The millionaires’ tax may be on its way back. Or so Democrats in the State Assembly hope. Reprising one of the biggest battles of this year’s budget season, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, introduced a bill on Tuesday that would extend the income-tax surcharge on some high-earning New Yorkers beyond its scheduled expiration at the end of the year. Read more in The New York Times.
Monthly Archives: May 2011
In a city where financial institutions are too big to fail – and where countless protests over cuts to human services regularly go unnoticed by the mainstream media — yesterday’s May12th Coalition rally in which more than 20,000 people marched on Wall Street was finally be too big to ignore.
The event was unusual in that it brought together an extremely diverse number of groups –labor unions, grass roots advocacy organizations, and human service providers – under a single banner: “Make the Big Banks and Millionaires Pay Their Fair Share”.
The agenda was reflective of anger at the policies of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg who have made “no new taxes” their primary policy goal while simultaneously imposing billions of dollars in cuts to public education, health programs and a broad range of human services. Particularly galling to demonstrators was Cuomo’s adamant refusal to extend the existing “Millionaires Tax”, a temporary personal income tax surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorkers which would have generated $1 billion this fiscal year and $5 billion next year.
Banks Got Bailed Out! We Got Sold Out!
“I think the rally very successfully demonstrated that there is a broadly shared common vision for how to address the City’s budget gap and potentially next year’s state budget gap as well,” said Michael Kink, Executive Director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition, one of the march’s lead organizers. “There needs to be real shared sacrifice with some efforts to bring the big banks and millionaires to the table. There can’t just be cuts in services for poor and working class New Yorkers.”
“I’ve never seen such a broad coalition of groups,” said Kink. “There were large unions, little frontline neighborhood nonprofits, respected service providers and advocacy organizations. It was an incredibly diverse crowd that was profoundly reflective of the City itself – young, old, every race, gay and straight. It looked like New York.” Kink went on to note that this broad participation in the rally was also reflective of the broad based support for the rally’s policy message among the general public. “Public polling showed that there was 75-80% approval ratings for the millionaire’s tax. There is broad popular sentiment that we should be doing things differently than our elected officials are telling us.”
Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! These Budget Cuts Have Got to Go!
The rally began at 4:00 as protestors gathered at eight different assembly sites across downtown Manhattan. Each site was organized by various coalition members and focused on specific areas of concern: Education, Jobs, Housing, Transportation/
Energy, Students, Immigration, Peace and Human Services/Safety Net.
Approximately 1,000 human service providers and supporters assembled near South Street Seaport.
“The number of people we have here today exceeds our wildest expectations,” said Michael Stoller, Executive Director of the Human Services Council which had played a key role in organizing support by the human services community for the event. “This is incredible; we’re showing to everyone that it is time to stop the attack on the poor, needy and organized labor.”
“I have rarely seen this much unity in the human services community,” said Sean Barry of VOCAL. “You have all the coalitions and leading providers. We don’t want to be fighting over scraps, robbing Peter to pay Paul. We have to recognize we have a revenue crisis. The solution is that we need the wealthiest New Yorkers and the banks to pay their fair share.”
Contingents of marchers turned out from a wide range of organizations. Particularly visible were Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, Queens Community House, Safe Space, Harlem United Community AIDS Center, the Center for Children’s Initiatives, Bailey House and many more. Many more individuals, including Executive Directors of various coalitions and provider groups joined the marchers.
“Nothing is safe any more If it has to do with human needs, forget it,” said Susan Matloff-Nieves, Associate Executive Director for Youth Services at Queens Community House. “It has to be a very a broad message. People have gotten very hard hearted about the needs of the vulnerable, children and seniors.”
“We’ve got the Safe Space crew; everyone is very excited to be here,” said Christine Molnar, Executive Director. “These are very scary times.”
Marchers turned out with broad range of signs, banners and noise makers. There were drums, rattles whistles and at least one complete marching band. Throughout the course of the march, there was constant chanting of slogans (shown here as bolded subheads).
Hey Mr. Millionaire, Pay Your Fair Share!
At 4:30, groups from each of the assembly points began to march along separate routes eventually gathering as they reached Wall Street which was completely filled for more than an hour as the various contingents slowly poured through and out onto the intersection of Wall and Water Street.
There, Human service providers helped to organize a large number of “Teach-Ins” on the impact of budget cuts and how they might have been avoided through extension of the “Millionaires Tax” or other progressive revenue options.
“The Millionaire’s Tax on just one individual, Jamie Dimon CEO of JPMorgan Chase, would make up the cut on New York City’s domestic violence programs,” said Paul Feuerstein, President/CEO of Barrier Free Living. “He made $28.4 million last year; just his “Millionaire’s Tax” surcharge would have been $568,000. That would have offset the cuts coming down to the 13 community based domestic violence programs in the City. There have been a dozen women killed since this budget debate started.”
Among other “Teachers” from the human services sector were Allison Sesso of HSC. “We spoke about human services and the choices the Mayor has made prioritizing big banks and big businesses over the needs of the average New Yorker,” said Sesso. Sandy Katz and Amy Cohen from JCCA, together with Gregory Bronder of UNH, provided information on the impact of cuts to early childhood programs.
Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like? This is What Democracy Looks Like!
From Water and Wall, the entire group marched together to Battery Square Park where the rally ended.
Organizers had originally predicted that 10,000 people would turn out. While estimates varied from a low of “hundreds” by the clearly math-challenged New York Post to “thousands” in The New York Times. Following the event, organizers, many observers and other news outlets estimated that at least 20,000 people participated.
Protesters clearly were energized by the enormous turnout and the diversity of groups represented. While very loud and high spirited, the event appeared to be almost entirely peaceful. Reportedly there were some arrests when some of the protesters decided to conduct their own sit in. A large number of police manned metal barricades along the routes of the march, at the main Wall and Water Street intersection where the “Teach Ins” occurred and along the route to the length of Water Street towards Battery Park.
What’s next? “The May 12th Coalition will be meeting probably next week,” said Michael Kink. “I think it is important to localize this and do versions in most if not all the City Council districts, on Flatbush Avenue, Queens Boulevard and Grand Concourse. Groups need to work with allies and constitutents on the local level. We have to do things to broaden people’s understanding that there are alternatives to the Mayor and the Governor’s current policies.”
The arrest of longtime New City Little League Treasurer Joyce Bidnick on charges that she had stolen $100,000 highlights a problem that runs deeply not only in New City, but in nonprofit youth sports programs across the region and nation. Many of these locally run programs have little or no financial oversight, minimal reporting requirements and no annual audits. Read more in the Journal News.
It was “Moms and Mutts” as the Locust Valley Dog Festival raised money for the animal league yesterday. Read more in Newsday.
Federal probers are investigating NYS Senator Shirley Huntley of Queens for steering hundreds of thousands of public dollars to not-for-profit groups with ties to her family and friends, according to the New York Post.
The New York Times provides a look into the life and family of Marchella Pierce, a medically fragile four-year old, whose death has triggered a series of indictments and a Brooklyn Grand Jury probe into possible systemic failings at the NYC Administration for Children’s Services.
When the Robin Hood Foundation was searching for a big-name performer to lure hedge-fund executives to its gala tonight, board member Doug Morris had the perfect bait. Morris, who left Universal Music Group’s chief executive post in January and will join Sony Music Entertainment as chairman in July, put in a call to Lady Gaga, who was on his artists roster. She immediately accepted the invitation to perform free at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Read more at Bloomberg.
Despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s upbeat presentation highlighting his plans to restore funding for 15,000 child care slots, human service advocates have identified many serious concerns with the Executive Budget proposal for FY2011-12. In fact, advocates are already raising questions over the extent to which the Mayor is restoring child care service capacity, or simply shuffling declining resources from one group of needy New Yorkers to another. And, providers are highlighting what they see as an extensive series of budget cuts in a wide range of other human service programs.
“While there were only a few additional cuts proposed to human services in the Mayor’s FY12 Executive Budget today, the total budget still proposes to cut about $500 million in essential human services,” said the Human Services Council of New York (HSC) in an email to members. “The cuts initiated in the Preliminary Budget and the loss of FY11 City Council funding, which is not baselined, still stand.”
“Mayor Bloomberg has many priorities to juggle as he balances the budget in a slowly recovering economy,” said Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses (UNH). “ But just as the libraries, parks, schools and subways contribute to the quality of life in this great City, so do essential services such as child care and after school programs; English classes and adult education for immigrants; and senior centers and meals on wheels for older adults . While the Mayor has listened to some of the concerns expressed by UNH and our members, I am disappointed that the budget released today fails to fully recognize the critical contributions that human services make to communities and the very fabric of urban life. Without adequate funding for these services, parents cannot hold on to their jobs, teenagers cannot get ready for college and seniors cannot stay in their homes.”
“Although the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies is pleased to learn that the Mayor has included $25 million in his Executive Budget for subsidized child care for pre-school age children and baselined funding for 2,900 child welfare preventive services slots, we are deeply disappointed that much needed funding which supports youth aging out of foster care, seniors, persons living with HIV/AIDS and runaway and homeless youth is being slashed,” said Fatima Goldman, Executive Director / CEO.
In response to Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement that his Executive Budget will include $40 million to avoid some of the drastic cuts proposed to child care services, the Emergency Coalition to Save Child Care called on the Mayor and City Council to find the money to fully save child care. The group described the details of the Mayor’s proposal as “murky” and noted that the Mayor only restored $40 million of the original $91 million cut to child care. In addition, advocate claim, hundreds of early childhood classrooms remain at risk, family providers will still lose slots, and 9 day care programs remain slated to close.
“We are encouraged by the fact that the Mayor recognizes the importance of child care, but this budget still means that children around the city will be deprived of care, parents will be forced to choose between child care and going to work, and child care teachers and providers will lose their jobs,” said The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York. “The City Council and the Mayor must ensure that no child loses child care and that we maintain critical early childhood capacity in our most under-resourced communities.”
“While it is a step in the right direction, it is unclear if what the Administration has put on the table is really an appropriate solution to the significant reduction of funding to the child care system,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “More conversations and details are needed since it is unclear how services can remain intact for all 16,500 children with $40 million instead of $91 million; it is also unclear what the impact will be on existing out-of-school programs, providers, child care centers and classrooms.”
“The Mayor has taken an important first step towards both recognizing the importance of early childhood education and restoring funding for our child care system,” said Jennifer March-Joly, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children. “But unfortunately significant capacity will still be lost and, in the final budget, the Mayor and City Council must ensure that child care centers and family day care providers remain fully funded and that capacity remains in place for future generations of children.”
Advocates also reacted strongly to proposed cuts to after-school and other youth development programs.
“At the same time that the Mayor proposes to add $15 million to Out of School Time (OST) programs to serve the 10,500 school aged children losing their child care subsidies, the Executive Budget identifies a reduction of $24.7 million for OST, which would cut OST programs for 18,000 young people,” said UNH’s Nancy Wackstein.
“These cuts will have a profound impact on the lives of low-income children and their families,” said Richard Buery, President and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society. “It is unconscionable that thousands of underprivileged children are losing their after-school programs when vulnerable families are struggling. We implore the Mayor and the City Council to find a solution that benefits poor New Yorkers instead of disproportionately burdening them.”
“Budgets ought not to be balanced on the backs of children. Doing that is short sighted,” said Council Member Lew Fidler, Chairperson of the Youth Services Committee. “The cuts to OST are draconian and will affect over 16,000 kids. We have to make better choices.”
“Out-of-school time programs return great value. Kids get more learning time and developmental support, parents can keep their jobs knowing their kids are safe, and programs employ young adults who face a tight job market,” said Lucy Friedman, President of TASC. “The human costs of trimming these programs are not worth the relatively small savings to the city budget.”
Robin Bernstein, CEO of The Educational Alliance, said, “The Educational Alliance community is distressed about proposals to dramatically reduce after-school programs. In our neighborhoods in Downtown Manhattan, low-income families depend dearly on these programs and eliminating them will surely bring results that none of us desire – higher rates of unemployment, high school dropouts, gang activity, and use of drugs and alcohol. These are costs we can’t afford financially, and the losses in human terms will be incalculable.”
“Cutting after-school and youth programs on the scale of what is being proposed right now is the wrong way to close a budget gap. Parents depend on after-school to be able to work and they are already struggling to make ends meet in these tough times,” said Michelle Yanche, Director of Public Policy at Good Shepherd Services.
“We believe that Mayor Bloomberg has developed an innovative and successful model of delivering after-school care to New York City’s children that provides security, educational enrichment, and recreation,” said Ronald Soloway, Managing Director of Government Relations and External Affairs at the UJA-Federation. “Given the proven benefits of this program UJA-Federation urges the Mayor and City Council to maximize the OST resources available to the youth of our City.”
The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is also taking a hit. “New York City’s summer jobs program has funding for only 24,000 jobs this summer, which is 12,000 fewer than last summer,” said Wackstein. “Over 143,000 young people applied for a job last summer.”
Services for older adults are also on the chopping block, say advocates. The Mayor’s FY12 proposed executive budget includes about $38 million in cuts to services funded through the Department for the Aging (DFTA), according to the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS). Funding reductions include a 30% cut, $6.6 million, to case management which is social workers going into the homes of frail, home-bound elders, $20 million in cuts to senior centers including the closing of 17 senior centers which were restored this year by the City Council. Also cut is a subsidy for senior meals and elder abuse funds
“Seniors have fought hard to save the damaging cut to case management for home-bound elders, the terrifying possibility of the state closing 105 senior centers, the unfathomable elimination of all elder abuse funds and other cuts,” said Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy at CSCS. “Each year, they must take part in the budget dance. While we all appreciate that some funding is restored, seniors find themselves dancing in quicksand as millions of dollars are lost and services disappear just as the age revolution is upon us. We urge New Yorkers to call Mayor Bloomberg at 311 and urge him to not cut the elderly. The Department for the Aging has taken enough cuts.”
“A thirty percent reduction of funding for senior case management would mean the loss of lifelines for isolated, homebound elderly in some neighborhoods. Case managers have saved seniors’ lives when they have faced physical, financial and emotional abuse and neglect,” said Kathleen Fitzgibbons, Senior Policy Analyst for Elderly Welfare and Youth Services. ”
Adult Literacy & Immigrant Services
“Funding for Adult literacy, English classes for immigrants, and immigrant legal services is reduced by $10 million despite continued high demand for these services,” says Wackstein.
“New York City is at a crossroads. In such dire economic times, immigrant children and families suffer disproportionately,” said Wayne Ho, Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. “We would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership in baselining funding for 2,900 preventive slots in his Executive Budget, helping to keep children safe and families together. However, proposed budget cuts in vital services for children and families will continue to marginalize vulnerable communities, especially Asian Pacific Americans… We urge the Mayor and City Council to work together to restore these budget priorities for New York City’s fastest growing community and to identify progressive revenue options to prevent the elimination of these essential services.”
“It is unfortunate that the Mayor, once again, fails to recognize that the HIV epidemic has disproportionately impacted low-income communities of color in NYC,” said Esther Lok, Assistant Director of Policy, Advocacy and Research and Senior Policy Analyst for HIV and AIDS. “Elimination of funding for anti-stigma, case management and HIV nutrition programs will pull NYC backwards in its fight against HIV/AIDS.”
“Before I moved into supportive housing, I was sleeping on park benches and not taking my HIV medication,” said Wayne Starks, a Board member and leader in VOCAL-NY. “Short-sighted cuts to supportive housing for HIV-positive New Yorkers will cost more in the long-run and push more people into emergency rooms, hospital beds and shelters. People living with HIV/AIDS didn’t crash the economy, Wall Street did – why are we being punished for their crimes?”
The good news for the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (ASA), say advocates, is that approximately $8.5 million was restored for City HASA caseworkers as a result of legal action brought by Housing Works and others; The bad news, a proposed cut for supportive housing case management remains, which would affect nearly 4,500 formerly homeless people living with HIV/AIDS with co-occurring mental health and substance use issues.
AAPCI will attempt to provide additional detail on these issues and as well as assessments of the Executive Budget’s potential impact on other human service programs in future write-ups.
The New City Little League’s treasurer has been charged with stealing at least $100,000 from the nonprofit organization, becoming the second Rockland league treasurer in less than two years to face larceny charges. Read more in the Journal News.