Assemblyman Roger Green and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery hosted a town hall meeting of child care advocates and peace activists to blast the governor on eliminating summer youth employment and after-school programs.
Meeting at Brown Memorial Baptist Church, Assemblyman Green spoke of the need to identify the sources of revenue which will not only solve immediate problems, but which will deal with the long-term structural imbalances in how resources are raised for New York City. David Kalik of the Fiscal Policy Institute spoke on the impact of the war on the budget. He started by noting that the state is facing a $12 billion gap and the city has a $4 billion gap. “These are not minor mistakes. The governor points to 9/11 and there is an effect there. But at least half is do the aggressive tax-cutting of the past decade.”
Mr. Kalik finds it odd to hear the governor speak of taxes as “job-killing” . “It’s hard to understand how it is better for jobs to lay people off,” he questions.
John Flateau, dean at Medgar Evers College, pointed out that 80% of the students live in the city and the majority are people of color. Students need support services, tutoring and counseling-$4 billion in city procurement but only between 1-2% go to people of color.
Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) has 71 thousand students in it. The proposal will take $41 million out of the pockets of the students when they need it most. “Many of our students are working, going to college and raising a family at the same time, these cuts will be devastating to them”, said Flateau.
Roger Green’s introduction of Freddie Hamilton, director of Child Development Support Corporation, was particularly informative. He noted that Ms. Hamilton was, “the lead plaintiff in an historic lawsuit that determined that gun companies can now be sued for irresponsibly pouring these weapons of destruction into urban centers. But the climate in this country has changed. Just as for the first time this nation is going into war at the same time as we are cutting taxes, there are other things happening as well. The Republicans in the House of Representatives and in the Senate are about to introduce legislation that would prohibit individuals from suing the gun manufacturers based upon Freddie’s case. As a result of the advocacy of the National Rifle Association (NRA), they want to overturn the case law that Freddie Hamilton brought just a few years ago. They are doing this at the same time that the NAACP is going to federal court in an attempt to again establish liability clauses against the government. If they (the government) wins this case, we are going to be in serious straits.”
Ms. Hamilton spoke about the state of child care and child welfare in the city. “In my opinion, we have had a war waged upon working class and poor citizens for a number of years. The services have been devastated. When we look at what we are facing right now, losing eleven thousand child care slots and we still have 30,000 children on the waiting list. Child care is supposed to undergird the efforts for self-sufficiency for a family. You all remember some years ago, welfare reform. Included in that legislation were mandates for families who were going to move from welfare to work to have child care. Child care was supposed to be the support for those parents, along with other services to help them to move to self-sufficiency. We have never realized that and here in New York City we’ve realized it less….We were fighting for child services before this crisis. We’re looking at losing basic services. Child welfare services, preventive services, families in crisis. Sometimes good hardworking people find themselves in a family crisis they can’t handle. Those are people who go to services such as those to help them stabilize their children out of foster care, to keep them from spiraling into a situation that may make them end up homeless or any number of things that may happen to families without support services.
Finally, children in foster care. Children are in foster care for any number of reasons. Some of them have families who are deceased. Some of them have families with parents who are terminally ill. There is a huge AIDS crisis in the city and in the country. We have children who have been abused and find themselves in foster care. It is the children who will suffer if these services are cut. We need to make sure that the wealthiest pay their fair share. As long as we are quiet the will move their agenda along. I think that we have to get loud. We need to write letters and go to Albany. We need to get loud with the people who can make a difference. That’s Bruno, Pataki and Silver. Our representatives need our help. We need to have action.”
Congressman Ed Towns spoke about the Bush administration’s search for “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and tax cut policy. Congressman Towns, an army veteran, said, “I’ve got news for you. We’ve got Weapons of Mass Destruction right here. Any time you’ve got a school system that’s not functioning, that’s a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Any time you have 41 million people with no health insurance, that’s a Weapon of Mass Destruction. When you have senior citizens with no prescription drug program, that’s a Weapon of Mass Destruction. We have an AIDS epidemic in our community, that’s a Weapon of Mass Destruction. We have a lot of Weapons of Mass Destruction right here in the United States. So if the United States is concerned about Weapons of Mass Destruction, then go to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Brownsville, Canarsie, let’s go into those areas and deal with Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
Noting that the war budgeted at $78 billion to start, plus occupation and rebuilding, Towns says you cannot do that and have a tax cut. Instead, Congressman Towns calls for new taxes, but not tolls on bridges, sales tax, or other regressive-revenue raising methods. Says the congressman, “Let’s go get it from the folks who got it.”