Paris accord falls short
What Sean Sweeney predicted during the November 1 panel discussion on the climate change crisis convened by the Retirees Chapter (see Adele M. Stan’s account in the December 2015 Clarion) has happened: the Paris agreement was hailed as historic, though it was not nearly as strong as it needs to be.
The main content of the agreement is that the governments of the developing countries accepted the final defeat of the Kyoto Protocol. In Kyoto, in 1997, all the industrialized countries except the United States accepted the principle of compulsory greenhouse gas reductions for them, while the developing countries – which had no part in causing the problem – were exempt for the time being. The US immediately rejected the Kyoto treaty, thereby making it ineffectual in practice, but at least its guiding idea remained alive. Now that is dead, too. Instead, there are no exemptions on one side, and there are only nonbinding and insufficient voluntary pledges on the other.
Is the intention of US policy makers to postpone serious action to halt climate change until it wreaks havoc on the Global South and begins to threaten the possibility of life in North America? If so, it is a very dangerous policy, to say the least.
Distinguished Professor of Mathematics
The CUNY Students’ Lawyer
For over 25 years, attorney Ron McGuire has defended hundreds of CUNY students pro bono in the name of public education and civil rights. While marching in a “Books not Bombs” protest at the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003, I was arrested with two fellow Hunter College students, and Ron answered the call to defend us. Though the initial charges against us were very serious, Ron defended our case with great skill and determination, which resulted in the charges rightfully being dismissed. This is just one example of how Ron’s advocacy in the courtroom resulted in CUNY students’ rights successfully being upheld. He has defended CUNY students who have gone on to become great professors at the university, while two of his student clients, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams, went on to become members of the New York City Council.
Unfortunately, Ron McGuire’s work was not fairly compensated in winning the civil rights case Husain v. Springer. This case involved journalists at the College of Staten Island’s student newspaper being denied their First Amendment rights by the college president. After Ron won the case in 2007, he was awarded only 5 percent of the considerable cost incurred by seeing the case through to the end – over nearly two decades. This is a travesty given the thousands of hours Ron committed to the case, now the bulk of them unpaid, as he seeks a special hearing before the full Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling. Ron McGuire deserves the support of the entire CUNY community in seeking rightful compensation in this case. Ron has supported our rights for a quarter-century; now it is time for us to support him.
Manager of Student Support and Retention Murphy Institute for Worker Education
Highlight Unfair Taxation
Wouldn’t it be instructive for CUNY workers to remind management and the public how much New York City and New York State money is “banked” but not taxed fairly, and if tapped would provide enormous sums for reasonable raises?
I think, for instance, of an October 15, 2012, New York Times piece about how owners of multimillion dollar condos are mini-taxed and another, from February 7, 2015, on tax-avoidance schemes that use shell companies to buy up extravagant Manhattan real estate.
How about reminding CUNY management that Governor Andrew Cuomo cut the state “millionaires’ tax” in half while he and the legislature gave sales tax breaks to yacht and aircraft owners?
Pop quiz: From 1980 to 2012, how much of the nation’s economic growth went to 90 percent of the population? Answer: zero. Much of that money went to billionaires living in our state and city. Shouldn’t those mini-taxed fortunes be publicized by the PSC? Millions of those dollars go to foundations, tax-free, that undermine public education in favor of privatization and the crippling of teachers’ unions.
Bank robber Willie Sutton was right when he said, “the bank is where the money is.” PSC should be encouraged to rediscover and publicize that the bank’s address is Wall Street.
Kingsborough Community College (retired)
PSC First Vice President Mike Fabricant responds:
A timely letter! New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie introduced legislation at the beginning of February to restore higher tax rates on high-earning New Yorkers. There is clearly a lot of support among Democrats in the legislature for a more fair and progressive tax structure. The plan would lower to $1 million the income to which the current highest tax rate (8.82 percent) would apply, and would create two new tax rates (9.32 percent and 9.82 percent), which would apply to higher income levels. Note that neither Clarion nor the PSC have shied from broaching this issue; see, for instance, Peter Hogness’s report in the April 2015 edition on the sales tax break given yacht purchasers.