Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef neither approved nor vetoed the Legislature’s resolution to symbolically ban the N-word and other derogatory terms based on race, religion or ethnicity.
In his message to the Legislature he wrote “As abhorrent as this word is to me personally, attempting to ban any word in the English language, even symbolically, borders on the outer limits of what could be considered justifiable legislative powers.”
Vanderhoef went on to write that legislation can not replace a person’s conscience nor can it replace the word’s ugly history.
Legislature Vice Chairman William Darden said today that he wished Vanderhoef would have signed the law. The more people that speak out against the word, the better, he said.
Because Vanderhoef did not veto the resolution it will be considered approved.
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No secret handshake necessary.
The Rockland County Legislature is hopping on the ban-the-”N”-word bandwagon. The Legislature’s Multi-Services Committee has on its agenda a resolution, introduced by Vice Chairman William Darden, D-Hillcrest, to “symbolically” ban the use of the “N” word as well as all derogatory words referencing race, ethnicity and religious practice.
It’s certainly not a new idea, especially in this area. Last month Nyack village trustees and the Westchester County Board of Legislators passed a resolution calling for an end to the word’s use. Earlier this month the New York City Council also adopted a nonbinding resolution that prohibits the use of that word.
The Multi-Services Committee, which meets at 6 p.m. tomorrow in New City, will also tackle a proposal to ban smoking in a vehicle with children under the age of 18. That resolution, sponsored by Legislator Connie Coker, D-South Nyack, aims to prevent damage caused by secondhand smoke.
They will also discuss a proposal by Legislator David Fried, D-Spring Valley, that would direct County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef to create a telephone and e-mail hotline to report businesses that sell alcohol and tobacco to minors.
If the committee votes to pass all these items through, the full Legislature will vote on them at an upcoming meeting. The law against smoking in vehicles with children would require a public hearing.
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Some village of Nyack leaders are calling for the symbolic elimination of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“N WordÃ¢â‚¬? and there has been no shortage of opinions on the matter.
Since writing about Mayor John ShieldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposal last week to abolish the word from the village vernacular, several readers have given their two cents. The opinions varied, some complimentary, another message sounded a bit curmudgeonly. Another e-mail so outlandish, there was some humor to it.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a quick recap:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Nice job, good initiative. Anything that focuses attention on eradicating this racist slur is good. Pass the ban and complement it with education and programming in the schools.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unconstitutional, do your homework. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make language illegal, even if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vulgar and offensive.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the word? Is the village board actually going to ban the word Nyack? (They were referring to the fact that we never use the actual word in the story).
The first one seems self evident. Shields and members of the local NAACP said the law is not about enforcement, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about education. Shed light on its history and people, particularly young African Americans, wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t use the word, not even in a Ã¢â‚¬Å“friendlyÃ¢â‚¬? manner among peers.
The second concern is a fair one, but was addressed in the story; it sounded as if the anonymous caller didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read that far. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s addressed in the article:
Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center, which has offices in Washington and Nashville, Tenn., said it was important to separate the legal and social implications of such a resolution.
Policinski understood the benefits of enacting a local law to raise awareness and said it could be problematic if any penalties, fines or enforcement were attached to it. When challenged, he said the courts have historically protected people’s Ã¢â‚¬Å“ability to express ourselves, even if it is repugnant.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The courts have been very cautious to restrict language,” he said yesterday (Feb.14). Ã¢â‚¬Å“It’s unlikely that broad statutes would survive a constitutional challenge.Ã¢â‚¬?
The mayor also said the resolution was symbolic and not intended to be enforced. That removes the likelihood of any legal challenges.
Finally, there is no movement by the mayor or board to ban the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“NyackÃ¢â‚¬? from local use. I assume the reader knew this, but was just testing my chops.
The board will vote on the matter Thursday. Join the conversation and have your say on the topic at our forum section of the Web site.
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