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Editorial: You too have been ‘Disenfranchised’

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We have news for the people of Queens. You have been "disenfranchised" for decades by a powerful political machine that is hell-bent on denying you the right to participate in the democratic process in any meaningful way.

Sure, you can vote on Election Day and this year thousands of you did. But for the most part, your vote meant nothing. The decisions about who would represent you in Congress and in the state Senate and Assembly were made long before Election Day by the political bosses.

In most, if not all, local races, there was only token opposition. In the 16th Senatorial District, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) received 98 percent of the vote, defeating Green Party candidate Josephine Jones. The Republicans didn't even run a candidate.

Toby Stavisky inherited the seat formerly occupied by her late husband Leonard. Without asking you, Queens Democratic Party boss Tom Manton decided she would get the party's nod and that was it. No need to involve the ignorant masses.

Every race was a landslide, over before it began. In the 13th District in Forest Hills, state Sen. Daniel Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) captured 96 percent of the vote. In St. Albans, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) won 93 percent of the vote.

With the notable exception of state Sens. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), the Democratic machine has succeeded in squeezing the life out of the democracy in Queens. The machine's lawyers are skilled in challenging the petitions of any candidate seeking to force a Democratic primary.

The judges who review the challenges to petitions are politically indebted to the party bosses. Will the system ever change? Not likely. Each party sets its own rules for getting on the primary ballot and those who have won their jobs with the blessing of the Democratic machine have no inclination to change the way things are done.

At least the people of Florida with their pregnant chads and confusing arrows can hope that by the next election the conditions that have caused them to be disenfranchised will be rectified. The people of Queens have no such reason to hope.

Teachers deserve better

It is altogether understandable that teachers in New York city's public school system want parity with teachers in the surrounding suburbs. What they argue is true: the city will lose qualified teachers to places where they can make more money working in better schools.

But Mayor Giuliani is also right. If the teachers and other unions such as the police get parity in pay, it will cost the city billions of dollars it doesn't have. If the teachers want more than a token raise, he argues, they will have to work with him to come up with increased productivity.

It is regrettable that our teachers have been working without a contract since last Wednesday. They deserve better. For the sake of the children, we urge both sides to come back to the bargaining table and carve a out a compromise that everyone can live with.

Cowboys and whiners

The rodeo came to Jamaica last week, thrilling more than 4,000 people who packed the National Guard Armory. City kids got to see real cowboys roping calves and riding bulls. The Heritage Rode 2000 drew competitors from 22 states and Canada.

Outside a gaggle of protesters complained that the rodeo was cruel to animals. These are the same people who say it is cruel to make animals perform in the circus. They probably don't think much of your turkey dinner either.

It's their loss. The rodeo was a marvelous event, an outstanding opportunity for urban children to get a taste of a life that they have only seen in pictures. Some of the children - and even some parents - may have been surprised to see that cowboys and cowgirls come in all colors. What binds the competitors is a love of horses and the cowboy culture. They are not a cruel or indifferent people. Just the opposite.

The protesters, of course, are exercising their right of free speech. So are the cowboys and the thousands who came to cheer them on.

Posted 7:13 pm, October 10, 2011
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