Op Eds & Letters To The Editor

Senator Hassell-Thompson’s Counsel Challenges Comments From Omar Cole’s Letter To The Editor

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This statement is submitted to the Black Westchester to correct comments by Omar Cole as published by the Black Westchester concerning Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson. The statements and inferences published by the owners responsible for this electronic publication contain factual and inferential falsehoods which are injurious to the reputation of Senator Hassell-Thompson. Obviously, it is an election year and some individuals take the liberty of believing they can say what they want to say without any consequences. Still, for people who care about objectivity I submit this statement in the interests of truth and fairness.

Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s Legislative Record
The content in this branch of Mr. Cole’s statements are false. At issue is the allegation that Senator Hassell-Thompson passed no bills in the New York State Senate in 2015. As a preliminary it is instructive to note that the Republican Party controls the New York State Senate and therefore for any Democratic Senator to pass a bill is particularly exceptional . It is also instructive to point out that many of Governor Cuomo’s “program bills” were voted down by the Republican Party. Ironically, on the day BW published this allegation Governor Cuomo signed into law Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s Bill S4397 which authorizes certain retirement options to several police officers assigned to the Mount Vernon Police Department. This bill was supported by the City of Mount Vernon.

One of the most prominent pieces of legislation signed into law in 2015 is Senator Hassell-Thompson’s bill S-5678 which reformed maintenance or alimony laws in the State of New York. Many members of the legal community view this new law as one of the most important pieces of Family Law passed in the past 20 years. This new 2015 law implements a “formula” for working families to figure out their maintenance obligations without the need of a lawyer, although it is obviously a better idea to hire a lawyer. The bill is similar to the guidelines used to calculate child support. The new law, allows everyday people to avoid substantial legal fees and never-ending court appearances. It is the result of six years of work and has been unanimously endorsed by various bar associations and civic organizations. The new law has been the subject of various articles in the New York Law Journal and other respected legal periodicals. Of interest, is the fact that Ruth Hassell-Thompson co-sponsored this bill with a Republican Senator, attesting to the fact that she has, from time to time, garnered the respect of the political opposition.

Senator Hassell-Thompson also sponsored S-2026, which provided tax exemptions to individuals who adopted children. The purpose of this bill is evident, especially when the greatest need for adoptive parents is in communities of color. Both houses, the Assembly and Senate passed this bill but Governor Cuomo disagreed with the legislature and vetoed the bill.

Accordingly, Mr. Cole’s statements are simply false.

The Progressive Agenda
The Republican Party, which gave their line on the ballot to Richard Thomas, also blocked many of Senator Hassell-Thompson’s progressive bills. This includes Senator Hassell-Thompson and Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s “Raise the Age Bill” and Senator Hassell-Thompson’s “Special Prosecutor Bill”. Both of these bills are vital to communities of color. New York State is one of two states that automatically tries 16 and 17-year-olds as adults no matter what crime they commit. Senator Hassell-Thompson’s bill seeks to change this by directing youngsters to Family Court where they can receive counseling and proper supervision. She believes that this approach will dramatically reduce new offenses and carefully prevent youngsters from acquiring criminal records.

Although, the Republicans blocked the Senator’s Special Prosecutor Bill, Governor Cuomo incorporated the core tenets of the bill into Executive Order 47. Ironically, the first two tests cases of the Executive Order concerned cases in the City of Mount Vernon.

Clearly, Mr. Cole’s allegations are false.

The majority work of the New York State Legislature concerns the passing of its $132 billion dollar budget. And here, even Richard Thomas would arguably concede that the Senator’s work has been simply stellar. 2014-15 marked the first time in years the Mount Vernon School District did not ask for an increase in property taxes and this is because of generous state aid to education. Mount Vernon was in the top-tier of state funding thanks to the work of Senator Hassell-Thompson, Senator Jeffrey Klein and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow. For her work, the Senator has been awarded the title “Champion of Education” by the Alliance for Quality Education.

In 2015, Senator Hassel-Thompson also worked to bring millions of dollars in CHIP money to repairs the streets of Mount Vernon. These are block grants delivered to the Mount Vernon City Council to disburse as they deem appropriate.

Likewise, the Senator’s tremendous work in the development of New York’s WMBEs is unmatched and suffice to say, for lack of time to elaborate, she holds a seat on Governor Cuomo’s Task Force on WMBEs.

And so, it is factually clear, to informed circles, that Ruth Hassell-Thompson is a leading voice in New York State. I do not have the time to elaborate upon her legislative legacy which includes Rockefeller Sentencing Reform which has reduced our prison population for the better by 20%, her hand in the creation of the Office of Indigent Legal Services, “case caps” for public defenders, a battery of revolutionary laws governing domestic violence, trail blazing legislation in re-entry programs or insistence that women and minorities be represented in top-level state positions.

Shirley Huntley
Senator Shirley Huntley was a politician convicted of stealing money. To get out of her legal predicament, she offered to record conversations of people who came to visit her at her house after a slip and fall accident. Senator Hassell-Thompson, along with several other innocent people, met with her to see how she was recovering. Two years ago she was sentenced. At no time has anyone in law enforcement stated that Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson was involved in any wrong-doing. For Mr. Cole to link Senator Hassell-Thompson to any wrong-doing is insidiously disturbing.

Here again, Mr. Cole’s innuendo is patently false.

The Primary Message
Mr. Cole is also wrong about mathematics. I believe the results of the primary election results indicated that 6 out of 10 people did not vote for Richard Thomas. You do the mathematics and make the appropriate inferences.

Financial Disclosure
The Treasurer has filed all of her required disclosure reports.

Gerard C. Savage, Esq.
Counsel to the Senator

Black Westchester

Black Westchester - News With The Black Point Of View is an online news magazine for people of color for Westchester and the Tri- State area of New York at every economic level. Our mission is to promote the concept of “community” through media.

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