Democracy Dies Behind Closed Doors: Throwing Out the Bush Secret Courts

WPCNR White Plains Law Journal Abstract. From WPCNR Legal Correspondent. August 29, 2003: On August 27, the Federal Court of Appeals of the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati said the Bush Administration violated the law by holding deportation hearings in secret, using the charge the people under scrutiny were linked to terrorism.

WPCNR’s Legal Correspondent has isolated key tracts of Judge Damon J. Keith’s written decision defining the unanimous decision of the three-judge panel.

The Background:

WPCNR presents the guts of that historic decision on a case brought against the Bush Administration when it barred four Michigan newspapers and Representative John Conyers of Michigan from attending deportation hearings of Rabih Haddad, a Muslim clergyman, who had stayed in this country after his visa expired.

Excerpts From the Ruling Against Secret Hearings

Judge Damon J. Keith writing for the three-judge panel. WPCNR has added bold subheads for easier reading.

August 27, 2002

The primary issue on appeal in this case is whether the First Amendment to the United States Constitution confers a public right of access to deportation hearings. If it does, then the government must make a showing to overcome that right.

No one will ever forget the egregious, deplorable and despicable terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. These were cowardly acts. In response, our government launched an extensive investigation into the attacks, future threats, conspiracies and attempts to come. As part of this effort, immigration laws are prosecuted with increased vigor.

Non-citizens subject to government power

The issue before us today involves these efforts. The political branches of our government enjoy near-unrestrained ability to control our borders. “These are policy questions entrusted exclusively to the political branches of our government.” Since the end of the 19th century, our government has enacted immigration laws banishing, or deporting, noncitizens because of their race and their beliefs.

While the Bill of Rights jealously protects citizens from such laws, it has never protected noncitizens facing deportation in the same way. In our democracy, based on checks and balances, neither the Bill of Rights nor the judiciary can second-guess government’s choices. The only safeguard on this extraordinary governmental power is the public, deputizing the press as the guardians of their liberty.

Places Actions Beyond Public Scrutiny.

Today, the executive branch seeks to take this safeguard away from the public by placing its actions beyond public scrutiny. Against noncitizens, it seeks the power to secretly deport a class if it unilaterally calls them “special interest” cases. The executive branch seeks to uproot people’s lives, outside the public eye and behind a
closed door.

Democracies die behind closed doors.

The First Amendment, through a free press, protects the people’s
right to know that their government acts fairly, lawfully and accurately in deportation proceedings. When government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation.

The framers of the First Amendment “did not trust any government to separate the true from the false for us.”

They protected the people against secret government. The office of the chief immigration judge, under the authorization of Attorney General John Ashcroft, designates certain cases to be special interest cases, conducted in secret, closed off from the public. Arguing that closure of these hearings was unconstitutional, plaintiffs in three separate cases sought an injunction against such action…

The district court granted the injunction, finding blanket closure of deportation hearings in “special interest” cases unconstitutional. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court’s order. . . .

The public’s interests are best served by open proceedings. A true democracy is one that operates on faith – faith that government officials are forthcoming and honest and faith that informed citizens will arrive at logical conclusions.

This is a vital reciprocity that America should not discard in these troubling times.

Without question, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, left an indelible mark on our nation, but we as a people are united in the wake of the destruction to demonstrate to the world that we are a country deeply committed to preserving the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our democracy. Today, we reflect our commitment to those democratic values by ensuring that our government is held accountable to the people and that First Amendment rights are not impermissibly compromised.

Open proceedings, with a vigorous and scrutinizing press, serve to ensure the durability of our democracy.

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Council Kills State Early Retirement Option for City Employees

WPCNR Common Council Chronicle-Examiner. By John F. Bailey August 29, 2002:At Wednesday evening’s work session, the Common Council voted against granting an Early Retirement incentive program to city employees by a 6-0 vote. The Council saw plans for the new Calvary Baptist Church on Orawaupum Street, was presented with a unique office condominium project for Church Street behind City Hall, and heard a new proposal for swapping developmental rights between properties in the downtown.

TOO LITTLE SAVING was the verdict of Betty Wallace, City Personnel Director at head of table, and Deputy Budget Director, Ann Reasoner, (to Ms. Wallace’s left), on presenting the budget impact of offering the state-approved Early Retirement Plan to “targeted” employees last night. Reasoner said, after extensive consultation with department heads, it was projected that only $250,000 would be saved over and above the $1.4 million it would cost the city to implement the program. The Council voted the proposal down, which would have offered all city employees one month extra of service for each year served up to 36 months towards their state pension. An employee of the Community Development Corporation affected by the possible proposal said “It’s embarrassing if you would vote that way (against it).”
Photo by WPCNR

The council saw an elaborate model of the new sanctuary envisioned by the Calvary Baptist Church. The round structure soaring 165 feet high to be built attached to and behind the present Calvary Church on East Post Road and Orawaupum Street.

THE CALVARY OF TOMORROW as conceived in an model presented to the Common Council Wednesday evening. It was presented by Gary Warshum, its architect and the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church Wednesday evening. The 165 foot high structure, with four levels of pew seating is to be constructed into the side of the Orawaupum Street Hill on the site of the former Sholz Cadillac dealership already acquired by the church. On the right is the present Calvary Baptist Church. Photo by WPCNR

VIEWS INTO THE PEWS in a close-up of the proposed new Calvary Baptist Church sanctuary. The circular house of worship would have four levels of pew seating for 1,500 worshippers. The architect advised that cost estimates of the structure were now being assembled. The church’s pastor told WPCNR that about 25% of anticipated funding had been raised and that efforts to raise the balance were under way. Funds to construct the building are expected to be lent by the Bank of New York. The council was very complimentary of the design, Rita Malmud saying, “I’m delighted to see God’s miracle here tonight. I’m delighted to see miracles continue to unfold.”
Photo by WPCNR

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME: THE OFFICE CONDOMINIUM? The Council saw the plans owner of 40 and 44 Church Street has for erecting an 11-story “Office Condominium” behind City Hall on Church Street.
Photo by WPCNR

The only catch is the building would have parking on each “office floor” accessed from the Main and Hamilton parking garage, requiring an easement from the city and a sale of rights from the city to the developer.

Benjamin Boykin said he saw a thicket of legal issues. George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, said the city would explore the ramifications of allowing entry for parking from the city’s garage if the council was interested in the proposal.

They were. The city will make an appraisal of the garage property being “eased,” and the issues of making a land use agreement with the developer.

Anthony Scarcella, the attorney who is planning the project, said he saw each floor of the building selling to private professional firms for about $800,000 to $950,000 dollars. To his knowledge this concept has never been offered before, because it was, he said, what he had looked to buy when he was looking for office space.

Susan Habel’s New Plan: Euclidian Zoning

The evening wrapped up with a new idea for the downtown core zoning from Planning Commissioner Susan Habel. Ms. Habel presented a plan for transferring Floor Area Ratio rights to “non-contiguous” properties within the downtown.

She told WPCNR the concept was given birth by the Cappelli City Center project, in which Louis Cappelli said he would purchase air rights over the Main-Martine garage if the city would consider swapping such rights elsewhere in the city.

A MOMENT OF ZONING ZEN, was presented by Planning Commissioner Susan Habel in which she proposed the city consider adopting an ordinance allowing transferral of an allowed floor area to another non-contiguus site. Above the Commissioner is the target area for this new ordinance: the downtown core.
Photo by WPCNR

Wednesday evening Ms. Habel presented the plan, saying the ability to swap a developmental right among properties in the downtown core would give the city the ability to direct the growth of the city with more control instead of being forced to simply consider developer “as-of-right use” on a specific site.

The council listened, glassy-eyed but dogged, and agreed to consider the swapping possibilities Habel described in a series of “what-if scenarios.” William King allowed that the ability to swap office space rights had to be watched closely, because of the glut of office space in the city. Glen Hockley suggested transfer fees be attached to such migrations of Floor Area Ratios to other sites.
The council adjourned to go into executive session on a sale of land, the nature of the land sale and location were not revealed to the media.

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Conservation Voters Call Matusow “Extraordinary Environmental Champion”

WPCNR MORNING SUN. From NYLCV. August 28, 2002:The New York League of Conservation Voters, a statewide environmental group, announced today its early endorsement of N.Y.S. Assemblymember Naomi C. Matusow (D) for the 89th Assembly District in Westchester County.

“Naomi Matusow is clearly an environmental leader, and the New York League of Conservation Voters enthusiastically supports her re-election,” said Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director of the NYLCV. “The League believes that Matusow will continue an excellent voting record that reflects her strong commitment to environmental issues.”

“I am honored and delighted to receive once again the endorsement of the New York League of Conservation Voters. It is gratifying that my commitment to environmental protection, preservation of open space, improvement of air and water quality and opposition to un-checked urban sprawl has been acknowledged. Every citizen of the 89th A.D., can rely on me for continued leadership on these crucial issues,” said Assemblymember Matusow.

Matusow was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1992. In 1998, Matusow guided a bill that established the Clean Drinking Water Revolving Fund and negotiated the Pesticide Reporting bill through the N.Y.S. Legislature. In 2000, Matusow authored a law requiring the Department of Environmental Conservation to adopt stringent air emission standards for personal watercraft.

Matusow has played a role in the N.Y.S. Assembly in sponsoring pro-environmental legislation. On recycling, Matusow introduced a bill to expand the definition of the term “beverage” in the state bottle bill to include non-carbonated drinks. Matusow also sponsored a bill that would make considering means of alternative energy mandatory for energy performance contracts.

Early endorsements are only awarded to candidates who demonstrate exceptional leadership on environmental issues. The process includes a candidate questionnaire, interview, independent research, and a full Board meeting and vote.

“Assemblymember Matusow is a leading environmental advocate and continues to work to maintain and improve environmental conditions in Westchester County,” added Bystryn. “Voters can rely on Assemblymember Matusow and that’s why the League fully supports her in her bid for re-election.”

New York League of Conservation Voters was founded in 1989 as the nonpartisan political arm of New York’s environmental community. NYLCV seeks to make conservation and natural resource protection top priorities with New York’s elected officials, political candidates, businesses, and voters by mobilizing New Yorkers as a political force on behalf of the environment. In 2001, NYLCV made over 125 endorsements statewide, including races in New York City, Westchester, Long Island and the Capital District.

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SERGEANT JOE FRIDAY REPORTS: City Faces Shortage of Pizza Delivery Specialists.

WPCNR SERGEANT JOE FRIDAY REPORTS. By John F. Bailey. August 28, 2002: Angelo Magnotta, veteran pizza purveyor to the city, has never seen anything like it.

No one, it seems wants to deliver pizza around the City of White Plains.
Tuesday evening, Angelo had to call in Ray, a veteran delivery man for many years for the White Plains Pizza Institution to make the White Plains.

He does not know what he will do this evening to handle the orders which mount in intensity as the weekend approaches.

Magnotta usually uses young persons to deliver his take-out orders that Donny his pizza chef puts together, along with Italian specialties from the kitchen. But, in the last two weeks his summer Delivery boys have all gone back to college.

What has surprised him is that no one has answered his ads in the local newspaper to apply for the position.

Angelo says he finds it surprising because at $2 a deliver plus tips, on a good night an efficient Delivery man who knows the city can make over a $100 in a night.

He’s also looking for a good pizza cook to help Donnie out.

Angelo turned to the CitizeNetReporter for help find responsible persons of any age who would like to deliver Magnotta’s pizzas, and a seasoned pizza cook. Contact Angelo at 761-8661 for more details.

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Assemblywoman Paulin Joins Spano in Panning Commuter Tax

WPCNR NEWSREEL. From Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. August 28, 2002:State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) today expressed her opposition to reinstating a tax on Westchester residents who commute to New York City.
“Our hard-working families should not be burdened with a tax just for commuting to the city,” Paulin said. “The talents and skills of our Westchester commuters help make New York City the thriving place it is. Our commuters already pay for transportation in tolls and fares.”

The commuter tax was lifted in 1999 because it was deemed unfair to residents. Recent reports have indicated that Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, may be considering reinstating the tax to increase revenues.

“We need to keep families here in Westchester, not drive them out with additional taxes,” Paulin said. “In the Assembly I will fight for the best interests of Westchester to help maintain our quality of life.”

Last week County Executive Andy Spano lead off with his own unequivocal opposition to reviving the commuter tax.

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City Settles Oakley Avenue Drainage Suit for $15 Grand.

WPCNR CITY DESK. From The Mayor’s Office. August 28, 2002:The Mayor’s Executive Officer, George Gretsas, announced Tuesday that the city has settled a lawsuit over drainage problems on Oakley Avenue with Ro-Jay Properties.
According to the settlement announced, the city will pay Leon Jones, owner of RO-JAY PROPERTY, INC., the sum of $15,000. In addition the settlement requires the City of White Plains to create drainage improvements on the 148 Oakley Avenue property within one year.

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Boy Who Lost Dad on September 11 Crusades for National Firefighters Day

WPCNR NEWSREEL. From Stephen Morton. August 27, 2002: WPCNR received a chain e-mail today, which we usually ignore but this one was different. The e-mail seeks names of persons supporting a National Firefighters Day to be celebrated annually on September 11. If you’d like a copy of the actual letter let WPCNR know.
The idea comes from a young man, Condor Geraghty, whose father was killed in the World Trade Center attack. Here’s the text of that message forwarded to WPCNR pal, Steve Morton, who e-mailed WPCNR with the crusade letter:

This boy lost his father on September 11th. He’s got a really great idea. Thanks!

I lost my Dad on September 11th; he was Chief Edward Geraghty,
Battalion 9, New York City Fire Department. He lost his life with many other heroes that day, victims of the terrorists.

Firefighters from all over have come to the aid and rescue of the
tragedy in New York and Washington, D.C. Many firefighters have lost theirlives to save someone else’s; the truth of the matter is, they do this every single day.

They truly are heroes.

I know many people feel helpless, especially those who live far from NYC and DC. We all want to do something to show our appreciation, our support. I think we can…

In honor of the bravery, courage and determination of American
firefighters, there should be a day in our nation to celebrate and
appreciate their hard-work and never-ending passion for saving lives. I think we should honor all those other heroes who still live today.

I’m starting a petition for a National Firefighters Day. Will you
help make every September 11th “National Firefighters Day”? Please join me!

Thank you.

Condor Geraghty, age 14

Rockville Centre, New York (I Love u,DAD!!)

PS – When this list reaches 300 names, please return it to me.

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Model of City Center to be Unveiled NEXT Wednesday at Mamaroneck and Main

WPCNR NEWSREEL. From Cappelli Enterprises. August 28, 2002:The official debut of the Sidewalk Bridge and model of the City Center scheduled for Wednesday afternoon has been POSTPONED until next Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 PM, due to threat of rain, according to a Cappelli Enterprises spokesperson.
This sidewalk bridge is the first-of-its kind in Westchester County. The 15-foot high model of the multi-story apartment towers currently under construction will be the centerpiece of the display. The sidewalk display, to remain during construction, includes project renderings and quotes from well-known political and historical figures.

The sidewalk bridging protects pedestrians from the construction activity taking place.

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WPCNR CITY DESK. From Rick Ammirato of The Mayor’s Office. August 26, 2002:Mayor Joseph Delfino has announced plans for a citywide remembrance ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the tragic events that took place on September 11 of last year.
The Mayor has invited the public to participate in a Memorial Walk and Ceremony on the evening of Wednesday, September 11.

THE MAYOR’S WORLD TRADE CENTER REMEMBRANCE planned for September 11 will be a reprise of the spontaneous community tribute September 16, 2001 when approximately 7,000 citizens marched from the Trans Center to City Hall down Main Street holding candles. The Mayor is shown leading the interfaith service on City Hall steps that evening.
Photo by WPCNR

The group will assemble at the front of City Hall at 6:00 p.m. and will begin walking at 6:30 p.m. The Walk will go from City Hall to the steps of the Public Safety Building.

At the City’s Public Safety Building a Memorial Ceremony to remember all those affected by the events of September 11, 2001 will then take place. The ceremony will include remarks from the Mayor, a reading of the names of the White Plains residents lost, and a presentation of wreaths in their honor.

The route will proceed down Main Street, making a left onto Martin Luther King Boulevard then turning right onto Martine Avenue and finally making the left onto South Lexington Avenue and the steps of the Public Safety Building.

The City’s ceremony will be followed with an “Interfaith Candlelight Gathering for Remembrance, Healing and Hope” organized by the Ministers Fellowship Council and White Plains religious leaders. This multi-denominational gathering will include musical offerings, poems, prayers and readings by various religious leaders. Participants are urged to bring flowers and candles.

Parking for the event will be available at the Hamilton-Main Parking Garage, the Sears Garage and the Galleria. Main St (N. Broadway to Lexington), Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (Hamilton to Quarropas), Martine Ave (Mamaroneck to Bank St), Lexington Ave (Main to Quarropas), Conroy Dr (Hamilton to Main), and Church St (Hamilton to Main) will be closed from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

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White Plains Public Schools Open September 5 with 6,657 Students

WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS REPORT CARD DISPATCH. By John F. Bailey. August 26, 2002: Timothy Connors will be leading the White Plains City School District into a new year beginning next week, when he addresses the educators and administrators of the School District September 3. He expects to make his first statements of school district policy since taking over the post of School Superintendent July 15. The district expects 6,657 Students grades K through 12 to report for the first day of school on Thursday September 5. The District will spend an average of $19,065 to educate each student as it begins to spend its highest school budget ever, $126,919,919.

LANDSCAPING IS being applied to the high school grounds over the weekend as high school construction slowly finishes up.

The high school on North Street will welcome 1,806 students under new principal, Christine Robbins, the first woman principal in the school’s history. The $28 million high school renovation project is now one year late in completion.

Construction crews worked on Sunday clearing up some materials in the courtyard staging area on the south side of the school adjacent to the softball field. The North House which underwent window replacement over the summer is expected to be ready for classes by opening day. Heating and electrical work still needs to be completed on certain new sections of the South wing through the fall.

Tile replacement in the new main entrance hallway is being reinstalled because of an “unforeseen condition” on the concrete base, which caused the new marble tiles to crack in less than a year. That condition is being corrected for an additional $30,000, by the contractor.

Middle School Under Microscope.

The Middle School will welcome 1,548 students to grades seven, eight, and nine. As of this week, the Eastview athletic fields are being resurfaced by the City of White Plains.

POPULAR TRACK & SOCCER FIELD BEING REFURISHED BY CITY: The scene Monday as work was progressing on the Eastview Middle School Campus athletic track and soccer oval.
Photo by WPCNR

Academic Swat Team

The Middle Schools will be receiving an injection of budget money bringing more special efforts to Highlands and Eastview to prepare eighth graders in writing, comprehension and math skills. This will be closely watched because of the performances on the tests in 2001, where less than 50% of White Plains eighth graders scored in the Level 3, “Satisfactory” level of the English Language Arts and Math tests. The district is determined to raise these scores. Most school districts across the state performed substantially worse.

The State Achievement Tests of last spring have not been issued yet by the state, and will not be until spring, 2003.

Jury Out on Curriculum Enhancements to Meet the Standards.

One of the frustrations the school district has had in coping with the New York State Achievement Tests is the standard year delay the state takes in grading and releasing the tests. Unless the state begins to get results out sooner by the fall, or start of the school year, the district will not know if steps taken to help students in their areas of comprehension and study skills are making the difference they want them to make. For example, last year the school district instituted measures to help middle school and high school students. But, with the results of the 2002 Achievement tests not available yet, there is no indication yet that the efforts are having results.

On the Regents Exam level, that is not the case. High School special task forces to aid students at the high school level on passing Regents exams have been very successful in helping seniors, who have failed to pass Regents, pass them the second time they take them.

The present eighth grade in the Middle School is the last eighth grade that did not receive the benefits of the District’s newly configured elementary school curriculum, instituted four years ago. The District is confident that future classes of elementary students who have benefited from three years of fine-tuning to the new state standards will result in steadily improving state achievement test scores.

Schools Filled to Brim.

In the elementary schools, George Washington School will host the most students with 640, followed by Mamaroneck Avenue School with 639, Church Street School with 632 and Ridgeway School with 613, and Post Road School with 478. Alternative programs carry 221 students and 80 students are educated out of district.

Board of Education to Meet Twice A Month

By now all parents should have received the White Plains Public Schools Calendar for 2002-03. The Calendar though does not note the Board of Education’s endorsement of Timothy Connors’ first new initiative: more Board of Education meetings.

Mr. Connors asked the Board to meet twice a month beginning in September. He also asked for a new public forum to be staged before agenda items are discussed. The Board readily agreed, and in September there will be two meetings on September 9 at 7:30 PM (new time) and and September 23.

Facts About the District

The last page of the Calendar cover notes some interesting positive facts about the quality of education in White Plains:

• The District has received over $30 Million in state, federal, and foundation grants in the last seven years.

• In 2002, the District placed 4 National Merit Scholar Finalists, 13 were Commended, and there were 2 National Achievement Scholarship Finalists, 6 National Hispanic Scholarship Students, and 1 Honorable Mention.

• The Midde and High Schools are recognized as National Schools of Excellence.

• The District has 29 Advanced Placement and Honors Courses, 5 Foreign Language Courses.

• In 2002, there were 122 National Honor Society Members, about 7% of the high school student body, and 81 National Junior Honor Society Members, 5% of the Middle School student body.

• White Plains was ranked 7th in the Nation in Music Education.

• There were 85 students in Authentic Science Research Program, one of the largest in the state.

• The Sports Program features 230 New York State Scholar-Athletes participating in its 60 interscholastic sports teams, and 50 High School Clubs.

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