Times Are Not so Tough at Borough Hall

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Times may be tough in other parts of the city, but that did not stop Borough President Helen Marshall from asking the city to shell out $85,000 in taxpayer funds for publicity photographs over the coming year. The private photographer will chronicle the borough president’s daily activities.

The pictures will be made available to constituents, community organizations and the media. According to the City Record, photographer Dominick Totino’s contract will be extended until Aug. 31, 2011.

Marshall’s spokesman, Dan Andrews, said that although the contract sets aside $85,000, the borough president’s office spends far less for the photography in any given year. Last year, he said, Totino earned only $49,000.

So why set aside $85,000?

At a time when nearly every city agency is seeing its budget cut, Marshall’s spending appears out of control. According to the New York Post, last year the borough president’s office spent $82,500 for 200 office chairs.

At a time when public school teachers were reaching into their own pockets to buy classroom supplies, this kind of spending is hard to justify.

No Tolerance for Intolerance

The World Trade Center was destroyed Sept. 11, 2001, because the Twin Towers stood as a powerful symbol of all that makes this nation great. The Muslim extremists who steered two airliners into the WTC had no tolerance for freedom of religion.

But on that day members of the Islamic faith were among the thousands burned in the rubble beyond recognition.

For this and other reasons we are stunned and saddened by the opposition to the building of an Islamic center near Ground Zero. If that opposition succeeds, the terrorists who hijacked the four planes that day will have won. Although many of the people who have become vocal in their opposition may be sincere, they are allowing the memory of their loved ones to be exploited by others driven by intolerance and a political agenda.

The fact that this has become an emotional issue for the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 is understandable, but their hurt and fear cannot and should not override the First Amendment or this city’s history of religious tolerance.

Updated 6:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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