Sex Offenders Domicile: Not in My Backyard!

Benjamin Adams, Staff Writer

In our society, the treatment of sex offenders is a highly debated issue.  There are many who believe sex offenders should be treated in a much harsher manner, and there are also those who believe sex offenders are too harshly punished, and stripped of their rights.  New propositions and declarations are made constantly, and they are of an extremely diverse nature. 

Over 90,000 sex offenders have recently been removed from MySpace in response to efforts made by the Attorney Generals of the states of Connecticut and North Carolina.1  The Fourth Circuit, in their ruling in United States v. Comstock,2 unanimously affirmed the district court’s decision that 18 U.S.C. § 4248 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is unconstitutional.3 Many courts have upheld this ruling, which states that Congress does not have the authority to enact § 4248 concerning the civil commitment of sex offenders following their incarceration.4  This struck down section had allowed the U.S. attorney general’s office to obtain a stay, prolonging the federal detention of any person convicted of particular sex-related offenses through a “certification alleging sexual dangerousness.”5  However, provisions of the federal law funding state civil-commitment programs with $10 million each year through 2010 are not overruled.6  In addition, the ruling does not affect the legality of state civil-commitment laws.7  This ruling itself exemplifies the debate of whether sex offenders should be confined.  Some cities have gone so far as setting up their own sex offender colonies.8  However, there are also cases in which people feel sex offender registrations and laws may have gone too far.  For example, in Georgia, a young promising athlete had his future seriously infringed upon by having consensual, oral sex with a classmate.9

In many states, previous sex offenders must register with the government, and are restricted in where they are able to live and work.10  For instance, in New York, Level 1 sex offenders register for twenty years, while Level 2 and 3 offenders are registered for life.11  Police are able to monitor the movements of the entire offenders list, while the general public can access the list of Level 2 and 3 offenders.12  With the ever growing population of both the general community and registered sex offenders, and the ability of the public to follow the habitation of sex offenders, there is an ongoing debate of where to put all the sex offenders and who will pay for any adjustments to a community that needs to be made.13 Continue reading “Sex Offenders Domicile: Not in My Backyard!”

Cutting the (Trans) Fat: Albany’s Trans Fat Ban & the Future of Regulating Healthy Eating

Sarah Darnell, Staff Writer

Recently, Albany County banned restaurants from using trans fats in their food.1 Trans fats are known to increase the risk of heart disease and restaurants can easily replace them with little increase in cost and no loss in taste.2 Not surprisingly, the Health Commission and the Restaurant Association frame the issue differently.  While the Health Commission sees the ban as a step in combating heart disease, the Restaurant Association warns that the ban is only the first step in a series of regulations that will soon target some of your favorite “bad” food.3

Predictably, many restaurants advocate for allowing consumers to dictate whether they make the switch from trans fats.4 They argue that if enough consumers stop buying a product because it contains trans fats, it will induce businesses to remove them.  Undeniably, the free market system offers consumers the most freedom and businesses the most flexibility.  In fact, several companies have already removed trans fats from their menus countrywide.5 Continue reading “Cutting the (Trans) Fat: Albany’s Trans Fat Ban & the Future of Regulating Healthy Eating”

New York City’s Campaign Finance Law is Unconstitutional

Daniel Katz, Staff Writer

The New York City campaign finance system was created in 1988 amid widespread scandal in New York City, and has been amended numerous times.1 That same year, the New York State Commission on Government Integrity issued a report outlining reforms that would improve the integrity of the New York City system.2 The report called for many changes, such as banning corporate contributions, treating loans as contributions, and enacting special rules for those doing business with the city,3 that have since been incorporated into the New York City campaign finance system. Because the New York City campaign finance system has been the subject of numerous reports, debates, and hearings over the 20 years that it has been in existence, it is viewed by many as a model for campaign finance reform.4

The New York City campaign finance system contains provisions that would be unconstitutional if mandatory, but which are acceptable because the candidates volunteer to participate, in essence subjecting themselves to the limits.  In the declaration of legislative intent and findings, the City Council stated that the goals and purposes of the Act are “to improve popular understanding of local issues, to increase participation in local elections by voters and candidates, to reduce improper influence on local officers by large campaign contributors and to enhance public confidence in local government.”5

Prior to the 2007 amendments, the City’s public campaign financing system was an entirely voluntary system.  In order to be eligible for public matching funds, candidates voluntarily accepted expenditure limits, contribution limits lower than state limits, more extensive disclosure requirements than state requirements, as well as a ban on corporate contributions, which are allowed under state law. Continue reading “New York City’s Campaign Finance Law is Unconstitutional”

Parked Your Car? Pay a Tax!: Parking Commodification and its Possibilities for Green Infrastructure

Eric Schillinger, Staff Writer

New York State is riding the coattails of New York City when it comes to green transportation.  New York State consistently ranks among the best states when calculating how successful its population is at efficiently transporting itself.1 It’s true, on average New Yorkers are among the most energy efficient people in the United States.2 But these numbers don’t tell the whole truth.  New York City is the most efficient large city in the country.3 As it is more than twice the size of the next largest city, Los Angeles, it greatly skews the numbers as they apply to the entire state.4 The city’s enormous population and its leading efficiency statistics skew the numbers in favor of New York as a whole.5 Nearly half of all New York residents live within the five boroughs,6 and these individuals are, thankfully, some of the most efficient in the entire country.  This helps push New York up the green ranks.

Upstate New York, on the other hand, is frighteningly un-green.  In fact, if New York City’s very green residents were removed from the equation, the remaining 12 million people in New York State rank near the least efficient in the nation.7 Upstate New Yorkers live more like notoriously inefficient Texans then they do their counterparts in Metro-New York.8

We can do better.  Rather than riding the coattails of New York City’s efficient residents, transportation policy upstate must be reworked, to spur all New Yorkers to transport themselves efficiently, use energy sparingly, and recognize the importance of taking responsibility for how they consume energy. Continue reading “Parked Your Car? Pay a Tax!: Parking Commodification and its Possibilities for Green Infrastructure”