Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Talks Jobs, Housing, and Diversity with Latino and African-American Residents

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Community Members Posed Key Questions at Community Forum
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Talks Jobs, Housing, and Diversity with Latino and African-American Residents
Brentwood, NY – April 17, 2014 – On Wednesday night, more than one hundred Suffolk County residents from Latino, African-American, and immigrant communities joined Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for a forum hosted by Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, and the NAACP. Residents who came together at the Brentwood Public Library posed questions about the most pressing issues facing Suffolk’s diverse communities: jobs, housing, and diversity.

Participants in the event were thrilled to have the opportunity to ask questions on a wide range of topics affecting communities of color, including housing discrimination, addressing the foreclosure crisis, how to combat wage theft, and the status of efforts to welcome immigrants to Suffolk County.

Miriam Elaraby, member of Make the Road New York, said: “This event was an important way that our community and our elected representatives can join together to better our community. I’m pleased that issues of diversity, employment, and housing are being discussed, because they’re the main priorities for the community.”
Nelsena Day, member of New York Communities for Change and Brentwood resident, said, “These public forums are very important for our communities, because, with the diversity in our neighborhoods, people need to be respected and cared about by our elected officials. Providing stable jobs and keeping housing affordable will allow individuals to support their families in this county.”

“From Suffolk County Executive Bellone’s language access Executive Order making Suffolk County one of the most language accessible suburbs in the country to publicly supporting comprehensive immigration reform and declaring Welcoming Week in Suffolk two years in a row, the county’s leader has signaled to the immigrant community as well as all Suffolk residents that the county has opened its heart and mind to work through how we can maximize immigrants’ contributions and build a stronger community together.” Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director, Long Island Wins.

Amparo Sadler, member of Long Island Progressive Coalition and the Alliance for Quality Education, said, “The forum was a great opportunity for the community to understand how County Executive Bellone plans to close the inequality gap. The segregation of Long Island causes educational inequalities between rich and poor districts. We must focus on closing this gap by funding low income school districts and investment in a true universal Pre-K program, in order for all children in Suffolk County an equal opportunity to a quality public education.”

Event co-sponsors included Long Island Wins, Long Island Progressive Coalition, National Association of Puerto Rican Hispanic Social Workers, The Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, Long Island Latino Teachers Association, The Muslim Center of Long Island, New York Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic.

Lagging Behind on Energy Innovation

Orre PhotoI recently attended a public hearing about the 2014 New York State Energy Plan. Governor Cuomo has said that he wants New York to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by the year 2050 from 1990 levels, and achieve a 50 percent cut by 2030. The plan includes several initiatives that will make this goal feasible. However, most of the testimonies at the hearing were about what was missing in the plan. They urged the governor to aim attention at renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectricity and geothermal power. Most of them also talked about how far ahead Europe is when it comes to energy innovation. The hearing caused me to think a great deal about differences in energy policies in Europe and the US, and the role of renewable energy.

The US gets 85% of their energy from fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas, and is one of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases. While the US has focused on strategies to secure more oil and gas, Europe has been leading the way when it comes to transitioning from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy. Several European countries demonstrate that it is possible to implement policies and offer incentives that are effective in encouraging investment in renewable energy sources. In Europe the energy policies seems to be environmentally based, while in the US energy policies are economically based. Americans are still in denial about the causes and effects of climate change. They set climate protection against economic growth, and of course nothing is more sacred than economic growth. American policy makers endorse quick fixes that ignore the actual market and technology for renewable energy that is available. European countries have simply been better at using government policies and the private sector to make clean energy accessible for businesses and consumers. The results are windmill farms, tidal turbines and solar panels all over the European landscape. Incorporation of green policies can also be seen in people’s day-to-day life. Being a resident of a European country myself, I can attest to the different attitudes to the benefits of living green. My parents recently installed a geothermal heat pump in their house, which has reduced their energy bill and made the temperature of the house more comfortable throughout the year. The design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling systems. My home country Norway is an oil rich country, but also a large producer of renewable energy. We have made use of our copious resources in hydropower, wind power and bio-energy from wood. Despite the fact that our wealth stems from oil, the government promotes policies that favor the use of renewable energy, which in turn prompts citizens to take on the challenges of climate change.

There is no doubt that we will one day extract the last of the planet’s reserves of oil and gas. Thus we all have to look towards the future at other energy sources that in principle will never cease to exist. The sun will shine, the trees will grow, the wind will blow and the waves will slosh. Governor Cuomo and New York needs to take a leading role transforming the energy system to focus on clean energy technologies. Long Island is a place where you can clearly see the devastating effects of climate change, for example with the super storms Irene and Sandy. You can also see Long Island’s potential to be a center for production of clean energy. New York’s energy future should not be about the extraction of fossil fuels, but about looking generations ahead and establishing a cleaner and safer environment right now.

 

LI groups protest Cuomo tax cuts to banks, wealthy, funding cuts to schools

Long Island Protest

Chanting “Banks got the gold mine, the people got the shaft,” “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” and waving signs calling for living wage jobs, affordable housing, affordable schools and universal Pre-K, labor and community groups rallied outside the Bank of America office in Great Neck to call attention the growing wealth gap in New York State and to call for investment of state dollars in schools and communities, not tax breaks for the largest banks, as Governor Cuomo is proposing.

Read more here: http://www.examiner.com/article/li-groups-protest-cuomo-tax-cuts-to-banks-wealthy-funding-cuts-to-schools

See more pictures here: http://www.examiner.com/slideshow/long-islanders-protest-cuomo-tax-cuts-to-banks-wealthy-funding-cuts-to-schools#slide=1

Residents Rally Outside Sen. Martins’ Office to Protest His Refusal to Support Fair Elections

Long Island Progressive Coalition

(Garden City, NY) Area residents joined with labor unions and progressive advocates on Wednesday in rallying outside of Senator Jack Martins’ office, protesting his refusal to support a proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo to create a system of publicly financed elections.

Represented at the rally were Long Island Progressive Coalition, the Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, Common Cause New York, United Auto Workers and MoveOn.org.

“After years of corruption and broken government, Governor Cuomo has included a Fair Elections system of lower contribution limits and small matching funds, ensuring we’ll see more candidates running and more participation from small contributors. Polls consistently show that a vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents support these reforms. Today, I’m asking my Senator, Jack Martins, to stand with his constituents and not the special interests that seem determined to keep the status quo. Senator Martins: Keep Fair Elections in the budget,” said Port Washington resident and Common Cause member Phil DePaolo.

The Fair Elections proposal would create a public matching system for small dollar campaign contributions, giving everyday voters an equal voice in the political process. Candidates who opt into the system wouldn’t have to rely on big money donations from well-connected insiders and can instead focus on catering to their constituents. Cuomo included the proposal in his 2014 Executive Budget, which is currently being debated by the legislature.

Read more: 

Long Island Progressives Celebrate 35 Years of Kicking Ass

By on March 12, 2014

Lisa Tyson, executive director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, speaks at a rally outside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building.

Lisa Tyson, the director of the nonprofit Long Island Progressive Coalition, is just weeks away from her due date—she’s expecting a girl—and days away from the luncheon celebrating her organization’s 35th year of “fighting for social and human dignity.”

She’s got a lot on her plate right now, whether it’s getting her house ready to accommodate a new baby, or making sure that the LIPC’s vitally important fundraiser on March 15 is a success at the Timber Point Country Club in Great River.

But she looks remarkably relaxed for someone whose stated purpose in life is to make things better for future generations, including her own, when the conservative opposition has so much power invested in maintaining the status quo—if not in making things worse.

Taking a moment out of her busy schedule to have lunch in Garden City recently, Tyson smiled as she sat back in her chair at Wild Fig mediterranean restaurant.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time!” says the 42-year-old native of Merrick. “I’m a local girl,” she grins.

Tyson found her way to LIPC by looking through the phone book. She’d gone to the Fashion Institute of Technology and majored in fashion marketing and communications when the first Gulf War broke out. That outbreak provoked her to start questioning the government since the conflict was less about global justice and more about oil. Next she went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to enter the urban and environmental studies masters program, where she was often the only woman in her classes.

Back on the Island in 1995, Tyson met her future husband, John, and managed a music club called the Right Track Inn in Freeport. When it was time to move on, Tyson decided that “there has to be a Long Island organization I can work for, so I went to the white pages and looked under ‘Long Island something-something’ to see what would turn up.”

And so she came to the LIPC, started part-time as a secretary and got hired as a project coordinator. She’s been the director for 12 years.

“It’s the best job in the world!” she says emphatically. “I love it when someone says you can’t do something and you do it.”

For LIPC, Tyson measures success by how much they can “move the needle.” In 1979, the coalition began as a group of civic-minded volunteers, but evolved into a grassroots membership organization affiliated with the Citizen Action of New York and with a tax-exempt sister organization, the Research and Education Project of Long Island (REP-LI).

Among their achievements, Tyson is particularly proud that her group was able to overcome the state Department of Transportation’s plan to “build HOV lands on every major roadway,” as she puts it, and “we said, ‘Invest in public transit instead!’” One controversial element involved straightening Route 25A through many of Long Island’s most scenic and historic North Shore communities. LIPC launched its “Save 25A” campaign because making the route faster for cars was “not progressive.”

Tyson says she believes in progressivism and populism, “about taking care of the most vulnerable,” she says.

“I don’t do charity work,” she explains. “Charity work is handing someone money. Justice work is changing the tax laws so it’s a progressive tax—so the people who make less pay a smaller percentage in taxes than those who make more.”

She draws inspiration from Jim Hightower, the Texas populist and syndicated columnist.

“He says it’s not left-right; it’s top-down… and that’s where we see ourselves,” she explains. To her, “the conservative movement is about corporate power.”

At LIPC, Tyson has collaborated with a wide assortment of groups—from union workers, affordable housing advocates, environmentalists and even members of the Tea Party.

“I’ll work with anyone on one issue if we can agree and respect each other,” Tyson says. “On other issues, we might not agree but we can be civil.”

Some Tea Party people “did call me the devil,” she admits, “but I laughed… My thing is making change. If I have to eat a little abuse, I’ll take it. I’m not here for an ego boost.”

In her analysis, the Tea Party took root on Long Island “when people realized that their white American Dream, their white privilege, was gone,” Tyson says. “Their kids are getting those Walmart jobs just like the black and brown people are—and they never thought that was going to happen…All of a sudden you can’t afford a house on Long Island; you can’t afford a life-style that you always thought you’d have.”

Besides fighting for social equality through progressive taxation, Tyson strongly supports publicly financed elections to level the playing field so “we have people in office who believe in being in office and not just in making their pockets bigger.”

With that goal in mind, LIPC has been active in the Fair Elections NY project, which has several goals: promote publicly funded elections by matching small donors’ contributions with public money, similar to the system in New York City; set the contribution limits significantly lower; end “pay-to-play” in order to prevent contractors and lobbyists from having undue influence over state business; strengthen enforcement and encourage more transparency in order to make sure the election laws are properly upheld and that public matching funds are appropriately disbursed.

For his support of the Fair Elections campaign, David Calone of Jove Equity Partners LLC, is one of the top people being honored at the LIPC luncheon.

“He’s really put his neck out” on publicly financed elections, Tyson says. “And that is very rare for a business leader… He is a good guy, and he cares.”

So does Tyson and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

LIPC and AQE meeting with Copiague Schools to Discuss the Funding L.I. Schools

Long Island Progressive Coalition and Affordable Quality Education met on Friday with Copiague schools to discuss the funding LI schools need in this year’s budget.

Groups rally in Hauppauge Against Cuomo Budget

From Newsday:

Labor and liberal groups rallied in Hauppauge Thursday afternoon, protesting portions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget as a boon to the wealthy.

“We’re here because we’re angry about the governor’s proposal to benefit the rich and corporations and make the rest of us pay,” said Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. She said portions of Cuomo’s budget would exacerbate income inequality in New York State.

Two dozen members of the groups held signs at the brief news conference in front of the New York State Office Building in Hauppauge.

Cuomo’s office declined to comment Thursday.

The coalition is protesting three parts of Cuomo’s budget: reduction of the estate tax, a provision the coalition said would reduce taxes on banks and a proposal to freeze property taxes by encouraging consolidation of local government services.

“When you talk about consolidating services, it usually means someone is laid off because someone else is doing the job,” said Nick LaMorte, Long Island regional president of the CSEA, the region’s large public employee union.

Tyson said the tax cuts for the wealthy would be paid for by taxes on the middle class or cuts to services that are relied on by the wealthy.

Tyson said the wealthy don’t need help. “Do we need help?” she asked the crowd. A woman at a nearby bus stop shouted, “That’s why we’re taking the bus.”

Resisting Fast-Track Trade

LI Groups Oppose Approval Process
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) speaks against fast-track approval
Photo credit: Ed Betz | Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) speaks against fast-track approval of free-trade agreements in Hauppauge yesterday. (Jan. 23, 2014)

Rep. Tim Bishop joined union leaders, environmentalists and other activists Thursday to call on Congress to reject President Barack Obama’s request for fast-track approval of future free-trade agreements.

Fast-track approval prohibits Congress from making changes to trade deals once they’ve been agreed to by the United States and foreign countries. Senators and House members must vote up or down.

Read full article

Gov. Cuomo to tout public financing of campaigns

Cuomo

 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will try to impose a system of public financing of campaigns and ethics reforms for New York in his executive budget proposal Tuesday, his spokesman said.

Last week more than a dozen groups led by the Working Families Party, which is influential in Democratic politics, urged Cuomo to use his extensive budget powers to overcome opposition by Senate Republicans,

Continue reading here:  http://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/gov-cuomo-to-tout-public-financing-of-campaigns-1.6835175

Green With Envy

Orre, an intern at the Long Island Progressive CoalitionThere are many ways to make your everyday life greener without sacrifice. You probably waste more energy than you think, thus also wasting your money. Energy is expensive, but changing just a few of your habits can lower your usage and bills, and help save the environment at the same time. Install a low-flow showerhead, turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, cut one minute from your shower time to save gallons, don’t let tap water run while you wash your dishes, and fix your water leaks. Unplug chargers and small appliances when not in use because plugged-in electronics still use energy. Use your refrigerator efficiently by adjusting the thermostat to recommended setting, allow hot food to cool before putting it inside and avoid opening the door multiple times. Before working at the Long Island Progressive Coalition I was never really concerned with environmental issues or energy efficiency. I have become increasingly more aware of adjustments in my own life I should take that will not only benefit me when it comes to utility bills, but will also have a small environmental impact on the planet. I believe that these small changes are something everyone should be able to incorporate into their everyday life.

To take your green new lifestyle to the next level and save even more money contact the Long Island Progressive Coalitions PowerUp Communities program and get your home retrofitted! It all starts with a free home energy assessment, conducted by a certified contractor who will comprehensively assess your homes energy use. Shortly after the assessment, your contractor will present a report of your homes efficiency and outline the ways you can reduce drafts and save money on your utility costs. PowerUp will walk you through the process of getting the rebates and financing you qualify for. Some energy efficiency measures that can cut your energy waste significantly are replacing and upgrading your boiler, converting from oil to gas and properly insulating your home. Make these changes, save a heap of money and make your neighbors green with envy! Working closely with PowerUp over the past couple of months I have learned about how the process can really change someone’s life. I think that it’s a program that results in a spectrum of positive outcomes, from cutting waste and saving people money to sparking job and business opportunities locally. I am sure that having a larger amount of energy efficiency programs like PowerUp would reduce green house gases emissions significantly worldwide.

I recently attended a meeting with my magnificent supervisor Marriele Robinson for New York community based organizations working for energy efficiency. One of the interesting issues we discussed was how important it is for the different organizations to have energy efficient offices. Some of the simpler changes in habits offices can implement have to do with making office operations and office purchasing more energy efficient. It can include using environmental friendly copiers, paper and ink. You can cut down on electronic waste by using power strips, setting computers to sleep after a given time and having an admin-controlled thermostat. Digitizing folders, printing double sided and having electronic signatures can significantly cut down the usage of paper.

It is a fact that the climate is changing and that people have a profound effect on that change. We need to significantly reduce our emissions and one way to do that is to use energy more efficiently. Energy efficiency improvements can slow down global warming and its frightening consequences.