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Letter: Judicial reform needed in NYS

Newsday deserves kudos for "The Insiders" [News, Dec. 23], a story about the influence of super-lawyer Steven Schlesinger. It's imperative to keep digging.

The Independence Party has taken on a life of its own without a philosophy or purpose. Under New York's election process, new voters who consider themselves political independents have mistakenly enrolled in this party.

This has allowed a cadre of political hacks and self-interested individuals, such as Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius, to build themselves up as power brokers for a party that stands for nothing. They have been so successful that several Independence Party members now hold office, even as judges on Long Island!

Newsday should also more closely cover the judiciary. Schlesinger's wife was defeated as a Democratic and Independence party candidate for Nassau County Court judge. How did she, a law clerk, receive her nomination? What were the mechanics surrounding the cross-endorsements of various Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence candidates for the judiciary at all levels?

Newsday should use its editorial page to advocate for the end of judicial elections and their replacement by merit selection by nonpartisan committees.

David Zielenziger, Great Neck

LI benefited from Mario's practicality

Newsday's editorial "The poet and pragmatist" [Jan. 2] beautifully captured Mario Cuomo's seemingly paradoxical mix.

As the first president of the Long Island Housing Partnership, I witnessed Cuomo's pragmatic idealism. Long Island's business community created the partnership as an economic development initiative: Its mission was to stem the tide of the Island's young workers leaving in search of homes they could afford.

In April 1988, Cuomo provided instant credibility when he spoke at the 4-month-old organization's first annual meeting. He did not talk, however, about middle-income home ownership. Instead, he spoke eloquently of the needs of the homeless and what a safe, secure rental means to poor families.

Cuomo accepted the speaking engagement because of the practical benefits of an alliance with Bob McMillan, the partnership's founding chairman and an influential Long Island Republican. However, it was a policy position of Cuomo's that enabled the partnership to actually begin its work.

He championed a state program of home-ownership grants to middle-income, first-time buyers despite the fact that the program was an initiative of the GOP-controlled State Senate. The Democratic Assembly was insisting on a program to create rentals for low-income and homeless New Yorkers. Cuomo forged a deal that got both programs approved. In doing so, he enabled the creation of thousands of homes -- rental and owned -- for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

Jim Morgo, Bayport

Smuggled weapons on airplane

"Cops: JFK traveler had weapons" [News, Nov. 28] validates my concern that once you pass through "security screening" at the airport, there is no second check at the gate, as there is in some European airports.

Michael C. Lefkowitz, East Meadow

Hospitals are dangerous places

Newsday's article "Hospitals score low" [News, Dec. 23] points out that hospitals nationwide have significant rates of hospital-acquired conditions and injuries.

No mention is made of the fact that preventable medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

Eric Merz, Shirley

'Fiscal headache' ends for many

Newsday describes the repeal of the school zone speed cameras law as creating a "new fiscal headache" for the county ["Cams leave $30M hole," News, Dec. 15].

If by "county" you mean the inept government that rushed headlong into this foolhardy venture even though it's been extremely unpopular in other locales, you would be right.

But for Nassau County motorists, this repeal spells relief from a fiscal headache which has cost them tens of millions of dollars in only a few months. A tax by any other name is still a tax, and that's one thing that Nassau doesn't need more of.

Arthur Wellikoff, Malverne