Good afternoon and welcome to our new subscribers who submitted questions to our debate interactive. Today’s points:
- Suffolk budget surcharge is a petty move
- A charter member for NYC mayor
- Get ready for more cellphone alerts
Let the mayoral games begin
When is a rally not just a rally? When it might be the first stop on a future political campaign.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, is headlining a pro-charter-school march and rally in Prospect Park next week along with Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy. The event is sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools, a charter advocacy group, and will highlight the need for more space for charter school seats in New York City.
Moskowitz has a running battle with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has long resisted using city resources for charters. He wants to keep the space for traditional public schools. But now the mayor is under fire for not doing enough to improve the city’s failing public schools, particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
Jeffries, a longtime Moskowitz supporter, called charter schools “life-changing,” and said in a statement he was marching to support them. But Jeffries is considered a potential primary challenger to de Blasio next year. This might be his first salvo, especially on a battleground he knows well, and one where de Blasio has consistently struggled.
Randi F. Marshall
Schumer likes those cellphone alerts
One week ago, not many of us knew there was a wireless emergency alert system that could send a message to our cellphones telling us of a terrorist bomber in our midst. Now we do, and Sen. Chuck Schumer has his moment to help make the system better.
Schumer has been pushing for upgrades to the system, which millions of NYC-area residents experienced firsthand Monday when law enforcement sent out an alert seeking help in locating Chelsea bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami. But the alert did not include a photo because alerts currently can’t handle photos and are limited to 90 characters.
The Federal Communications Commission started looking at reforms to the 4-year-old system in November, but the urgency now is ramped up. The FCC is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposal to include links to photos in Amber Alerts; it’s possible the agency could extend that to all alerts. Other proposals to be considered include increasing the alert limit to 360 characters, allowing alerts to go out in Spanish, and targeting them to more narrow geographic areas.
Schumer plans to make the case for swift action on Sunday.
The sand’s ticking
Suffolk's rattling cup for change
Suffolk County’s cash woes are so bad that the proposed budget for 2017 hits nonprofits that deliver social services with a 1 percent surcharge for administrative fees — or, put another way, a 1 percent kickback.
Leaders of those nonprofits say Suffolk County is already slow to pay and tough to do business with. They say they operate on razor-thin margins to deliver services residents badly need and the county itself cannot supply. County officials don’t really disagree with those assertions. They say they’re just trying to find ways to raise money any way they can, even with a petty move like this.
Some legislators, including Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, have already targeted this surcharge as a bad idea and say it may not make it into the final 2017 plan. But thanks to rising costs and flatlined revenue, if the legislators nix every idea in the budget that strikes them as overly draconian or every fee aimed at an unworthy target, they won’t be able to balance the books even along the fairy-tale lines they’ve become accustomed to.