Garbarino seeks to trump his challengers
CD2 Rep. Andrew Garbarino has been no stranger to criticism from the farther-right wing of his party. On Jan. 6, 2021, the freshman Republican stood out for not going along with the effort to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. He was among 13 Republican lawmakers who voted for infrastructure legislation in the House last year. He has been criticized by former President Donald Trump and has gotten a death threat from a Lake Ronkonkoma man.
Now he’s facing potential primary challenges from candidates eager to highlight Garbarino’s alleged diversions from Trump-wing doctrine. And his 2nd Congressional District is even more deep-red Republican after post-census redistricting.
That’s the context behind the endorsement Garbarino released Tuesday morning, from upstate New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a rising star among the House GOP and one of Trump’s most vocal allies.
The news release, which said Garbarino had Stefanik’s "full support," carefully noted that she was a member of Trump’s first impeachment defense team, and served as a state co-chair of Trump’s reelection campaign.
This right-flank maneuver is one way that Garbarino is trying to muscle through his primary and win reelection. His campaign account is not particularly active on Twitter, but recent missives have been focused on criticizing President Joe Biden and his "radical agenda." On Monday, he praised the "great progress" made toward energy independence under Trump, claiming the country has "fallen way behind" under Biden.
Expect more pointed anti-Biden rhetoric like this if the primary heats up. And there could be other potential endorsements to track, including from CD1’s Lee Zeldin, another Trump-world validator who chose the opposite path on both Electoral College certification and infrastructure, and has consistently boosted Trump.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Nassau’s safe, but not alone
Nassau County has the third-lowest rate of gun deaths in the country among large metropolitan areas, according to Backgroundchecks.org. That’s a business that does such checks for free, combs databases for data, and often publishes that data on its website. In this instance, the information comes from the national Centers for Disease Control’s WONDER database, which captures and compiles gun death data from state and local agencies.
That data confirms that in 2020 Nassau did have the third-lowest gun death percentage among major metropolitan areas, with 2.4 such deaths per 100,000 people. Nassau had 33 total gun deaths in 2020, down 5.7% over 2019, and guns were used in 52% of homicides and 26% of suicides.
But when you compare those numbers to the rest of the region, it turns out Nassau isn’t so special. Suffolk was only six slots behind Nassau among major metropolitan areas in 2020, with 4.1 gun deaths per 100,000 people, 61 total gun deaths, a decrease of 4.7%, and guns were used in 56% of homicides and 29% of suicides.
Manhattan barely trails Nassau on the numbers, and bests Suffolk. Same for Queens, but it’s close. In total, Nassau had the third-lowest gun deaths in the nation, Manhattan was fourth, Queens was fifth, and Suffolk was ninth.
But there are regional differences. Gun deaths were down from 2019 to 2020 in Suffolk by 4.7% and down by 5.7% in Nassau, but up 54% in Manhattan, 32% in Queens, 51% in the Bronx and 97% in Brooklyn. Still, Brooklyn has the 23rd-lowest ratio of gun deaths among the nation’s 87 largest counties.
And the numbers in our region vary dramatically from the national average in one important respect. Thanks to the difficulty of getting guns here, the 76% of homicides committed with guns nationally far exceeds the 56% in Suffolk and 52% in Nassau.
And even more dramatic is the gap in suicide numbers. Nationally, 51% of suicides were by gun. However, those numbers were significantly lower in Long Island: 26% in Nassau and 29% in Suffolk.
Meanwhile in Shelby County, Tennessee (Memphis), the most dangerous large county in the United States, 41 of every 100,000 residents were killed with a gun in 2020, and 92% of homicides were by gun, as were 64% of suicides.
The political question, though, is how many more people would have died by gun, whether by their own hand or someone else’s, if guns were easier to get in downstate New York, and how many fewer would have died in Memphis if guns there were harder to get.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
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Free retirement health care in the crosshairs
New York City municipal retirees who had been facing a complicated choice about health insurance plans may have won a big court decision last week — depending on what fiscal action will follow.
So far, the lower court ruling threatens to force city officials and union leaders to reopen a thorny issue they had considered negotiated and resolved. The underlying question is whether and how New York City can legally trim rising mammoth health costs for 250,000 ex-city workers, many of whom live or lived on Long Island.
The outcome is widely anticipated as the rising cost of lifetime health benefits poses a vexing challenge for other local governments. The city has filed notice that it will appeal the court ruling. Under New York State law, pension benefits can’t be cut retroactively — and now, if this ruling stands, the same bar may apply to retiree health benefits already enjoyed.
Last week, State Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank decided that the city can offer the premium-free Medicare Advantage plan — but cannot force those who insist on keeping their existing Medicare plan to start paying a $191-per-month premium.
The law mandates free insurance for retirees.
Frank wrote that according to "this Court’s reading of New York City Administrative Code Section 12-126, so long as the respondent is giving retirees the option of staying in their current program, they may not do so by charging them the $191 the respondent intends to charge." By moving the city’s current Medicare retiree obligations into a Medicare Advantage Plan, the federal government picks up an estimated $600 million in yearly insurance expenses, a savings that was negotiated to compensate the city for a previous teachers’ contract.
Now officials face many hard choices. Will Medicare Advantage become the only plan available? Will its terms be sweetened for those on the plan? Will the mayor and City Council change the administrative code so future retirees are not guaranteed free care?
Marianne Pizzitola, president of the FDNY EMS Retirees Association & the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, told The Point just after the ruling: "They should leave current retirees benefits alone and work on retiree and employee plans for the future." Pizzitola, formerly of Babylon, now resides in Georgia.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, a key player in the deal, seems to favor reworking the deal with municipal unions that created the new plan. "While the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan is sound, the program has suffered from serious implementation problems and poor legal arguments, particularly on the part of the city. Our retirees deserve better," he said. Mulgrew faces reelection this spring.
Adams seems to have shifted his remarks from questioning the cost-saving deal while a candidate to defending it as his administration appeals Judge Frank’s ruling. With or without huge federal aid, the politicians and the unions are realizing that the public money barrel is not bottomless.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison