FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT www.couriersun.com SEPTEMBER 3, 2015 • THE COURIER SUN 21 THE FIGHT FOR VOTING RIGHTS IS NOT OVER A LOOK BACK BY CONGRESSMAN STEVE ISRAEL letters oped As young students return to classrooms around the country this fall, they will turn to history textbooks to learn about one of the most signifi cant days in American history — Aug. 6, 1965. On that day, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This legislation, like a shining beacon of hope, brought our nation out of the dark and bloody years of the Civil Rights movement toward a more just and inclusive democracy. For the fi rst time, barriers between minorities, non-English speakers, other disenfranchised voters and the ballot box were removed. Millions of Americans could exercise their fundamental right to vote and play a role in the democratic process. Their ability to cast a ballot was built on a foundation of decades of sacrifi ce and tireless activism by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., my friend and colleague Congressman John Lewis and countless others. But unlike how it’s likely depicted in the history textbook, the battle for voting rights did not end on Aug. 6, 1965. The struggle for progress has continued. Most recently, in 2013, the Supreme Court shamefully gutted a portion of the Voting Rights Act that dictated which state and local governments, with a history of voter discrimination, were required to get approval from the federal government before enacting any changes to their voting laws. Almost immediately, we saw headlines about state legislatures moving bills to limit early voting, implementing discriminatory photo ID requirements, and purging thousands of names from voter fi les without any merit or facts. Disenfranchising millions of Americans from voting is a stain on our democracy that we cannot allow to continue. Even if we don’t see the poll taxes and literacy tests of the past, new discriminatory restrictions on voting rights are to this day making it harder for some Americans to exercise their fundamental right to cast their vote. Just as Congress took a stand in 1965, both sides of the aisle must come together to ensure states and localities cannot restrict the right to vote. It is simply too important. The court may have weakened the law, but it is Congress’s job to act swiftly to strengthen and renew these protections. House Democrats are determined to restore the Voting Rights Act. I, along with 89 of my colleagues, have introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, which would restore the protections struck down by the Supreme Court and ban new efforts to suppress voting among growing minority communities. The importance of this fi ght cannot be understated. We must look no further than the words spoken by President Johnson in March 1965 on the fl oor of the House of Representatives: “Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.” On the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, instead of celebrating its accomplishments, we are again fi ghting for its survival. I implore Speaker Boehner to take action, put politics as usual aside, and remember the words of President Johnson. Our nation cannot move forward if we allow American voters to be suppressed from exercising their most basic right as citizens. Let’s not turn back the clock and rebuild roadblocks to voting from our nation’s history. We need to leave those memories in the history books young students will read about in classrooms this school year. Instead, we need to strengthen our democracy by protecting the equal right to vote for those young Americans and for our entire country. That fundamental right to vote and participate in our democracy is truly what makes America great and it’s what so many brave Americans have fought to protect. Congressman Israel represents New York’s Third Congressional District, which includes areas of Bayside, Bay Terrace, Bellerose, Douglaston, Glen Oaks, Little Neck and Whitestone. HAVE A HEART WHEN IT COMES TO FERAL CAT CARE I know several NYC-certified caretakers and they all report an increasing feline population; however, the Queens Courier article on the increase in stray or feral cats in Fresh Meadows failed to highlight an even greater problem: the cost of doing something about it, and I don’t mean just rounding them up! These costs include neutering, food, fuel and finding homes for as many as possible, not to mention the time donated performing this community-oriented service. Many supportive vets will perform neutering for around $25 to $30, a fraction of what a “private owner” must pay for this service. Food is expensive, too, if you feed a whole colony. The city may certify feral cat caretakers, but they don’t contribute to the expenses. Thankfully, many of the caretakers use their own funds to perform their service; however, they also welcome donations of food and cash necessary to perform neutering. Although most of us do not have vermin within our home, they live everywhere, even in nice areas like Fresh Meadows — and cats love to hunt them! I have no comment about those that “complain” other than to ask “please have a heart.” It’s not easy to be homeless in the city. Arthur Schneider, Middle Village BOULEVARD BIKE LANES ‘DISRESPECTFUL’ After arriving home on Aug. 19 at 8:15 a.m. from a drive on Queens Boulevard in Woodside, I am worried and shocked at the unsafe and impeded route due to the construction of bike lanes. I am livid at the city’s disrespectful and inappropriate decision to install these lanes and restrict access to the service road on Queens Boulevard — the principal arterial roadway in the borough of Queens — without appropriate community outreach. Community boards do not represent the community — they are appointed and advisory. This action amounts to a life change for my community and the execution of a plan of such unprecedented speed and scope without extensive community outreach and feedback, is neither democratic nor fair. The insult is keenly felt. I can only wonder: is this designed to benefi t a for-profi t bike share program that couldn’t turn a profi t despite record ridership in its fi rst year? How much tax money are we going to spend so they can become profi table? Karen Darrell, Woodside TURN THE A/C ON IN PUBLIC SCHOOL BUSES The law requires that most special education students must be transported in airconditioned buses, and the Department of Education has long been out of compliance. They’ve fl outed it and will answerable only to whom they choose when they choose if at all. They’ll get around to obedience, just hold your horses. But now Public Advocate Letitia James is suing the Department of Education. Her action is focused on the four-wheeled steambaths called school buses. But the problem is much larger than that. It touches upon the classroom learning environment of hundreds of thousands of students and teachers during the hot weather months. In September, May and June, it is not unusual for the temperature to reach 100 degrees in classrooms. That’s because the windows are often locked for fear that students will hurl objects out or fall out themselves or get their fi ngers caught. Fans are also banned, especially for younger kids. Being required to work under oppressive conditions of heat and humidity is not only demeaning but interferes with concentration of students and adults. With a budget of around $30 billion, the DOE can afford to phase in over a few years an air conditioner for every classroom and school bus. But that doesn’t rise to the level of the least of their priorities. Ron Isaac, Fresh Meadows As the nation marks Labor Day, we thought this patriotic look back would be appropriate. Shown above is Rose Moakley standing next to three editions of Old Glory in front of the Charles D. Knight pole store on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale. Moakley was a relative of the business owners, who supplied both wash and fl ag poles for local homes for decades. The picture was taken during the 1940s; note the stars on the fl ag, which are in the 48-star alignment. Have a historic photo of Queens that you’d like to share with us? Email us a copy to editorial@queenscourier. com.
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