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Just Don’t Shoot Them

On Tuesday, a celebrity with local ties added her name to those pushing Gov. George E. Pataki to approve a bill that would amend an existing law on canned hunting to make the activity illegal. Wendie Malick, a star of the TV show Just Shoot Me, sent a letter to the governor pronouncing her astonishment that such an activity is legal at all in New York, and urging him to sign the bill into law.

Canned hunting essentially involves the confinement of animals for the hunting pleasure of humans who have paid a fee for the “sport.” Unlike hunting in the wild, the animals have no means of escape, and therefore are at the complete mercy of the hunter.

Currently, there are no federal laws to govern canned hunts. The existing New York state law allows for hunts on properties larger than 10 acres.

In her letter to the governor, Malick, a native of upstate New York, asked him to “ensure that the existing law is amended so that all facilities in New York engaging in the indefensible killing of captive animals are banned.” She also said, “Canned hunting is a sad, cynical business that has no place in civilized society.”

What makes canned hunts doubly cruel, critics say, is that most of the animals are born and raised in captivity, and therefore are trusting of humans, sometimes so much that they don’t even know to run from a hunter. This works well for facilities that provide the service, because it guarantees a kill.

The bill, which was sponsored by Scott Stringer (D-New York City), states that while there are federal and state laws offering protection for many endangered, threatened and native animals, “a lack of specific prohibitions allow a wide range of animals, including certain species of bear, llama, zebra and ram to be killed in this manner.”

Only 10 other states, including California, New Jersey and North Carolina, have laws prohibiting canned hunting. The New York bill to prohibit all canned hunting already passed the Assembly and Senate on June 20, and now awaits Pataki’s approval or veto.

—Kathryn Lurie

Still Steaming

When nine northeastern states accepted Gov. George E. Pataki’s invitation to enact a regional cap on carbon dioxide emissions last week, the governor’s office trumpeted the announcement as an environmental victory for the state. But a number of environmental groups have been waiting for action since the governor unveiled his plans for reduced greenhouse gas emissions—in 2001.

Jason K. Babbie, an environmental policy analyst with New York Public Interest Research Group, said New York state cannot afford to wait until April 2005—the deadline set by the nine regional states that will work together—to enact a regional cap of greenhouse gas emissions. Pataki’s Greenhouse Gas Task Force already has completed studies and made the promises, Babbie said. Action is the next step.

“I think having a regional cap will eventually be a very good thing; however, New York needs to take the action now,” said Babbie.

After 90 days of deliberation, nine out of the 10 states that Pataki asked to participate in a regional carbon dioxide emission cap accepted—Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Maryland, who declined participation at this time, may become involved at a later date.

“I was pleased that it was such an enthusiastic bipartisan response,” said Anne Reynolds, air and energy program director with Environmental Advocates of New York. “I still wish that New York would go ahead and establish a state carbon cap or at least begin the rulemaking process to establish that at the same time they are continuing discussions.”

Participating states will meet in September 2003 to begin discussions on the development of a cap in each state and establish a set of rules for trading reduction credits. Power plants will be allowed to purchase emission rights, an allocated amount of carbon dioxide set by each state, from another plant in the region. The plan should be completed by April 2005.

Richard McIntire, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said state officials understand why Pataki wanted to attack greenhouse gas emissions with a regional approach, but said there are more issues that Maryland needs to address first, such as carbon monoxide and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Presently, Maryland has no regulations for carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s not a situation where we have flat-out said ‘no,’” said McIntire, who said the door isn’t closed to anything. “We’ve had a process of our own underway. It wouldn’t be fair to invalidate the whole process and sign on to another initiative.”

Rulemaking in New York is known to take up to two years, said Reynolds, who urged Pataki to get started now. Reynolds said that because there is no regional government, each state is going to have to establish their own cap and accompanying rules, and then discuss trading as a region.

“It’s a step, but by no means a complete victory,” said Babbie.

—Jennifer Schulkind

Allied against money in politics: protesters at the Bush fund-raiser in Albany. Photo: John Whipple

Cleanup Crew

A fund-raiser Tuesday for President George W. Bush, hosted by Gov. George E. Pataki, offered an ideal setting for local activists to highlight their respective issues by protesting.

The fund-raiser was a $1,000-per-plate event complete with Bush’s sister, Dora Bush Koch, as a special guest. The event was held at the Armory Automotive Center (Colvin and Central avenues, Albany). The protest, which took place at the beginning of the fund-raiser, was a bipartisan demonstration, according to Jon Bartholomew, an organizer with Citizen Action of New York.

Among the groups protesting were Citizen Action of New York, Women Against War, Alliance for Democracy, Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, New York Citizens for Clean Elections, Capital District for Justice and Peace, Upper Hudson Peace Action, and the Saratoga Peace Alliance.

The protest was organized to bring attention to campaign finance reform and help in “reclaiming our democracy,” Bartholomew said.

The demonstrators, numbering in the hundreds, marched up and down Colvin Avenue outside the Amory Center brandishing signs and bullhorns, as well as mops and brooms, representing clean elections and the need to “M.O.P. up” campaign finance policies (Money Out of Politics). A five-minute excerpt from a local activist’s play, a political satire focusing on the loss of democracy, was performed in the street.

“The campaign finance system that we have right now corrupts the whole idea of democracy,” said Bartholomew.

There are two major problems with the current campaign finance system, according to Bartholomew: Generally, candidates are personally wealthy, have access to money or are willing “to sell their souls,” he said, adding that once elected officials are in office, the campaign contributors get special attention.

Bartholomew and Citizen Action of New York protestors are pushing the state to enact Clean Money, Clean Elections legislation. This initiative, already used in Arizona and Maine, calls for public funding of campaigns once candidates have proven they have public support.

—Jennifer Schulkind

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