Tag Archive | "Tim Bishop"

Congressman Impressed With School’s Efforts With Career Academy

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by Marianna Levine

This past Monday, as kids were arriving back to school after their winter break, Congressman Tim Bishop started his New Year with a visit to the Bridgehampton School.  Bishop, who is a member of Congress’ Education Committee, as well as a former Southampton College administrator, has taken an interest in Bridgehampton’s innovative Environmental Design Program. It is a program that is part of a larger 40-year-old Career Academy sponsored by Long Island Works Coalition (LIWC), a division of Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and New Jersey.

Congressman Bishop was joined by Goodwill Industries President and CEO, Bill Forrester, as well as several other representatives of Goodwill Industries, LIWC, and the school’s public relations firm, Mullen and McCaffrey, on a tour of the program given by Superintendent Dr. Diane Youngblood, Principal Jack Pryor, and Environmental Design teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz.

“I’ve been looking at ways to solidify education and ways to prepare students for work,” said the congressman. “I had been focusing on community colleges not on high schools.” But Bishop was impressed with Bridgehampton’s efforts to give students an earlier start in practical education.

Bridgehampton’s Environmental Design Career Academy is a program where “students learn the art, science, and business of landscape architecture and environmental design through hands on experiential learning,” according to the school’s brochure. It was a program that Youngblood took over from the private Ross School, when that school decided to discontinue it.

The concept of a Career Academy came about originally to address the needs of students who did not connect well with theoretical learning, as well as to assist the community by providing an appropriately prepared worker.  It has since evolved, according to Cheryl Davidson, Executive Director of LIWC.

“We started with high risk students but have now expanded to include AP students in our program,” she said. “We’ve found that kids in the Career Academy have increased (high school) graduation rates and an increased probability of continuing on in higher education.”

Davidson continued to explain, “What distinguishes the Career Academy from traditional academics is what we refer to as the new three Rs: rigorous academics, relevancy in learning, and relationships with the greater community. In effect we’re creating a pipeline for students to enter the workforce.”

After asking a few specifics about the program such as whether courses were embedded in the school’s curriculum (the environmental design and culinary arts courses are popular electives), and if the courses were solely for Bridgehampton residents (they are currently, but Dr. Youngblood has been trying to get the Sag Harbor School District involved), Congressman Bishop added, “It sounds like these courses have a pretty broad applicability; it sounds like you have things well in hand.”

The environmental design course is co-taught by Carmack-Fayyaz, an environmental design teacher and Joanne Palisi, a business teacher. The culinary arts course is also co-taught by Carmack-Fayyaz and science teacher Natalia Nichols. The reason for this non-traditional collaboration is that the courses are interdisciplinary and evolve with student interest.

Carmack-Fayyaz notes that there are certain advantages to having this program in a smaller school such as Bridgehampton.

“It does make it sometimes more challenging, but our model is integral academic programming,” she said. “In a smaller school we can be more creative about what that means.”

The environmental design program, for example, was originally solely about landscape design; but as more students expressed an interest in architecture and designing interior spaces they evolved the program to teach that as well.

The program has had several successes, including recently receiving a so-called Cinderella grant of $9,000 from National Grid to build a green house in addition to the already student-designed and successfully completed edible schoolyard. Currently, the school has plans to create a solar powered irrigation system, but is looking for community support to implement the program. Congressman Bishop stated he might be able to help the school with this or other components of the program.

Also, Carmack-Fayyaz related that several of the program’s students have won specific competitions or grants. Environmental Design student, Tanetha Clark, won the Hampton’s Library garden design competition, and two of their other students won AFS grants with the Career Academy’s assistance to study abroad.

Karen Means, senior vice-president of Youth and Community Services for Goodwill Industries noted that programs such as the Career Academy are vital to the greater community since it introduces students to careers that will need them in the future. She cited a startling statistic; “We had 400 engineering jobs to fill on Long Island last year, and only 40 students in the area graduating in that field.”

WW II Awards Presented Posthumously For Sag Harbor Veteran

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Congressman Tim Bishop recently secured a number of posthumous medals for Raymond R. Beyel.  Beyel served in the U.S. Navy from December 29, 1942 to February 22, 1946.  The medals were presented to his daughter Claudia Burns, a resident of Sag Harbor, at a ceremony in Bishop’s Coram district office last Tuesday, August 25.

At the ceremony, Bishop presented the Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal w/ three bronze service stars, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon w/ two bronze service stars, Presidential Unit Citation w/ one bronze service star, Twin Dolphin Award, New York State Conspicuous Service Cross, and the New York State Medal for Merit.

“Raymond Beyel went halfway around the world to secure our freedom and way of life,” Congressman Bishop said. “We are grateful for his service to our country and I am pleased to honor his legacy with these well-deserved medals.”

Born on September 14, 1925 in New York City, Beyel joined the U.S. Navy upon graduation from Central Islip High School in 1942.  Beyel served on the submarine USS Gurnard as a Torpedoman 3rd class. The submarine was credited with sinking or destroying 21 enemy ships. He served at the Panama Canal, Hawaiian Islands, Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima, the Marinas, the South China Seas of the Philippines and participated in the invasion of the Tinian Islands. After his service, Beyel worked for the Long Island Lighting Company and retired after 37 years. He passed away on September 2, 1993.

Bishop Aids Health Alliance in Fight With Empire

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By Andrew Rudansky

With only 11 days left before Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield’s contract with several area hospitals expires, The East End Health Alliance, a partnership between Southampton Hospital, Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, and Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, is scrambling to return to the negotiating table. Congressman Tim Bishop, a Southampton native, intervening on behalf of the alliance held a press conference at the Southampton Hospital’s Parrish Memorial Hall this Monday, July 20 urging Empire BCBS to return to the negotiating table to renew the contract before the July 31 deadline.
“I don’t want to be melodramatic and suggest that we are on the verge of a health care crisis,” said Congressman Bishop, “but we are certainly on the verge of a tremendously adverse situation that affects public health on eastern Long Island.”
This situation should not be unfamiliar to many local residents, as this isn’t the first time the East End Health Alliance has run up against insurance companies. In May of 2008 with Oxford Health Insurance and then once again in September of 2008 with GHI/HIP, the Alliance both faced stern opposition at the negotiating table. In both of those cases the Alliance was able to successfully negotiate new contracts.

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Empire BCBS is much different than Oxford Health Insurance and GHI/HIP in terms of scope. Empire BCBS is Eastern Long Island’s largest health care provider, covering over 40% of all policy holders in the area. Many of these policy holders receive their Empire BCBS coverage from public schools and municipal jobs. The Alliance claims that they cover over 300,000 residents between the three of them, and if 40% of that number could no longer be covered by their insurance plan when they are admitted to those hospitals it would be, said Bishop, “intolerable and suggests that patient well-being is a secondary concern to [Empire BCBS’s] bottom line.”
Andrew J, Mitchell, President and CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center said, “There are so many different varieties of health plans within the Empire BCBS product line, that it would be very difficult to estimate the number of people” that would be unable to come to Alliance hospitals due to insurance problems. Mitchell added that without adequate reimbursement from the insurance companies, Alliance hospitals could not provide the same scope of services that they currently do provide.
“[Current negotiations] are really going nowhere,” said Paul Connor III, President of Eastern Long Island Hospital and spokesperson for the East End Health Alliance. Connor was impressed with Congressman Bishop’s interest in the issue. “Tim [Bishop] is a tremendous advocate for our hospitals and health care,” said Connor.
Bishop used the platform to reiterate his support for a government alternative to the current health care system. “This is exhibit A on why we need comprehensive health care reform,” said Bishop.
If the contract expires before a settlement can be made many local area Empire BCBS policy holders could be redirected to hospitals in Patchogue or Port Jefferson, or be required to pay “more expensive out-of-network rates.”
Even if the two sides fail to come to some sort of agreement before the July 21 deadline, New York State law mandates that all emergency patients or pregnant women in their first trimester be admitted to a hospital regardless of their insurance status. Also only Alliance hospitals will be affected and personal doctors will remain unaffected.
“I believe this status results from Empire’s failure to negotiate in good faith,” wrote the congressman in a letter addressed to Mark Wagar, president and CEO of Empire BCBS and Angela F. Braly, president and CEO of WellPoint. The letter, written directly after the press conference, stated that the Alliance hospitals are asking for reimbursement rates similar to ones they have with other insurance providers. Similarly, according to the letter, the rates proposed by Empire BCBS would result in a loss of $500 per day by hospitals.
“No reasonable person can think that this is sustainable, no reasonable person can describe Empire BCBS’s posture here as negotiating in good faith,” said Bishop at the press conference.
George D. Keckeisen, MD, president of the Southampton Hospital Medical Staff, said, “This is a problem that needs to be addressed…and we hope that with the pressure we can bring to bear from the both health care provides, both the physicians community and nurses, in addition and in conjunction with the hospitals administration…that the Blue Cross provider will actually come to the table and make a realistic proposal that we can all live with.”
Bishop’s strongly worded letter concluded with the congressman saying that he might request a federal investigation of unfair practices in the negotiations if Empire BCBS does not capitulate to what Bishop believes are more reasonable rates.

Top: Congressman Tim Bishop with Paul Connor III, spokesman for the East End Health Alliance, at Monday’s press conference.

Inset: Bruce LaValle, R.N., speaking with Jasmine Dozier, R.N. (left) and Diane Groneman, R.N. (right).

Immigration Forum: Impact on the Economy

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Copter Redux

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They’re back!            

Memorial Day weekend arrived, the starting date for the return of many noisy helicopters ferrying people to and from the Hamptons. This was no Long Island counterpart to the swallows of Capistrano. The choppers with their raucous noise came back.

The economy is in a downturn but that apparently isn’t discouraging some folks from shelling out several hundred dollars to go by chopper to and from the Hamptons.

And their flight paths continue to be over many peoples’ heads.

Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine has filed a new bill to deal with the helicopter racket and last week asked residents to turn out for a meeting of the Suffolk Legislature on June 23 in Riverhead to give their viewpoints on the chopper noise and help his resolution get passed.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives last week passed a measure authored by Congressman Tim Bishop instructing the Federal Aviation Administration to study helicopter flights over Long Island. “Those of us who live in Suffolk County are tired of the roar of helicopters disrupting the serenity of our island,” said Mr. Bishop.

The problem is that the U.S. Senate rejected the same measure last year.

“Why aren’t these helicopters flying the ocean route?” demands Mr. Romaine.

The three main destinations for the Hamptons helicopters are all not far from the ocean, he notes. The choppers could fly from Manhattan and then over the ocean, well off Long Island’s south shore, and make turns “at different vectors” into these airfields.

The Southampton Village helipad “is right off the ocean,” he points out, and Suffolk County’s Francis Gabreski and the East Hampton Airport are just a few miles away.

But instead, this Memorial Day weekend—as has been the situation—the choppers were largely routed over northern Long Island and then, over eastern Suffolk, to make turns south to these airfields.

Mr. Romaine’s new bill declares: “Low flying helicopters have become a public nuisance in Suffolk County.” It notes, accurately, that the FAA “has failed to regulate the operation” of these Hamptons helicopters. It says that “the operation of helicopters at low altitudes is presumed to be a hazard to persons and property on the surface and constitutes careless and reckless operation.”

That’s the key to his measure: that choppers flying low—as do the Hamptons helicopters—constitutes “careless and reckless operation,” which Suffolk County government is entitled to stop.

Penalties for violation of the proposed county law would be a fine of “up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison per offense.”

A representative of the FAA and advocates of the Hamptons choppers in fighting an earlier Romaine bill on helicopter noise last year insisted that Suffolk County and other local and state governments were pre-empted from regulating aircraft operations by the federal government. However, in preparation for the new battle, Mr. Romaine and his staff have come up with court cases determining that this is not true. The Appellate Division of Superior Court of California, in one case involving low-flying aircraft, dismissed the claim of pre-emption finding: “The state has the right to impose criminal sanctions for the unlawful operation of aircraft above its land and waters.”

Mr. Romaine says it’s important that people come to the public hearing portion of the legislative meeting, to begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 23, and “speak out on the issue.” That’s the best way, he said, to “grab the attention” of legislators and get the new chopper bill approved. The meeting will be held at Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center at 20 East Main Street, Riverhead,

Mr. Bishop, meanwhile, said he believes an FAA study “is a necessary step toward the goal of reducing helicopter noise of Long Island. I believe it will offer a roadmap for pilots who want to fly over Long Island in a way that is respectful of our communities.”

But if the Bishop measure is to again be blocked in the Senate, and considering that the FAA sees its main mission as encouraging air travel, local Suffolk County action appears vital in taking on the bane of Hamptons helicopter noise.

 

Anna Throne-Holst

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The Southampton Town Councilperson on forming a coalition to address immigration on the East End, confronting conflicting ideals and what the coalition cannot do.

 

When the coalition first began – what were some of the immediate goals you hoped for concerning immigration?

Our goals were to try to get people from all parts of the community together and start talking about how we can start the immigration dialogue in our community. There are issues around it that are good and bad and indifferent. We began with the feeling that this is the elephant on the couch and no one wants to come out and take the politics out and address this issue. I think in the past it hasn’t been very easy for anyone to deal with it. Clergy and non-profits deal with it and it is very easy to say it’s a federal problem.  You could keep passing the buck – but nothing else will be done about it if we don’t come forward and talk about it now. 

 

Who are the key players involved in the coalition?

Tim [Bishop} and Fred [Thiele]. The clergy reached out to them. They invited elected officials and had a couple meetings which were held at the college to get the conversation going. Between the three of us, we represented three levels of government and are able to represent the different roles we play. The thought was that unless we all get together it’s easy to keep passing the buck. This way we take the political football out of here too. There is no particular agency or level of government but we are trying to take the bull by the horns and send the signal that we were willing to work together on this and be able to take the politics out of it.

 

Are there other organizations or coalitions that have formed in this country that deal with this issue or other issues that are similar?

Yes, I believe there are several. We haven’t modeled ourselves after anyone in particular, there are several organizations that have successful outcomes, but every community is different and the goals are different. We are hoping to get as much information as possible and craft solutions for our community. I’m sure our solutions will be unique to us.

 

Is the town looking to set new policies regarding immigration?

That is hard to say. I was asked at Friday’s forum what can I do as a town representative? It’s a good question. There are things we can do and things we can’t do. There are things we are restricted from doing. It’s important to understand what we can do on a local level.  I believe that I can have an open door, there are people with issues around this issue and I can deal with those on an individual basis. I can work with the things I have on hand, I can get code enforcement. We are concerned about the well being of families and I can go to the clergy group and ask them to help. We can start talking about the partnerships, but more than anything else we can start this conversation and look at it from all levels and see what we can do about this.

What that is going to lead to? It’s too soon to say. But we have to do something – nothing has been done so far and no one wanted to touch this issue. But we do know what we can’t do or don’t want to do.

 

And what are some of the things you can’t do or don’t want to do?

We can’t deport people. We don’t have the power to crack down on people who employ undocumented workers. We cannot strip them of their rights as humans. But on both sides of this issue, we can foster a healthy dialogue.

We want to bring all of this together. We want all the facts and figures brought to the table so we are all working from the same set of facts. We want to know how this is affecting neighborhoods, hospitals and schools.

 We can’t change the federal mandates. If this is an issue in our school then how do we work with the schools to somehow ease that? Or how can we help people understand?

The president of the hospital said those that work in the hospital are federally mandated to fix what comes in their doors; they are precluded from asking any issues of visa or residency. The bigger issue for them is uninsured patients. There could be someone as American as apple pie or a visitor to the U.S. who is on vacation but their bigger issue is uninsured Americans. And how do we wrap our heads around that?

 

Do you find that there is any structure or anything that needs to be tweaked concerning the issue of immigration?

Right now there are no laws or direction. There is no doubt that we need comprehensive immigration reform, and laws and a road map for going forward – and that is important to point out. One thing that both Barack Obama and John McCain agreed on was an immigration policy. But we need to know how that is going to come down the pike for us. Until we get that – it will be hard for us. Right now our laws don’t affect any of this so it’s more about finding practical solutions and our realities in the community.

 

How do you find a middle ground with so many conflicting ideals concerning immigration?

Allowing and welcoming the dialogue and making everyone feel they are welcoming the dialogue and that’s okay, but in the end we need to start talking and looking at the facts and figures and the problems. We need to look at what is or isn’t working and what is affecting the community and the quality of life and economics.

I hope the outcome is that there is a dialogue and people feel they are welcome to that dialogue and then we hope we can come to some consensus collectively. I think we want healthy dialogue; we want to recognize the many sides to this issue.

We don’t want what happened in Patchogue to happen here – we don’t want the quality of life to be adversely impacted. But we also want to know that businesses are being supported and laws are being respected, the solutions we hope will form themselves.

One thing we do know is there are confusion and a lot of anger and a strong sense that nothing is being done and that is not okay.

 

Overall, how do you think Friday night’s immigration forum went?

There was some anger. But the way I look at it, I could’ve gone home and put on my slippers.

But there were 150 people there – and what that speaks to this issue that is so important to so many people. It is incumbent on us not to get into our slippers on Friday night and bring people together, and the chips will fall where they are going to fall. We recognize what a big issue this is. And we are being proactive to work around it.

 

 

Stimulus Package May Help at Home

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The ink is not yet dry on the stimulus package, but local municipalities may see federal money flowing into their coffers very soon. According to Congressman Tim Bishop, Long Island will receive around $200 million — over a two year period — in transportation development projects, but nearly half of the money allocated for highway construction must be spent within 90 days. Bishop added these funds will be distributed to local municipalities by the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Committees. Municipalities will apply for the money as if they were applying for a grant. These transportation projects will most likely create close to 8,000 jobs.
Bishop added many of the budgetary cuts made by New York State Governor David Paterson, especially in the education sector, will be offset by money from the state stabilization fund. Overall, Paterson cut almost $800 million from state education budgets. The Sag Harbor School district’s budget will be cut by almost $186,000.
“Without the state stabilization fund [these schools] would be forced to lay thousands of people off or would be forced to raise property taxes, and many people can’t afford higher property taxes,” reported Bishop.
Bishop remains confident the Sag Harbor school district will be granted additional funds to shore up this budgetary loss. He reported $195,000 is already earmarked for the district.
At a local level, Bishop said Suffolk County — an area which relies heavily on the construction industry and real estate sales — will benefit from a neighborhood stabilization fund and real estate tax breaks. The neighborhood stabilization fund allows local municipalities to purchase foreclosed or abandoned properties. Bishop asserts that construction workers will then be hired to rehabilitate these buildings. These properties will be available as workforce housing rentals, after construction is complete, he believes.
In addition, first time real estate buyers will be given a tax credit of nearly $8,000, though there is an income contingency to be eligible for this tax break. Bishop added that $30 million will be used to construct a new laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is part of Stony Brook University.
Bishop said a recent halt in construction projects on the East End has had a trickle down effect throughout many businesses in the community. “Behind every economic statistic there is a story … The builders had to lay off their crew. Now the deli owners are selling fewer sandwiches because these workers were laid off … Real estate agents haven’t made a sale in months, which affects lawyers who depend upon real estate closings … Everywhere you look, [the recession] has an impact.”
Nearly 95-percent of American families will also be given a tax break, which will include tens of thousands of families on Long Island, added Bishop.
Bishop said the main stimulus package is broken up into three main objectives: to keep money in the hands of people who need it and will spend it, to provide assistance to the states so they won’t be forced to lay off employees or reduce services, and, finally, to create numerous service projects.
Bishop believes these goals will help encourage consumer spending. He added that spending and lending are the cruxes of the American economy.
“People have simple stopped spending,” reported Bishop. “We need to put money back into the hands of people who need it.”
It is still unclear by what channels the funds will be distributed throughout the government, or how much money will be designated for Sag Harbor and the surrounding towns. Bishop expects to have answers to these questions within the coming weeks or months.
Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris remains “cautiously optimistic” the village will receive funding for infrastructure projects, such as the safe routes to school project and the reconstruction of the fence at the old burial ground. He expects, however, most of the federal funding will be used for infrastructure and education, and very little will trickle down to offset the operating costs of the village. For now, Ferraris added, the village will continue to operate on an austerity basis.
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Seeking Immigration Answers

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By Marianna Levine

It was clear from the start that several audience members at a panel discussion last Thursday on immigration were not immigrants themselves. They were there as concerned residents who came with their own opinions on immigration they hoped to be able to air during the discussion. However, the event’s organizers, Organizacion Latino Americana’s (OLA), as well as the discussion’s moderator, Joachim Mendez created some ground rules he introduced with a joke to dispel the already apparent tensions, “If you have something you want to say we’ll have a beer later. If you have a question then raise your hand.” He stressed this was an informational meeting and not a debate.

Still the first person to speak was an woman from Southampton who expressed fear that people who were born and raised on Long Island were being treated like outsiders rather than insiders.

“We are American citizens, and we’ve welcomed an international community here for over 45 years. Can we be included in this dialogue please?” To which Mendez responded, “(the welcoming has occurred for) more like a couple hundred years. And we shouldn’t get into this now. I will not allow it. If you don’t have a question we’ll move on.”

From then on there were a plethora of questions from both local business owners as well as immigrants asked in both Spanish and English, and always translated for all to understand. Most questions concerned small business owners and the need for work visas and driver’s licenses for their workers, the actual naturalization process, and most urgently what was occurring with immigration reform in Washington D.C.

The panel, held at the Bridgehampton National Bank meeting room in Bridgehampton, included immigration attorneys Millicent Clarke and Allen Kaye (of the American Immigration Lawyers Association), as well as the Executive Director of the Long Island Immigration Alliance Luis Velenzuela, and Congressman Tim Bishop.

The immigration lawyers fielded the questions regarding the immigration process, often cautioning audience members to be wary of so-called lawyers who promise to put aside tax money for the future for undocumented workers or who make any easy promises about the naturalization process. Both Clarke and Kaye suggested waiting for immigration reform prior to starting any paperwork.

Kaye explained that there are basically only three ways to get a Green Card in the United States. You can either get one through an employer, or by marrying or being related to a citizen, or you can have resided here illegally for over ten years and take your chances before a judge in court. He then explained that trying to get a Green Card properly as an undocumented person almost always means, “You’re asking to be deported.”

Congressman Tim Bishop arrived soon after this discussion began, and addressed questions on comprehensive immigration reform. An audience member asked in frustration, “What is wrong with getting in line and waiting?” To which Congressman Bishop replied, “The fundamental problem is that the current system is a broken system that simply doesn’t work. I think we can all agree that it isn’t working. This discussion is a symptom of the fact that the system is broken. We don’t have a visa system that works. We have people who stand in line for 5 to 20 years and nothing happens.” He also added that, “No solutions can come from the vantage point of anger. I believe we should make a good faith effort to put our differences aside and try to bring people together.”

Bishop explained the new comprehensive immigration reform would come about in four parts in something referred to as the “Strive Act.” First the U.S. government would need to intensify border protection, and crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers. Thereafter the government would construct a visa program that actually worked and reflected the needs of our country and business owners. Bishop explained this would include a simplified agricultural work visa. He then noted that the fourth aspect of this plan is the most controversial, since it would create a path to legalization for those who are currently in the U.S. without proper documentation.

“Undocumented workers would be given a work visa as long as they have a clean record for about 11 or 12 years,” said Bishop. “They would have to pay a fine and back taxes on the money they earned off the books. They would have to learn English and civics and maintain a clean record for that period. After that they would be granted permanent residency.”

Asked when immigration reform would be passed, Bishop answered, “I believe it will be considered sometime in June or September. President Obama has made it very clear he supports comprehensive immigration reform.” He also said that he guessed the bill had a better than 50/50 chance of passing this year.

 

 

 

Congressman Tim Bishop

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The local representative on preventing foreclosures, failures of the bailout and how Obama’s stimulus may help the East End

by Marianna Levine

This past Thursday, President elect Barack Obama gave a speech about the economy and in it he outlined his economic stimulus package. Could you tell me what aspects of it you agree with and how specifically it will be implemented here on the East End of Long Island?

I am in general agreement with the President’s outline. I think a lot of specifics need to be filled in but I believe that infrastructure spending provides us with the greatest bang for our buck in terms economic stimulus. So I think that is an imperative. Not only is it an imperative in terms of jump starting the economy it also gets us improvements that we need with highways, bridges, tunnels, airports and seaports.

 

Specifically for the east end of Long Island?

This is were the stimulus is a little difficult to explain. Both the President-elect and Speaker of House have made it clear there will be no earmarks in the stimulus package. That is to say there will be no congressional directive spending. Therefore the way the money is going to flow is that the money is going to go from the federal government to the states and the states are going to make the allocations. So this is not something the members of congress are going to be able to control. The judgments about what projects are getting the funding are going to be made by the government and the various state agencies like the department of transportation, or the state’s department of health and education.

 

If you were the one giving that speech, what would you state as your vision for economic stability and growth in the coming year for your constituency?

We have to do two things. We have to create jobs and put people back to work and that is what the economic stimulus package is all about. And the other thing is we have to keep people in their homes. Currently there are over 7,000 families a day being foreclosed out of their homes. The collapse of the housing market is at the root of the economic difficulties that we are now having and we are not going to climb our way out until we fix the housing market.

And we have to make much, much more effective use of the so-called TARP funds. They have also been called the “bail out”. TARP stands for Troubled Asset Recovery Program, and that’s the Wall Street bail out that the Congress passed back in October. We passed up to 700 billion. The first 350 has been spent by the current Secretary of the Treasury in a way that in my view has not facilitated economic recovery and absolutely has not facilitated keeping people in their homes. The President-elect has made it clear to the Congress that he now wishes us to release the second 350 billion, and I will only support that if it has a significant foreclosure mitigation built into it. I voted for the first TARP money thinking that was how it was going to be used. That’s exactly what the Congressional intent was for the money but that is not how the current Treasury Department used it.

 

What do you think can realistically be done to implement some of your wishes for our area in the next year or two?

If we pass the stimulus package and it is properly constructed then a significant portion of the money will go to infrastructure investment, and a significant portion will go to helping those in the greatest need — for unemployment compensation and food stamps and so on. I think that would be an effective stimulus package. If we can modify existing mortgages to make it easier for people to make their monthly payments, that’s what the second half of the TARP money will be about, then I think we will be successful in reducing the number of families who are currently being foreclosed from their homes.

 

Could you tell me briefly how government money from any sort of stimulus package gets distributed, and who decides the amounts and where the money goes?

The money is going to flow from the fed government to the state and there are existing formulas that govern that. For example, there will be money in the stimulus package we believe at the present time anyway for schools and there’s a formula about which federal money flows to the states to assist with K-12 education. By the way, all of this is very fluid. All of this could change or any bit of this could change. But the way it currently stands, existing formulas that govern federal moneys going to the states will be used to distribute the money.

 

Do you have any new thoughts on current bail out packages, and would you re-consider your vote on the banking bail out considering how many industries and institutions are now looking for a helping hand?

When I cast that vote back in October I absolutely was convinced it was the right vote. I am both very very angry and disappointed with how the Treasury Department took the authorization that Congress gave it. Congress made it very clear that the money was to be used back in October in a particular way and the Treasury Department didn’t use those funds in that way. And so, had I known the funds would be used in the way Sec. Paulson wound up using them, I would have voted no. But I continue to believe that the way Congress outlined the use of those fund was the right way to do it. Hopefully that is the way we’ll do it now when we release the second half of those funds.

 

What do you perceive to be the major political or economic concerns in the coming year that people haven’t considered yet? In other words, is there anything you know that we don’t yet?

The Economy. The over riding concern is the economy: the massive loss of jobs, massive reduction of consumer spending, and a huge loss of economic confidence on the part of everyone. Those are the three things we have to attack and attack as aggressively as possible. The government has to be the spender of last resort in order to stimulate demand. And we have to restore confidence to our financial markets and our credit markets. I believe we are on the right path. Let me lay it out for you, 70% of our economy is based on consumer spending so when people are spending less it has a ripple down effect through out the economy. If people aren’t going out to eat, then restaurants have to lay off people. Generally, reduced levels of economic activity are already being felt by some people every single day. Those who haven’t been affected yet, they ultimately will be. People are spending less and that has a dramatic effect on the economy.

 

During this past election cycle more people became involved in the actual political process than ever before, and now people may be wondering how they can continue to be involved in their local and national government. How do you think people can continue their involvement? In particular what do you think people can do to help the economy right now on a personal and local level so that they feel like they are making a difference and creating positive change?

Not to sound like George Bush, but people need to spend money. They need to be responsible about it because one of the ways we got into this mess is by people spending money they didn’t have by borrowing against their home equity or using up their credit cards and that’s part of the economic downturn now. People are finding themselves over extended. I think people need to be responsible but I say the principle thing that needs to happen is that the government needs to become the principle spender. I think if the government spends then others will follow suit.

Putting the economy aside for a second it’s a very encouraging development that so many people have gotten involved in the political process I hope they remain involved. We have a participatory democracy and it only really works if people participate. One of the great things about the Obama candidacy was the extent to which he energized people and brought people into the political process that previously hadn’t been.

 

Speaking of positive change, what do you think is going well here on Long Island, and what do you think will continue to go well?

Well, we have a very good quality of life here. We have remained very good at protecting our environment and open spaces. Our schools remain first-rate schools. Our communities are great communities in which to raise one’s family. We have very good economic stability here. Housing prices have dropped but not as dramatically as elsewhere in the country, and unemployment is up but not anywhere near as sharply as elsewhere in the country.

 

How will you be spending Inauguration Day?

I’ll go to inauguration itself with my family, and I will be doing a series of press interviews. I’ll be hosting a reception with Steve Israel from the neighboring congressional district for people coming down from Suffolk County.

 

Did you have a large number of requests for Inaugural tickets? How were they dispersed and do you know if anyone from Sag Harbor is going?

Fred Thiele is coming with his kids. We had several thousand requests for tickets. We put a few tickets aside for other elected officials such as Fred, but for the most part we released the tickets to the public and had a lottery. It was the only fair way to do it.

 

 

Green Collar Jobs Coming

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In the wake of a disaster sometimes fear can erupt and in the country’s current economic climate some are terrified. But according to some experts this fear can — and should — be replaced by excitement and opportunity. Well, at least it has for those who attended a forum at the Stony Brook Southampton campus last Friday and are seeing some light at the end of a long dark tunnel.
Friday’s forum focused on carbon reduction and was sponsored by the new International Consortium for a low-carbon society, of which Stony Brook Southampton is a member. Stony Brook is the only member university in the United States. Other universities that belong to the consortium are in countries such as Thailand, China, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom and Sweden.
The consortium was formed by Nay Htun, an Amagansett resident and professor at Stony Brook Southampton who hopes to reduce carbon production world wide. The goals of the consortium include focusing on a low-carbon society through transformational technology, financing, economics, education, training and policy — among others.
Friday’s event was intended to bring additional experts on green energy to the campus.
David Winchester, chair on the Alternative Energy subcommittee of the Hauppauge Industrial Association, said that great businesses come out of recessions and for now, that business boom is in green energy.
“This is the biggest business opportunity on the planet,” Winchester said on Friday. “College students make the connection very quickly from choosing a career path and saving the earth.”
The challenge, he said, is showing those on Wall Street that this is the biggest business opportunity in the world.
Those who spoke at the forum came from a variety of companies who focus on reducing the carbon footprints of those who live and work on Long Island.
“Together, moving on a path of low carbon, we can have all the building blocks that can spot this greening revolution here in Long Island,” Htun said on Friday.
In his presentation, Htun talked about the “who, what, when, where and how” of reducing the carbon output of society. The challenge, he said, is “how.” Htun believes that by forming innovative partnerships and national consortiums the world could link together and form a greater momentum to move towards low carbon societies. His hope is that the East Coast will become as ambitious as the West Coast in becoming greener.
Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, Gordian Raacke, spoke about the importance of educating the public on climate change and how everyone should be playing a part in attempting to reduce their carbon footprints.
“We are facing a planetary emergency of unprecedented proportions,” Raacke said. “If we are part of the problem then we can be part of the solution.”
Raacke said that his company does a lot of outreach on solar, wind energy, and a host of other topics to inform the public of alternative energy sources. He said that he witnessed firsthand a direct result of climate change when he visited Montana, where there used to be 150 glaciers and now there are just 26. By 2020, said Raacke, there will be no more glaciers in this area.
“By forming partnerships between businesses and others we agree that we need to do something very rapidly,” he said. “We need to move from realization to doing something about it.”
Renewable Energy Long Island has published a Long Island Green Guide, a directory of green building information for consumers.
Anil Dhundale, Executive Director of Long Island High-Technology Incubator of Stony Brook Southampton, said the way the university can help is by training students and creating new industries.
“We have an entrepreneurial tradition on long Island,” he said and added that multi-institutional partnerships can help to develop accelerated commercialization of advanced and alternative energy technologies.
At the close of the forum, U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop gave a keynote speech that talked about the revelation of “green collar jobs.” On January 6, the congressman said there will be a “kick off” to the economic stimulus package, which includes business opportunities pertaining to green energy.
“I have some optimism in the 111th congress,” Bishop said, “I think they will take us where we need to be.”
The congressman said he believes that with a change of leadership in the White House – green energy and climate change will become the center of attention among politicians.
“Everyone agrees that we have to drive down our consumption,” Bishop said.
Forum at Stony Brook Southampton campus on 12.05.08