WE THE PEOPLE: Campaign season is underway

Representative Michael Grimm is seeking re-election despite indictment on mail fraud and other charges. Domenic Recchia, the challenger, is the popular former chair of the City Council Finance Committee who will certainly gain support on Staten Island where he worked tirelessly on behalf of victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Governor Cuomo’s re-election campaign is in full swing. He rightly takes credit for good things that happened under his leadership. He touts the NY SAFE Act with its improved background checks for gun purchasers. His sensible approach to the area of gun registration should be reason enough to support his re-election.

A crazed gunman named William Spengler who set fire to his sister’s home after he murdered her executed two firefighters who responded with a semi-automatic rifle he purchased through a “straw buyer.” As a convicted felon he could not purchase a gun in New York, but the purchaser he accompanied into a gun store purchased the rifle and other weapons for him in cash.

The buyer pled guilty to fraud and faces one and a half to four years in prison. The families of the victims are suing the store, alleging they were willfully blind to the clues that the buyer was actually buying guns for someone else. A waiting period and a requirement of rudimentary training for the purchaser could have prevented Spengler from having his pick from the inventory of any gun store to effect his evil designs.

The City Council is calling for 1,000 additional police officers to help the NYPD do its job. However, the department needs support and a degree of independence to accomplish its mission of keeping citizens safe. Police officers perform better when they are empowered by the support of the people as well as elected officials. As long as we insist that officers provide service with courtesy, professionalism and respect for fellow citizens, our government should provide that support.

An effective enforcement of the law does not require suspension of civil rights or wrongful convictions. Effective criminal justice does not mean the acceptance of injustice. The National Registry of Exonerations reported 87 successful cases in 2013.

In Brooklyn, some high profile exonerations actually provide proof that the criminal justice system does work. One exoneration came after it was revealed that the state’s prime eye witness was deemed unreliable because she had been arrested for drug possession right before she offered to testify she saw the defendant, a drug dealer, fire a shot that the killed a man in Williamsburg.

We can never know for sure who killed the victim but a jury decided that the evidence presented 20 years ago proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. As long as it comported its action with the principles of fundamental fairness and the presumption of innocence of the accused, it did its job. As long as officials are willing to review finished cases, under the right circumstances, then the system even with mistakes does function properly. Police investigations led to 33 of the 87 exonerations in 2013.

There were two recent violent attacks in Bay Ridge. A knife-wielding thief assaulted a restaurant delivery person near Third Avenue and a woman was murdered on Marine Avenue, allegedly by her husband.

We know there are bad people and good people who do bad things. They need to be stopped, if possible, and, if not, arrested, prosecuted and punished appropriately. Our criminal justice system, despite some mistakes, does the job.

Mayor de Blasio, who is settling contracts with municipal workers, should be aware of the City of Detroit municipal bankruptcy case. The case could affect tens of thousands of its municipal retirees.

The Bankruptcy Court ruled that Detroit is eligible for relief despite the vehement opposition of more than 100 creditors including unions and retirees. A proposed reorganization plan changes agreements with the police union and other municipal employee organizations. It is imperative at all levels of government that our leaders remember the fiscal prudence is not a goal in and of itself. If we have less money, we must spend less money.

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