Posts Tagged ‘Citizen Action of New York’

March 26: Long Island Community Events- LIPC Annual Luncheon

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Saturday March 26th 2011, from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM

Timber Point Country Club in Great River
Great River Road, Great River, NY 11739

COST: Tickets are $75 each or two for $125

The Long Island Progressive Coalition, the local affiliate of Citizen Action New York.
Is celebrating their 32nd Anniversary at their Annual Luncheon. Honorees include: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Congressmember Timothy Bishop with the Paul Gutierrez Award for Contributions to Human Dignity. The Bill Pickering Labor Leader Award will be going to Timothy Lynch of Teamsters Local 1205. The award for Environmental Vision in Sustainable Development is going to Elisabeth Fiteni from the Sustainability Institute of Molloy College. Long Islanders who have made a difference include: Florence Capers from the Wyandanch Education Committee, Town of Huntington Councilmember Glenda Jackson, Laura Mallay from Residents for Efficient Special Districts and Luis Valenzuela from the Long Island Immigrant Alliance. Jan Hickman will be honored as LIPC volunteer of the Year.

The Long Island Progressive Coalition is a 32-year old organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development, revitalizing local communities, creating effective democracy, enhancing human dignity, and achieving economic, social justice and racial justice.
http://lipc.org/

Progressive Coalition to celebrate honorees

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The Long Island Progressive Coalition, the local affiliate of Citizen Action, is celebrating their 32nd Anniversary at their annual luncheon on Saturday March 26th 2011. The celebratory luncheon will take place at the Timber Point Country Club in Great River, tickets are $75 each. For more information call 516-541-1006×10 or go to www.lipc.org.

Honorees include: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Congressmember Timothy Bishop with the Paul Gutierrez Award for Contributions to Human Dignity. The Bill Pickering Labor Leader Award will be going to Timothy Lynch of Teamsters Local 1205. The award for Environmental Vision in Sustainable Development is going to Elisabeth Fiteni from the Sustainability Institute of Molloy College. Those being honored as Long Islanders who have made a difference include Florence Capers from the Wyandanch Education Committee, Town of Huntington Councilmember Glenda Jackson, Laura Mallay from Residents for Efficient Special Districts and Luis Valenzuela from the Long Island Immigrant Alliance. Jan Hickman will be honored as LIPC volunteer of the Year.

The Long Island Progressive Coalition is a 32-year old organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development, revitalizing local communities, creating effective democracy, enhancing human dignity, and achieving economic, social justice and racial justice.

1200 Parents and Students Rally Against Governor Cuomo’s $1.5 Billion in Education Cuts

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

(Albany, N.Y.) 1200 parents and students from across the state were joined by elected officials, clergy, teachers and community organizations in a rally against the proposal by Governor Cuomo to enact $1.5 billion in cuts to schools combined with $4.6 billion in tax cuts for wealthy New Yorkers. The rally, at the Albany Armory, was followed by a march to the Capitol and Legislative Office Building and lobby visits with legislators. Governor Cuomo’s cuts are the largest ever proposed in the history of New York State, the tax cuts for the state’s highest income earners are supported by the Senate Republican Majority as well as the Governor. Polls show that three-quarters of New Yorkers oppose the education cuts and two-thirds of New Yorkers oppose tax cuts for high income earners.  If the cuts are enacted, schools across the state will need to get rid of thousands of teachers, guidance counselors and librarians, cut arts, sports, music, college and career prep courses and basic educational services.  School closings are also proposed in districts across the state as a result of the proposed cuts.  The rally was sponsored by the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, New York Communities for Change, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Metro Justice of Rochester, Make the Road New York, and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

“Education is the most fundamental obligation government has to society’s children. If we have to move mountains to make sure our children have a quality education, then that’s what we’ll do. I’m asking ALL elected officials to step up and uphold what the Campaign for Fiscal Equity is all about. A budget crisis is never an excuse to turn our backs on our kids,” said New York Council Education Chairman Robert Jackson, Lead Plaintiff in Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

“The Governor’s budget is a travesty for New York’s students, particularly poor children and children of color who have been systematically disadvantaged for years.  It strips away the initial investments of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity promise and makes it significantly harder for them to receive their Constitutional right to an opportunity to learn,” said Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
“Overwhelmingly New Yorkers disagree with Governor Cuomo’s record setting cuts to schools and with the plan by the Governor and the Senate Majority to give the wealthiest New Yorkers a tax cut,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “Tax cuts for the rich, and massive school cuts for our kids? It’s nonsensical.”

 “A $24 million cut to Buffalo City schools will mean that our district may be forced to eliminate instruction to students in their native language, a program offered by bilingual aides to %12 of students.  Too many children that rely heavily on this and other programs to achieve their dreams of on-time graduation will be let down if Governor Cuomo’s tax break to the wealthy makes it in the final budget,” said Bryon McIntyre, of Citizen Action of New York, a parent from Buffalo.

 ”It’s irresponsible for the Governor to balance the budget on the backs of those of us who need funding the most, while allowing the wealthiest New Yorkers continue to ride the wave of prosperity. We demand that he make them pay their fair share so that teachers can keep their jobs and resources and programs can be provided for our children so they can be college and career ready!” said Ocynthia Williams, a New York City parent and member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.

 “The governor’s education budget proposals are well far off from what most of us believe and know to be right for our children.  I am optimistic however that this governor, which we elected, will listen, and he will get our message, which we must deliver loud and clear, I do believe we have a governor who understands the value of a sound education, and will provide the appropriate funding to make sure our children really do not get left behind,” said Assemblyman N. Nick Perry of Brooklyn, Deputy Majority Leader and Chairman of the NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators.  “We must commit to our children from pre-K through college.  I stand together with the many concerned parents that traveled to our state capital today, and assure them that I will tenaciously advocate on their behalf and work towards passing an education budget that provides every single one of our children with not just a sound, basic education – but a first-class, quality education that will help them be successful in life and firmly plant their feet on the path to success.”

“Working families and communities of color like the ones I represent in the Bronx are being disproportionately impacted by proposed budget cuts to education funding and crucial state services. They are the ones that send their children to public schools and depend on English as a second language programs and special education programs that are facing drastic cuts. My neighbors understand the need to sacrifice during tough times, but we cannot ask them to bear the brunt of these budget cuts and then give a tax cut to the wealthiest New Yorkers. We have to work toward a budget that is about shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – minimizing cuts to education funding,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx.

“Last year’s massive education budget cuts meant a loss of lost teachers, educational staff and programs that students need to be college and career ready, such as after school, tutoring, math, reading and English as a second language. Now, Governor Cuomo’s budget proposes to take an additional $1.5 billion from school children. How much more can we take and still expect our students to excel?” said Marie Pierre, New York Communities for Change board member.

“I am delighted to join with other religious leaders in support of the AQE and CEJ fight to challenge the Governor and legislators that the state’s financial crises should not be solved by destroying the communities that are most in need and vulnerable.  We urge Albany legislators not to cut Education, Senior Services and Healthcare,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Churches United to Save and Heal.

“It is unthinkable that we would continue to break the promise we made in 2007 to our schools and the children they teach to properly fund our low-and middle-income districts in order to give the multi-millionaires and billionaires of our state a tax break. That new yacht can wait — kindergarten only happens once. Most New Yorkers are clear on what’s more important,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Ithaca.

“When politicians demagogue about public servants, their pensions, collective bargaining or other hard earned benefits, it is our democracy that is being attacked. This must stop. Tax the rich!” said Senator Bill Perkins of Manhattan.

“Allowing the rich to benefit at the expense of school children will mean that so many of our children will face heart break while the rich welcome a $1 billion tax break and continue to become wealthy.  The state budget should be balanced in a way that allows everyone to pay their fair share and the only way to do this is to extend the millionaire’s tax,” said Javier Valdés, Deputy Director Make the Road the Road New York.

“With a $1.5 billion cut in aid to schools, now is not the time for a tax cut for the state’s wealthiest,” said Senator Jose Peralta of Queens.  “This is not about creating a new tax or raising taxes.  This is about shared sacrifice.  Balancing the budget will require many difficult choices.  Extending the surcharge will not be one of them.”

“We need to make sure that people in every community on Long Island realize how damaging these cuts will be to their children. Every district is looking at cuts. In some districts the students will be losing an opportunity for a second language. Others it will mean no pre-k program at all. What will happen to my granddaughter when there is no program offered for her?” said Amparo Sadler, Central Islip grandmother and Long Island Progressive Coalition member.

“The Committee to Save NY has it backwards. The best investment we can make is in the people of NY, especially our children. Give our kids the education they need and our communities, and all of NY, will flourish. Committee to Save NY?   Real Estate moguls and Wall St. Executives?   I am not impressed. I would be more impressed if they were saying, ‘Yes. These are tough times and we will help. We believe in the people of NY.’ When times are tough, everyone has to pull together. That includes the wealthiest among us. What makes this state great is the belief in the value of every New Yorker, and the potential for each person to do great things, a good education is key to that,” said Cathy Fahey, 7th Ward Councilmember, Albany.

1st Congressional District Residents Protest Randy Altschuler

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

(East Setauket, N.Y.) — Residents of New York’s 1st Congressional District protested the corporate connections of Randy Altschuler, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 1st Congressional District. They were reacting to a new report by Citizen of New York finding that Mr. Altschuler, the former head of an outsourcing giant, received thousands of dollars from companies seeking a weakening of financial reform legislation, the repeal of health care reform and tax policies favoring the needs of the wealthy and corporations over those of the middle class. Mr. Altschuler is running against incumbent Timothy Bishop (D).
“Our new report details that Randy Altschuler’s campaign is funded through his own personal wealth and corporate interests rather than the people in the 1st Congressional District,” said Bob Cohen, Policy Director of Citizen Action of New York and the primary report author. “Mr. Altschuler received significant funding from the financial services industry and benefited from an onslaught of ads that lied to seniors about health care reform. It’s clear that Randy Altschuler’s corporate sponsors expect to get a good return on their investment, and that’s to get a Congressman who will turn his back on financial reform, repeal health care reform and oppose fair tax policies that are in the interests of working families.” Congress is expected to take up the expiration of the Bush tax cuts next month during its “lame duck” session.

“We need a Congressman who’s going to serve the interests of the 1st Congressional District, not someone who’s beholden to corporate fatcats like Bank of America. Randy Altschuler is not that Congressman,” said Lisa Tyson, the Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “Bank of America recently resumed its foreclosures on families in Long Island and elsewhere despite a pending 50 state Attorneys-General investigation of their foreclosure practices. The new Citizen Action report is frightening because it raises the question of whether corporate interests are trying to buy our democracy and thwart the will of the people of the east end of Long Island.”

The report, “Corporate Cash, Personal Wealth: Randy Altschuler’s Campaign Funding and What it Means for Long Island,” is based on data from the OpenSecrets.org web page maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics and press accounts. Among the report’s findings are as follows:

Randy Altschuler is funded primarily by a combination of corporate interests and his own personal funds rather than by individuals, raising serious questions as to whether he is accountable to corporate donors or to the working families of the 1st Congressional District. Two-thirds (65%) of his total contributions were from his own personal funds and PACs rather than from individuals.

Of Mr. Altschuler’s contributions from other than his personal funds, a disproportionate share were from the financial services industry and other industry groups with a vested interest in lax regulation — the kind of regulation that nearly led to the collapse of the U.S. economy in the fall of 2008. Specifically, he received $217,546 from the securities and investment industry, $37,600 from the real estate industry, and $31,560 from lawyers and law firms.

Mr. Altschuler, a strong health care reform opponent, benefitted enormously from support from corporate -funded PACs that oppose reform. Specifically, he indirectly received at least $147,694 in the form of advertising targeted at Timothy Bishop, a strong health care reform supporter. The ads were funded by the “60 Plus Association,” a so-called “Super PAC” that has placed more than $4 million in ads nationwide against House Democrats. Factcheck.org has found that the advertisements are seriously misleading.

Randy Altschuler received a disproportionate share of his contributions from out-of-state contributors and from those outside of Long Island, likely reflecting the importance of Mr. Altschuler’s candidacy to out-of-state corporate interests. 41% of his contributions have come from out of state as compared to 20% for Tim Bishop, and $141,320 of his contributions have come from Long Island, as compared to $429,051 for Mr. Bishop. Generally, incumbents receive more out of state money than challengers.

The report recommends the passage of public financing of elections legislation, so that candidates can focus on the needs of working people in their communities rather the needs of powerful special interests that fund their campaigns. The bill, co-sponsored by Tim Bishop, has a “matching fund” provision to help candidates who are running against wealthy self-funded candidates like Altschuler.

“I am here in support of Congressman Tim Bishop, a man who truly represents the best interests of his constituents,” said Paul Gold, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “He stands for fair elections reform and transparency in campaign contributions. In contrast, Randy Altschuler receives disproportionate funding from the financial services industry and the insurance industry, which benefit enormously from lax regulation and opposition to financial and healthcare reform. He and his party would take us back to the Bush years of corporate abuse and financial deregulation, the failed policies that created the economic mess we find ourselves in today.”

Avalon Supporters Speak Out Before Town Board Meeting

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

YIMBY, LIPC gathered to endorse economic development through AvalonBay in Huntington Station on Tuesday.

A group of close 30 people gathered outside Town Hall on Tuesday prior to the Town Board’s Sept. 7 meeting to announce their endorsement of the Avalon Huntington Station project.

Members of The Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC) and The Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station spoke positively about the AvalonBay Transit Oriented Development being proposed in Huntington Station along with a small group of Huntington and Huntington Station residents.

“Today we’re here to say we support Avalon Huntington Station,” said Lisa Tyson, Director of the LIPC. “There has been a new coalition formed called the Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station – over 25 organizations and growing have joined that coalition.”

Members of the YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) campaign were on hand for the press conference as well. The YIMBY campaign, a project of the LIPC, is an affordable housing movement across Long Island that mobilizes housing supporters to say “yes” to initiatives that propose good affordable housing projects. The LIPC, the local affiliate of Citizen Action of New York, is a 31-year-old organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development, revitalizing local communities, creating effective democracy, enhancing human dignity, and achieving economic, racial and social justice.

During the Town Hall meeting hundreds of letters were delivered to the Town Board from Huntington Station residents who say they are in support of the development.

“We have talked to many Huntington Station residents who believe that AvalonBay is the type of development that is bringing solutions to the community,” YIMBY organizer Maritza Silva-Farrell said. “Today, we are here to deliver more than 300 handwritten letters from Huntington Station constituents to the Town Board, sending their message, ‘Yes In My Backyard.'”

On top of the members from the YIMBY and LIPC support groups, several members from AvalonBay were also present, including Christopher Capece, the Development Director at AvalonBay.

“Not only have we had a large number of individual supporters and homeowners throughout the township, but we also have a coalition of groups that support us that represents thousands of people and I think that really speaks to the broad support that we have out there,” Capece said. “The press conference today was an example of that. I think it’s great.”

Avalon Huntington Station supporters also responded to false information that the AvalonBay opposition has allegedly distributed in the community.

“For too long Huntington Station has been the sight of far too many of the problems that are facing the Town of Huntington: inadequate police protection, gang violence, and now the closing of the Jack Abrams School,” said Richard Koubek, President of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition. “As a result the people of Huntington Station are afraid, angry, and frustrated due to years of neglect.

Koubek added, “Unfortunately a loud group of anti-AvalonBay people have exploited this situation, nitpicking at the AvalonBay proposal and spreading rumors and misinformation that have driven up the political heat in Huntington Station – this is why the Huntington Township Housing Coalition formed The Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station. … As of this morning, we have 26 stakeholder organizations from the Town of Huntington who have stepped forward with formal endorsements of this coalition.”

Opponents to Avalon Huntington Station have cited the re-zoning of the land as the major problem with the proposal. However, AvalonBay officials have said, the only property that would be re-zoned is the 26.2-acre parcel of property where Avalon Huntington Station would be located. The remainder of the half-mile radius would not be re-zoned, according to AvalonBay officials.

But still AvalonBay opponents are not content with the Transit Oriented Development proposal. Jennifer LaVertu of Huntington Station is one of the main opponents of Avalon Huntington Station. As a member of the community, she said she is not happy where the AvalonBay support is coming from.

“The YIMBYs live in Brooklyn and Amityville and Yaphank and want to tell me what to put in my backyard?” LaVertu said. “Who are we kidding here?”

The AvalonBay proposal is the agenda for the Town Board’s Sept. 21 meeting.

“Each Town Board member has to have the courage to rise above the current clamor and to do the right thing for the future of Huntington Station and for the future of all of Huntington,” Koubek said. “AvalonBay is an unprecedented opportunity to pump millions of dollars into the ailing Huntington Station economy. This is a once in a generation opportunity, economic development during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

Group plugs marriage as civil right

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Coalition encourages dialogue on latest subject of Patriot Games lecture series

August 26, 2010 | 04:01 AM
Marriage should be available for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, according to the Long Island Progressive Coalition, which along with the Empire State Pride Agenda is hosting a “Marriage Equality and Families” lecture tonight, Thursday, at Huntington Public Library.

The talk is part of the LIPC’s Patriot Games series of monthly forums that examine American policy and programs, co-founder David Sprintzen said.

Tonight’s discussion is in cooperation with Legislator John Cooper (D-Lloyd Neck) and LIPC’s statewide affiliate, Citizen Action in New York, a nonpartisan campaign for progressive issues. “The forums are open,” Sprintzen said. “We try to welcome people from different points of view. We invite dialogue and discussion.”

Along with Cooper, an openly gay politician who is married to his partner, three or four gay couples will share their thoughts on marriage.

“I see marriage as a right,” said Cooper, who led Suffolk County’s creation of a domestic partners registry in 2006. “No child grows up, dreaming of the day when they could get domestic partnered. They dream of the day when they could get married. It’s universal. I don’t believe in separate but equal. I believe that there’s a real difference between a domestic partnership or civil union and civil marriage.”

He now wants the state to legalize civil marriage and is not concerned with the stances of religious institutions on the subject. “There are tens of thousands of same-sex couples in New York State that are in committed, long-term relationships, many of whom are raising children,” he said.

Noting that many of his gay friends have been in longer relationships than his straight ones, Cooper said, “Considering that we pay taxes like everyone else and we’re committed members of the community, as our neighbors, there should be a societal benefit to encourage couples in love to be in long-term monogamous relationships. … I have no doubt that we will achieve marriage equality, not just in New York State, but nationwide someday.”

According to polls, he claims, people in their 20s are overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage and as that generation moves into leadership positions, it will be a non issue.

While a gay couple can get married in some countries and states, including Connecticut, and those unions will be recognized in New York State, Cooper said, “It’s not the same thing. I think New York same-sex couples deserve the right to get married in New York State.”

Until it’s recognized at the federal level, the 1,400-plus rights and benefits of marriage, including Social Security and retirement benefits and adoption rights, will not be bestowed upon same-sex couples.

“I could be hit by a bus next Tuesday,” Cooper said, “and [partner] Rob will not get one penny of my Social Security benefits that I’ve built up over my life. Even though we’ve been together 30 years and we’ve raised five kids together. … That’s not right, and I think that most independent observers would agree that that’s not right.”

LIPC has come out in favor of marriage equality. “We certainly support marriage equality for all human beings, whether they be gay or straight,” Sprintzen said. “We don’t believe there should be any difference. But we welcome and we certainly invite people who have different views to come to share their views and ask questions.”

Small Business Health Care Press Event

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

By Julia Ryan

Survey: L.I. Small Business Owners Support Healthcare Reform

New York Small Business United for Health Care released a report Thursday in Massapequa that shows that New York small business owners want health reform and the possibility of a public health insurance plan.

The report, The Pulse of Main Street New York: Small Businesses, Health Insurance, and Views on Reform was based on surveys of more than 200 New York small business owners from New York City, Long Island, Albany, Binghamton and Buffalo. Based on the findings, small business owners are willing to contribute 4-7 percent of payroll to a public health insurance plan. Small business owners also said that they want more public oversight and government regulation in the insurance industry.

Margaret Petrucco, the co-owner of the Quilting Bug in Massapequa, said that real changes will have to happen to current health care programs if the government wants small businesses to recover.

“This health care mess we’re in is a major roadblock to economic recovery,” said Petruccco. The country is looking to small businesses to create jobs and help revitalize our economy. “We need a real health care fix to fulfill that promise.”

New York Small Business United for Health Care collaborated with the Long Island Progressive Coalition for the report. Jonathan Grindell, the community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), said that healthcare reform is crucial because small businesses play an important role on LI.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy,” said Grindell. “Better healthcare puts small business employees in a better state of mind, so they can do better work.”

The release of the small businesses report coincides with the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s recent decision to start marking up new healthcare legislation. According to Grindell, the LIPC will be sending a busload of people to Washington D.C. sometime in the near future to lobby Congress for higher-quality, more affordable health care.

LIPC is a local affiliate of Citizen Action of New York. Small Business United for Health Care is affiliated with the national Main Street Alliance, an association of small business groups in 12 states across America.
Related website: http://www.longislandpress.com/2009/06/19/survey-li-small-business-owners-support-healthcare-reform/

Speaking out against the war: LIPC and clergy in front of Rep. King's office

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

On Thursday, May 31st the LIPC organized a press event where Long Island clergy spoke out against the war in front of the Massapequa Park office of Congressman Peter King. King is the lone Long Island member of Congress to vote last week for legislation providing $120 billion for Iraq funding without any timetable to end the war. As the Iraq War has entered its 5th year, U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians continue to die and become wounded in large numbers. This event was one of several national efforts in association with “America Speaks Out on the War”, a national project in which American voices from
different walks of life are calling for a safe and responsible end to the war.

Representing the Long Island Council of Churches, Mary Dewar said, “The 4 years of this war has resulted in the sacrifice of over 3,400 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians without any significant progress towards a multi-ethnic democracy.” According to Dewar, a recent honoree at the LIPC luncheon, “The hundreds of billons spent on the war have been taken out of the pockets of the poor and the mouths of the hungry. As a faith leader, I cannot remain silent as the President and other national leaders persist in continuing a senseless, destructive, and immoral conflict.”

“This war, resulting in the wholesale killing of both combatants and civilians, and the severe dissolution of the human bond, is the most egregious violation of the values we hold most dear” said LIPC member Dr. Anne Klaeysen, Leader of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island.

Holding up signs and starting chants such as, “Bring ‘em Home Now” and “Stop the War”, dozens of protestors had a presence that captured the
interest of motorists and pedestrians in the busy thoroughfare, while media covered the event.

“Peter King voted to give President Bush a blank check to continue the war,” LIPC Director Lisa Tyson said. “Instead, he’s stood with a President who is deaf to the will of the American people. Given the President’s stubborn refusal to listen, only enforceable timetables will bring the war to a conclusion.”
Other progressive Long Islanders and clergy who participated in the event included Megan O’Handley with the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, Rabbi Janet Liss of the North Country Reform Temple, and Reverend Noel D’Amico.

The public is now overwhelmingly disillusioned with the conduct of the war, with a majority of independents and even
substantial numbers of Republicans calling for a change. A May 18-23, 2007 New York Times poll found that 52 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of independents now think the war is going at least somewhat badly; only 36 percent of Republicans held that opinion in April. (The figure is 89 percent for Democrats, and 76 percent for the nation as a whole.) Sixty-three percent of all Americans, 61 percent of independents and even 42 percent of Republicans believe that the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq sometime in 2008.

LIPC and its statewide affiliate, Citizen Action of New York, are members of a national coalition known as Americans Against Escalation in Iraq that includes citizen, labor, veterans and student groups. The effort to deescalate the war in Iraq become reality without your continued support.

A Brief History of the LIPC

Friday, June 11th, 2004

by David Sprintzen

Initially written for the Grassroots Organizing Newsletter

Founded on June 6th, 1979, on the eve of the Reagan Administration, the LIPC has grown and prospered in spite of the right-wing tide that swept across the United States — even removing from office in the mid-90s three reasonably progressive Long Island congress members.

The LIPC was born at the initiation of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (since become Democratic Socialists of America) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, seeking to realize DSOC Chair Michael Harrington’s vision of being “the left-wing of the possible.”

Initially the LIPC was an entirely volunteer effort, with a handful of activists supported by a nominal coalition of some 60 progressive organizations. In those early years, while the Coalition supported a range of progressive causes, lacking staff, money, or resources, the primary focus of its activity was essentially determined by the interests, commitment, and efforts of those activists. Thus our organizing tended to focus on one or two issues, most particularly, the promotion of a democratically elected public utility to replace the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO), in connection with the campaign against the Shoreham nuclear power plant. (While the campaign to stop Shoreham eventually proved successful, the utility was effectively bought off by the State, with the public committed to paying off through guaranteed rate increases LILCO’s entire investment in the failed nuclear plant — some $5.5 billion plus interest.)

Over the years, the LIPC’s scope has broadened, its funding expanded, and it has moved away from the coalition structure to becoming a grassroots membership organization. It has developed a staff, a series of projects generally directed by citizen activists, and most recently an emerging network of neighborhood-based chapters. Around 1990 the LIPC affiliated with Citizen Action of New York (CANY), becoming an autonomous regional affiliate. In 1994 a house was donated to it (technically, to our tax-exempt sister organization, the Research and Education Project of Long Island (REP-LI)) by Katharine Smith, a long-time socialist and human rights activist who hosted Norman Thomas and James Farmer, among others. Katharine died on May 4th of 1997 at the age of 104.

Program

Under the motto, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” the LIPC’s goal has been to create a multi-issue, non-electoral party of the democratic left. It seeks to become the “legitimate opposition” to the established structure of corporate power. It has sought to build an effective progressive movement by avoiding unnecessary duplication of activities and resources, particularly through facilitating the work of single-issue and locally-based civic groups. It has assisted with networking, coordination, and mutual support. And it has then taken the initiative in developing projects that address fundamental issues of power and strategy that are either not being addressed, or being addressed in ways we find inadequate.

Currently, we have five major project initiatives:

  1. The Campaign for affordable, accessible, and high quality Health Care For All, as our long-term goal, while we actively promote Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus, an improved and effectively monitored Managed Care Bill Of Rights, the inclusion of prescription coverage for Medicare recipients, and the preservation and strengthening of Medicare and Social Security;
  2. Clean Money, Clean Elections state legislation that will get money out of politics and restore electoral democracy;
  3. Building effective labor-community cooperation through the Coalition to Save Long Island Jobs (& its companion project, the Labor-Religion Coalition);
  4. Promoting sustainability, environmental protection, and downtown revitalization; and
  5. The development of a network of neighborhood-based local LIPC chapters.

The sustainability effort continues the path-breaking work that we initiated on Long Island first with our 1992 conference Long Island: A New Vision, and then with the 1996 publication of the 167-page Long Island 2020: A Greenprint for a Sustainable Long Island. That document presented a vision of, and practical program for, the ecologically sustainable economic development of Long Island. A major undertaking, six years in the making, it offered practical proposals for local initiatives in the context of theoretical critiques of globalization and conventional economic theory and practice. The program of Long Island 2020 is centered on replacing quantitative growth with qualitative development, with a primary focus on revitalizing local business and democratically controlled neighborhood communities and hamlets. The aim of the document was to inaugurate a campaign that would place the issue of sustainability at the center of public consciousness and the political agenda.

In addition to these grassroots, issue-based campaigns, we played a key role in successful efforts to create a new political party that could give electoral expression to the concerns of working men and women across the Island and the State. That Party, the Working Families Party, on whose decision-making bodies we (and our statewide affiliate Citizen Action of New York) serve now functions as the primary vehicle for our political action.

Structure

Programmatic development requires political organization. Progressive values thus need to be embodied organizationally, and in a way that enhances collective efforts. In trying to effectively realize democracy in vision and practice, the LIPC has long struggled not only with the usual differences among its constituencies, as well as those with single-issue or locally focused organizations, but also with those generated by efforts to create a cooperative work environment that merges staff with project activists and board. How, for example, does one maintain cooperative decision-making while insuring responsibility, accountability, an appropriate use of and respect for expertise, and political effectiveness? Or deal with either inexperienced new staff or with those who either do not work well with others, have difficulty working on their own, or insist on “doing their own thing?”

At present, our practice only partially realizes our vision of a citizen-run community agency whose staff supports, sustains, and helps to coordinate the activity of board, project, and chapter activists — all on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Staff participate on all committees — except in matters of personnel — including the Steering Committee, with voice but no vote. (Though staff may be members of the board — & vice versa.) Staff or board serve as liaison-coordinators for each chapter or project, while seeking to cultivate leadership from within the activist group. Projects and chapters are urged to have representatives participate in board meetings, and all have been invited to our planning retreat. The rule for decision-making is that policy decisions are made by the operative group, with individuals or small working groups charged with implementation and authorized to make daily tactical decisions. The press of events, however, and the difficulty of coordinating the schedule of project activists often requires a less representative decision process that can only be reviewed after the fact.

In general, economic and social pressures impede regular coordination and complete democratic participation. Chapter development is particularly labor-intensive, requires much skill and the careful nurturing of group identification and leadership development, and the detailed organizing of practical tasks for individuals to carry out. Racial and cultural divides are remarkably intractable, and have been only partially overcome, while the geographical extent, residential dispersion, and general lack of civic centers remain continual impediments to effective community organizing on the suburbs that are Long Island. Nevertheless, the LIPC, through the dedication and time-consuming hard work of its volunteers and staff — has established an effective progressive presence on Long Island from which activists across the country can take heart.

Citizen Action of New York’s History

Friday, June 11th, 2004

by Alan Charney

Understanding the history of Citizen Action of New York (CANY) can only be done by looking at the origins of Citizen Action as a national effort in the 1970s to consolidate an anti-corporate strategy and program as the basis for progressive politics. What I propose to do is first look at the economic and political, the institutional and ideological context in which Citizen Action was founded as a national federation of state organizations. Then, I will point out those economic and political, institutional and ideological factors peculiar to CANY. Finally, I will argue that the overall context previously defining Citizen Action has changed radically – posing a host of new challenges for us. This can only mean that the strategy and program of CA must change accordingly.

The economic and political, the institutional and the ideological context for Citizen Action strategy and program.

  1. The economic and political context. Citizen Action, as a national federation of autonomous state organizations, was founded in the mid-1970s at pivotal point in post-war history. It was the point at which the longest period of sustained economic expansion in the history of capitalism was coming to a close. It was a period from the late 1940s to the early 1970s that was based on corporate dominance of the national economy along with mass prosperity for the majority. It was built on a virtuous circle of rising productivity, rising profits and rising wages. During this period, trade unions were significantly stronger than they are today, and working class communities were much more stable. An expanding tax base and an economic orthodoxy of deficit spending promoted an expanding welfare state. Indeed, many corporate interests were supportive of greater government intervention in the economy…unlike today.The strategy and program of Citizen Action were shaped during this time of corporate liberal hegemony. The strategy of CANY was fundamentally anti-corporate: that is, it was based on the premise that the national economy was controlled by large national corporations whose interests were almost always opposed to the interests of poor and working people. Furthermore, the main countervailing institutions opposing corporate power were organized labor, and poor and working class communities, primarily unorganized. The program of CANY was fundamentally pro-government: that is, it was based on the premise that government power was necessary to regulate and control the excesses of corporate power. Thus, unions and communities together would organize state and national campaigns from legislation that would reign in the corporations.So, by 1978, CANY had initiated the Citizen/Labor Energy coalition to combat rising gasoline, electric and national gas prices. Later, there were campaigns against toxic wastes, and of course, the campaign for single-payer health insurance. Ironically, almost the entire history of CANY, from the mid-1970s to the mid 1990s unfolded during a period of economic decline for poor and working people and one of ascendancy for corporate power. It was a period in which trade union membership and influence also declined and stable working class communities were in eclipse. During these twenty years – and continuing today – there has been a retrenchment of the welfare state, a great reduction in taxes for the corporations and the top 20% of income-earners, and a right-wing assault on government activism. Except for four years (1977-1978, and 1993-1994), this has been a time of conservative hegemony.
  2. The institutional context. In its origins, Citizen Action was fascinating amalgam of the Old Left and the New Left. Its Old Left side included both an understanding of the institutional importance of the trade unions, even if many of them lacked progressive leadership, and the institutional necessity of organizing poor and working class communities. Saul Alinsky had been the leading advocate of bringing the lessons of organizing the mass industrial unions in the 1930s and 1940s to bear directly on organizing communities as countervailing institutions to corporate power. His approach to community organizing became the basis for Citizen Actions approach to organizing for social change. At the same time, CANY’s New Left side – primarily due to the influence of the Civil Rights movement — included an emphasis on community empowerment and direct action politics, as well as a greater reliance on government programs as the solution to endemic problems of social and economic injustices. In this regard, the civil rights and social welfare laws passed from 1964-1965 served as a model.
  3. The ideological context. CANY was conceived and organized by a cohort of New Left activists, many who had first become involved in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s. Indeed, a disproportionate share of them had been members and leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, the premiere student New Left organization of the 1960s. In advocating a “citizen action” approach to social change, they were explicitly rejecting what they viewed as excesses of New Left politics, such as ideological sectarianism, a radicalism of thought and action that seemed to put off a majority of Americans and issues such as the Indochina war which couldn’t help but divide a broad poor and working class constituency. The citizen action approach was based much more on organizing poor and working people around their immediate interests, which were almost always opposed to corporate interests and avoiding potentially divisive social and ideological issues.We believed there was a majoritarian strategy, based on a program of economic justice, that could organize poor and working people to win progressive legislation, which would both expand the welfare state (as with national health insurance) and regulate corporate power (as with energy prices), as well as elect many more progressives to public office at all levels of government. Moreover, Citizen Action, as a national federation of state multi-issue organization, was central to the realization of this majoritarian strategy. This strategy was bold and flexible, but it also had its major shortcomings. Foremost was its “strategic” neglect of communities of color. A majoritarian strategy did not require a concentration on building bases in communities of color. It also meant that many of our issues were important, but not central, to the interests of people of color.

The economic and political, institutional and the ideological factors peculiar to CANY

  1. The economic and political context. During CANYs first 12 years existence – from 1983-1994 — state government was dominated by liberal Democrats. Only the State Senate was Republican controlled. Moreover, in a period of corporate conservative hegemony on the national level, key corporate interests in New York were oriented in a more liberal direction. (The fact is that Wall Street – that is, the finance sector — has remained the only capitalist sector with some loyalty to the program of liberal democrats.)Historically, corporate interests in New York have always been less resistant to social reform than corporate interests in many other states. (I know it is hard to take this in, but comparatively speaking it is true.) Thus, there was a political climate more favorable to a “citizen-action” economic agenda, particularly around health care. Also, the Republican control of the State Senate determined, to a significant degree, CANYs political focus.The State Senate was the roadblock to the passage of progressive legislation. Most of the Republican State Senators were from Long Island and upstate. Therefore, it made sense for CANY to organize its political base on Long Island and upstate in order to put pressure on these legislators. Indeed, for many years CANY was one of the only statewide organizations, along with the CWA and UAW, openly and actively to oppose Republican control of the State Senate during election time.
  2. The institutional context. CANY was founded in 1983 as an amalgam of a chapter-based organization called the Citizens Alliance, and the statewide affiliate of the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition. The Citizens Alliance was a membership organization of poor and working-class people, similar to ACORN. C/LEC was primarily a coalition of trade unions. (In other states, Citizen Action affiliates were either organized on a community chapter model, or on a statewide coalition model.) For the first year, we stayed primarily a chapter-based organization, but we quickly realized that in a populous state like New York with many powerful institutions it would be exceedingly difficult to influence state politics from an exclusively community base. So, in our case necessity led to innovation, for we wound up combining the chapter and coalition models. Thus we were able to involve both local bases of citizen activists and influential statewide progressive organizations. And, we have had the capacity to intervene on both local and statewide issues and elections.
  3. The ideological context. Another distinguishing factor of politics in New York State is that it is carried out at a higher ideological level that in most other states. This difference is due partially to the historic influence of the organized left, like the Socialist and Communist parties, as well as the former prevalence of many left-wing unions. But it is also true that the right wing has, for many years, had a distinct ideological presence through the Conservative Party. Ideological identification is not only less of a problem in New York State. Many times it can even be an asset in building coalitions and involving activists. Indeed, our regional chapters are made up of many self-identified progressive, and left, activists. The Working Families Party adds further support to CANYs overt progressive character.

Changes in the context: challenges for the 21st century.

  1. The economic and political context. In the last 25 years, there has been a transformation from an era of national corporate capitalism to one of global capitalism. Overall, transnational corporations, whether American or foreign, operate on a planetary scale. They are more powerful and control more wealth than national corporations ever did. Moreover, national governments by themselves have less capacity to regulate and control corporate behavior and less ability to redistribute wealth in favor of poor and working people.Communities are much more transitional and diverse than before, and unions are no longer organized in the today’s leading sectors of the economy – finance and information-like they were fifty years ago in the mass production industries. This means that the “citizen-action” majoritarian strategy, at least on a national level, will be even more difficult to achieve. But, it does point to the necessity of a new approach – based on transnational organizing, transnational coalitions, and transnational issues. This approach may appear absolutely daunting at first, but so did the idea of national organizing one hundred years ago. So, here is my first prediction for the 21st century: a progressive majoritarian strategy will have to be trans-national to succeed.
  2. The institutional context. In our political activity, we are facing an increasingly diverse and pluralist population. This is so obvious it needs no enumeration. Moreover, communities will continue to get more and more diverse. There may no longer even be a possibility of constructing a simple majoritarian strategy and program around any key issues, save for a few “tried and true” ones like Social Security. We need to think more in terms of a complex majoritarian stategy and program. We need to invent institutional models based on an expanding plurality of constituencies. For, when we add up the myriad of constituencies and communities demanding social and economic justice today, it is actually a larger potential majority than the old one.The key is looking for a program which better encompasses this complex majority. Education is certainly one basis for this new program because it is institutional in nature. A diversity of interests from a plurality of constituencies can be accommodated and coordinated but only if the institution – in this case public education — is protected and enhanced. The struggle over the future of the institution comes first. So, here is my second prediction for the 21st century: a majoritarian strategy will have to be institutional to succeed.
  3. The ideological context. In the 21st century, there will be a “return of the ideological.” In large part, we have the right wing to thank for this resurrection. For one, the right wing has organized its constituencies more around values and ideas than around interests. More importantly, the right wing has mounted powerful ideological assaults on democratic institutions, particularly government. It is obvious that a democratically run, activist government is essential for the realization of a progressive program. How else can we effectively redistribute wealth and expand the welfare state? So, progressives are compelled to defend the integrity of government as a precondition of winning any serious social reforms.Moreover, the collapse of liberalism has left the broad left as the only principled defender of public values and institutions. There is no other way to beat back to right-wing assault on democratic institutions except through ideological means. Indeed, what is most fascinating is that the roles of left and right have reversed. Traditionally, the right has defended the “impartial” character of public institutions against the assaults from the left, which viewed public institutions as subservient to “ruling class” interests. Now the right argues that government is subservient to the interests of our constituencies. In effect, by attacking government, the right is attacking democratic participation and the values of citizenship. That’s why, in the long run, our defense of government will greatly enhance the persuasiveness and prestige of our progressive viewpoint. So, here is my third prediction for the 21st century: a majoritarian strategy will have to be ideological to succeed.Finally, we are the bearers of a noble strain of American life – the inheritors of all those social movements that have instigated changes for more justice and less inequality in American society. The truth is that at no time in our history did a progressive stance really encompass more that minority of the American people. Today, our viewpoint represents about 15% of the population. But, there are several other viewpoints out there. None represents more than a plurality. Ours is hardly the smallest. I believe that our viewpoint – the progressive one – has the greatest potential to expand. But, only if we understand the opportunities afforded by the new context, and only if we are willing to make the changes necessary to succeed.