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Friday, September 11, 2009

NYC ballot initiative for new 9/11 investigation

From Reuters:

In a last minute decision, lawyers for the City of New York have conceded that the New York City Coalition for Accountability Now (NYC CAN), a group comprising 9/11 family members, first responders and survivors, indeed did submit over 30,000 valid signatures to put the referendum for a new 9/11 investigation before the voters of New York City this November.

In an earlier letter from the City Clerk dated July 24, 2009, the City had claimed only 26,003 signatures were valid, 3,997 short of the requisite 30,000. The City's concession that over 30,000 of the 52,000 signatures submitted were in fact valid paves the way for lawyers from both sides to argue the legality of petition.

Asked whether he thought NYC CAN could overcome the City's challenge to the legality of the petition, legal counsel to the petitioners, Dennis McMahon, said, "Absolutely. Although the City has an incredibly successful record of shooting down ballot initiatives, we will be arguing from a fresh perspective that reflects the unprecedented events of 9/11. We believe the courts will see how critical an issue this is, and be persuaded with our legal reasoning and point of view." A final determination on the legality of the petition will be reached in time for the referendum to be included on the November ballot should the petitioners prevail.

Representatives for NYC CAN, 9/11 family member Manny Badillo and Executive Director Ted Walter, arrived at the Board of Elections on the morning of Wednesday, September 9, to assist the court-appointed referee in commencing a line-by-line review of the disputed signatures, only to learn the referee's review had been called off due to a last minute concession by the City. Mr. Badillo immediately got on the phone to inform others of the news.

"The City conceded we have 30,000 valid signatures. Big victory."

The City's concession comes as a result of the immense effort put forth by 50+ volunteers who gave more than 1,000 hours over a two week period from August 10 to August 25 to identify a total of 7,166 signatures that were wrongly invalidated by the NYC City Clerk and Board of Elections. On August 27, NYC CAN filed the 631-page Bill of Particulars cataloguing each of the 7,166 signatures it contended were in fact valid. NYC CAN submitted another 28,000 signatures on September 4 to guarantee the referendum will go on the ballot if they win the court case, bringing the total signatures submitted to 80,000.

NYC CAN must deliver its memorandum of law in response to the City's motion for summary judgment by Monday, September 21. The City will be given an opportunity to reply before the referee's decision is made on Monday, September 28. Fast-track appeals will likely follow no matter who wins. A final decision will have to be made by September 30.

If the referendum passes in November, it would lead to the creation of a local, independent commission with subpoena power that would be tasked with comprehensively reinvestigating the attacks. For more info:

From their site:

NYC CAN is non-partisan organization comprised of 9/11 Families, First Responders, Survivors and proud, concerned citizens committed to bringing about an independent, impartial investigation into the events of September 11.

In the months after September 11, a handful of the victims’ families joined together to demand an independent investigation into the government’s failure to defend its citizens on that tragic morning. Their ceaseless efforts led to the formation of the 9/11 Commission, signed into existence on November 27, 2002.

Having thoroughly researched every aspect of the attacks, the Family Steering Committee provided the Commission with 400 questions that would need to be answered for the Commission to fulfill its mandate. After 18 months of proceedings and the release of the Commission’s Final Report on July 22, 2004, the Family Steering Committee determined that only 30% of its questions had been answered, leaving some 250 questions still unanswered.

The validity of the Commission’s findings was further undermined by several factors, including contradictory accounts from the Federal Aviation Administration and the military, stonewalling from the Bush Administration, conflicts of interest among key personnel in the Commission, and the Commission’s failure to hold a single individual accountable for the numerous failures leading up to, on and after September 11.

Today, the feeling persists among many of the families and many New Yorkers that the full truth has not been uncovered and justice has not been served. The growing number of ill and dying First Responders without access to adequate healthcare and financial support adds the necessity of an investigation into the false assurances that the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe, and immediate remedies for the healthcare crisis afflicting First Responders and nearby residents.

With the federal government failing to deliver an impartial investigation, the 9/11 Families, First Responders and residents of New York City are moving ahead with the conviction that NYC CAN.

New York City voters have the power to legally mandate the formation of a new investigation with subpoena power by petitioning to place a referendum on the ballot in the November 2009 General Election. In September 2008, the petition reached a milestone of 30,000 signatures, the minimum number required to submit the petition to New York City Council for its approval. By June 2009, NYCCAN will eclipse the 45,000 signatures required to bypass City Council, ensuring its placement on the ballot. With the passage of this referendum New York City will take the first giant step towards truth and justice.