Thursday, June 10, 2010

Census, Voting Machines and Budget the Focus at Addabbo Town Hall

By Tamara Best

The late state budget, 2010 census and the new electronic voting machines were among key issues discussed in a Ridgewood town hall meeting held by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D- Howard Beach) last week.

“No elected official has all the answers to the issues,” he told a group of approximately 40 residents who came out to IS 93 on Forest Avenue last week. “The ideas are out there among constituents and if we do our jobs right as elected officials we hear them,” he said.

***Budget wait- soon over?***

“I am more optimistic that there is a budget late this week or early next week,” Addabbo said Tuesday.

This week, the legislature was presented with Governor David Patterson’s proposed healthcare changes, which account for 40 percent of the state budget, in the form of an extender. An extender allows the legislature to vote either “yes” or “no” on an issue without the option of debate.

Though opposed to the proposal because of cuts to hospitals and healthcare providers, Addabbo said the legislature felt forced to vote, and voted in favor of the governor’s proposal to avoid more drastic outcomes.

“The reason we had to vote for it is because if we voted it down because we didn’t like it, state government would essentially be shut down,” Addabbo said, adding that voting it down could have resulted in massive layoffs and closures of public facilities. Local communities have already been dealt a major blow with the closures of three area hospitals.

Addabbo said Monday’s session has “tremendously” increased the incentive for the legislature to approve a budget, in an effort to avoid accepting more drastic cuts put forth, via extenders.

“We know we need to make cuts in every aspect of the state budget,” he said. “But it’s important to note that when we are able to do so financially, I’ll work on restoring as much of these cuts as possible.”

***2010 Census***

A pressing issue impacting the West is the lack of response to the 2010 census thus far.

Ridgewood, Glendale and Maspeth are all below 50 percent at mailed in responses, according to the Senator’s office.

“We’re down to 17 percent in some areas,” he said, adding that the low response is a combination of apathy and fear that responses will not be kept confidential.

Addabbo said an accurate count is important to enable the area to receive millions of dollars of government funds needed to function and make improvements. However, he added that filling out the census is also important to representation with district lines drawn based on population shifts.

Residents who have not filled out their census forms can still do so via phone until July 30th from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. with six different languages available. See for the corresponding number for each language.

Census takers are also going door-to-door through July to residences that have not yet completed the form.

***Concerns over the polls***

Addabbo, who is also chair of the state Senate Elections Committee, continues to express concern over the implementation of the new Electronic Ballot Marking System.

“If you want someone not to vote, frustrate them a little bit. Just a little bit and they will stay home,” he said.

Aside from concerns that cuts to the Board of Elections could eliminate training dollars for poll workers, residents also expressed concern about the potential lack of privacy when casting their ballot.

With the new system, if a ballot can’t be read by the machine, poll workers who will then assist voters may be able to see their vote.

Addabbo says he is opposed to implementing the system this year because of many concerns such as privacy and absentee voting.

He went on to express confidence in officials who will work to make September’s primary elections run smoothly. “If we have to use it [BMD] this year, somehow we’ll make it work.”

“We’re trying to make the process a little more feasible because I do foresee that people are going to be frustrated with the new machines and we don’t want to lose their vote,“ he said, adding that the “protecting the integrity” of the vote is a priority.

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