Sen Jose M. Serrano's blog

Window Pains

If every transparency effort is like a window pane, and you begin to layer them one on top of the other, how long until the process becomes too opaque … until the desired transparency gives way to fog?

Essentially, this is the question I posed in a letter to the Governor on state stimulus funding. Right now there is a whole menu of programs at various agencies and various levels of government. Just take a look at the online resources:

We have the Mayor’s Stimulus Tracker in New York City.



The Art of Government

The old saying in government is that “where you stand depends on where you sit.”

 

In other words, because I’m freshly seated as Chair of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, it’s no wonder I stand in strong opposition to proposed budget cuts that affect, well, all of the above.



Taking Action after Patchogue

The death of Marcello Lucero is – we hope – a death knell for the vile anti-immigrant rhetoric that has ballooned over the past several years.

It’s no accident that Latinos are the top-ranked victims of hate crimes, representing 62.8 percent of cases nationwide.

But if the Lucero tragedy inspires a change in dialogue, it should also inspire a change in laws. Now more than ever we need a government that all immigrants – both documented and undocumented – can trust.



A Taxing Issue

Read my lips: no new lies. Not in Albany, not in DC.

 

Senator McCain's recent "tax and spend" attack ad references plans by Senator Obama to levy "painful tax increases on working American families." But the McCain campaign is being disingenuous.

 

According to the non-partisan FactCheck.org, the Obama tax plan would lower taxes for 81.3 percent of all households and for 95.5 percent of households with children. For families bringing home between $37,595 and $66,354, the Obama plan would cut on average $1,118 from their federal tax burden.



Serrano Blogging from the Convention ...

… because in our next life, we all want to come back as Liz and Azi.

And I really do feel like a journalist here. First thing I wanted to figure out – whether this supposed Obama vs. Clinton rift is a legit big deal, or just an overblown story line.

From my vantage point – the New York Delegation seats – I was hard-pressed to find anyone sitting on their hands, or otherwise looking dissatisfied with the process. It's as clear as the Mile High air that Dems are united behind Obama.


The Second Mortgage Crisis

The second mortgage crisis has begun.

 

Same idea as the first crisis – bad bank loans, weak underwriting, and that risky practice of securitized mortgages – except this time it’s hitting large affordable apartment complexes in New York City.

 

From the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 15 (and also reported in Crain's): “The owners of the 1,230-unit, rent-controlled Riverton Apartments in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood anticipate defaulting on the property's $225 million mortgage by next month, marking one of the housing bust's largest collapses of a New York City residential development.



Mom and Pop and Economic Security

The Governor’s Economic Security Cabinet will be in Harlem on July 28 as part of a statewide series of town hall meetings. The Cabinet will look at, among other things, job growth and workforce development.

 

I think there’s a lot to be learned from the 28th Senate District – which is both a hotbed of new and innovative economic activity, but also a place with a lot of economic insecurity.



Urban Growth from the Bottom Up

Senator Obama made an astute comment last week to the nation’s mayors. He said that "change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up.

The Bush corollary is that bad decisions at the federal level do go from the top on down, with local governments left to clean up the mess.

Two examples of what I mean:

• Military recruiters have developed special marketing techniques that target youth in low-income neighborhoods. Everything from parking decked-out Hummers in front of Bronx high school to recruiting users of internet role-playing war games. The efforts are not simply aggressive, but very often violate Dept. of Education guidelines. (Be sure to read this report from Borough President Stringer and NYCLU.)



Going Through the Motions

Yesterday the legislative stars aligned - if only for a fleeting moment - as I was able to address the Senate about one of my bills. Currently, I have 16 active bills being considered by various committees, and have publicly addressed my Senate colleagues only once this session. It will also probably be the last time due to the rules that govern the New York State Senate.



Where Public Safety and Human Rights Converge

Republicans are calling New York a sanctuary city. I say let's make it a sanctuary state.

This week I am introducing a bill (S6738) into the State Senate that will make it the policy of all New York State employees to keep immigration status confidential when providing essential services for law-abiding people.

It is simply unacceptable that so many crimes against undocumented immigrants go unreported because they are afraid to come forward to the police. This bill will go a long way in ensuring that all people within the state of New York are able to feel safe and secure.

Similar to the Governor's original plan to expand eligibility for driver's licenses, this proposal will increase safety for all New Yorkers.



CNN: The Most Trusted Name in Viewer Hate Mail

I’ve spent the past month passionately defending the new DMV policy, and if one thing has become clear, it’s this: the other side could use a good public relations firm.

“It’s obvious that you’re Mexican and interested only in Mexican interests,” wrote one person who saw me on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight last week. (I was born in the South Bronx, to Puerto Rican parents.)

Along the same lines: “Despite your assertions, your people are bastardizing American trades … So why don’t you go to Mexico, asshole, and stay. You are a traitor to the people of America.”



Political Greens and Political Genes

As a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, I was surprised to learn that hundreds of students across the state were selected as winners of the "I’m a Green Nation" contest.

The only problem: all the students were from Republican Senate districts. Click here to read the full article in the Buffalo News. This was the first I’d even heard of the contest.

It’s bad enough the Republicans don’t allow our bills to the floor, or provide equal staffing resource, or a more equitable distribution of member items and capital funds. Now they are snubbing the kids in our district.



Mr. Smith -- and Mr. Serrano -- Go to Washington

I had the opportunity to travel with Minority Leader Malcolm Smith to our nation’s capital this week.

With just two seats needed to re-capture the State Senate, we received a warm welcome from leaders in Washington.

Joe Bruno beware.

Because now is the time when policy and politics collide. When common sense tasks like environmental protection and real campaign finance reform are not likely to happen without a shift in power.

Under the leadership of Senator Smith, we are putting together a formidable slate of candidates for 2008.

We showed our playbook to the likes of Howard Dean, Rahm Emanuel and the New York Congressional Delegation. They were all ears.



Changing Course on Climate Change

It’s the end of June. Legislative session is heating up as fast as the temperature. And New York residents deserve a break in the normal weather pattern.

According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air: 2007 Report, too many New Yorkers are breathing unhealthy air. The state fairs poorly in particle pollution. And warmer temperatures this summer will boost the number of high ozone days.

Smog, the result of ground-level ozone, irritates the eyes and the respiratory tract, and induces coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath.

It poses a special danger to people with asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. Children in East Harlem and the South Bronx, areas that I represent in the State Senate, are hospitalized for asthma at four times the national average.

While there has been little movement at the national level when it comes to climate change, at the state level there are several measures that we can take now to combat the threats of global warming.



Still No to the Death Penalty

This week we mourn the loss of State Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff, the second State Trooper shot and killed in the past year.

 

But I question why this news has prompted yet another debate on capital punishment. The death penalty does not deter crime. Any studies that claim otherwise "fall apart under close scrutiny."

 

The facts speak for themselves. Across the country, over 100 people have been exonerated and released from death row. The death penalty costs tax payers more than keeping guilty convicts in jail for life.



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