Showing posts with label Roosevelt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roosevelt. Show all posts

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sanitary District 2: Will the Politics of Destruction Trump Honesty?

 [NEWS UPDATE 10:54 pm, 12/12/2012:  Final vote to Dissolve the local district was 1682 yes, 4597 no.  Local residents crushed the out-of-town political nonsese by almost 3:1!  Congratulations to Baldwin, Baldwin Harbor, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt!!!]

I was raised for the first 24 years of my life in Baldwin Harbor, on Long Island’s south shore.  Born into – and living among – other blue-collar, working class families, I was a Republican for most of my life.  

 But, as happens to many of us, time and experience change us, and I have since become an advocate for largely liberal and progressive causes.  As I eye eventually returning to Long Island in my retirement, I have looked at the political party structure in New York, and found myself drawn to the Working Families Party, a recent addition to the NY electoral scene with stridently liberal views.  Sustainable development, energy sanity, environmental stewardship, and election reform all make more sense to me than ever before.

How disheartening, then, to discover that, like the major parties who use the money and muscle of Super PACS to do their dirty work,  the Working Families Party is no different.  Operating under the parallel name of the “Long Island Progressive Coalition,” and, most recently, by the fly-by-night invented group, “RESD” (Residents for Efficient Special Districts), these so-called progressives are anything but progressive, good-government advocates; rather, they have become as nasty, dishonest, and destructive as the  Republican and Democratic SuperPACS.

The current battle – to be settled at the polls in a few days (December 12), is an effort to dismantle a special sanitary district – “Sani 2” – serving 55,000 people in the communities of Baldwin, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt on Long Island.  The stated purpose for the drive to dismantle the district is ‘cost savings,’ though no credible figures have been supplied yet.

Let's cut to the chase: the entire circus is an invention of a failed candidate for Sanitation Commissioner who, in a fit of super sour grapes, has decided that if she can’t rule the district, she will ruin it.

In 2005, Laura Mallay ran for election as a Commissioner against incumbent Gerard Brown. Apparently, at the time, she felt the special district was important enough to ask voters to give her some responsibility in managing it.

But Mallay didn’t quite understand that Long Island voters do not simply ‘award’ politicians with an office simply because that politician wakes up one day with a brilliant idea and expects applause.  Mallay was trounced in the election, losing by a margin of more than 20 points.

So, rather than consider why voters rejected her, she invented a group, “RESD,” annointed herself as its Executive Director, and began a campaign to force a vote to dissolve Sanitary District 2, and to have 55,000 residents' garbage, recycling, and hazardous materials handled by some other as-of-yet unspecified entity.

"The District," claims Mallay, “is not economically sustainable.”

This, of course, flies in the face of the reality of the District’s existence for some 85 years, and the fact that the District’s annual budget increases for the last five years have been less than the annual rate of inflation...meaning that the District actually continues to more with less, and becomes more efficient each year.

Mallay has compared Sani 2's costs with other districts, and found them to be higher.  But Mallay’s calculations conveniently neglect to mention that Sanitary District 2 engages in additional, non-mandated activities that improve life for its residents, increase environmental quality and awareness, and which are not carried out by other ‘cheaper’ services.

Sanitary District 2 purchases bulk oil contracts for other area services, saving the local fire departments, school districts, and, therefore, taxpayers -   thousands of dollars annually.  Unlike other sanitation departments, they sponsor community cleanups, waterways cleanups (the picture above is from the recent Milburn Creek cleanup), graffiti removal efforts, and greening/planting projects. The value added to the community by this community-run district is enormous.

But that means nothing to Mallay, RESD, and the LI Progressive Coalition. Rule or Ruin is the battle cry.

Flyers promoting district dissolution fail to reference any credible  sources for their secret financial information. As an Economist, I see this as a highly troubling - and disingenuous - aspect of their campaign.

Letters delivered door-to-door this weekend failed to even contain a single signature assigning responsibility for their tirades. And in fact, almost 100% of the effort to destroy the district is coming not from within the district, but from paid campaign operatives who live nowhere near Baldwin or Roosevelt.

Meanwhile, the workers at Sani2, while understandably concerned about being tossed to the curb themselves if the vote to dismantle the district passes…have become heroes to those who know them best.
 One month ago, Hurricane Sandy slammed Baldwin Harbor with unprecedented fury. Neighborhoods that never saw water found themselves under several feet. Rugs, furniture, soaked sheetrock, and personal belongings of every kind were heaped in traumatized residents front yards. When destruction like this takes place in an area several square miles large, how do you even begin to deal with the clean-up?

The employees of Sani2 – all of whom are working-class, home-town local community members – worked round the clock for weeks to help homeowners sort through the wreckage of this storm.  While Mallay was safely ensconced in her dry home and political headquarters elsewhere in the state, the working men of Sani2 whose jobs are on the line performed Herculean tasks to clean up their community and share the heartbreak and burden with their own neighbors.

 If sanity prevails, the voters of Baldwin, Roosevelt, and South Hempstead will see this charade for what it is, and soundly defeat the effort to dismantle an 85-year old community institution.

And if the Working Families Party has any sense, they will distance themselves from the loose cannons that have taken control of their Long Island apparatus. 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day: Five Heroes of the Environment

This is, perhaps, one of the most difficult posts I have ever written. Those who qualify as ‘environmental heroes’ span the centuries and the globe, and all have drawn on the writings and actions of those who came before them. In limiting this post to five individuals, I forced myself to concentrate on the United States and the last century, and thus eliminated many deserving folk. I concentrated on those people who most affected my own sense of ecological awareness. I even considered including my own grandmother – Edna Mae Hermansen Gould - in the top five, since she was the one individual most directly responsible for instilling a sense of environmentalism in me...and there is something profound about the passing down of environmental practices from one generation to the next. And so, here they are: a politician, an author, an activist, a farmer, and an economist:

1) President Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America (1901–1909), and seen as the nations first “conservation president.” Elected Governor of New York, Vice-President, and the President as a Republican, in 1912 he lead a breakaway of Progressives from the GOP and formed the “Bull Moose Party.”
As President, Roosevelt lobbied Congress hard for conservation and protection of American lands and resources. He signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 (An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities), which gave the President authority by executive order to restrict the uses of public lands owned by the federal government. The Act resulted from concerns about protecting Native American ruins and artifacts on federal lands in the West. The Act permits immediate protection while Congress goes through the sometimes lengthy process of creating a National Park. Roosevelt first used the Act to protect the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Later, when Congress refused his pleas to create the Grand Canyon National Park, Roosevelt used the Act to provide immediate protection to the area until a more conservation-minded Congress could agree on National Park status for the area. The Act continues to be used today; On November 1, 2011, President Barack Obama used it to establish the Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia.

In addition to creating 18 National Monuments under the Antiquities Act, Roosevelt signed into law the creation of five National Parks, the nations’ first 51 Bird Reserves, four Game Preserves, and 150 National Forests. Over 230,000,000 acres of American soil was placed into some form of protection by Roosevelt. No President before, or since, has so expanded the protection of America’s wild and fragile lands and habitats.

2) Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. First serialized in The New Yorker in June 1962, the entire book was later published later that year by Houghton Mifflin, and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The book documented the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson exposed the lies circulated by the chemical industry about pesticide safety, and criticized government officials for blindly accepting industry claims. Her book lead to a ban of the pesticide DDT in 1972.

Silent Spring is named as #5 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Nonfiction, and as one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by the editors of Discover Magazine.

3) Erin Brockovich-Ellis, an American law clerk and environmental activist who, despite the lack of a formal law school education, was instrumental in building a successful case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993. The case alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium(VI), in the southern California town of Hinkley. At the center of the case was a facility called the Hinkley Compressor Station, part of a natural gas pipeline connecting to the San Francisco Bay Area and constructed in 1952. Between 1952 and 1966, PG&E used hexavalent chromium to fight corrosion in the cooling tower. The wastewater dissolved the hexavalent chromium from the cooling towers and was discharged to unlined ponds at the site. Some of the wastewater percolated into the groundwater, affecting an area near the plant approximately two miles long and nearly a mile wide. The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in US history. Brockovich is a classic “David-and-Goliath” story, that of a private citizen working tirelessly to bring a well-funded and politically-connected corporation to answer for environmental destruction.

4) Joel F. Salatin, a farmer, lecturer, and author whose books include Folks, This Ain't Normal, You Can Farm, and Salad Bar Beef.

Salatin's grandfather had been an avid gardener and beekeeper and a follower of J. I. Rodale, the author who pioneered Rodale Press and Prevention Magazine. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Salatin began his own business selling rabbits, eggs, butter and chickens from his family farm at the Staunton Curb Market while he was still in high school. Today, Salatin raises livestock using entirely holistic methods of animal husbandry, free of potentially harmful chemicals, on his Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. His 550-acre farm is featured prominently in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) and the documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh. Meat from the farm is sold by direct-marketing to consumers and restaurants, and is restricted to a four-hour radius, which Salatin calls his “foodshed.” "We want [prospective customers] to find farms in their areas and keep the money in their own community," says Salatin. "We think there is strength in decentralization and spreading out rather than in being concentrated and centralized.”

A self-described "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer," Salatin has popularized the notion of both “chicken tractors” (portable coops) and grass-fed beef, and is highly critical the increasingly regulatory and heavy-handed approach taken by the federal government agencies towards small farming operations. He spends a hundred days a year lecturing at colleges and to environmental groups and is one of the nations’ strongest voices for local, “beyond organic,” sustainable food production networks.

5) Elinor Ostrom, an Economist who became the first and only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009. Ostrom’s contribution, contained in her work, “Governing the Commons,” relates specifically to models of managing natural resources such as ponds, watershed, forests, and rangelands.

The field of environmental economics is often dominated by two extreme: at one end is the notion that human beings will plunder ‘free’ resources, as evidenced by the destruction of fisheries, whales, and the near-extinction of buffalo on the American plains in the late 1880s. Known as the “Tragedy of the Commons” (the name of a seminal 1968 essay by Garrett Hardin), it is often thought to be redressed through strong, top-down government regulations or prohibitions. At the polar opposite extreme is a body of work influenced by Ronald Coase (himself a Nobel Prize winning economist), which emphasizes the benefits possible through the privatization of the ownership sensitive resources (whether by Non-Profit groups such as the Sierra Club, or by profit-seeking corporations).

Ostroms’ work emphasized a different model, a ‘third’ way that results in both environmental sustainability and economic efficiency in the management of what she calls “Common Pool Resources” (CPRs). By using hundreds of examples around the world, Ostrom showed that when groups of local residents are empowered with authority to make decisions about local resources – unhindered by top-down laws and “one-size-fits-all” national policies - healthier environmental systems result. Her work lays down principles for the decentralization of environmental regulations and empowerment of local communities.

Ostrom is on the faculty of both Indiana University and Arizona State University. She holds a Distinguished Professor at Indiana University and is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University in Bloomington, as well as Research Professor and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe. Ostrom also serves as a lead researcher for the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Tech and funded by USAID.