By Asher E. Taub, Esq.
As the political season steps into high gear, an interesting race is shaping up for the Democratic nomination for City Council for the 24th CD–which encompasses the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods of Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, and Jamaica Estates. This is the most Orthodox council district in Queens.
People have a misconception of which politicians have the largest effect on their daily lives. It is not the president, governor, U.S. senator, congressman, state senator, or state assemblyman. It is your local councilman. The City Council and the mayor are in charge of education, infrastructure, and zoning. They determine the funding of the police department and how many police officers will patrol your neighborhood. Your property tax bill (which goes up every year) is controlled by the City Council and the mayor, as are the city sales tax of over 4% and many of those pesky extra fees on your electric, gas, and phone bills.
Transportation–which includes meters, parking rules, and traffic agents–falls under their control, and they have a huge say on tolls and mass transit. If you want a stop sign or a traffic light on your corner, you have to contact your local councilman. The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation runs numerous hospitals. The City’s Health Department is playing an ever more intrusive role, trying to regulate not only how much soda we can drink but how we can perform a bris milah.
Under Mayor Bloomberg, religious Jews are under attack. The mayor’s attack on metzizah b’peh and now on mayim shelanu is the first salvo in the city’s war on Orthodoxy. Under this mayor and a timid City Council, the Jewish community has seen an unprecedented drop in public funding to our yeshivos, shuls, and religious institutions. Capital improvements, books, computers, special education, and grants have been severely slashed. If you want to know why your yeshiva bill keeps going up, look no further than the mayor. Though yeshivos are private institutions, they are entitled to receive funding for capital improvements, security, books, computers, school nurses, vouchers, afterschool programs, special education, and psychological services. These funds have been severely curtailed and the burden has now fallen on the yeshivos to pay for them.
As a member of the New York City Clergy Liaison program, I discovered that the New York City Police Department assigns police officers near and around public schools to ensure that public-school children arrive home safely. I innocently asked why yeshiva parents are not granted the same services of having police officers patrol the streets as our children walk to their homes. I was politely rebuffed.
Each council member receives approximately $2 million to dole out to various community organizations. Additionally, the Speaker of the City Council has another $18 million at their disposal, which City Council members try to convince the Speaker to give to their chosen organizations. This is in addition to the city budget, which is now approximately $70 billion. That budget and where and what the funds are allocated to are determined by the City Council and the mayor.
Given that there is no real Republican opponent, whoever wins the Democratic nomination will become the next city councilman. There are two candidates running for the Democratic nomination–former Assemblyman Rory Lancman and perennial candidate Isaac Sasson.
We Orthodox Jews are under attack. The primary is being held on the Tuesday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (a most inconvenient time for religious Jews). We need someone who is a proven fighter for our needs and who can deliver for our community.
Isaac Sasson is a nice man. But he is inexperienced and does not have the stamina needed in these dangerous times to protect our community and fight to get our fair share of resources.
Rory Lancman has a proven track record of helping the frum community. He is a tiger and afraid of no one. He is no party man. He is an independent thinker and does what is good for his constituents and not what is good for the party.
In the next few columns, I will elaborate on the differences between the two candidates and I am sure that all will agree that Rory Lancman is the right choice for our community. v