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Common Sense: Bag the tax

If there is anyone who remains in our city who thought the New York City Council and our mayor were in touch with the priorities of New Yorkers, the recent passage of the five-cent paper and plastic food and retail shopping bag tax should end that confusion.

In my opinion, it is not about the 15 to 50 more dollars you might need to spend each year, although that should matter. Nor is it about the scientific reports that have shown that reusing these bags is less then sanitary. It is about a supposed representative body elected by the people calling itself a City Council believing this is what the majority of New Yorkers wanted. It is almost as though the 28 who voted for this bill are living on another planet.

The imposition of this five-cent tax reflects an extreme environmental agenda being forced upon millions of our city’s residents. It is another message to New Yorkers who consider our government out of touch that things are only going to get worse. And it a reminder to those looking to relocate a business or family to our city that its government lacks common sense. Twenty-eight Council members voted for it. Twenty Council members — including Councilmembers Gentile and Greenfield, and the three Republican members — voted against it.

The mayor has said he will sign it into law. He should veto it and until he has actually signed the legislation we should loudly make our opposition known. Some of the 20 who voted against the legislation consider themselves strong environmental proponents and simply argued that there were better ways to protect the environment from bag waste, with more bag recycling programs topping the list.

The issue has not gone unnoticed in Albany. State Senator Simcha Felder has introduced a piece of state legislation that is co-sponsored by State Senator Marty Golden (whom I serve as chief of staff) that would bar municipalities in the state from imposing a fee or tax on consumers who use paper or plastic bags. The bill is very likely to pass the Senate, but its future in the Assembly remains murky.

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The loss of Artie Schack, like the loss of Larry Morrish, affects a community in ways that you really do not completely understand until time has passed. We intuitively know our community lost a great man in Judge Artie Schack. A simply reciting of his resume clearly makes that point.
I did not share his political philosophy, but did have many reasons to speak with him over the years on governmental and community topics, mostly in my role working for Senator Golden and in his role as a judge who often unofficially lobbied for measures that were important to the jurists.

At least, that is how the conversations would begin. In all likelihood, we would drift into a discussion of another topic. It might have been history, of which Artie was well-read and well-spoken. It could have been government, of which we may not have shared the same views, but did share the same respect for the institutions. It could have been about major league baseball. I always thought it was amazing that I was talking with the former counsel to the Professional Baseball Players Association. And sometimes it was about the community and local politics.

People come and go, but good people are all too few. Artie Schack was a good person who will be missed by our community greatly. May he rest in peace, and may Dilia and his family find comfort in knowing that Artie left many wonderful memories.

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