What's at Stake?

In the wake of the first Republican Presidential Debates, the Carmel Democratic Committee brought together community leaders to discuss the relationship between government actions and working people, the dangers of the Algonquin Pipeline expansion, gun safety and the attacks on women's health. The speakers were impressive... the conversation inspiring.

What’s Really At Stake For Us?

By Marsha Waldman


            They say that all politics is local. So, what’s the connection between the hot issues being raised in the Presidential campaigns and debates and life for us here in Mahopac/Carmel? That question led the Carmel Democratic Committee to bring community leaders together with locals for presentations and discussions focusing on the relationship between government actions and working people, the dangers of the Algonquin Pipeline expansion, gun safety, and the attacks on women’s health. The presenters insights and information were impressive and we can only highlight a few of the ideas they presented and inspired.

            Joe Mayhew, a Mahopac local and the Secretary-Treasurer of Communications Workers of America, points out that the tax breaks given to large corporations fall on our shoulders in terms of higher local property and sales taxes. In other words, when GE pays no taxes and claims a tax benefit of over $3 billion, that tax shortfall comes out of your pockets.

            Joe also pointed out that the Federal Government’s failure to address the immigration issue hurts all American workers. There are some 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. Employers exploit them, paying wages below legal requirements. This pushes down salaries and working conditions for all U.S. workers. It’s unrealistic to push them out of the country or build a wall across our southern borders as some candidates propose, because these immigrants represent about 5% of the labor force. Imagine instead, Joe suggests, if these workers and their employers were paying taxes and contributing to social security.

            A very local concern is the expansion of the Algonquin Pipeline, which passes frighteningly close to Indian Point and could potentially lead to an explosion on the order of Hiroshima.  Susan Van Dolsen of Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) explained the presidential connection.  The Federal Energy Resource Commission, created by Cheney to streamline energy projects and supposedly advance energy independence, has rubber stamped approval for this project, overriding objections from local governments and citizens.   Real energy independence, says Van Dolsen, would come from a focus on renewable energy. Imagine where we might be now if Reagan had not torn down the White House solar panels – and the energy reforms – that Jimmy Carter had introduced.

            Although controversial, the NY SAFE Act has succeeded in reducing deaths from gun violence. New York has the 5th lowest rate of gun deaths in the U.S. It is shocking to realize that nationally there are over 30,000 deaths a year, including about 3,500 kids and over 19,000 suicides. Leah Gunn Barrett of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence  (NYAGV) points out that weak federal laws hurt New Yorkers by allowing guns to flow into our communities from states with weak gun laws. She suggests that New York’s law could be a model for national gun law. That, of course, will require a president and Congress who will stand up to the NRA. 

            NYAGV is also pushing for a law to protect our children. It would require the safe storage of all guns not in the immediate possession or control of the gun owner, either in a safe storage depository or with a locking device, to prevent children from having access to them.  This seems like a small, reasonable step to take responsibility for our own guns and our children’s safety.

            Megan Toohey, Vice President of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of Hudson Peconic, questioned the credibility of Republican presidential candidates and Congressmen who have consistently lied or spoken mistruths about the role and activities of Planned Parenthood. For starters, the infamous video attacking Planned Parenthood was created by an organization whose mission is to ban abortion and cut women off from medical care that they need. It is altered and intentionally distorts what is being said and done with the goal of shocking people and discrediting Planned Parenthood. The scene that Carly Fiorina described was not even in the video. Planned Parenthood does not sell body parts -- with the permission of the patient, they provide tissues to research firms that conduct medical studies that will potentially benefit us all. Planned Parenthood is only reimbursed for some of the expenses for storing and transporting the tissues.

Keep in mind that no Federal funds are used for abortion services by any organization, that abortion is legal in the U.S., and that more than half of Americans consider themselves pro-choice.

Further, Planned Parenthood’s primary mission is to provide essential medical services to women. Ten Hudson Peconic Planned Parenthood Centers served more than 33,000 patients last year, including lifesaving cancer screenings; birth control; sexually transmitted disease prevention and treatment; breast health services; Pap tests; information, and health counseling. They also conduct age-appropriate, medically accurate information programs in schools.

A President who is determined to destroy Planned Parenthood would undermine the health of American women, including women right here in the Hudson Valley who rely on Planned Parenthood for a wide range of health services.

            From job security to health care, from gun safety to safe energy sources, the choices we make leading up to the election and at the polls will change our lives – for better or for worse. If you want to be part of making it better, get involved! Like the Carmel NY Democrats on Facebook to get started.


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