Neighborhood First: The Civic Impulse - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the September 2013 Juniper Berry Magazine

Neighborhood First: The Civic Impulse

Craig Caruana, Executive Board Member of the JPCA, is running for the city council.

Voters should always ask who a candidate is and why he or she seeks a political office. This is especially true in light of recent scandals that could easily make even the civic-minded readers of the Berry cynical and mistrusting of anyone running for office. But we are involved because we care about our community and will never give up. We are driven by our civic impulse to help. We want this neighborhood to be preserved for our children and grandchildren. It is in that shared spirit that I ask you to help me represent us in the New York City Council.

I was born and raised here. It's my home. I have no dream of moving out to Long Island. I've been fortunate to spend time around the world. I worked as an intern in Ireland's Parliament in Dublin, served at the Department of Defense in Washington DC and spent time at Texas A&M University to earn a graduate degree, in addition to visiting countries in East Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Those experiences enriched my life, but also enhanced my love for our neighborhood even more than before I left. I knew I wanted to come home and get involved in our civic life.

When you love your neighborhood, you are moved to do whatever you can to serve it, make it better and fix what's broken. I saw that our current representation in the City Council is a failure across the board and threatens the character and quality of the place we all love. Seeing our funding and services from the city drop to the bottom, while our taxes went up, made this civic impulse stronger than ever and made it easy for me to decide to pursue the honor of representing us in the City Hall.

I'm running to represent this neighborhood in the City Council because, like all of you, I'm tired of being shortchanged under the representation of Council Member Crowley and I know we deserve better. When you vote for someone, you're investing in her. You pay taxes that pay her salary. You are entitled to a decent return on your investment, which means good representation in the government.

I am a Republican, but this race is probably the least ideological in the entire City this year. It's not about a governing philosophy, it's about whether or not we are sending someone to City Hall who can be an effective advocate and legislator for our neighborhood.

Since Elizabeth Crowley was elected, our district has been shortchanged in the budget. During the Councilmember's four years in office, our district ranked 46 out of 51 for money coming into the district. In the same year that Elizabeth Crowley voted for property tax increases, our district received the least amount of money out of the expense budget in the entire city, according to the Gotham Gazette, which tracks funding by Councilmember. Our city funding has dropped to the bottom of the barrel, leaving our neighborhoods without funding they desperately need, I see that the return on our investment plummeted to the bottom of the City. In other words, we're getting ripped off.

When a charity organization thinks your neighborhood would be a good place for a homeless shelter, you have not been properly represented. The homeless shelter proposal has resurfaced, despite Crowley's claims last year that she stopped it. This issue is critical because it shows how ineffective our Council Member is and what the City as a whole thinks of our neighborhoods: a place that can be shortchanged with abysmal funding and a homeless shelter, instead of the things we need. The City's shelters do good and vital work and are not to be demonized but it isn't enough for a Council Member to say so. He or she needs to work with everyone involved to remove our district from the list of locations, once and for all.

I hear a lot of folks talking about the increased number of homes broken into and other crime in our neighborhood. I don't want to go back to the Dinkins Era of crime. That's why I support the proven police tactic of stop and frisk. I will protect our quality of life and keep our streets safe by supporting our first responders with the resources they need.Criminals should be in handcuffs, not our cops. I support stop and frisk, because law enforcement experts like Commissioner Ray Kelly, say that it works. Policies like Stop and frisk, help to keep illegal guns off the street. Calling the tactic racist is without sense, because the majority of lives it saves are likely Black and Hispanic.

Equally dangerous is Introduction 656, a bill co-sponsored and passed by Council Member Crowley that prevents law enforcement officers from checking the immigration status of inmates at Rikers Island. There is no easy, local solution, for a complicated national problem like illegal immigration. However, what we can do as a community is ensure that anyone who does our community harm is punished in accordance with the law. Crowley proudly ushered this bill through the Council, which prevents the deportation of people who committed a crime, in addition to being in the country illegally. This isn't just insulting to the citizens of our district, it's insulting to every decent, hard- working person who lives in our community and follows the law. The only reason I can fathom as to why she supported such a monstrous law is that she wanted to prove herself to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in preparation for her 2012 Congressional candidacy, hoping the moderate, blue-collar, law-abiding workers would forget about it.

I also believe in maintaining a minimum headcount for cops and firefighters, as recommended by their unions. When it comes to the number of cops or firefighters needed to keep us safe, I listen to our experts, not politicians or bureaucrats.

Many local business owners have shared with me their frustration with the never-ending inspections and ridiculous regulations. Look around Woodhaven Boulevard and it's shocking to see so many boarded-up storefronts. The first job I ever held was on that block, as a bus boy in Bridies while I was still in high school. It's a shame how difficult it is to start a new business in our city. Part of what makes our neighborhood great, is that you can still go to stores owned by local families. I know that those types of businesses drive our economy. I want to put an end to the unreasonable regulations and unfair fees that strangle our small businesses, so they can thrive and create jobs. There should not be a quota for government fines on businesses and they should be given a reasonable chance to cure whatever violations are found, in good faith. Our local businesses are not ATM's for Manhattan bureaucrats.

Teachers have one of the hardest jobs imaginable: they are responsible for other people's children. Unfortunately, teachers and students are not getting the resources they need to succeed. A recent study by DNAinfo.com showed that none of this district's schools' have an acceptable pass rate for English tests and it's frighteningly difficult for parents to get their children into Pre-K programs in our area.

We need smaller class sizes, where children learn best I support the creation of more charter schools and tax credits for parochial schools. I will also fight to restore the funding that schools and other organizations need to provide after-school programs, so parents who work know their children are engaged in fun, safe activities. So many parents have expressed their concern over after-school programs, since most parents have to work just to buy what they need.

I'll never try to use the job as a stepping-stone to Washington. I've already been there. I worked at the Pentagon. Then I came back and all I want to do is fight for our neighborhoods.

I will never allow our beautiful district to become just another part of the big city. I know there's no such thing as an outer borough. You deserve a Council Member who knows we are just as important as the rest of the City, and proves it every day by delivering what we need.

Please vote for me on November 5th. Together, we can put our neighborhood first.

September 2013 Juniper Berry Magazine

September 2013 Table of Contents