Archive for January, 2015

CNY PROGRESSIVE ACTION NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 17, 2015

January 18, 2015

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CNY PROGRESSIVE ACTION NEWSLETTER

JANUARY 17, 2015

Vol. 2, No. 2

NEWSLETTER OF THE CENTRAL NEW YORK CITIZENS IN ACTION, INC. (ESTABLISHED IN 1997)

 

WORKING FAMILIES PARTY FUNDRAISER

SET FOR FEBRUARY 5 IN UTICA

RECLAIMING DR. KING’S RADICAL VISION FOR ECONOMIC EQUALITY

MORAL MONDAY TO FIGHT FOR FAIRNESS IN EDUCATION

TOP TEN REASONS TO OPPOSE THE FREE TRADE AREA OF THE AMERICAS

PUTTING OUR MONEY TO WORK FOR US – CREATE A NYS PUBLIC BANK

“AT THE RIVER I STAND” SCREENING AT SALEM CHURCH

RALLY TO CELEBRATE NY FRACKING BAN AND

LEAD THE NATION IN RENEWABLE ENERGY!

 4 REASONS TO SUPPORT THE “STOP 

TAX HAVEN ABUSE ACT”

 UTICA FREEDOM SCHOOL RELEASES JANUARY SCHEDULE

 POLICY MATTERS

TRUE JUSTICE NEEDED

  

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WORKING FAMILIES PARTY FUNDRAISER

SET FOR FEBRUARY 5 IN UTICA

 Assemblyman Brindisi and Mayor Palmieri to Speak at WFP Event

The Working Families Party announced today that it will be holding its second annual fundraiser on Thursday, February 5. Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and Mayor Robert Palmieri of Utica will be the keynote speakers for the event.

Celebrating its 16 years of progressive victories in New York State, the Winter Party will be held on Thursday, February 5 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Stiefvater Room, 618 Varick Street, Utica. Tickets may be purchased either by contacting John Furman (315-725-0974) or Jesse Lenney (585-414-4274).  Tickets may also be purchased online at the following link:

https://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/1306/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=9968

John Furman, one of the local leaders of the party, said: “Founded in 1998, the Working Families Party has emerged as one of the most powerful forces for progressive politics in New York State. We have stood up to powerful interests in Albany as the voice for working families of every stripe across New York. Our victories in 2014 included winning back 250 UPS drivers their jobs back, banning fracking after years of struggle, helping fast food workers earn living wages, assisting in the organizing the largest climate march in history, and fighting for an equitable state budget. In 2015, the Oneida, Herkimer, and Madison Counties Working Families Party will be in the halls of Albany and in the streets fighting for working families — to raise the wage, pass the DREAM Act and the Women’s Equality Act, win campaign finance reform, increase affordable rental housing, provide fair and greater funding for schools, end tax breaks for the wealthy and big business, and tackle the challenge of climate change.”

The Working Families Party platform supports living wage jobs, affordable housing, accessible health care, better public schools, and more investment in public services.  It has been successful in organizing campaigns to increase the minimum wage, reform the Rockefeller drug laws, enact a Green Jobs Program, and restore funding for public schools in New York State.

The Working Families Party was organized by a coalition of community and labor groups including the Communication Workers of America, SEIU, Citizen Action of New York, and neighborhood and community groups. The Central New York Citizens in Action (formerly the Utica Citizens in Action) as well as area unions such as the CWA and UAW helped to organize the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison WFP organization. The party has expanded to several states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Oregon.

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RECLAIMING DR. KING’S RADICAL VISION FOR ECONOMIC EQUALITY

We are truly in an age of crisis.

Economic, social, environmental and political crises urgently demand our collective response.

Economic inequality is higher than at any time since the Great Depression. Work that sustained the middle class is disappearing and being replaced by low wage jobs. Cuts to vital government programs and services are making things much worse.

Prisons are overflowing with people of color and undocumented immigrants suffering outrageous incarceration rates because of structural racism.

Climate change threatens to bring widespread human suffering and the mass extinction of species, yet our planet continues to be abused for corporate profit.

Political corruption, fueled by a campaign finance system overrun with corporate cash, has made our political leadership unresponsive to the needs of citizens. Increasingly, corporate welfare is replacing the common good.

Dr. King understood racism would never be eradicated so long as profit motive was the primary value of our economic and political systems. Instead, Dr. King articulated a radical vision for economic equality and for “a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.”

Dr. King called us to revolutionize our nation’s values:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society…

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”2

Join us as we follow Dr. King’s call to lead the revolution of our nation’s values.

1Speech given to the AFL-CIO Fourth Constitutional Convention, December, 1961.

2Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence, a speech given at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, April 1967.

 moral monday

MORAL MONDAY TO FIGHT FOR FAIRNESS IN EDUCATION

One thousands parents, students and teachers from across New York came together in the State Capitol on January 12 to call on Governor Cuomo to fully and fairly fund public schools in his 2015 state budget.  They were joined by Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and organizer of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays civil rights protests.

Rev. Barber echoed advocates’ demand that Cuomo abide by a court-ordered increase to the state’s public school funding by boosting school aid by $2 billion in this year’s budget.

“You need to remind this Governor, there is something at stake here beyond just the state of the schools; it is the state of the soul of our society,” said Rev. Barber, while addressing the crowd of protesters packed on the Million-Dollar Staircase in the State Capitol building. “And the question is, do we want to keep pressing toward a just and wholesome society where everybody is taken care of?”

The State Board of Regents in December also called for a $2 billion increase to the education budget in 2015.

In 2006, the New York Court of Appeals, in its Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling, found that the state is failing to fulfill its constitutionally mandated obligation to provide all children with a sound, basic education due to inadequate state funding to education.  Since then, the state has failed to adequately increase school aid and still owes schools $5.9 billion.

High-need school districts — like Buffalo, Utica, Syracuse and New York City — have borne the brunt of the state’s refusal to boost education funding. They’re owed 2.3 times more state funding than low-need districts, according to an analysis by the Alliance for Quality Education.

Throughout the Moral Monday action in the Capitol, protesters chanted “Governor, fund our schools!”

In 2015, the Central New York Citizens in Action will fight for increased and equitable school funding.   Many Upstate New York school districts like Utica and Rome do not receive their fair share of education funding.  Please contact your state legislator and Governor Cuomo and ask them to fund our schools at levels that ensure quality education for all children in New York.   Please see contact information at the bottom of this newsletter.  Please contact the CNYCIA at cnycitizenaction@gmail.com or 315-725-0974 to help organize Moral Monday actions to press NYS leaders for adequate state funding for our schools.

ftaa

TOP TEN REASONS TO OPPOSE THE FREE TRADE AREA OF THE AMERICAS

In recent years, representatives from 34 countries have been working to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is another example of the free-market fundamentalism that has created a global race-to-the-bottom that threatens the environment, families’ livelihoods, human rights, and democracy. Once again, a sweeping “free trade” agreement is in the works that puts commercial interests above all other values.

 

  1. The FTAA Expands a Proven Disaster

The FTAA is essentially an expansion of NAFTA. But NAFTA has proven to be a nightmare for working families and the environment. A look at NAFTA’s legacy shows why these kinds of “free trade” agreements should be opposed. Working families suffer: In the US, more than 765,000 jobs have disappeared as a result of NAFTA. When these laid off workers find new jobs, they earn 23 percent less on average than at their previous employment. In Mexico, manufacturing wages fell 21 percent from 1995 to 1999, and have only started to recover. The percentage of Mexicans living in poverty has also grown since NAFTA went into effect. The environment suffers: In the maquiladora zones along the US-Mexico border, the increased pollution and the improper disposal of chemical wastes have dramatically raised rates of hepatitis and birth defects. NAFTA should be repealed, not expanded.

 

  1. The Agreement Is Being Written Without Citizen Input

Despite repeated calls for the open and democratic development of trade policy, the FTAA negotiations have been conducted without citizen input. A process has been set up to solicit citizens’ views, but there is no real mechanism to incorporate the public’s concerns into the actual negotiations. The public has been given nothing more than a suggestion box. At the same time, however, hundreds of corporate representatives are advising the US negotiators and have advance access to the negotiating texts. While citizens are left in the dark, corporations are helping to write the rules for the FTAA.

 

  1. The Agreement Will Undermine Labor Rights and Cause Further Job Loss

The NAFTA experience demonstrates how basic labor rights and the interests of working families are eroded by “free trade” agreements that lack enforceable labor protections. Corporations move high-paying jobs to countries with lower wages and bust unionization drives with threats to transfer production abroad. According to a Cornell University study, since NAFTA two-thirds of manufacturing and communications companies faced with union organizing campaigns threatened workers with moving their jobs abroad. This “race-to-the-bottom” will accelerate under the FTAA as corporations pit exploited workers in Mexico against even more desperate workers in countries such as Haiti and Guatemala. Already, Mexico is losing maquiladora jobs to countries with cheaper wages. In the last two years, some 280,000 jobs have vanished with the closure of more than 350 maquiladoras.

 

  1. The Agreement Will Exacerbate Environmental Destruction

The export-driven growth model promoted by “free trade” agreements and the policies of the World Bank and the IMF have destroyed ecosystems around the world. Under this unsustainable model, many countries in the Global South cut down their forests, overfish their waters and exploit other natural resources to pay off foreign debts. Since NAFTA, 15 US wood product companies have set up operations in Mexico, and logging there has increased dramatically. In the Mexican state of Guerrero, 40 percent of the forests have been lost in the last eight years, and massive clear cutting has led to soil erosion and habitat destruction.

 

  1. The Agreements Will Hurt Family Farmers

NAFTA has been a disaster for small farmers in the US and Mexico. By favoring the interests of agribusiness corporations over the needs of family farmers, NAFTA’s model of export-oriented agriculture has slashed farmers’ income. Between 1995 and 2000, the prices US farmers receive for corn declined 33 percent, 42 percent for wheat, and 34 percent for soybeans. No wonder that since NAFTA went into effect 33,000 small farmers in the US have gone out of businessÑmore than six times the pre-NAFTA rate. In Mexico, the price farmers receive for corn has plummeted 45 percent in three years as agribusiness giants dump their subsidized corn there. At least half a million farmers have left their land. The FTAA threatens to make this crisis worse by encouraging even more overproduction.

 

  1. The Agreement Will Lead to Privatization of Essential Services

The FTAA is expected to force countries to privatize services such as education, health care, energy and water. Such privatization would especially harm working class communities and communities of color. In some countries, these privatizations are already occurring, and those least able to pay for vital services are the ones who suffer the most. When the Bolivian city of Cochabamba privatized its water utility, water rates increased 200 percent. In the ensuing protests, police shot and killed a 17-year-old student.

 

  1. The Agreement Will Jeopardize Consumer and Environmental Protections

NAFTA includes unprecedented ways for corporations to attack our laws through so-called “investor-to-state” lawsuits. Such suits, established by NAFTA’s Chapter 11, allow corporations to sue governments for compensation if they feel that any government action, including the enforcement of public health and safety laws, cuts into their profits. Already, Chapter 11 lawsuits have been used to repeal a Canadian law banning a chemical linked to nervous system damage, and to challenge California’s phase-out of a gas additive, MTBE, that is poisoning the state’s ground water. Negotiators want to include these anti-democratic lawsuits in the FTAA.

 

  1. The Agreement Will Spread the Use of GMOs

US trade negotiators are trying use the FTAA to force other countries to accept the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But environmental groups warn that these technologies haven’t been adequately tested, and food security experts say GMOs could increase hunger in poor nations. Farmers have traditionally saved their seeds from year to year, but as multinational corporations patent GM seeds these farmers will be forced to pay for seeds, pushing them further into dependency.

 

  1. The Agreement Will Increase Poverty and Inequality

“Free trade” is not working for the majority of the world. During the most recent period of rapid growth in global trade and investment-1960 to 1998-inequality worsened internationally and within countries. Without debt cancellation and rules to curtail rampant capital speculation, countries in the Global South will remain dominated by the Global North, inequality will increase, and the hope of achieving sustainable development will be farther off.

 

  1. There Are Proven Alternatives

Policy makers and pundits often try to convince us that corporate globalization is inevitable. In fact, the current economic processes known as “globalization” have been defined and driven by a very small number of corporations. Now people around the world are creating an alternative grassroots globalization. Citizens’ groups from across the Western Hemisphere have written an “Alternative Agreement for the Americas” that offers a picture of what socially responsible and environmentally sustainable trade would look like.

The Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc. is asking local residents to help organize opposition to the FTAA.   Please contact us to learn how you can become involved   Kindly contact our New York federal representatives to support An Alternative Agreement for the Americans, instead of the FTAA.  Please see the list at the bottom of this email.

public-bank-solution

PUTTING OUR MONEY TO WORK FOR US – CREATE A NYS PUBLIC BANK

The financial crisis brought on by the “Too-Big-To-Fail” banks plunged the country into the worst recession since the 1930s.  But while the federal government bailed out the nation’s biggest banks and corporations, the rest of the country has been left to fend for itself. Five years, millions of foreclosures and lost jobs later, the financial system is not meeting the needs of America’s working families.

Working families in Upstate New York have suffered for decades because of the loss of jobs due to NAFTA and lack of economic development.  Many enterprises in Upstate are unable to access capital to start or expand their businesses.

We need to do something different, and the New York State Public Bank will tilt the playing field back in the favor of average New Yorkers.

There is a model for this. The State of North Dakota has been successfully operating its own state bank–the Bank of North Dakota–for over 90 years to the exclusive benefit of the citizens of their state.

What will it do?

The State Bank will operate as a profitable business, but unlike private corporations, the profits belong not to shareholders and CEOs, but to the citizens of the State of New York.

A State Bank would partner with community banks and credit unions in making loans to New York businesses, farms, students and homeowners. It will not be a competitor to local banks but rather will partner with them to strengthen and stabilize our community banking sector.

A State Bank would support the economic development of the State by increasing access to capital for businesses and farms within the State in partnership with local financial institutions.

A State Bank would reduce costs paid by the State of  New York for basic banking services and will be able to return profits, beyond those necessary to accomplish the mission and continued sound operation of the State Bank, back to the state.

Please contact your state representatives to ask them to sponsor state bank legislation. Please see contact information at the bottom of this newsletter.

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AT THE RIVER I STAND SCREENING AT SALEM CHURCH

The Workers’ Center of Central New York, in collaboration with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will be presenting a screening of the documentary “At the River I Stand.” This is a 56 minute film focusing on Martin Luther King and the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike.  It will be held on:

Monday, January 19

at 5:30pm

The Salem Church of Syracuse Inc

516 South Ave, Syracuse, New York 13204

Following the screening we will be having a discussion about the film and its implications for current day struggles.

The event is free and open to the public.

fracking rally 2

RALLY TO CELEBRATE NY FRACKING BAN AND LEAD THE NATION IN RENEWABLE ENERGY!

On January 21st in Albany, New York, we will come together to celebrate an incredible victory for science, public health, the environment, and our movement, and will give thanks to Governor Cuomo and speak to the importance of this decision for the whole nation and the opportunities ahead for renewable energy!

What: Rally and Party to Celebrate New York Fracking Ban and Lead the Nation in Renewable Energy!

When: Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

RALLY

Time: 11:30 am – 12:30pm

Where: Concourse Hallways, outside the entrance to the Convention Center, Empire Plaza, Albany, NY

NOTE: RALLY IS INDOORS 

PARTY

What: We Banned Fracking Celebration! Featuring food, drink, special guest speakers and music

When: Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Time: 1pm-4pm

Where: The Hilton Albany 40 Lodge St. Albany, NY (one block down the hill on State St from the Capitol building)

To purchase bus tickets from Utica or Syracuse, check this link:

http://act.foodandwaterwatch.org/site/Calendar?id=115161&view=Detail

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4 REASONS TO SUPPORT THE “STOP TAX HAVEN ABUSE ACT”

The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act (S. 1533) was introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Mark Begich (AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (NH). It would close tax loopholes that

encourage U.S. corporations to move jobs, profits and operations offshore and prevent them from

paying their fair share of taxes. Below are four reasons to support S. 1533:

  1. It would raise $220 billion to replace budget sequester cuts and to invest in America.  Over the last three years, to reduce the deficit Congress has cut about $1 trillion from benefits and services that protect our families and grow our economy. Deep cuts have ranged from school funding to Head Start, investments in new medical cures to finding clean energy sources, and meals for seniors to veterans’ mental health care. Meanwhile, corporations have not contributed a dime to reduce the deficit and no corporate tax loopholes have been closed.Federal spending is slated to be reduced another $110 billion in 2014 under the budget sequester. It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of making more cuts, S. 1533 could stop overseas tax dodging and raise at least $220 billion in new revenue over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. This would also save American jobs and allow us to invest in a growing economy.
  1. America should stop giving corporations tax subsidies to export jobs. U.S. tax law lets multinational corporations write off the costs of transferring operations overseas, even if they will never pay U.S. taxes on those new foreign operations. By setting a new rule – if a company has not paid taxes on foreign income, it cannot deduct the costs of earning that income –S. 1533 takes away a big incentive to export jobs.
  1. Corporations should pay their fair share of taxes. Large, profitable corporations pay on average just one-third the official corporate income tax rate of 35 percent, according to a U.S. General Accounting Office report. That’s due in part to offshore tax loopholes. U.S. companies have almost $2 trillion in profits stashed overseas, much of it in tax havens and all of it untaxed by the United States until it is brought back home. Apple enjoyed profits of $74 billion from 2009-2012 on worldwide sales (excluding the Americas) and paid nearly nothing in taxes to any country. S. 1533 would stop much offshore tax dodging so that corporations cannot avoid their responsibilities to the American communities that helped make their success possible.
  1. We need to level the playing field between big corporations and small businesses. American small businesses that pay their fair share are subsidizing large corporations that dodge their taxes and ship jobs overseas. Small businesses create many new jobs. If we care about seeing“Made in the USA” again, we need to level the playing field between big and small businesses by eliminating tax loopholes that benefit big corporations that ship jobs overseas.

Please contact your federal representatives to ask them to support this legislation.  Please see contact information at the bottom of this newsletter.

mv freedom school

FREEDOM SCHOOL RELEASES JANUARY SCHEDULE

This is a list of the Mohawk Valley Freedom School classes for this month. Dinner starts at 6:30pm every Thursday and classes usually run from 7:00 – 8:30pm. The Freedom School is located at 500 Plant Street in Utica, NY at Cornerstone Community Church.

Thursday, January 15

Je Suis Charlie?

The recent attacks in France have led too much commentary and massive public support and empathy for those who were killed at the French publication Charlie Hebdo. The mainstream media is saturated with news stories about Islamic extremism and terrorism and push the dangerous narrative of “us versus them” and the “clash of civilizations.” We will discuss the events that led up to the attacks, media coverage of it and ask the difficult questions surrounding war, terrorism, racism, Islamophobia and imperialist aggression. We will also look into the history of colonialism in Algeria, free speech in France, and secularism in France.

Thursday, January 22

The Kurdish Revolution in Kobane

Derek Scarlino and Brendan Dunn will give a talk and lead a discussion about the events in the fight against ISIS in Kobane, Syria, and the Kurdish social revolution. The Kurds are a people who have for years been denied a nation to call their own and have been occupied by the Ottomans, British, Americans, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. While Syria has been ripped apart by a tragic civil war since 2011, a number of Kurdish towns in the Northern part of Syria carved out their own autonomous cantons where they have created a social revolution rooted in concepts of feminism, mutual aid, cooperation and participatory democracy. It is here where women have taken the lead in the fight against ISIS and have successfully beat them back. It is here where the PKK, the anarchist Kurdish Workers’ Party, has carved out an alternative to the systems envisioned by Islamic fundamentalists, authoritarian states and the Capitalist West. It is a system that many would call anarchist in nature and in practice. There will be an open discussion in class about what we can learn from the Kurdish revolution.

Thursday, January 29

Love and Rage! – A New Media Collective

Love and Rage is a new independent, alternative media collective in Utica that was just launched as an alternative to the mainstream media that already exists. Members of Love and Rage will be present to have a discussion about who they are, what they do, and how you can get involved. They will also lead a discussion on critically analyzing local and corporate media, creating narratives, and doing “guerrilla and citizen reporting.”

POLICY MATTERS

Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts: A concise and informative depiction from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) of rising inequality and how economic growth is not benefiting most Americans. Click here  ( http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/    )for the full report and interactive charts.

More Uninsured, Higher Premiums if Subsidies End in Federal Marketplace: This article –(  http://www.offthechartsblog.org/more-uninsured-higher-premiums-if-subsidies-end-in-federal-marketplace/from the CBPP  ) Off the Charts blog ( http://www.offthechartsblog.org/references ) new studies from the Urban Institute and RAND Corporation that show that millions more Americans would be uninsured and premiums in the individual (nongroup) market would jump if the Supreme Court disallowed health reform subsidies for people getting coverage through the federal marketplace.

Valuing All Our Families 2015 Report: Released this week by the Center for American Progress, this report  offers a new framework for understanding family indicators that can influence child and adult outcomes and highlights key policies that strengthen family commitments and reduce family disparities. The full report is available herehttps://www.americanprogress.org/issues/poverty/report/2015/01/12/104149/valuing-all-our-families/ ) on CAP’s website.

Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity: Co-chaired by Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and Ed Balls, a UK Member of Parliament, this report embraces the new economic opportunities of the 21st century by exploring ways to ensure they serve the vast majority of society. This Center for American Progress report provides different perspectives from across the pond, as well as a set of U.S. policy recommendations for increasing middle class incomes. Click here    https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/report/2015/01/15/104266/report-of-the-commission-on-inclusive-prosperity/

for the full report.

TRUE JUSTICE NEEDED

By Rick Cooley

Recently, there have been several instances of unarmed young black men being shot and killed by police in the course of their duties. This has continued a more long-term trend of perceived inequality in the treatment meted out in our justice system based on race. The trend includes a very easily recognized failure to bring to justice members of the police officers responsible for the shootings and other actions resulting in the deaths of unarmed suspects.

The shooting in Ferguson, MO, last summer of Michael Brown and the killing of Eric Garner in New York are but two of the more recent incidents in which Police officers caused the deaths of unarmed people of color suspected of committing minor offenses. Their deaths caused protests at the time which were subsequently exacerbated by paramilitary police reaction to peaceful protests Situations were later made worse by exoneration of the officers responsible by grand juries unwilling to even indict them on any charges whatsoever for their acts.

A cursory glance at crime and punishment statistics in this country shows that there is a definite overall bias of our justice system that favors whites over people of color. Severity of punishments meted out tends to be higher for the latter than the former, resulting in our prisons being disproportionately populated by young men of color.  The way in which the infamous War on Drugs has been waged has contributed mightily to this situation, with minority convicts receiving longer sentences for crimes which many see as being less serious than would require such strict punishment. Harsh mandatory minimum sentences aimed at perpetrators of drug offenses (many of which – such as marijuana possession – are now being eliminated or drastically reduced) are one example. The fact that the specific offenses most severely punished tend to be those predominantly committed by poor people and people of color as opposed to similar offenses predominantly committed my middle and upper class whites is also pointed out by many as evidence of an unjust system of criminal justice

The prison population itself brings to mind an old Richard Pryor comedy routine I recall from my youth where he referred to our justice system as being “just us” (referring to people of color) rather than “justice”. Imprisoning a disproportionate number of minority youths contributes greatly to the economic and social inequality faced by the group at large. How many poor single-parent families are created by unnecessary incarceration? How many lives are forever stripped of potential opportunity for career development and economic and social advancement predicated on the fact that someone committed a youthful indiscretion for which they are never forgiven by potential employers? How many people receive a real “second chance” when they check a box on an employment application that says they were convicted of a crime? How many of their children are indirectly sentenced to the undeserved punishment of restricted opportunity as a result of the poverty they grew up under for this reason?  This all becomes a spiral of perpetual poverty for way too many people in this country.

In comparison to the two cases mentioned above, and many others which come up repeatedly in our society of what may be described as extrajudicial executions and/or violations of other civil rights by police of minority people, there seems to be a marked absence of such events resulting in the deaths of whites. This past fall, a white man in PA suspected of killing a state police officer and seriously wounding another, was successfully apprehended after a manhunt of several weeks – without being killed. Other examples of selectively treating those of color differently than whites when in police custody are included in the links below. People notice these events. Being outraged at the blatant inequality in treatment based on skin color is not unwarranted – especially in those people subjected to it day after day for years.

Police have a very difficult and dangerous job to perform. Forming mobs to mete out “justice” to punish those whose actions result in the deaths of citizens is not the answer. Contrary to some of the police who take offense at calls for change by protesters or elected officials, most people realize this. The recent execution of two police officers in New York is a case in point. The vast majority of people protesting against police brutality and injustices perpetrated by our legal system as a whole do not advocate ambushing and killing random police officers in the performance of their normal duties. That particular act says more about the need for stricter enforcement of and otherwise improving laws regarding who is not permitted to own a gun in our society than the need for cracking down on peaceful protest. Where is the outrage of these police officers when a child is gunned down for the offense of brandishing a toy gun?

Local prosecutors have a very obvious conflict of interest when it comes to investigating and prosecuting police officers in their jurisdiction. These cases must be removed from their caseloads and taken on by special prosecutors or those at the state or federal level who can be truly independent of the local police in their everyday law enforcement roles. For the grand juries in Missouri and New York to have indicted the police officers involved in the deaths of Brown and Garner would have been even more surprising than the lack of indictment was infuriating to the friends and families of the victims. Those prosecutors depend on the local police force for doing their jobs of enforcing the laws in the courts. They cannot alienate the police and expect to perform their duties successfully for long.

Police are hired to serve and protect the public. They cannot do so if they are so hamstrung that they die in the line of duty because they feel they can’t defend themselves in dangerous situations. Likewise, people need to be able to trust that they will not have to fear dying at the hands of a cop if they jaywalk or go down an unlit staircase in the dark unarmed. The idea is to have real independent investigations conducted when violent actions result in death. If I were to use a chokehold on someone and they died, I would rightly be held accountable for my actions in a court of law. People need to see that police are as accountable to the law as is everyone else. Let the courts decide in a fair trial. Not everyone would be delighted by the results, but fewer would be screaming in fury at the lack of any accountability such as occurred in the Ferguson and New York cases.

Some of the response to the shootings of police in New York have been way off base. Showing open contempt for the Mayor – who is accountable to all New Yorkers and not just the police – was inappropriate. His actions, on the other hand, have seemed to be more in line with reaching an acceptable solution to the grievances that have been expressed as a result of the death of Eric Garner and the unrest that has arisen as a result of the stop and frisk policy that has been in place in recent years, denying many of their civil rights – often on the basis of race.

Police need to be less of an occupying force in the cities and towns in which they serve. Elected community leaders and public servants of all sorts need to be more representative of the people they serve than is the case in many places in the US. Come to think of it, that is true of Congress and state legislatures as well. Ferguson is one example of how a police force can easily become so different from the people they serve that situations like the Michael Brown case can boil over and property damage and fatalities result. Police must be of the people, not above them. Their jobs will be far easier if they are seen as part of the community rather than a force to keep them in line for the benefit and security of the 1% and the privileged few. Perhaps then the phrase “with liberty and justice for all” could become more of an _expression_ of reality and less a pipe dream.

CONTACT YOUR NYS AND FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES

NYS REPRESENTATIVES

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
Fax:(518)474-3767
Tel:(518)474-8390
email: gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us
web: http://www.state.ny.us/governor

 

Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, 214 Farrier Ave., Oneida, N.Y. 13421; phone: 361-4125; fax: 361-4222; email: mageew@assembly.state.ny.us

Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, 235 N. Prospect St., Suite 101, Herkimer, N.Y. 13350; phone: 866-1632; fax: 866-5058; email: butlerm@assembly.state.ny.us

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, 5176 St. Route 233, PO Box 597, Westmoreland, NY 13490; phone: 853-2383; fax: 853-2386; email: tenneyc@assembly.state.ny.us

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, Room 401, State Office Building, 207 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y. 13501; phone: 732-1055; fax: 732-1413; email: brindia@assembly.state.ny.us

Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, State Office Building, 207 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y. 13501; phone: 793-9072; fax: 793-0298; email: griffo@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. David J. Valesky, D-Oneida, 805 State Office Building, 333 East Washington St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202; phone: 478-8745; fax: 474-3804; email: valesky@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, 235 N. Prospect St., Herkimer, N.Y. 13350; phone: 866-1632; fax: 866-5058; email: seward@senate.state.ny.us

FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES

Rep. Richard L. Hanna

 DC Address: The Honorable Richard L. Hanna
United States House of Representatives
319 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-3222
DC Phone: 202-225-3665
DC Fax: 202-225-1891
Contact Representative Hanna: https://hanna.house.gov/email-me

                                                 Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

DC Address: The Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3205
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
DC Fax: 202-228-0282
Contact Senator Gillibrand: http://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/contact/
WWW Homepage: http://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer
DC Address: The Honorable Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer
United States Senate
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3203
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Contact Senator Schumer: http://www.schumer.senate.gov/Contact/contact_chuck.cfm
WWW Homepage: http://www.schumer.senate.gov/

 

NEWSLETTER ARTICLES ARE NEEDED

 

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CNY PROGRESSIVE ACTION is published by Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc., P.O. Box 411, Utica, NY  13503-0411  Our Office is located at   500 Plant Street in Utica, NY at Cornestone Community Church./315-725-0974 cnycitizenaction@gmail.com https://cnycitizenaction.wordpress.com

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We would like to thank Americans for Tax Fairnesss, Center for Progressive Research and Strategy, Mohawk Valley Freedom School, Global Exchange, Working Families Party, and the Oregon State Bank Campaign.

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