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BY KEEN BERGER | DISTRICT LEADER | At least a dozen issues grab my attention – the need for a hospital, the horror of fracking, the perversion of the 1 percent, and much more.
As I walk down the street, I yell at pedestrians throwing trash, at cyclists on the sidewalk, at drivers in the crosswalk. I don’t like being angry, discouraged, or scattered, yet that comes easy and often. I know better: District leaders are unpaid volunteers, I teach and I write — I have no time to fix everything.
Each of us must focus. I have chosen three issues — schools, Election Days and immigration — and I try to notice the good while fighting the bad.
First, on schools, underfunded and overcrowded: We need more classrooms, especially since we lost Children’s Aid and Greenwich Village Middle School last year. Here is a major victory: In March 2012, five years after our first public outcry, the city agreed to buy 75 Morton St. from the state. More work is needed for speedy renovation of that six-story building and to make sure we get a public school — not charter, not private, not a Gifted and Talented. All our children are gifted, and they all need room to learn, but at least we are on our way.
Second, on elections: We have four new poll-site coordinators, each much better than before. I despair at the waste and inefficiency of the Board of Elections. Why four expensive Election Days in 2012 — what are the legislators thinking? But local poll sites are better staffed and voting is less time-consuming than 10 years ago. At least that is what I see — tell me if I am wrong.
Finally, on immigration: It is hard to see the good here — unfair deportations continue and irrational fears are stoked by people who know better. But two local immigrants I know (Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbar) have temporary reprieves, a selfless immigrant lawyer (Josh Ben-David) continues to defend the most vulnerable, and the Indonesians who took sanctuary in a New Jersey church last month have not been dislodged. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) no longer has free rein at Rikers. That’s four bright spots in the swirling gloom.
Particularly for immigration, we need to win some elections before we’ll get systemic change. Carmona needs to become our U.S. senator from Arizona, for instance. A strong Senate will not only improve immigration but will improve everything — women’s rights, gay rights, healthcare and more.
Here at home, Gillibrand is my hero; she needs a big win in November.
But lest I scatter, I will stick to my three issues, confident that thousands of Villagers have their own three. I can support, if not lead, on many issues.
Beyond the need to focus, 75 Morton taught me again how political victories are won. Persistence succeeds; never quit.
Berger is Democratic district leader for the 66th Assembly District, Part A