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Editorial: Goals in 2014 for Long Island, New York and beyond

A religious service at sunrise at Jones Beach

A religious service at sunrise at Jones Beach (March 31, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Our goals for 2014 are linked by one objective: to restore trust in the institutions -- political, financial, religious, educational and more -- central to a flourishing democracy and to nourishing civic life. These institutions must earn that trust. Their challenge is to have honest leaders and governance that is inclusive and open. Pope Francis already has shown the world how that can help repair the damage.

The insidious cycle of cynicism and partisanship infecting our politics, in particular, did not dawn in 2013, but seems to have intensified in response to our continued economic and personal insecurity. By fostering trust and cooperation in our own lives and work, we can demand it in others. By transforming these good intentions into action, we can help ensure that this new year fulfills its promise of being a better one.


On Long Island

Our families are fraying. Young people go off to college and never return, choosing to live where affordable housing and good jobs are available. Senior citizens leave in favor of cheaper living. We must confront this unraveling of our intergenerational network -- the ties that really bind -- and promote policies that enable us to stay together.

Confidence in the Nassau and Suffolk county police departments must be restored. That starts with the commissioners, but the district attorneys also play a role in reassuring the public that bad cops are not above the law.

Life on Long Island is defined by water. Superstorm Sandy battered our shores and polluted Nassau's bays with sewage. Our drinking water below ground is under threat. Legislative efforts must focus on improving septic systems and expanding sewers. And money for rebuilding the South Shore must be spent wisely to truly protect us from the storms to come.


In New York City and State

Economic instability drives much of our lack of faith in institutions. The middle and working classes are being left behind as the rich get more, and opportunities for a better life slip away. That fuels resentment of public employee pensions and higher property taxes. The state must address the issue of fairness in setting policies on taxes, the minimum wage, contracts and economic development.

The discussion around education has taken on a shrill, even venomous tone. Changes in curriculum, testing, teacher evaluations and how student information is stored have created an adversarial and heated climate. The conversation must return to a civil tone so we can work together to offer our children the best educational opportunities.


In our nation and our world

Extreme partisanship in Washington has further eroded trust in government. The loss of a political center plays out in the states, too, where 23 state governments are totally controlled by Republicans and 14 by Democrats. Such divides mean deep differences on taxes, collective bargaining, gay marriage, abortion and gun control. Instead of embracing extremes and destroying ourselves with our differences, we must build on our commonalities. Washington should lead the way.

Last year Edward Snowden revealed the extensive information-gathering by the National Security Agency; in 2014, we must decide how much surveillance we will tolerate to ward off terrorism. The rights of women worldwide must improve. Gang rape in India continues to terrorize women, and girls in many countries are denied basic education, often on the pretext that it's against religious teaching. Young women are risking their own lives to speak out. May many other voices join theirs until the chorus is too loud to be ignored.

May your wishes and ours for 2014 be realized.