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Has The Pulitzer Prize Committee - Like the Corporate Media - Lost its Way?
The following is an open letter that I sent to the Pultizer Prize Committee on January 25th, 2018 along with a journalistic series I had written in 2017 and sent to them in 2018 entitled Rupert Murdoch and the Rise of the 21st Century Propaganda Press. The series, which you can view by clicking the link, tells the story about how multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch appears to use his media outlets as propaganda machines in order to promote pols who will grant him favorable tax legislation, favorable executive rulings and favorable industry regulatory legislation.
Murdoch also appears to be able to manipulate the course of governments and public policy. He appears to have done exactly this in the case of the Iraq War, whereby Murdoch appears to have sent three English-speaking democracies to war - not only for oil - but for his cable network TV ratings too. In Britain in 2016, regarding the Brexit referendum, Murdoch appears to have hijacked public policy in his favor - not the nation's - by pushing through a seismic policy change that enables Murdoch to have greater autonomy over how he conducts his multi-national media business - free from any meaningful government interference - and the Brexit referendum vote also gave Murdoch a huge purchase price discount, because of a devalued British currency.
While the Corporate Media obsesses over the Russian Collusion Investigation - they are distracted from putting in the spotlight what appears to be the REAL 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION STORY - which is Rupert Murdoch's election meddling to further empower and enrich himself at the expense of the republic and its institutions.
In Trump's first year, Murdoch was the recipient of numerous tax breaks, and breath-taking deregulatory actions in Murdoch's industry via FCC Rulings and telecommunications legislative changes. All of this has received scant news coverage, as the Pulitzer Prize Award winning corporate media, were too busy covering Donald Trump's Tweet distractions. By giving preferential treatment to Trump's tweets, which the American public is able to directly access on their own, the corporate media has failed the American public by regurgitating and hence amplifying the President's shock jock statements - instead of doing their job of providing the American public with context-based news reports about the important issues of the day.
The Trump Train
Fake News or Fake President?
February 19, 2017 / NYC Neighborhoods / NYC Politics & Media / News Analysis & Opinion / Manhattan Buzz NYC.
I know a lot of people have found watching the news both addictive and frustrating lately.
They're tired of hearing the president make unsupported false statements every week, and listening to the media rebroadcast or reprint or repeat these false statements before they go onto correct him.
Hitler Said Repeat a Lie Often Enough and it Will Be Believed
Why does the media give these statements life in the first place - by repeating them at all?
It just gives these untruths some sort of strange validation, especially to those voters who make their decisions based on the noise level of soundbytes, instead of doing the research needed to understand the serious issues of the day, and the candidates' positions on them.
Jefferson said that those who believe they can be ignorant and free - believe in something that never was and never will be.
It seems to me that all of us need to start refocusing our attention from the petty distractions of what appears to be a Celebrity Apprentice President all-too-real TV show, to the serious business of addressing the issues facing the nation.
The president seems to be setting the tone for this chaos with his outrageous statements and theatrics. And the media - as during the 2016 campaign - seem to be knee-jerk reacting to almost everything he says.
They are enabling the president to suck up all the news oxygen out of the nation because all we hear about is Trump, Trump, Trump. They cover his antics - like he's media crack.
Special Request of the American Press: Separate the News from the Mockery
If the only thing the Trump Administration offers at its press conferences is of entertainment value, then I recommend that the news organizations treat it as such and forward the video outtakes of the 'fake president's fake press conferences' - which make a mockery of the office - to the 'fake news' outlets - meaning the late night comedy shows.
Folks who don't stay up late to watch these shows, can now catch these fictitious news shows on Youtube. Stephen Colbert of the Late Show, Seth Meyer of Late Night, and Saturday Night Live all seem to be on a tear. It's funny - but then again - it's not.
As for the news organizations, if you can't get anything of real substance out of the White House / Administration press briefings - then get out of your comfort zones and begin wandering the Capitol in search of the legislators, staffers, policy experts and industry experts who understand the issues and are working to address them. Put them front and center on the front page of your newspapers, websites and news shows, instead of the Trump Train.
By taking away the open mic you've been giving Trump since he began campaigning for the presidency, you will either influence him to start engaging in the issues and start acting like a real president - or begin marginalizing him - thus giving visibility to the people with the education, experience and knowledge to guide the nation in the right direction ... whatever that may be.
Special Request of the American People: Start Engaging in the Democratic Process
But we, the audience, are also part of the problem. Could it be that both Trump and the media are giving the audience 'what they (appear to) want' based on our behavorial response in watching, reading and clicking into the Trump Train News?
Perhaps it's time for us to tune out this show which parodies our system of government, while mocking us as a society. And maybe it's time to start listening to the advice of Mahatma Ghandi who said, "Live the change you want to see."
Instead of helplessly standing by, perhaps it's time for us to get involved at the grass roots level of the causes or issues we care about - on either side of the ideological spectrum. And maybe now is the time for us to get out from behind our computer screens so that we can infuse new energy into our own real lives. Spring is a good time for new initiatives.
Of course, then again, we could keep watching the Trump Train - if we want to keep this unreal TV show on the air - by continuing to contribute to its ratings success.
And even though our role in the process may sometimes feel insignificant, collectively we are each, one of the many deciders.
Special Presidents Day Request for Donald J. Trump
I have a special Presidents Day request to make of Donald J. Trump - and that is that you quit acting like a rich, spoiled brat and start acting like the president of the United States of America.
This request includes NOT encouraging the people who work for you (like Steve Bannon) telling the press to shut up, NOT ignoring 'tough' questions you don't like posed by members of the press who in some measure are asking the questions that many of us have, and most certainly NOT tweeting that the press is the enemy of the American people.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression / free speech / freedom of the press.
These sorts of statements made by you and your Administration, since you've taken office, might be expected of your good friends from less free countries, like RUSSIA - but NOT by the Leader of the Free World - which likie it or not - you are.
Either grow up quickly and quit embarrassing us - or please resign and let Mike Pence become the 46th President of the United States of America.
Have a Happy Presidents Day.
Applying the Principles of Resource Management to Airspace Conservation
Fisheries management is heavily scrutinized in the media and by stakeholders in commercial fishing communities. The general public seems to play a dual role in fisheries management, by lamenting the loss of historic fishing ports but also steadfastly determined to restore our aquatic marine resources. Having worked on the management side for 10 years, mostly as a freelance biologist, I have heard compelling arguments from both sides. Our ocean resources are a public resource with multiple user groups, and arguments are usually centered on how to fairly distribute an increasingly limited allotment of that resource. A fisherman’s allotment, or quota, is his livelihood, and management decisions can put his livelihood and community on the line.
Our airspace is also a public resource with multiple user groups. But unlike fisheries resources, when changes to our airspaces are implemented, you’ll find few public meetings, comparatively little scientific data and almost no stakeholder involvement. The allotment of our airspace is divided up among business and government interests with a bare minimum left for noise and pollution mitigation. Airspace is allotted in a one directional way, with no public dialogue, and not even a hint of a willingness to have one.
And our airspace is getting very crowded. Air travel demand will double by 2050, and airport operators from New York to London are calling for extra runways, reduced vertical and horizontal separation between planes and a condensing of flight routes. All this, and we’ll still have to make space for drones. These airspace changes have become necessary, we’re constantly told, to ensure our economic survival.
On the other side of the issue, as yet unheard, is the noise and particulate pollution burden that airspace overutilization has already caused. From Queens to Phoenix, many thousands of people are quietly realizing they cannot live amicably underneath the new superhighways in the sky. With a predisposition to expand and almost no space to do it, the aviation industry effectively cleaves off a small section of human habitat with every new route.
When it comes to our nation’s airspace, perhaps it’s time to take a cue from other conservation disciplines: we are over utilizing this resource, to the detriment of the general public, and it’s going to get worse. Like fisheries and many other public resources, airspace can and should be carefully managed and conserved. Equal stakeholder involvement should be incorporated into management decisions, and land use studies should be used to determine an equitable balance of airspace usage between all the relevant user groups.
If the general public would demand airspace management with the same fervor that they demand management of other resources, we might prevent the degradation of potentially hundreds of communities. Looking up at the sky 10 years from now, and finding that every open patch of air is filled with an aircraft or drone, it will have already been too late.
Queens Quiet Skies was established in 2012 to fight aviation noise pollution problems related to the FAA's NextGen project. The group lobbied intensively for a community aviation roundtable, Part 150 study, and a dramatic increase in noise monitors.
The group can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/QueensQuietSkies/ or directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian F. Will
Biologist & Vice President of QueensQuietSkies.us
Submitted February 22, 2016
The Great Evaporation - An Ozone Hole Parable
Short Story Fiction.
Once Upon a time ... on Another Planet
... in another solar system, there was a paradise that resembled planet Earth. Over a long period of time a certain species was blessed with the intellect and the physical capability of manipulating the world around them. In time this species came to completely rule the planet, although they were never quite able to put in place the methods and processes to rule themselves.
During the height of their planetary supremacy, there were ruling elites who controlled the primary sources of energy for the planet. An insidious by-product of using that energy, was that it began to change the environmental balance that enabled that species, and those species with which they co-existed, to originate and thrive.
What's Going On?
The general population of the ruling species began to realize that imbalances were occuring in their ecosystem, and some scientists on the planet began to make the case that one of the primary causes of the changes was the primary fuel sources used on the planet.
But the powerful ruling energy elite was able to stall the arrival of a general consensus to corrrect the problem, by leveraging their influence in efforts to conceal and discredit the evidence that linked the use of their energy products to the life-threatening, planetary environmental damage. Nonetheless, over time, the general population slowly began to realize what was really happening.
Private Profits Trump Communal Well Being
There were prior examples of similar ruling elites on this planet concealing health information from their customers, so they could sell their products to make more money. They concealed this information in spite of the fact that their products significantly shortened the life span of their customers. Thus, on this planet, it wasn't an unusual practice for some ruling elites to sacrifice the lives of others in order to enrich themselves.
The Great Evaporation
The ruling elites knew that they would lose a lot of money if the planetary population woke up to the fact that over time the planetary warming wouldn't just melt the planetary polar ice caps and wreak havoc with the weather patterns, but that it would ultimately lead to the Great Evaporation, wherein within years after the polar ice caps melted, all of the planetary bodies of water would quickly evaporate into thin air.
You see, the melting polar ice caps were releasing huge amounts of moisture into the eco-system, which hid the fact that the Great Evaporation was already well underway. Without the moisture from the melted polar ice caps, the plantary desiccation would have become more apparent, more quickly, to the planetary scientists and general population. And while the scientists continued predicting a wetter world, with huge rains and flooding, over time they continued to lower their estimates of higher sea levels, because their models failed to include a metric for the Great Evaporation that was going on simultaneously with the polar ice cap melting.
Over time the general population woke up to the fact that the evaporating planetary water no longer condensed, and thus didn't gain mass, and hence didn't return to the planet via planetary gravity - like it normally did. Instead the vapors became permanently dispersed or exited through the ozone hole. And so it was, that in time, the water evaporated and never returned because the ruling energy elites had warmed the planet too much, and concealed the problem for far too long. By the time the general population took notice and started to act, it was too late to fix the problem, which could have been corrrected by migrating the planetary energy sources to renewables.
Nature recycles everything, but this species did not learn that lesson in time. As anyonewho's traveled in the desert knows - it's very hard to stop water from evaporating, especially on a planetary scale.
No Fairytale Ending
Thus our story has an unhappy ending as the surface of this planet dried up. It wasn't long after the Great Evaporation that this planet's surface looked very similar to its barren dry moon and nearby deserted planets.
The Great Desiccation followed the Great Evaporation. As food cannot be grown without water, most of the creatures on the planet perished due to starvation and dehydration and asphyxiation - as all of the planetary vegetation was destroyed.
Of course some of the ruling elites that had caused this terrible planetary genocide survived, but they had to move into controlled air and water environments, similar to the ones found at some of the Texas conference centers.
by Michael Wood - (c) Copyright 2016 / All Rights Reserved
- The last four graphic images link to four different stories by highly respected information sources about the changing ecological system of planet earth. And here's another just in 3/4/16 NYT
- Anchorage receives less than half its normal snowfall and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that warming in Alaska is happening twice as quickly as in the Continental United States.
- One has to ponder whether continuing our current practice of using non-renewable energy sources, is worth the risk of possibly being wrong about what can happen.
- I hope you enjoyed this little planetary parable.
Need For Straight Talk From FAA & Government Officials
Something that continues to frustrate members of the Queens community is the evasive dialogue of the FAA. It hasn't changed a whole lot in the 3 years since the FAA first implemented NextGen technology at both airports. FAA Administrator Carmine Gallo has appeared in Queens several times during that span, including a recent town hall meeting in Jackson Heights. Still, he has yet to engage in a transparent conversation about the drastic airspace changes that are taking place. When it comes to the FAA, it's always about the weather (or construction).
The reality is that there is a lot more going on above our heads than just weather. Here I will try to summarize some of the more important changes that Administrator Gallo and the FAA often neglect to mention:
1. The Recategorization of Wake Turbulence Separations (RECAT)
This initiative was implemented at LaGuardia airport in February of 2015. It was tied to the NextGen project, thus avoiding a proper environmental analysis. RECAT reduces the separations of planes on the same route, such as planes arriving over Jackson Heights into LaGuardia’s runway 4. The separations reduction under RECAT has gone from a standard of 5 miles of separation to as little as 2.5 miles.
The FAA maintains that LaGuardia will handle growth of passenger demand with larger aircraft, but the FAA’s RECAT fact sheet lists capacity increases as a benefit of RECAT. From the FAA’s website: “The new standards are significantly improving the efficiency of operations at Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati and Atlanta. FedEx boosted capacity by 20 percent”
Yes, FedEx boosted capacity by 20%. And the Memphis airport increased its slot limit from 72 to 99 flights per hour. LaGuardia’s current restriction is at 71 flights per hour.
2. Lifting of the “Perimeter Rule”
The perimeter rule mandates that all LaGuardia destinations be within a 1,500 mile radius, thus keeping the airport’s planes of an equitable size and weight. Currently, there are no four engine jets at LaGuardia, largely because of the perimeter rule.
A lifting of the rule would likely bring A380’s and B787’s to LaGuardia. This is something that the Port Authority will decide, likely when the Part 150 study is near completion and can’t be included in the data. The FAA would also like the perimeter rule to end, and have consistently maintained that they will meet passenger demand with “larger aircraft”. The FAA has said this, even before lifting of the rule was being openly debated, which makes one wonder.
The larger aircraft would bring more engines lower to the ground, thus increasing noise. Heavier planes also have a lower takeoff trajectory and cannot turn efficiently, which brings us to the next new FAA initiative…
3. Optimum Profile Descent (OPD)
Above is an FAA rendition of how the NextGen satellite navigation system which will guide aircraft into LaGuardia’s runway 4 in the near future. Whether or not planes will slam into the runway at a 35 degree angle, as implied above, remains to be seen. The plane in the drawing doesn’t look like an Airbus.
Optimum Profile Descent could potentially bring heavier arriving planes closer to Jackson Heights than they already are. The FAA asserts that Optimum Profile Descent will reduce noise because it allows planes to glide right in.
The JUTES Climb is the route that terrorizes Jackson Heights on most weekends. It is a NextGen RNAV, thus it has never been studied for impact on the human environment. The Port Authority maintains that when capacity enhancing runway construction is finished, the route will subside. We’ll see.
But if it doesn’t, please know that there is an entry in the current LaGuardia Standard Operating Procedure which states: “avoid departing runway 22 to the maximum extent possible”. Runway 22 points directly at Jackson Heights and is the source of JUTES. The statement is in the runway selection guidelines and not the noise abatement section, which leads to the assumption that the FAA is weary of departing too many planes over the area’s very tall structures.
5. The FAA’s “hidden” noise data
A 2013 FAA funded study “Residential Exposure to Aircraft Noise and Hospital Admissions for Cardiovascular Diseases”, published by Harvard University’s School for Public Health, revealed that the FAA produced noise contours for 89 U.S. airports out to 55 DNL in the year 2010.
MSP Fair Skies investigated the possibility of acquiring all of this data through FOIA requests, as the FAA had never publicized the data. Using the FAA noise data that they received, they produced a map for LaGuardia Airport. The map is available here, in one of MSP Fair Skies superb documentaries: http://mspfairskies.com/videos/
It is the first map of our area that shows noise exposure out to 55 DNL (average decibel level over a 24 hour period). It clearly shows 55 DNL extending from runway 4 all the way into Brooklyn!
Below are two additional noise exposure maps, shown side by side for comparison. Prepared by Boeing and the Port Authority, the maps show the growth of our 65 DNL noise burden over a ten year period.
6. Lastly, a word about “quieter engines”
When the perimeter rule disappears, the number of engines on many planes will increase from two to four. With RECAT, the frequency of noise events will increase. Optimum Profile Descent and larger aircraft could bring the noise source, the engines, closer to the receiver. With the number of slots poised to increase and LaGuardia inching towards 24 hour operations, there is a potential of:
(24 hours) X (81 planes per hour) X (4 engines) = 7776 engines per day.
Quieter engines are great, and should be supported, but not without putting other noise abatement scenarios in proper perspective. Quieter engines are not a cure all, and industry will have to make some concessions. Whether it be noise mitigation flight routes, curfew, late night exceptions, maintenance of slots, altitude restrictions or something else, technology alone will not bail us out.
Brian F. Will
November 3, 2015
Editor's Note: This was sent to us in response to a story we published about a meeting held in Queens to address airplane noise in NYC.
Re-Generative Energy Will Solve Many Of America's Biggest Problems
Transitioning to re-generative energies such as wind, water and solar has the potential to narrow America's trade deficit, reduce America's government deficit, increase America's employment, reduce the probability of trade or military wars with China, and reduce America's carbon footprint.
Most armed conflicts take place in locations that are in or adjacent to large oil production locations or along strategic passageways for oil. It's worth noting that there are rising tensions in the South China Sea over signficant oil & gas resources there. Some believe these rising global tensions may lead to WWIII. As is true in all wars, many innocent men, women and children die. This is going on right now, as as fighting continues in Crimea, Gaza, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Nigeria & D.R. Congo.
Most of these Middle Eastern, African and impending Asian conflicts would likely be resolved if solar and wind energy were the nation's / world's primary energy sources. Instead of fighting over the remaining fossil fuels on the planet and their safe transit into use; let's use the solar and wind technologies we have already mastered, to prevent future military conflicts and mitigate the current ones.
Reduction of our reliance on oil / fossil fuels should be the nation's primary goal as it will:
1) reduce our trade deficit by enabling us to produce more or all of our own energy, thus cutting our reliance on imported oil,
2) enable us to reduce our military spending and hence overall government spending, deficits and taxes by reducing our need to guard oil production and transit ways around the world,
3) keep us out of other people's wars - which would be far easier to settle - if the riches and strategic importance associated with oil began and continued to decline,
4) provide a cleaner environment and slow climate change by reducing our consumption and hence the pollution of fossil fuels and
5) provide more domestic jobs as we could become a clean and net energy producer.
So why don't we do it?
Because those who profit from the current state of affairs will do whatever they can to slow or prevent this change from occurring because it will reduce their wealth and the future value of their holdings.
These not-so-special interests primarily consist of: a) those who profit from wars or the perceived threat of wars like the defense contractors; and b) those who profit from the heavy American reliance on fossil fuels like the big oil companies.
Both the oil companies and the defense contractors use American taxpayer dollars to fund their wealth by: a) collecting hundreds of billions of tax dollars for defense equipment investments and b) demanding that a signficant portion of American Armed Forces budgets [time, manpower and equipment] be directed toward the protection of American oil company transit ways and holdings abroad. They argue that this is because oil is a strategic asset. That is currently true, but it wouldn't be if America transitioned to solar and wind energies.
So in summary, we can mitigate some of the inhumanity of war, lower our trade deficit, lower our government spending, lower our taxes, become energy self-sufficient, pollute less, slow global climate change and increase domestic employment by accelerating our transition to solar, water and wind energies.
We can transition from fossil fuels to regenerative energy sources by using the same approach used to curb smoking nationally. Educate the public about how to transition and put economic incentives in place to support the transition. This means slowly, like cigarette taxes, commit to increasing taxes on oil consumption by some dollar or percent amount every year. Then take these tax receipts and use them to provide tax deductions and business incentives to move to renewable / regenerative fuels and energy conservation through more energy efficient autos, solar powered homes, windmill and water powered energy and the like.
Posted July 11, 2015
Open Memo to New York State Assembly and Senate
The Library Trustee Association (LTA) is chartered by the New York State Regents to represent, assist, educate and honor public library boards of trustees as providers of free and universal library service. LTA advocates for all of New York’s approximately 6700 public library trustees and categorically opposes proposed legislation S.6893-B/A.9217-B.
Libraries and their trustees are a vital link in the expression of and maintenance of the basic freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Interjecting politics and potential political interference into the library world sets a dangerous precedent.
This action potentially affects more than the Queens Library. It endangers the basic freedoms libraries provide for their patrons and the freedoms of association libraries
which constitute nearly 50 percent of all New York State public libraries.
This legislation would place a cloud of fear over library boards as they preside over the strategic mission and direction of their libraries. Library boards are charged with basing decisions on what is in the best interest of their community. The proposed legislation could allow local politicians and state lawmakers to impose political biases on otherwise non-partisan local decisions appropriately made by independent library boards of trustees.
New York State Libraries are recognized for their excellence throughout our nation and the world. New York State library boards of trustees are looked upon as models because of their organizational structure and how they implement their fiduciary responsibilities.
Many of the issues addressed in these bills are already covered by state regulations. LTA’s highest priority is to educate trustees about the requirements, standards and regulations that they are obligated to meet. Arbitrarily reducing the length of terms from five years to three years, as this legislation would require, will greatly diminish the ability of trustees to gain experience and to become well versed in the laws, regulations and standards they are responsible to uphold.
LTA strongly opposes these legislative bills which would set a precedent for Albany
lawmakers to interject political influence upon library trustee boards and their community libraries.
LTA Association Manager
and LTA’s Board of Directors
Posted June 24, 2014
Click here to read more about the Queens Library lawsuit on our sister web magazine Queens Buzz.
Legislation Threatens Independence of Local Libraries in New York State
Our community libraries are rooted in the concepts of free inquiry, free expression and the free and fair pursuit of information. Dating back to our country’s first lending library, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731, libraries have served as guardians of free speech and intellectual discourse. However, recently proposed state legislation threatens these core tenets by injecting politics into the day-to-day operations of our local libraries.
Legislation proposed by State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (S.6893- B/A.09217-B), as well as by Senator Tony Avella (S.7015-B) creates a dangerous precedent for our state’s eleven-hundred libraries – comply with political demands from elected officials or risk having your community-based organization targeted with reactionary, heavy-handed state legislation. That colleagues are jockeying for position on this issue demonstrates that there are political points to be scored.
The library community has always been a strong leader for good governance, oversight and transparency, particularly where public dollars are involved. That’s why local libraries, including the Queens Library, have many of these proposed measures already in place, and supported the Nonprofit Revitalization Act signed by Governor Cuomo last year.
This current legislation, though well-intentioned, is proffered as reform, but actually accomplishes the opposite.
The Gianaris/Aubry legislation would reduce trustee terms from five years to three, and thereby deprive the library board of the experience needed to engage in effective oversight, budget analysis and longrange planning. Coupled with a provision that would allow unilateral removal of trustees with little or no cause, these bills allow politicians to unjustly compel action from library trustees on any issue, including what content patrons could access and what community organizations could use the library as a meeting space. This legislation threatens the independence of every library in the state, and seeks to bring the Queens Library, a private not-for-profit corporation, directly under political control. It would open the door to patronage hires, politically-driven programming and censoring of content. In fact, this legislation sets the truly menacing precedent that any private, not-for-profit corporation receiving public funding is vulnerable to political persecution unless it complies with the demands of politicians.
The noted American author Norman Cousins once said that a ‘library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas.’ Independent thought and leadership at our libraries are absolutely necessary for those ideas to take shape. Our elected officials are supposed to defend our cherished institutions, not threaten them.
This legislation must be shelved.
By Mike Neppl - General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for the New York Library
June 10, 2014
Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.
Open Letter To NYS Assembly & Senate Regarding Queens Library Charter Changes
ALA / AmericanLibraryAssociation
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Legislative Office Building, Room 932 Albany, NY 12248
The Honorable Dean G. Skelos
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247
Dear Representative Silver and Senator Skelos,
On behalf of the American Library Association (ALA) and two divisions of ALA, the Public Library Association (PLA) and United for Libraries, we are writing to express our concerns with recently proposed legislation affecting library trustees. As the presidents of national organizations, we have a unique opportunity to observe and learn from the experiences of public libraries across the nation, and we know that Queens Library is an award winning library system that serves as a national model for excellence in library services.
Public libraries are a public good, providing impartial information and services to all, and should be held by the public, beyond the reach of undue political influence. Recently proposed legislation would negatively affect the independence of these public libraries, imposing a process from Albany that is clearly not in the best interests of the library or the community. Public libraries must be as independent as is possible if they are to impartially and effectively support, rather than be at the mercy of, the political process. This concept is central to our democratic system and to public libraries throughout the country.
The vibrant system of trusteeship in public libraries in New York is one that is renowned and respected around the country. Proposed bills S. 7015 and S.6893/A.9217 threaten this standing not only in Queens but throughout the state of New York. By reducing trustee terms from five years to three, combined with a proposed unilateral removal provision, these bills would threaten the ability of libraries to provide unencumbered access to information, values core not only to libraries but to our country as a whole. Freedom of information and freedom of thought cannot exist in a system where undue political influence can be brought to bear arbitrarily.
The proposed bills threaten the ability for Queens Library to operate free of political influence, and will serve as a dangerous precedent for libraries and library boards around the nation. We urge you to reject this legislation.
American Library Association
Carolyn A. Anthony
Public Library Association
United for Libraries
cc: New York State Assembly; New York State Senate
June 6, 2014
Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.
Keep Politics Out Of The Library
As we [the Queens Tribune on June 5th, 2014] detail elsewhere in this issue [Queens Tribune not Queens Buzz], the Queens Library system is the subject of two separate bills in the State Senate, calling for reforms to the way the Library does business. While the Senators behind these bills say they are trying to do what is best for the system, and the Borough President’s office calls for reforms and the City Comptroller’s office investigates the books, the Library’s Board of Trustees has publicly stated that its practices are fine, and no reforms are needed.
But no one seems to be saying these things to one another.
The Queens Library system is one of the best in the world, offering more than just books. Educational and language programs, computer and job training and afterschool events for kids are all offered throughout the Library’s branches. The more political games get played with the proposed reforms, the higher the chances that these programs can be lost.
While the continued barking about the needs for reforms makes for a great story, it is time for a sensible end to these public negotiations. It is time for the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees to stop playing defense, for the elected officials calling for reforms to halt their offensive. Instead of going back and forth behind separate closed doors, the two sides need to come together and negotiate a plan that works for all involved – especially the people that rely so heavily on the library for its services.
As far as anyone knows, there have been no meetings with all the principle players in this drama. We call on those individuals who say they are protecting the library – the members of the Board of Trustees, the Borough President and members of the Queens delegation in the State Legislature – to meet, not to argue over who is right and who needs to go, but to determine how best to go forward to ensure the future of the Queens Library is protected.
The political games need to stop. The time for talking is now.
June 5, 2014 / Queens Tribune Editorial
Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.
QUEENS LIBRARY STATEMENT REGARDING NY STATE LEGISLATION
"The Queens Library values the input of all our stakeholders, including our elected officials. The Library believes in good governance and is constantly committed to being better tomorrow than we are today. Over the last six weeks, the Board of Trustees has adopted a series of reforms aimed at improving upon existing policies, increasing transparency and strengthening the library and its governing practices.
The proposed State Legislation includes several specific measures that are already in place. Measures already in place at the Queens Library include an Audit Committee and a Labor Relations Committee of the Board of Trustees as well as a Conflict of Interest Policy for Senior Officers.
Several other measures are currently under consideration by the Board of Trustees.
We look forward to working with all our stakeholders to continue to enhance and strengthen the Library."
Queens Library Announces Series of Reforms
As part of its continued commitment to ensuring the library’s standing as a premier, nationally recognized library system, the Queens Library is pleased to announce that its Board of Trustees has adopted a series of reforms to its governance and operating policies and procedures.
“Every organization needs to continually monitor and, when needed, to adjust its governing structure, policies and procedures to stay current and to adopt industry best practices. Thanks to the leadership of the Board of Trustees, its management and its entire dedicated staff, Queens Library is a model that other library systems from across the globe seek to emulate. These changes will help ensure that the library remains transparent, accountable and effective. ” said Board of Trustees Chair Gabriel Taussig.
In the last six weeks, the Board of Trustees has moved very swiftly to implement a series of significant changes in policies and governance that strengthen the institution.
The adopted actions include:
· CREATION OF AN AUDIT COMMITTEE: The Audit Committee will assist the Board in improving oversight of the internal and existing external audit function, including the appointment of both internal and external auditors who will report directly to the Board and monitoring the implementation of audit recommendations. Members of the Audit committee have been appointed and their work has already begun. This committee will add an additional level of oversight.
· A PROCESS AND TIMELINE FOR REVIEW OF EXECUTIVE CONTRACT: The Board is undertaking an independent and thorough review of the President & CEO’s employment contract. Evaluation will be made of the compensation and all contract terms of the Chief Executive Officer as compared to those of similar sized not-for-profit institutions . The work of the consultant is underway.
· GOVERNANCE REVIEW: To include the views and expertise of the entire Board of Trustees on critical governance matters, a Special Committee on Governance has been formed; its work is already underway to review several serious matters recommended for consideration, including the current committee structure of the Board.
· NEW CONFLICTS OF INTEREST POLICY: A revised Conflict of Interest Policy for senior officers is in place to limit outside employment; to clearly define conflicts of interests for such employment and require senior officers to disclose any outside employment prior to accepting outside employment. Additional reviews have been authorized by the Board to determine if additional limits exist in comparable positions at similar non-profit organizations.
Additional proposals to further increase transparency, accountability and governance are under review by the Board of Trustee Committees and we expect additional actions to be announced in the coming weeks.
The mission of the Queens Library is to provide quality services, resources, and lifelong learning opportunities through books and a variety of other formats to meet the informational, educational, cultural, and recreational needs and interests of its diverse and changing population.
Posted on April 9, 2014
Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.
Charter School Owner Closes Her 22 NYC Public Schools To Bus Her Students To Albany To Serve Her Purposes
Statement by Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of New York City Council Education Committee
Capital New York reports that Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz “is closing all 22 of her schools for the day to attempt to rally support in Albany, and has asked teachers to provide instruction to students on buses up to the Capitol.”
I am deeply concerned about the legality of a school leader closing schools for entirely political purposes. As chair of the New York City Council Education Committee, I intend to hold an oversight hearing to investigate whether any laws or Chancellor’s regulations have been violated by Moskowitz unilaterally closing schools to effectively force children to lobby on her behalf.
This is the second time that Moskowitz has closed her schools for what seems to have been political purposes. In October, Moskowitz closed her Success Academy charter schools to lead a political march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest Bill de Blasio. This must stop. No educator should be allowed to use children as pawns for their political agenda. Serious questions arise about closing schools for political gain.
As the recipient of public funding, I am also troubled by reports of the Success Academy paying administrators extraordinary salaries.
I also intend to use my oversight powers to investigate Moskowitz’s extensive marketing campaigns costing millions of dollars.
Field trips can be an important part of the educational experience. Dragging children to Albany to further Moskowitz’s political agenda serves no public or pedagogical purpose.
Statement by Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of New York City Council Education Committee
Published March 1, 2014
Editor's Notes: Moskowitz Actions, Charters & School Performance, & DOE Actions In Astoria
What would you think if the United Federation of Teachers Union [UFT] closed all NYC public schools and used the school children for a union rally [aka their own political purposes], like Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy appears to have done above in Albany on March 4th, 2014? The photo above links to the NYT story.
In a report we did a couple years ago, a Stanford University Study showed that the inclusion of charters in a school system improves overall performance, although over time the charters in their study underperformed the non-charters.
In researching the story on school closings, the one thing we learned is that there are no easy answers and that there are many factors at play in measuring school performance. However, according to the summary results of a National Education Longitudinal Study published in Education Week, the most critical factors in determining the success of a school are the children and families who enroll in the school. Parental supervision and participation in their children's academic performance is critical to both the child's and school's success.
The Bloomberg Department of Education [DOE] began an attempt to partition one of Queens most successful schools [PS 122 in Astoria] while Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy was making plans to open a charter in Queens. Many parents of the school did not find this to be coincidence. After a public outrage, the DOE quickly backed down.
It's not a big stretch to surmise that this sort of coincidence may have occurred previously. Some believe that the Bloomberg DOE may have facilitated Moskowitz's success by enabling Success Academy to make targeted enrollments at the expense of the surrounding schools / students.
Eva Moskowitz caught the public's attention during the Bloomberg Administration second and third terms, for opening a record 22 charter schools in the NYC public education system in less than seven years. This represents between 1% and 2% of all NYC public schools [there are approximately 1700 in total] and 12% of all NYC public charter schools [there are 183 as of 2013 / 2014 school year].
March 1, 2014
Editor's Update - NYC Co-location Approval Criteria / Success Academy Funding / LIC H.S.
In late February Mayor de Blasio approved 35 of 45 school co-locations. He said that he turned down the school co-locations based on the following criteria: 1) not put any elementary schools in with high schools, 2) not open schools with less than 250 students because they wouldn't receive enough resource to provide a proper education, 3) no co-locations requiring heavy construction and 4) no co-locations requiring the dislocation of the neediest kids.
De Blasio approved five of eight co-locations for Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy charter schools. Three of eight of Success Academy's co-locations were not approved because they did not take into account the needs of kids with special needs.
Moskowitz's Success Academy is funded in part by many NYC hedge fund operators. These hedge fund operators are in the tax bracket targeted to fund NYC education. Many of the public advertising campaigns launched by Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy / Charterswork.org are funded by them, pushing their point of view.
Mayor de Blasio drew attention to the fact that some charter school programs, like those funded by private sources [aka high net income / net worth individuals] at Success Academy, cannot be replicated in the remaining public schools, without receipt of the additional funding.
Editor's Suggestion: If these privately funded charter school programs are successful, perhaps the city can ask these wealthy donors to Success Academy, to increase their investments in the NYC school system to enable these programs to be replicated throughout the entire NYC public school system.
LIC High School was one of the schools targeted for a co-location that was nixed. LIC High School is one of the remaining large high schools in the city.
April 6, 2014
Editor's Update - NYS Court Bars NYS Comptroller From Auditing Charter Schools
Thomas Di Napoli, NYS Comptroller, sent us this link to a story / editorial about how the Supreme Court barred his office from auditing NYS charter schools.
Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy sued the NYS Comptroller when he made an attempt to audit them. According to Mercedes Schneider, a blogger of the Huffington Post, in 2011, just nine schools of Success Academy received about $50 million in public funding. As mentioned above, Success Academy currently operates 22 charter schools in the NYC public school system.
According to the Times Union Editorial [the Times Union is a newspaper in Albany], New York State currently has 233 charter schools, with an enrollment of 87,000 children and costs taxpayers over $1 billion per year.
March 22, 2014
Thomas Di Napoli, NYS Comptroller, sent us this link to a story about a special education audit showing financial abuse of public funds.
DiNapoli: Special Education Provider Pleads Guilty to Felony Charges. The executive director of special education provider IncludED Educational Services pleaded guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court Friday to grand larceny charges stemming from an audit and investigation by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Morton Kramer agreed to pay $418,000 in restitution as part of his plea agreement and is banned for life from providing special education services for the state.
May 24, 2014
Universal Pre-Kindergarten Now
Study after study has shown that children who receive early childhood education perform demonstrably better later in life than those who don't receive it.
To give this benefit to our children, New York City needs a dedicated source of funding for universal prekindergarten.
The state's plan doesn't allocate enough money. Also, in the past, state educational money was promised to the city and now a decade later more than $4 billion of those funds have never made it to our public schools.
It's right to ask 1.5 percent of city taxpayers, those who make $500,000 or more a year, to pay their fair share of tax dollars.
To voice your support email email@example.com or call 212-788-6687.
Submitted by NYC City Councilmember Danny Dromm Chair of Committee on Education & NYC City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Posted March 1, 2014
Click here to view our sister web magazine Queens Buzz section on Queens Schools.
Questioning Proposed Banking Rules
November 15, 2012 / Flushing / Letters To The Editor
Our community and economy are at risk again, this time due to potential new banking rules that could affect the ability of banks to lend and communities to rebound. These proposed regulations, called “Basel III”, define how banks measure risks and their level of funds, or “capital” levels, that they would need in order to cover those risks. It works like your decision on savings: you can choose to save everything and not have any money to spend on goods and vacations. If all consumers did the same, then you can imagine the impact on the local communities. If all banks must set aside more capital, then they do not have that money available to lend in the community, resulting in reduced economic activity.
There are restrictions and costs related to regulatory requirements. These proposed rules are applied against many kinds of loans, including residential 1-4 Family mortgage loans, development and construction loans, business lines of credit and home equity lending. The rules ultimately have an effect on communities because it will be more difficult for the banks to lend to both consumers and businesses, and still to meet the regulatory capital levels. In addition, banks may need to increase the price for other products and services. In turn, borrowers who relied on those products and services would be deprived of affordable credit for homeownership or business activities.
The rules present key challenges and one such area is mortgage lending. At a time when the government lacks a long-term solution to housing finance, the proposed framework would impede mortgage lending that banks have offered successfully for decades. Basel III puts mortgage loans into two “Categories”, with the more favorable Category I defined very narrowly. In many cases, lenders offer substantially below-market interest rates to borrowers in exchange for the borrowers’ acceptance of future risk in rising interest rates; known as adjustable rate mortgage loans or “ARMS”. The proposal would make it much more difficult for many local banks to meet the new capital levels, causing them to decrease their ARMs lending, which again would reduce economic activity.
Category II is so tough that banks will have a very difficult time extending loans secured by home equity. The proposed rules on home equity lending are a double effect, because your first mortgage must be reassessed by banks using the new rules when you have a home equity loan. Banks must determine if it is possible to continue to offer home equity loans, absorb the related impact from the first mortgages, and still meet all of the regulatory requirements. These are only two examples. The rules run on for hundreds of pages, and so there are more examples that impact lending at current levels. Other government agencies are questioning whether Basel III is a good idea. On July 17, 2012, Peter T. King, U.S. Congressman from the third congressional district, and other members of the House Financial Services Committee raised their concerns in a letter to the regulators. They agreed that “Certain steps are necessary to restore confidence in our capital markets. However, we want to make sure any response to the financial crisis does not needlessly hamper economic recovery in our communities.” I support this level of questioning by the House Financial Services Committee. The Committee had heard from the community bankers, that their ability to lend and provide liquidity in the local markets would be curtailed. That is where our communities could be impacted.
The proposed rules are applied not just on new loans, but all loans, so there would be an immediate impact on the banks and our communities. They are retroactive, so, if banks made a decision to create a loan years ago under old regulations, this stricter set of rules must be applied against that loan as well.
The deadline set by the regulators was October, 22, to accept comments on the proposed rules. In light of the volume of comments received and the wide range of views expressed during the comment period, the regulatory agencies are holding hearings and have announced that they do not expect that any of the proposed rules would become effective on January 1, 2013.
John R. Buran, CEO and President, Flushing Bank
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