Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Campaign Finance Reform Makes A Difference... And It Shows

Money and politics have always had a contentious relationship, generally alienating people from the process who do not have much to give to politicians running for office. However in a few cases, reformers have made headway in making elections and the run-up to them more accessible to a wider spectrum of voters. Here in New York a step towards cleaner elections was taken a few years ago, and the results so far are definitely impressive.

From The NY Times:

The examination, to be released on Wednesday by the city’s Campaign Finance Board, shows that changes enacted before the race encouraged 34,000 New Yorkers to make campaign donations for the first time; drastically curtailed the role of businesses, political committees and lobbyists in campaigns; and caused a major drop in donations from those doing business with the city.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the new data suggests that, in a year when voter turnout was historically low and pundits treated the mayoral election as a foregone conclusion, many New Yorkers of more modest means felt compelled to participate in the election process.[...]

For the 2009 election, the city matched donations of $175 or less at a ratio of six to one (turning a contribution of $100 into $700). As a result, the Campaign Finance Board found, almost 70 percent of contributors gave $175 or less in 2009, a 22 percent increase in those donations over the election in 2005. Over all, such donations accounted for 15 percent of all the money raised, up from 8.5 percent in 2005.

Among new donors, the percentage was even higher: 80 percent gave $175 or less.

The next step is to take this, or even a more effective measure, up to Albany and implemented in such a way that New Yorkers across the state can be allowed to participate in local politics. Currently a wealthy donor can give tens of thousands to a gubernatorial candidate (or to anyone running for statewide office), an amount that undoubtedly has significant influence in the way an elected official treats certain issues. By bringing more small-donors into the mix, it not only moves politicians to heed the demands of the general constituency, it allows those without means to run for office themselves.

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Appeal To Help A Hate Crime Victim

There are many terrible crimes that one person can perpetrate on another....and a hate crime is certainly one of them. When Ahmed Sharif was brutally stabbed by an intoxicated and belligerent young man last week, the very worst of humanity was shown to a cab driver who's only crime was his faith. That is not the United States that our founders envisioned and it is certainly not how the great majority of Americans feel about religious tolerance currently.

While most of us shook our heads at the news last week, and were grateful that Mr. Sharif was not killed in the act, the aftermath is still serious. Currently Mr. Sharif is out of work and the benefits afforded to him by the Taxi Worker Alliance does not go the distance for his wife and children..

CNN has more on this:

"Ahmed is a strong man, but mentally he has limits," said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. "The trauma he's experienced will last for a long time."

Desai spent time this weekend with Sharif. She said his most pressing worry is how he'll provide for his wife and four children -- including a 10-month-old --without a job. Sharif is receiving 2/3 of his salary, about $30,000 a year, in workers' compensation. Union members do not get health insurance or disability payments, Desai said.

"My guess is that he'll be unable to work for at least four months," Desai said. "He can't even pick up his baby because of the wounds to his arms. He can't turn his neck."

An assistance fund was set up for Ahmed and his family, but sadly not much has been contributed to it. Perhaps there hasn't been too much in the way of publicity other than the initial newscasts covering the story. Hopefully it is not due to a lack of compassion on the part of New Yorkers. Instead of simply lamenting about it, I have donated $10.00 dollars and would like all those that read to give the same, or even $5.00 to help out. If you can't cover that, ask someone else to contribute. America is bigger than this heinous act, and I for one believe we should prove it.

Donate here now.