Jon Breen Fund newsletter 6-21-07

The Jon Breen Fund

Mount Vernon High School

100 California Road

Mount Vernon, NY  10552


June 21, 2007


Dear friends and fellow classmates,


Hello from sunny Tarrytown in the heart of the Hudson River Valley. This letter marks the fourteenth edition of the Jon Breen Fund, which attempts to accomplish some simple tasks. The first of these tasks was to perpetuate the name of Jon Breen, a good personal friend to many of us, and a great contributor to the success of our class. The second of these tasks has allowed me to reach out to the next generation of young people from Mount Vernon, and find out what they are thinking about, reflective of the issues of day. It has also allowed me the opportunity to impart on them my experiences and perspectives. It has been an interesting year for the City of Mount Vernon and change never ceases. On one hand, a new, and very expensive roundabout replaced the old circle that used to be at the intersection of Lincoln and Gramatan. Other changes have been initiated and all in all there is a new economic vibrancy. On the other hand, crime and violence have spiked and the new police commissioner, David Chong has his hands filled. I have met him a few times, and he is an outstanding professional and overall street crime has declined markedly. But, unfortunately, there are many conflicts among the young people that end up in tragedy.


With regards to our class, I have little new news to share. I keep on seeing my old friends and most of the people I know are alive and kicking. Over the past year I have seen Bill and Joan Bernstein and Barbara Tucci and her husband Roland Parent in Florida before we took a cruise to Belize, Larry Reich in Palm Springs after we played tennis in Scottsdale, and Lew and Isabella Perelman in Washington D.C for Thanksgiving. Jim Kurtz is always traveling to one exciting place or another. I communicate through email and get answers from many others. Peter Altieri and I had lunch up in his neck of the woods, I’ve stopped at Laura Kosof’s store, Michael’s on Madison Avenue, and we travel to the New York museums with Warren and Mary Adis. I am always in contact with Alan Rosenberg, and he and his wife Wendy are still following basketball aggressively. I went to the Class of 1966’s 40th reunion for five minutes and I hear from Doug Garr, class of 1967, that they will have 40th reunion this July. I see Fran Sanders during the High Holidays in Hastings, now and again, and I am in contact, through email, with Mal Gissen and Mike Schlanger, who are a few years ahead of us. Stan Goldmark’s daughter graduated from Syracuse and she’ll be working in Washington DC. Joel Zalvin is still enjoying life at New England Financial and is off to Italy this summer. I receive emails from Carla Patnik Axelrod, who is living in Florida, Lee Jackel Egan from South Carolina, Alann Wexler from upstate NY, Sue Nassau Farber from Utah, Richard Hoffman from Washington, DC, Arnie Siegel from LA, Matt Goldberg from Oakland, and three great MVHS wrestlers, Armel MacDonald, Dave “Pete” Sisto, and Jimmy Gordon. Frank Engel is still a great correspondent from Portland. I had a great evening with Commissioner Jim Finch at a fund-raiser for MV’s Mayor Davis in Eastchester. Jim has not changed one bit in decades, and he’s got the greatest sense of humor one could hope to experience. I exchange emails with Alice Brewen Acheson, who is way out in Friday Harbor, Washington, and Patti Nash Ballentine, Margie Spears and Linda Young Shapiro from Davis High in the mid1950’s. I even had lunch with Barbara Fine and her husband Jim Alexander, who is in the insurance business.


This year, as in the past, I read, selected and awarded the winners of the Jon Breen Essay contest and the Henry Littlefield History Prize at the MVHS Award’s assembly on the evening of June 12, 2007. The top winner of the essay contest and the Littlefield Award is a nice young fellow named Rashaud Senior, who happens to be number one in his graduating class, and is off to Harvard in the fall. Changes are afoot in Mount Vernon, and the leadership of the school system and the high school has changed. Brenda Smith, the former principal and superintendent of schools, has resigned after thirty-five years in the system. I believe her enthusiasm and dynamic personality will be sorely missed. Paul Court, the lead history teacher, who succeeded John Alberga, L.E. Smith, and Henry Littlefield in that position, maybe making a change. It is sort of fascinating that they have had only four history department heads in over 40+ years.


This years Jon Breen essay was the following:


The United States Constitution:


Article I – Section 8- Powers of the United States Congress


The Congress shall have the powers to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning capture on land and water. To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be longer term than two years.


Article II- Section 2- Powers of the President


The President (is) to be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the militia of the other states.


Should the Congress of the United States exercise its right to fund and support the Armed Forces of the United States in a way to limit the scope of our military involvement in Iraq, or is this an infringement on Article 2- Section 8 that states that the President is Commander-in-Chief? Will this result in a Constitutional Crisis?


Has the President of the United States abrogated his fiscal responsibility by funding the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with continuing resolutions and not either direct taxation or adding it to the fiscal budget? Isn’t the responsibility of the US Congress to “Declare War,” and without a direct declaration of war, has the executive unlimited right to wage war?


Did the results of the Congressional elections of 2006 reflect a mandate by the electorate for change in Washington, specifically regarding the continuation of the funding of the War in Iraq? If, so what is the responsibility of the new Congress?


Does the President, without an official “Declaration of War,” have the right to wage a war without limitations of expense, duration, and venue? If so, has the so-called “Unitary” President usurped the war powers granted to the Congress?


Meanwhile, the Breen Fund is still sitting with enough money to last for a number of years in the future. I have been asked about the potential of a 45th reunion. If you have any interest, please email, call, or drop me a note and I will pass it on to our other classmates whom have worked on our past reunions.


On a personal note, we had a great trip to Saratoga, Montreal, and Ottawa. I recommend Ottawa to any and all. It is a beautiful city, and the Canadian capital is magnificent. We were in Freeport, GBI again, and will be off to Atlanta and North Carolina in the fall, after a summer of politics and tennis. Once again I am chairing a campaign for Supervisor Paul Feiner in the Town of Greenburgh. Meanwhile my mother died, approximately one year ago, in June of her 99th year.

She was in great shape at her 98th birthday, but fell victim to some old ailments and fought valiantly for another 4 months. She never had the great health of my father, who lived into his 101st year in 2005, but she had an iron will to live and that determination allowed her to survivr a very long time. In closing, I am still keeping busy with long-term care insurance, and my wife Linda is still going into New York, and working for Charlesbank Private Capital. We play tennis every weekend, and our kids are still in Boston. I intend to keep my hands in local politics until at least 2009, I believe, and I continue to write essays (see them at or Google me at rjgpublicthoughts.) and give lectures. I can be reached at 2801 Watch Hill Drive, Tarrytown, NY, 10591 and at 914-524-8381, or 914-261-6587 or



Richard J. Garfunkel



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