71 of Pelham Bay, P.S./ M.S. 194, P.S. 14, P.S. 175 of City Island and P.S. 97.

   In addition, the P.S. 83 chorus and the SUNY Maritime Honor Guard entertained veterans with a selection of songs and music.

   Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie is 24 years old, and holds a B.F.A. in Visual Communications from Ball State University. She competed for the Miss America 2011 title in January, placing in the Top 12. In addition to holding the Miss New York 2010 title, Claire is also a photographer and designer. She was born in Indianapolis, Indiana.
   Miss Teen USA 2010, Kameran “Kamie” Crawford is 18 years old, and is a graduate from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland where she was captain of the varsity cheerleading team. Crawford represented Maryland in the Miss Teen USA 2010 pageant where she made history by being the first contestant from Maryland to win the title. Crawford plans to enroll in the University of Alabama next fall as a pre-med student after her reign is over. She hopes to become a dermatologist and have her own skincare and cosmetics line.
Senator Klein, Miss New York and Miss Teen USA with students from P.S. 83)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tragic accident on Grand Concourse Claims Young Boys Life

 This morning an unidentified 11 year old fifth grader from PS 209 was hit by a car while crossing the Grand Concourse at E.183rd Street on his way to school. The boy was walking with his father and stepped into the roadway thinking the light had changed, and was unable to return safely to the sidewalk. Traffic was heavy at the time and the driver of car that hit the boy stopped immediately, but the young boy was already dead. There were no charges to the driver who had the right of way, but this accident will be remembered by many.
 It was years ago that then District 10 Superintendent Irma Zardoya had a rule that children not be zoned for schools that were on the other side of the Grand Concourse due to the dangers pf crossing the Grand Concourse. We wonder if that rule was changed after the reorganization of the DOE by Chancellor Klein.
City Comptroller Liu Holds Bronx Town Hall Meeting

Monday February 14th New York City Comptroller John Liu held a town hall meeting in the Bronx at the Bronx County Building. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. thanked Comptroller Liu for coming to the Bronx and talking to the people of the Bronx about any problems that they may have concerning the purview of the Comptroller's office.
Comptroller Liu discussed the process of auditing city agencies, and checking for any fraud that maybe or has occurred. One such audit turned up a number of city checks still being sent (and cashed) to people who have died. 
The comptroller said that there have been ten different audits of the Department of Education including one on the issue of school closings and funding. Other concerns raised and answered by the comptroller were on no bid contracts, overtime, nursing homes, and the filtration plant.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A message from State Senator Jeff Klein

Dear Friend,

Recently, I was named the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse.
I do not take this appointment lightly. Addiction is on the rise in our state and incidents of driving related injuries and deaths involving drugs and alcohol are all to common. I accepted the position with a promise to introduce legislation and foster bi-partisan ideas and debate that will ultimately create a healthier and safer New York.
During my career in public service, I have fought to protect minors and families from alcohol and drug abuse and stand up for communities that have been harmed by its side effects. 
I’ve sponsored legislation to require first-time alcohol and drug offenders to participate in rehabilitation and to make mandatory the use of ID scanners for all who seek to sell alcohol and tobacco products.
  In addition, I carry legislation that would make anyone caught selling IDs to minors responsible for an injury, death or damage caused by the minor who got drunk using one of those illegal IDs.  
I believe that when a New Yorker walks into a bar to enjoy a drink with good friends they shouldn’t have to worry about being the victim. That’s why I’ve introduced a bill that prohibits the possession of firearms in, or on, the grounds of a place that serves alcoholic beverages. 
   After three Westchester teens were rushed to the emergency room with alcohol poisoning last summer, I led the fight to ban dangerous caffeinated alcoholic beverages from our stores and get them out of the hands of minors in New York State. 
   Earlier this year, I worked with Craigslist to make sure we removed all online postings seeking to illegally sell these drinks to minors. 
   I’ve worked closely with the NYPD and the State Liquor Authority to crackdown on troublesome and noisy bars and nightclubs in our communities and worked with the Department of Health to investigate and root out “pill mills” that put powerful drugs like Oxycontin in the hands of children and young adults. 
   During the last legislative session, we took the first step toward helping and healing thousands of New Yorkers by reforming this state's Draconian Rockefeller drug laws. As chairman, I will be examining the effectiveness of these reforms and will see where further improvements can be made to help those battling addiction, and to protect our communities from the twin scourges of alcohol and substance abuse.
   Additionally, I will continue to investigate the alarming trend of beverages with high alcoholic content being sold cheaply in our stores and within easy access to minors.
   I also pledge to fight prescription drug abuse before it starts by giving pharmacists access to the Department of Health database, so they can see when a person is filing multiple prescriptions at multiple locations. 
   I believe that, through this committee, we will save New Yorkers from further anguish, pain and injury.
   If you have any suggestions, feedback, or ideas, to share related to alcohol and drug abuse, or on any other issue, please contact my office to share them at (718) 822-2049. 
State Senator Jeff KleinRepresenting the 34th Senate District (Bronx/Westchester)

Monday, February 14, 2011

IDC Releases School Mandate Relief Plan

Independent Democratic Conference 

Regional Collective Bargaining among measures to lower costs, preserve educational quality.


  The Independent Democratic Conference today introduced a mandate relief package that will help schools reduce costs, maintain educational quality and ultimately help with the implementation of a tax cap.

   "Mandate relief is a key component of the Independent Democratic Conference’s plans to reduce the tax burden on New Yorkers,” Senator David J. Valesky, (D-Oneida), said. “If we are asking school districts to reduce spending, it only makes sense to provide them with tools to maximize efficiency and minimize the pressure caused by unfunded state mandates."

   The IDC previously released a mandate relief package for local governments.
The legislative package includes:
  Allowing Regional Collective Bargaining  

 Currently, each of the nearly 700 school districts in New York separately negotiate their own collective bargaining agreements. This is despite the fact that teachers, and some other employees, are organized at the state level. The IDC is introducing legislation that will level the playing field. It will create a voluntary system to allow neighboring districts to band together, share information better and jointly negotiate future contracts that will end up saving taxpayer money.  

  Giving New Flexibility in Purchasing Contracts 
  New York is currently one of only three states that do not allow cooperative contract use. Allowing schools and local municipalities to join out-of-state and national procurement cooperatives has proven successful in other states and has led to significant cost savings. The IDC has introduced legislation (S.624) to give school districts and local governmental entities the ability to consider favorable contractual purchasing conditions outside New York State and to "piggy-back" on to those contracts. Cooperative contracts provide a 10 to 15 percent cost savings per contract. Reform of these purchasing rules has the ability to save New York taxpayers $2 billion per-year, according to the New York State School Board Association.
  Freeing Up Excess Reserve Funds 
  A 2008 audit by the State Comptroller's Office found that school districts have collected as much as $407 million more than was needed for their Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve funds. These funds, used to pay employees for accrued leave time due to them when they leave district employment, currently have restrictions placed on them that prohibit even excess money from being used for other purposes. The IDC has introduced legislation, (S.1524), that would allow districts with excess funds in their EBALR accounts to use those funds to help support schools and lower the tax levy. The IDC recommends that, if this measure becomes law, these excess funds be used to pay one-time expenses such as capital projects -- pay off debt, or finance other post-employment benefits that would provide taxpayers relief today and reduce future costs. 
  Breaking Down Barriers to Share Services and Consolidate Healthcare Initiatives  
  The IDC has introduced legislation (S.2843) that streamlines the process for schools and other local governments to join together to consolidate administration and healthcare administration operations. These efforts would cut down on duplicative services, increase purchasing power in order to drive down costs, and allow schools access to the Healthy NY program. On average, Healthy NY is 7 percent cheaper than other health insurance products.
  This package is a road map that will help control costs, maintain our educational system, and, with a tax cap, make sure we live within our means,” Senator Jeffry D. Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester), said. “I am looking forward to working with the rest of the Independent Democratic Conference and our partners in government to build bi-partisan support for this critically important legislation.”
Additionally, the IDC makes the following recommendations to the Governor's Mandate Relief Design Team:
  • Enforce current laws that allow school districts to be customers of the New York Power Authority, making them eligible for lower energy-related costs. Currently, not all districts who seek this benefit are receiving them.
  • Return curriculum decisions to local districts.
  • Revamp the Payment In Lieu of Taxes process to ensure that any PILOT agreement includes an equitable payment to the local school district.

     It's time to put aside the explosive rhetoric and work as a team with our educators and school administrators to do more with less,” Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland) said. “No one wants to lessen the quality of our education and working together we can continue to lower costs while improving results. These common sense solutions will allow school districts to make the best use of their financial resources without treating our taxpayers like limitless cash machines.”