Thursday, December 27, 2007

Janet Difiore.

Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

My sister, Maureen Keating Tsuchiya, was honored by Westchester Disabled on the Move posthumously as the advocate of the year, at their annual Spirit of Independence Awards Dinner at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains, NY. Also honored were Assemblywoman Amy R. Paulin for the Spirit of Independence Award, and the Verizon Foundation for the Corporate Citizenship Award.

Maureen was the second of 8 children, my baby sister. She contracted polio as a child when she was three years old after receiving the polio vaccine. She was one in five million for this to occur. As a child she walked with braces but they never slowed her down. As an adult she walked with crutches and also rode a scooter or
a wheelchair for her mobility, though many people would say she had too much energy to let that hold her back. As my sister I never thought of her as disabled she was just Maureen, my little Mo.

Maureen was involved in politics throughout her life. She found you had to learn about the political system to get changes made, and she found the Democrats were her party favorites. She lived in Minnesota in her 20’s and had to cross a major busy street in downtown Minneapolis. The light would turn red before she could get to the other side. That was when she learned she had to be the one to contact the local street department or the department of roads to get changes made. As a young women, one of Maureen’s most exciting days was to attend the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the south lawn of the White House in the 1990’s.
She fought for those rights in the Chappaqua area too.

Her deepest desire as she lived in Chappaqua was to make all places accessible to those with disabilities. One of the places she wanted this access to occur was at the front doors of the Chappaqua Train Station. It was her desire to see it accessible for wheelchairs and people with disabilities. As she always said “Let my people through the front door!” As the plans were being made for the sidewalks along Quaker Road, she was adamant about having the sidewalks accessible to the disabled as well as accessible for strollers for those who were walking their children. She was a great supporter of campaigning for local Democrats as well as making
polling places accessible for the disabled.

Maureen was 51 when she died a year ago of a pulmonary embolism following knee surgery. She was a great advocate for the disabled. She is deeply missed. The award was given to her daughter Hannah, at the awards ceremony that was attended by over 100 people. And it was apparent that this awards ceremony strives
to “recognize and celebrate those with disabilities to attain independence both individually and as well as collectively”. Maureen would have been proud to have been honored. Her and I challenge all of you to help others to be independent.

Mary Rose Schaaf
Bassett, Nebraska

Editor’s Note: Readers will recall Northern Bureau Chief Maureen Keating Tsuchiya’s ground-breaking contributions to The Westchester Guardian, including exposure of the New Castle Police Department’s time card/pension fraud.

Dialogue Between Readers

Dear Editor

Jennifer Walford’s spirited response to my letter to the Westchester Guardian is an extraordinary abstract of the
presence and role of Americans of African descent in the United States. It was a good refresher for me and new
information for many readers. My only issue is that she is preaching to the converted. Ms. Walford, let me shortly express some of my bona fides that might suggest to you that I am not an idle observer of what you are saying.

The problem is my lousy communication skills for which I apologize. By “new white community” I mean to put
African-Americans on a close to equal footing to white Americans. I said nothing about the struggle to reach that; nor this I suggest that the piece of pie was large enough. However, you are at the table and exactly where you should be.

A little about me. As I type this response I am looking proudly at a certificate from the Southern Poverty Law
Center. It enrolls me in the Wall of Tolerance. I shared a foxhole with African Americans and saw no difference in the color of our blood, only our musical tastes. I lost ancestors in the Civil War who volunteered for all the reasons you would to defend the rights of African Americans for equal citizenship.

You mention history — I am aware of Crispus Attucks as well as the valiant role played by African Americans in
all of our conflicts. However, I also am aware of the progress made – we have a man of color running for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of this great country. We have Condolezzaa Rice, Colin Powell, Ron Paige, and many governors, mayors, and representatives.

You surely are aware of the power displayed by John Conyers and our own Charley Rangel in Congress.
As a student of history, let me share an anecdote. When I was in Greece on assignment, one of my contacts was a Greek national who became a close friend. When I asked him why there were so many blonde, blue-eyed Greeks, he smiled and said, “why be surprised; we held Northern Europeans in slavery and bondage for a thousand years.” Another cruel chapter.

And, the beat goes on. Blacks enslave blacks in Darfur, whites other whites in parts of the Middle East, and
so on. My point is that we have all lost some focus. The time has come not to minimize or forget the African American struggle, but to push the struggle of our Hispanic neighbors to the forefront.

This is the new battleground to be fought. The Intelligence Report put out by the aforementioned Southern Poverty Law Center has a new cover story on the the wave of violence engulfing Latinos. You sound like a woman who is strong and committed enough to be outraged by this and your voice is needed in this new struggle.

Ms. Walford, I don’t know if you are a religious woman, but I will risk it by saying that my religion commands me as follows ---- “whatever you do unto the least of them, you do unto me.” The new “least of them” are the Hispanic community who, parenthetically, come in all colors. In any event, I am tired of the assignment
by color. Tiger Woods said it best when he created an anagram combining the letters of all of his heritages. He was proud of his mixed heritage. I am sure that Alicia Keyes, Hallie Berry, Rashida Jones, Lennie Kravitz, and so many others share that view and must flinch every time they are asked to identify who they are.

Because, who they are is what they are as people. You, Ms. Walford, strike me as someone I would be proud to know and if I offended you by my careless choice of words, I apologize.

Warren Gross, New Rochelle

In Our Opinion...

...Why Can’t The Westchester DA’s Office?

Probably the most disheartening aspect of the recent revelations about nearly 100 Major League Baseball players and their abuse of performance-enhancing compounds, such as growth hormones and anabolic steroids, contained in the Mitchell Report, is the fact that the sports activity involved just happens to be the “National Pastime”. It’s not as though other popular sports haven’t had their scandals over the years: Basketball’s point-shaving, fixed horse races, even the NFL has had drug problems. But, somehow, none of those exposés were as hurtful or as disappointing.

Baseball, after all, is a game of numbers, statistics; RBIs, HRs, AVGs, ERAs; a game of heroes, larger-than-life names we feel personal about, and disappointed to discover were cheating, gaining unfair advantage through unlawful activity. It’s upsetting to realize they were lying to us, both in their unlawful indulgences and their desperate denials, even in the face of undeniable evidence.

We tend to feel let down by people we’ve placed our faith, our belief, in, people we trusted and admired. Yes, we feel deceived and betrayed, but not totally surprised; mostly disappointed. Yet, somehow, we are relieved that the Truth is finally out, even if some continue to lie and feign indignation. Yes, we are glad the Truth has
been told, but sadly, we may never see the game quite the same way. And, yes, we find ourselves reflecting upon the greats from an earlier time - the Babe Ruths, the Joe DiMaggios, the Hank Aarons, the Ted Williamses, and the Willy Mayses - the Real McCoys.

Here, in Westchester, we have another painfully disappointing institution, in many ways similar to Major League Baseball, but infinitely more consequential in terms of its impact on our lives: the District Attorney’s Office.

As with Major League Baseball, there are those players who really do want to play by the rules and We have witnessed and acknowledged their efforts over the years. But, unfortunately, there are far too many who engage in prosecutorial misconduct to be ignored, not to mention the high stakes of the game they play: 3 Years-,
5 Years-, 25 Years-To-Life.

As with baseball, the element of power is key to their game. No, not physical power, but the power of the State; the power to accuse, to prosecute, to harass and persecute, to exhaust and bankrupt, to incarcerate and isolate, to effectively destroy anyone, irrespective of guilt or innocence!

Again, as with Baseball, it’s all about winning, and winning has nothing to do with Justice. The rules are restrictive and very oppressive; no Accidental Deaths, no Self-Defense, in Westchester. And, naturally, there is no sharing of information unless their backs are against the wall; 376 pages of exculpatory information, 52 boxes of exculpatory exhibits, must be kept from the knowledge of the Federal Courts, much as a batter keeps a corked bat from the knowledge of the umpire.

Of course, corked bats and spitball pitches are child’s play compared with Tampering With Evidence, Suborning Perjury, Witness Intimidation, Withholding of Brady Material, and Total Confabulations and Lies; not to mention deliberately undermining the relationship between defendants and their attorneys.

What we in Westchester need now is for United States Attorney Michael Garcia, who posted a hotline number 19 months ago seeking information on issues of public integrity and corruption in our County, to step up to the plate and hit a home run by doing for the Westchester District Attorney’s Office what former Senator George Mitchell did for Major League Baseball.

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