Testimony delivered 1/14/13 at LaGuardia Community College on the drawing of new Council lines. CITIZENS UNION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK Testimony to the City Districting Commission, Queens Public Hearing January 14, 2012 Good evening, Chair Romano and other members of the City Districting Commission. My name is Bill Meehan, and I am a volunteer member of Citizens Union, a nonpartisan good government group dedicated to making democracy work for all New Yorkers. I am focusing my remarks on Queens, as other representatives of Citizens Union have previously testified at the Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn hearings. I am a resident of Queens and deeply involved in its civic life: I serve as a member of Queens Community Board 3; I am on the board of the New Visions Democratic Club and a member of the Queens County Democratic Committee; I am a Board Member and Treasurer of the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst Kehillah; President of Chapter 991 of AARP based in Jackson Heights; Business Director of Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee and a founding member of the Jackson Heights Dog Run. I cherish and respect the diversity that makes Queens a unique and wonderful place to live. While Citizens Union recognizes that improvements were made in Queens to keep some neighborhoods together, including Elmhurst, Cambria Heights and Maspeth, there are additional neighborhoods that the Commission should again try to keep whole. District 19 does not include all of Bayside or Oakland Gardens, as was requested by the majority of community members in public testimony, which would unite the Asian American community. There has been a 50 percent growth of Asian American Communities in both of these districts, and we recommend that the Commission fully include Bayside and Oakland Gardens in District 19. We recognize that community members have also noted that the residential neighborhood of Broadway-Flushing is now divided, which used to be wholly within District 19. We urge the Commission to seek to address both of these concerns and to publicly document its decision before it votes on final maps. The South Asian community in Ozone Park and Cypress Hill is divided between Districts 37 and 32. While the Commission stated that it could not create another cross-over district between Queens and Brooklyn, as District 34 already does so, it may be possible to shift this crossover to another area. Testimony at several hearings indicated that the South Asian community has requested this change. We urge the Commission to examine whether shifting the crossover district to these districts is a feasible alternative. For all of proposed council districts, Citizens Union recommends that the Commission provide to the public in advance of any vote on final maps a written rationale detailing its decision-making for each district. For example, the rationale should include how the Commission addressed requirements in the City Charter and specifically address how it handled public requests regarding their own districts. This information is essential to ensure that the public has more information about the choices that were made and potentially more confidence in the end result. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Silent Night 2012
It was almost the night before Christmas and too many creatures were stirring and pulling in different directions so that peace on earth and good will to all mankind really didn't have a chance. It was almost the night before Christmas and despite all,the efforts of Hallmark and the Charlie Browns amongst us the emphasis was on gift buying rather than gift giving. It was almost the night before Christmas and there was more concern on the number of hours left to shop than on remembering a Baby born long ago. I'm finding it hard to get into the Spirit of Christmas because there are so many distractions that make it difficult to believe in the wonder of a silent night long ago that heralded the goodness of both man and God. Anne Frank wrote "Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy". I am trying but it's difficult. Angels we have heard on high.....A group of youngsters from PS 69 sang at an AARP meeting I lead, young, strong, hopeful voices filled the room with holiday cheer. Looking at them it was hard not recall that a group just like them in Sandy Hook was slaughtered just a few days before. There was no room for him in the inn.....the Nor'easter Sandy wreaked havoc on our area and added many to our homeless population. Efforts to provide shelter always fall short and meaningful efforts to prevent homelessness sit low on our list of priorities. We find the resources to build prisons but cannot find the funds for affordable housing. A star in the east will lead you......we look to all sorts of distractions to keep from looking within; we heed voices that are devoid of meaning and offer only false promises. We too readily give into our penchant to be led rather that take on the burden of leading. For unto you a Son is given.....too many who should know better, who are called to proclaim the joy of incarnation try to limit God's acceptance and love only to those like themselves, as if God can not handle diversity when it is only their inability and selfishness that is the basis for their excluding others. "Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy" You my friends and loved ones make a difficult time and a troublesome world less fearful and give me hope. Thank you for your friendship. Enjoy the holidays and celebrate your goodness.
Thursday, July 05, 2012
Chance, the best dog I ever had 2001-2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Don't Slap Bill
Let me begin by stating that one of my best friends drives a bus. In fact, over the years many friends have been bus drivers. And of course Jackie Gleason was a bus driver and who doesn't like him?
Having proffered the required disclaimers so no one will think me to be anti bus driver or some one who cares little about his fellow man let me state that I am completely opposed to Senator Eric Adams proposal that NYC bus drivers be allowed to carry Tasers, and of course the arguments natural extension that they be allowed to use them.
I have been on enough buses to state that there are a variety of different drivers-- some kind and courteous, others coolly efficient, still others not too happy campers who are short tempered and bully-like. Some might handle Taser possession intelligently, tend to use it rarely if at all, and others who might make it a common retort to perceived threats or apparent lack of courtesy.
Be that as it may, I would really prefer that none of them be armed. In fact, I am against designating various people with special status as I feel it imperils the rest of us who have not been designated as worthy of extra protection.
It is now a felony to assault a cop, a mail man, a fireman, a transit worker, a teacher, a candle stick maker--well not really, but you get the point.
Again let me make it perfectly clear that I have both friends and family who are or who have been or want to be cops, firemen, transit workers, teachers, and even one who was a candle maker! And please believe me that I would hope and pray that no harm comes their way.
I would love to see a world where the word violence was seldom used because it hardly ever happened. I think Tasers, firearms, fisticuffs, sling shots, and assorted other weaponry do little to prevent violence and much to allow it.
Now to the nitty gritty. I am afraid that Senator Adams proposal, like all the other legislation before it that designated certain professions as "extra protected" will in fact endanger me! There, I said it , it's all about me.
You see I don't think violence will ever go away. People will get pissed off at a bus driver or a cop or whoever else is protected and will want to slap them up on the back of their head and then realize that they are armed with a gun or a Taser or that such a slap would result in felony prosecution and so they will look for someone they can hit without all these consequences. Someone like me. Soon there will be an app to identify where I am, or if not me, someone like me who is nearby and then boom, we will be the butt of their anger.
So Senator Adams, why do you want to hurt me? We have never even met. I' m a good guy, well most people think so. Don't believe me? Ask your fellow Senator Jose Peralta. He will tell you: Don't slap Bill.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
NO TEARS TO SHED
Diogenes admonishes “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum", loosely translated as “Speak no ill of the dead”. Judith Butler, an American post-structuralist philosopher, states: “some lives are grievable and some are not.”
Two “important” people died this past week, Christopher Hitchens and Cardinal John Foley. The obituaries, for the most part, adhered to Diogenes’ advice; I would follow Butler and state that neither death was grievable.
Publicly mourning someone like Hitchens in the way we are supposed to do — holding him up as someone who was “one of us,” even if we disagree with him — is also a way of quietly reinforcing the “we” that never seems to extend to the un-grievable Arab casualties of Hitch’s favorite wars. It’s also a “we” that has everything to do with being clever and literate and British (and nothing to do with a human universalism that stretches across the usual “us” and “them” categories). And when it is impolitic to mention that he was politically atrocious (in exactly the way of Kissinger, if not to the extent), we enshrine the same standard of human value as when the deaths of Iraqi children from cluster bombs are rendered politically meaningless by our lack of attention.
Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings.
In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”
Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it.
The above, with the exception of an editorial comment or two is from :
Christopher Hitchens and the protocol for public figure deaths
The other deceased was Cardinal Foley, the retired Vatican spokesman who once referred to AIDS as God’s sanction against homosexual activities. Nothing in the Times obit suggested that as he grew in “wisdom and age” he disavowed this hateful comment which portrays God as some sadistic monster.
In most institutions a comment of this nature would be publicly disavowed and be an automatic career killer. Not so in this instance. It was Archbishop Foley who made the remark and who was later elevated to the rank of Cardinal. I would have definitely remembered if his superior or his mitered brethren distanced themselves from his remark.
So much of the violence and death inflicted on the LGBT community is done in God’s name, done by crazed people who believe they act in the name of God and as his/her emissary. Too often, organized religion remains silent and thus complicit.
Two “important” men died this week. I shed no tears
Monday, November 07, 2011
No room in the inn, updated!
many years and many hats ago i worked in childrens village in dobbs ferry, ny. too many of the kids that came through had been subjected to physical, emotional and social abuse. when they were ready for discharge home visits were made to where they would return. . often it wasn't to the home from whence they came, but to a relative--often a warm, caring grandmother who would envelope them with the love previously denied them.
all too often, these same warm caring relatives were deemed unfit to care for their grandchild, nephew or brother simple because they were unable to provide a private room! it was insane! these kids who suffered far too much were denied the opportunity to live with sane, warm and loving family because of a private room! It was ludicrous, then, and would be now if it was still a discharge criteria.
The state which had been too absent when the abuse was going on, was now too vigilant and picayune in its discharge planning. Maybe a home with a pool, a swing in the back yard or a private room might be a great setting for a child who had suffered so much. But a loving home beat it out any day of the week.
The New York Times description of Sylvia's Place wasn't a pretty one. I've known Rev. Pat Baumgartner for many years and she is a warm, caring, loving and sane person. I am sure she would like everyone who came to Sylvia's Place to find a private room, bright and cheery, hugs and a sense of safety. But what happens when you love children, especially children in danger. and don't have a private cheery room to offer? Close the door? Make believe that they will find some safe shelter elsewhere? Thank God Rev Pat and her staff have the courage to "make do", knowing that it should be better, but it’s the best we can do right now.
Let's not be all that critical of the folks at Sylvia's. Let’s be critical, very critical over the fact that on any given night over 3500 children are on the streets in this the richest city in the world. Let’s be very critical that this city can spend millions on a parade to celebrate a sporting win but is unable to find the money to solve homelessness in this land of plenty. Let's be very critical over the fact that for the 3500 young, endangered young folks in the streets tonight, this city which has so much, can only offer 250 beds to house them. It's time to move beyond being critical let's be really angry and demand that something be done to address a problem that endangers our young and embarrasses a civil society.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Remarks written but not delivered at The New Visions Democratic Club's Annual Dinner April 14, 2011
New Visions Democratic Club April 14 2011
by Bill Meehan on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 1:34am
Here are some thoughts I wrote but didn't deliver at our annual dinner (I was an honoree). The audio wasn't working in the back of the room, and no one could hear what was being said, and sometimes after a series of speakers it's best to say thanks and little else. :)
I am embarrassed for being singled out for doing something that is simply supposed to be done
When I was younger the term community activist wasn’t used……not that there weren’t any, there were but they were called nudges.
Nudges get things done, not always but sometimes. And it’s probably true that some things wouldn’t get done unless someone did some nudging.
When I’m around an elected official, a judge or a major or mini corporate titan, I can’t help myself, I have to nudge. I can’t simply say hi…much to their distress I’m sure……to have the ear of someone in power and not to take the opportunity to say, hey the escalators are out again in the subway or the income limits for renters to obtain scree need to be raised or there is a possibility of an environmental problem responsible for a cancer cluster or that a minimum wage is a start but we need to fight for living wages…or and the list goes on, because there are needs, real needs and the ears of the powerful are attached to hands that can move mountains and bring about change.
When I see a pothole, or a burned out street light I have to call 311 even though at times it’s like talking to myself, I have to do it because sometimes it works!.....I can’t close my eyes or my mouth when things just aren’t the way they are supposed to be….I can’t just shut up when someone uses the N word, or describes an undocumented person as illegal, or calls someone a faggot. I can’t hold my tongue when told that I’m too old, or that the government ought to end welfare, Medicare, Medicaid or other lifelines that keep people alive—I could probably hold my tongue if someone said lets end corporate welfare, but then I would have to stomp my feet!.
When Obama ran for President they ridiculed him for being a community activist---you don’t call a possible P.O.T.U.S.—President of the United States—a nudge. He showed them not only could a community activist become a President but that a President should be a community activist!
Kermit taught us that it isn’t easy being green, and it ain’t easy being a nudge. Your job is to let others know that there’s more to do and that they can and should do it. Doesn’t get you invited to a lot of parties or earn you big bucks but it is a good way to live one’s life. I say this because not only am I a nudge, but I am an old nudge quickly becoming a real old nudge and have a lot more days behind me then in front of me . We need some young, bright, and energetic nudges! And we need them now…. Beware if you’re young, bright and energetic I’m going to nudge you.