The challenges of 2014, and a look back

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There is no doubt that universal pre-K is the right thing to do, especially for kids coming from families that live below the poverty line. However, this initiative is going to take a lot of time to phase in, and it must be done carefully and thoroughly. De Blasio also needs to find extra classrooms and additional teachers and financing, and these tasks will be extremely challenging.

He must find other sources of revenue besides just taxing the rich to fund this project. I recommend that he start by having city employees pay more into their health care plans and pension programs. This is a necessary move with or without free pre-K, and an initiative that I believe will spread statewide.

I will be taking a much-needed vacation next week, so this is the last time many of you will hear from me until the new year.

2013 has been quite a year. We lost several great men and women, including my friend Ed Koch, Margaret Thatcher and the legendary Nelson Mandela. Mandela was one of the most admirable figures in the world. He famously led the fight to end the system of apartheid in South Africa, and later went on to rule the nation as its first black president. He was freed from prison in 1990, having spent nearly three decades there, and went to work uniting the nation, using a mantra of forgiveness.

Mandela will be remembered as a man of tremendous courage, and will remain a symbol of the struggle against racial oppression forever. I pray that his message continues to resonate as many around the world still fight for equality.

Also this year, we saw the situation in the Middle East remain unstable, with the constant threat of the use of nuclear and chemical weapons. Obamacare exploded, and remains a quagmire. Will it continue, but with the necessary changes, or will 2014 bring its demise?

In March we will once again be faced with a deadline on the debt ceiling. I hope we don’t face another doomsday scenario. Members of Congress think the people hate them now? Try that maneuver again and see what happens!

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I am looking forward to entertaining you in 2014. May it be a happy and healthy New Year!

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column?

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