29 March 2009

Let's Make It Count

New York City Councilmen Bill de Blasio and David Yassky were at CBE tonight, as part of our "Coping with the Economic Crisis" series, put together by a group of our members and friends from UJA Federation of NY.

One couldn't ask for more intelligent and hard working public servants like de Blasio and Yassky--both were warm, informative and honest about the hard road ahead for our city, state and country. Each tried, in his own way, to address the complex web of city, state and federal spending and how it will ultimately effect direct services city-wide and in our neighborhood. Three areas that were particularly illuminating--city transportation like bus lines, schools and teacher funding, as well as early childhood care, after school programming and senior centers--are all on the chopping block and each Councilman was adamant about the need to let city leaders know how crucial these services are.

Synagogues like ours can do alot to raise its voice, write letters to politicians, make phone calls, and let people know about which direction our country should be headed in these defining times.

I'll tell you one thing: Albany did not come away smelling like a rose. And the Daily News confirmed as much today in its extensive call to fix this politically troubled area known as New York State Government.

Walking down 8th Avenue toward CBE for the evening program, it didn't take me long to realize that I was the only person on the street at the time NOT using his cellphone. I heard people touching base with home, planning a hike of the Appalachian Trail, and uttering Lord knows what to whom--at that point I had tuned out. All this connectivity: and yet, we still live in a world with real problems which need to be solved by real people. Sometimes, in my nuttier moments, I fear we're all being anesthetized by media, numbing us to keep our subscriptions going while the world falls to pieces. It's perfect, in a way, that the other disturbing story I read was about Glenn Beck, Fox News' new star of the apocalypse, whose misguiding musings about taxes and socialism and God is doing its own special part in anesthetizing up to 2.3 million viewers a day.

The happy bourgeois numbed with our connectivity; and the masses on their couches, looking into the angry mirror of self-affirmation.

It left a small group, with two incredibly hard-working and bright public servants, trying to figure it all out.

"What's the best way to make our voices heard?" I asked Councilman de Blasio at the end of the night.

"You'd be surprised," he offered. "We really take letters and phone calls to heart. Of course, you can email and you can Twitter, too. But there's nothing like reading a letter and getting that call."

If we're going to be connected--especially in these times--let's make it count.

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