News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MTA: No fare hikes or service cuts!

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans draconian service cuts, while raising fares and imposing additional costs on those who commute by car. This is the wrong solution at the wrong time.

It is unacceptable for the MTA to force commuters to pay more—for less—at a time when they are already feeling the pinch in a thousand other ways: the housing crisis, the increased threat of unemployment, mountains of debt, and so on. Higher fares will mean that more people will have to make a choice between medicine or the bus, food or the subway.

Because of the high price of Manhattan real estate, many working families live far away, in the outer boroughs, Long Island, or elsewhere. Many of these areas have no public transportation to speak of, and, consequently, these people, pushed to the outskirts by poverty, have to drive to work. Raising tolls or even creating new tolls on the East River bridges will hurt them directly.

Service cuts will mean that thousands of New Yorkers will shoulder an increased burden, and greater danger when trying to get to and from their jobs or schools.

The current deficit at the MTA must not be resolved on the backs of working people.

The plan to lay off thousands of workers and cut expenses is in stark contrast to President-elect Barack Obama’s policy statements, in which he argues the need to pump money into the real economy in order to maintain necessary services and ensure that the financial crisis isn’t solved on the backs of working people. Obama has called for major public works programs to restore public infrastructure and green the economy. By employing more people who can therefore spend more on necessities, increased government spending can only stimulate the faltering economy.

Conversely, laying off thousands of MTA workers will play a part in deepening the financial local financial crisis.

In keeping with President-elect Obama’s plan to rebuild infrastructure, the MTA, to further stimulate the should employ more people and direct more resources to improve service, keep the rail system up to date, and build certain necessary projects, like the Second Avenue subway line. After all, there is hardly any infrastructure in the region more major than our transportation system. Without it, the city and metropolitan region would fail.

The argument that the proposed extra costs will reduce pollution is, at best, spurious. Though thousands of people would rather take public transit into the city, in many areas, it is simply not available. To reduce pollution, more service, not less, is needed. There are wide swaths of Brooklyn and Queens that are without rail service.

The MTA’s operating and capital investment budgets must not only be funded, but expanded. This is not impossible, even in the current financial environment. First, the MTA must not waste money through sweetheart deals with big developers. A colossal amount of money was wasted when the MTA agreed to sell air rights to the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner for $50 million, though the independently assessed value was as high as $900 million. Even when another firm offered a higher bid, the MTA chose to go with Forest City Ratner. Other projects, like the proposed extension of the 7 subway line, which is essentially a multi-billion dollar gift to the developers, could be postponed.

The state and city should make sure that the MTA can make up its shortfall; where it can’t it they should go into debt if necessary, borrow as much as is needed. Instead of balancing the deficit on the backs of working people, the state could finally impose the millionaires' tax to fund both the MTA and other city and state programs. They must do whatever is needed to ensure that the MTA doesn’t help to further deteriorate the lives of working people in and around New York. It’s likely that money will come from the federal government in the next administration; even if it doesn’t, borrowing and spending are the only responsible way forward.

The people of New York can’t afford anything else.

By Dan Margolis
for the New York State Communist Party

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Albany budget fight's demand: Get the rich to pay!

By Phil Benjamin

Over 2,000 public sector workers/unions and leaders of community based organizations, who are facing massive budget cuts, gathered on the steps of the New York State Capitol to demand fairness in the budget. Their slogans were lead by, "One New York: Fighting for Fairness."

They gathered as the Governor and State legislature was gathering to debate the deficits the state would be facing.

Lead by the Hunger Action Network the assembly activists showed a level of rage and fear that has not been seen in Albany for many years.

Most speakers told how budget cuts were severely hurting those people who are already in great distress. "Enough is enough" was their cry.

One chant that was very popular was, "We Didn't Cause It; We Shouldn't Pay for It."

Bob Master, a leader of the Working Families Party, and Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress [representing City University of New York faculty and staff] both pointed their demands at the wealthy of the State. "They should pay their fair share before those who are in great risk pay anything was a theme." Any sources of revenue, "must start at the top."

Bowen said there is a "Revenue Problem, not a budget problem." She said that the tax breaks given the wealthy over the past years would have more than paid for the current budget deficit. That is where the governor and legislatures should look for money, with those wealthy New Yorkers.

The rally took place in a driving snowstorm, but the weather did not diminish the militancy of the labor and community activists. They seem to ready for upcoming struggles.

The Special Session was adjourned before it was even officially started. Efforts at a deal over the weekend fell through. This set up today's events.

Some demonstrators said that it seemed that this special session and attention to the deficits were being presented at this time to coincide with the US Congress's upcoming special session where a new economic stimulus package will probably be enacted.

One thing is for sure is that the upcoming days, weeks and months will be filled with major rallies and demonstrations.

Teachers Union

Richard Iannuzzi, head of the New York State United Teachers, the 600,000 member union which represents all teachers in NY State, public school to college level and also staff members, called for a progressive tax program to deal with the deficits.

Phil Smith, president of the United University Professions, which represents faculty and staff at the State University of New York sounded the same theme.

Public Employees Federation [PEF] representatives angrily call on New York State to stop outsourcing their work. He said it costs the state millions of dollars. He said that work must be done by PEF members for far less cost to the State.

Other unions at the rally were SEIU 32 BJ and SEIU Local 1199 with their partner, their employer, the Greater New York Hospital Association.

Next Session in 2009

In 2009, the next time the Governor meets with the Assembly and Senate of NY State, all three will be the hands of the Democratic Party. This will be the first time in over 70 years that Democrats will have that level of political power. This is uncharted ground that should make the next session very interesting.

Across the Country

Across the country scenes like the one in Albany are being repeated. For example, in California, where the budget deficits are in the billions, their state capitol in Sacramento has seen many demonstrations. Readers are encouraged to send in their state capitol experiences.

Check out for more information about the struggle against the cuts in New York State.

Reprinted from Political Affairs Editor's Blog

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NY Unions Will Say a Loud "No" to Paterson Cuts

by Phil E. Benjamin

Tues, Nov. 18 on the State Capitol steps and for blocks around them, tens of thousands of workers and their unions, coupled with community activists, will be demonstrating against the budget cuts being proposed by Democratic Governor David Paterson.

Calling a special, post election session, of the New York State Assembly and Senate, Paterson hoped to preempt the 2009 budget session by getting agreement with elected officials from the Republican, soon to be Democratic, Senate and long time Democratic Assembly, that budget cuts must be made to fill the proposed $1.5 billion deficit for the year 2009. That agreement over the weekend failed.

He failed to get preliminary agreement over the weekend when he met with the leaders of those bodies. Now, the Special Session will face the wrath of the New York State United Teachers [NYSUT], over 500,000 strong, and many other unions. NYSUT represents all, and I mean all, teachers in New York State; public school teachers, college and universities [SUNY and CUNY].

Tomorrow's blog will fill in the list of demonstrators.

Stay tuned.

Reprinted fom Political Affairs Editors' Blog

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dawn of a New Era

People's Weekly World Editorial

A seismic shift, a watershed moment, an electoral landslide or the dawn of a new era. No matter what the turn of phrase, Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in the history books as the beginning of the end of the 30-year political reign of the ultra-right and its vicious pro-corporate agenda, and the end of a beginning of new politics in the United States of America.

Convinced by the power of one man’s arguments for hope, unity and change, his program and example, a 52 percent majority of voters rejected the old politics of fear, racism and red-baiting and elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.

Perhaps it was historically inevitable that this country elected its first African American president. The dynamics of slavery, race and racism, together with the historic role of the African American freedom movement in helping propel the expansion of democracy for all people, have always been a central narrative to the making of America.

An accident of history, maybe, is the fact that in 2009 the country will celebrate the bicentennial birthday of another tall, lanky, transformative figure from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln.

In this age of 24-hour news cycles and instant information, when a seismic victory happens it’s important to take a breath and reflect even while celebrating. There will be analysis in the coming weeks in our pages and web site. We’ll be taking closer looks at the many different actors, issues and developments.

But here is an initial take, a basic framework to ponder and analyze such a momentous moment. This was a victory for the whole U.S. working class. And workers of all job titles, professions, shapes, colors, sizes, hairstyles and languages put their indelible stamp on this victory.

This is an important point to ponder, not only for people here in the U.S., but also for our sisters and brothers around the world. The U.S. working class is pushing for a new day — in which our country can be a good global citizen and not the “rogue state” the Bush administration has projected.

The most organized section of the working class — the labor movement — played a stellar role in this election, organizing more than 250,000 labor activists in critical battleground states. But it was its role in challenging and educating union members on racial bias, coupled with a program for economic recovery, that labor proved its invaluable mettle.

A powerful coalition of forces, inspired towards a new kind of politics, bubbled up from the ground of discontent sown by the authoritarian, reckless and greed-driven policies of the Bush administration. Union members and retirees of all races and the African American people as a whole joined with the emerging political might of Latinos — Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and others — and with women and young people en masse to successfully challenge the power of the ultra-right. And the seeds of a renewed and strengthened Jewish-Black unity — historically so key to civil rights progress — are taking root.

Such unity — as President-elect Obama said — of “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” is an idea that has been grasped by millions of people and made into a material force shattering the Republicans’ “Southern strategy” and forcing this party of the reactionary right into a meltdown.

The election outcome represents a clear mandate for pro-people change on taxes, health care, the war in Iraq, job creation and economic relief, union organizing and the Employee Free Choice Act. Reform and relief are in the air. Their scope and depth will be the arena of struggle. The best thing the coalition that won this victory can do is to stick together and help the new administration carry through on its promises. We suspect an Obama administration will have to govern from the center with progressive and left voices included in the dialogue along with conservatives. The ultra-right and corporate interests will do everything in their power to limit, and even steal, the people’s victory.

Jubilation and celebration, yes, along with realization that the hard work is just beginning.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World

Friday, October 31, 2008

Upset could shift Empire State politics

By Dan Margolis

QUEENS, N.Y. — A major shift in the politics of New York state may be under way, and a local state senate race here may play a big part.

The race, in New York’s 15th State Senatorial district here, could help decide the fate of the state’s Legislature post-Nov. 4. The diverse district, long a Republican stronghold, could flip Democratic and in so doing, if the Democrats maintain their current seats and flip one other district in the state, would help elect the first Democrat-controlled State Senate in decades.

That, many say, would be a huge victory for the labor movement, tenants’ organizations and women and a defeat for big developers and the Republican right.

In this hot race, New York City Council member Joseph Addabbo is challenging Republican State Sen. Serphin Maltese, who has held the district’s seat for 20 years. Maltese has been a conservative icon for years, and was a founding member of New York’s far-right-wing Conservative Party.

A wide array of organizations have been involved in Addabbo’s campaign, including labor, women’s rights organizations and the Working Families Party, a statewide political party founded by unions and community organizations. The WFP has become influential in the state’s political scene, and is credited with providing the margin of victory for a number of progressive Democrats.

Working Families Party spokesperson Dan Levitan said Maltese “has helped block basic, fundamental things like raising the minimum wage or establishing a paid family leave program — simple, common sense things that most normal people favor but the Republicans in Albany have been able to block.”

“He is the most pro-landlord member of the state senate,” said Michael McKee, treasurer of the tenants’ rights organization TenantPAC. Maltese has not attended any meetings with organized tenants in at least 15 years, though he routinely meets with local property owners’ associations, McKee noted.

Addabbo’s victory is “entirely probably, but it's not guaranteed by any means,” McKee warned. Victory will likely be determined by who has the best get-out-the-vote operation on Election Day, he said.

To help bring in an Addabbo victory, Levitan said, the Working Families Party is bringing its experienced field operations into the race. “There are tons of volunteers; we’re knocking on tens of thousands of doors,” he said.

Some in the labor movement have argued that it is good for labor to have a divided Legislature because it means Republicans and Democrats have to fight for labor’s support, and therefore will pursue a pro-labor agenda.

“We disagree,” Levitan said. “We think that there are some big issues that need solving in New York, and the Republicans have clearly expressed their desire not to deal with them.”

Recently, some unions that used to support the divided-Legislature concept, like 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East, an electoral powerhouse, have moved away from this idea, and although it still accepted by some unionists, it seems to be on its way out.

There are a number of other races across New York state where a Democrat may win a Republican seat, including such diverse places as Western New York and Westchester County.

Progressive activists across the board agree that a Democratic victory will be just a start. Levitan said, “There’s still going to be work to do. In fact, we’ll have to work just as hard.”

But at least, he said, “one major obstacle will be gone.”

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World

Friday, October 17, 2008

Communist Leader's Testimony on City Council Term Limits Proposal

This written testimony was delivered to the New York City Council on Friday, October 17, 2008 as part of the hearings on the current term limits extension proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn. Hundreds of New Yorkers attended the hearings over two days and thousands more made their voices heard by calling and emailing their representatives in the City Council. I like many others couldn't wait for ten hours to speak in person so I was forced to submit my testimony for the record.

Despite the overwhelming outpouring against extending term limits in this manner, the city's elites and many city council people remain committed to backing the extension for various reasons, some opportunistic, some more principled.
If you would like to make our voice heard on this issue, visit the web page of the council and submit your testimony on line or by mail: New York City Council

"My name is Libero Della Piana, I am a resident of East Harlem and the Chairperson of the New York State Communist Party.

I want to declare my opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed term limit extension.

Don’t get me wrong. I and my organization are against term limits. They take away the right of voters to determine their representatives. But remember that the measure before you does not end term limits, it EXTENDS term limits, primarily as a means to ensure another four years for Michael Bloomberg.

In fact, the Mayor’s plan is aimed at creating a one-time extension of the Mayor’s term. His side deal with another billionaire, Ronald Lauder, to head up a Charter Commission in 2010, almost ensures a return to the existing term limits.

It is clear that this measure is not in the interests of the working people of New York City. It is an end-run around the twice-passed referendum in order to ensure to the financiers and big developers.

The main argument we hear is that we need Bloomberg to save the city from the ongoing financial disaster and the impending economic crisis in our city. We do not agree that a billionaire who is creature of Wall Street is the best one to address the mess that Wall Street financial elites created.

You might believe that term limits are an abstract issue and should not about any one candidate, but we would not be facing this measure if Bloomberg was not the Mayor. This measure is very much about the mayor and his tenure.

At a time when it is harder and harder to New Yorkers to live and thrive in this city because of skyrocketing cost of housing, when cuts in city spending dig into the pocketbook of working New Yorkers, we need to oppose this backdoor move to keep a friend of the developers in the mayor’s office.

We look forward to full and thorough debate of the term limit issue. This is not it. We believe that there should be no term limits on legislative bodies such as the City Council. An argument can be made for term limits on the Executive, the Mayor’s Office, which under Bloomberg has become even more powerful.

We hope you will block the Mayor’s proposal and consider a process that allows for full public debate. Do not allow the billionaire Mayor and his development buddies do and end-run on democratic process for their own interests.

Libero Della Piana
New York State Communist Party"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

US Communists say their time has come

New York communists in the news:

NEW YORK (AFP) — A rare bird in the political world, the US Communist Party is feeling rather smug in these days of capitalist turmoil.

At the party's New York headquarters on 23rd Street in Manhattan, regional party chairman Libero Della Piana, 36, laid out why he thinks Marxist-Leninism's time has finally come.

"We are very excited, we feel that we are at a turning point," Della Piana, an imposing half-Italian, half-African American with a pony tail, told AFP.

"We can afford to be less on the defensive for the first time since Ronald Reagan, and we can say our word in rebuilding America on a new basis, rebuilding a better world, instead of one based on the greed of the few."

The US Communist Party was founded in 1919 and never really took off. It was ostracized during the Cold War and members faced discrimination, even firing from their work, during the anti-Communist drive of the 1950s.

Today, the party claims to have 3,000 to 3,500 members -- seemingly not a threat to the giant Democratic and Republican parties contesting next month's White House election.

But American communists think that the collapse of Wall Street and huge disillusionment among the public with the economy has put them on a roll.

"We receive more and more phone calls, we have more inquiries from people, we see an increase in interest," Della Piana said. "We hope to be part of the discussion. I can see a role for the Communist Party in this next period."

"The crisis' number one lesson: the market cannot regulate itself," he said. "Otherwise it goes out of control."

Communist youth coordinator Erica Smiley, 28, said "the major issues for the young are: peace, jobs, health care, education, and we provide them with answers."

Whether the communists will be able to deliver remains open to question.

One plus is that their recently renovated New York headquarters, featuring the obligatory tomes of Lenin and Marx, is prime real estate -- a serious and very capitalist nest egg.

But few people were about during a visit by AFP on Monday and the atmosphere was collegial and slightly sleepy, rather than revolutionary.

"They are all out working to get people to vote," explained Bill Davis, 65, who has been a faithful member for 37 years.

There is no communist running for the White House and the Communist Party does not endorse Democrat Barack Obama.

Yet many staff here wore his picture on lapel buttons, while Republican John McCain was relegated to a box of tissues -- the tissues being pulled through his mouth.

Reprinted from AFP.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Join Peace Movement at Presidential Debate, Hempstead, Wed Oct 15

As a member organization of United for Peace & Justice/NYC, the New York State Communist Party is joining with others in actions outside the Presidential Debates to remind the candidates that we can't afford war and occupation. We know that there is a difference between a candidate who jokes about bombing Iran and casually talks of 100 years of occupation and one that is for setting a deadline to bring the troops home. Here's the call:

Tell the candidates:
Bring All the Troops Home Now!
Oct. 15th

Dear Friends,

Everyone is talking about the elections: on the train, at work, in the coffee shop, in the classroom. But what is the role of the peace and justice movement in this frenzied season? More than ever, we must keep doing what we have been doing for almost 6 years: speak out against the war and make sure that all the candidates know that the people of this country want all the troops to be brought home NOW!

You have two opportunities to let the presidential candidates know how you feel:

Final Presidential Debate
Wednesday, Oct. 15

3:00 - 4:45 PM
Rally at Hempstead Train Station with Iraq Veterans Against the War and then will march to meet up with the LI Alliance demonstration.

4:30 - 6:30 PM
Line Hempstead Turnpike at Hofstra University with the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives to present the People's Agenda.

NYC-UFPJ is supporting the actions that will be taking place on that day and encouraging all who can to attend. Click here for information about the trains from Manhattan, Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens. Please register here so we can ask the LIRR to add trains.

For more information, visit

If you are interested in joining the Communist Party for this action, please call 212-924-0550 or email today!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bloomberg Tries to Slip in a Third Term

Last week New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his intention to run for a third term as mayor of the country’s largest city. He called on the City Council to pass legislation that would change the City Charter, which currently bars him (and City Council members) from holding office more than twice. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has obliged the Mayor and helped introduce a bill extending city offices to three terms instead of two. A competing measure was introduced by City Council members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James calling for a new public referendum on the issue of term limits. Two such referenda in 1993 and 1996 established then reaffirmed term limits.

The long-rumored move by the mayor has thrown city politics for a loop. Whether or not they support term limits, many New Yorkers are outraged at the prospect of the City Council overturning two voter referenda just weeks before the Presidential elections.

The debate over term limits is important. Frankly we are largely against term limits. But the proposal of the mayor does little to facilitate a real discussion of the pros and cons of the issue. It is a last-minute ploy for the mayor to hold power past his 2009 final year. Just as the introduction of term limits 15 years ago through a highly financed publicity campaign, the process largely serves the interests of city’s elites.

Any legislation, and certainly a major decision such as this, must be judged by its impact negative or positive on the working people of New York: all the workers, the racially oppressed people, immigrant, women and youth of the city. This proposal puts the city administration back in the hands of Bloomberg who has been a loyal servant of his fellow billionaires, monopolists and financiers. We need a champion of working people and their issues, not a budget-slashing billionaire who puts private development first and will be quick to tighten belts while he is immune to the suffering.

Bloomberg, who was recently ranked the 8th richest man in the U.S. by Forbes Magazine, has been good to the big developers and his Wall Street buddies over the past seven years. The mayor has championed massive capital developments like Atlantic Yards, various sports stadiums that are receiving huge city subsidies and tax breaks and other private projects that use public financing. City elites are unhappy to see such a friend leave office. A recent New York Times article detailed how developers, financiers and other mega-rich New Yorkers were desperate to find a Bloomberg clone to replace him. With an extension of term limits they don’t need one.

Richard Lauder, another billionaire on Forbes’ list, financed the original campaign to impose term limits. Lauder and other big business elites supported term limits at the time because it suited their interests. They wanted to keep the revolving door on city offices turning to minimize the impact of progressive and even centrist elected officials. Lauder and Bloomberg recently said they were against changing term limits. But now Bloomberg remaining in office serves the billionaires’ interests. Under the pretense of the financial crisis, they claim they were forced into the change. Suddenly Bloomberg has reversed himself and even Lauder is now on board, because “these are extraordinary times.” Of course, the mayor has also promised to make Lauder head of a “Charter Revision Commission” to bring a term limits referendum before voters in 2010. Apparently the mayor believes a unilateral decision to put another billionaire in charge will make the process very transparent and unbiased. We think not.

Of course, Bloomberg’s relative popularity is what makes the move appealing to the mayor and his backers. If he was lagging in the polls, you can bet that none of them would be raising the issue of term limits. Despite the skyrocketing rents, crumbling schools, devastation to communities, corruption and cronyism, erosion of construction regulation and enforcement, police abuse and misconduct and a host of other problems that New Yorkers face, many do not blame Bloomberg. Many of the mayor’s worst policies are invisible to the average New Yorker. And Bloomberg is masterful at the PR game (he is, among other things, a media mogul after all).

Even if term limits are extended, the election for mayor is a year away. It remains to be seen if Bloomberg’s popularity can stand up through the deepening economic mess, several major labor contract negotiations and increasing anger of gentrification.

Some commentators have hinted that New York ”needs” a billionaire like Bloomberg since he understands the Wall Street crisis, which is having disproportionate impact in the city. Of course, they fail to mention that Bloomberg and his friends in the financial district are part of the problem that led us into this mess. Bloomberg is a creature of Wall Street. He worked for Salomon Brothers, did business with Merril Lynch, and cuts deals every day with the very crooks who got rich playing games with the economy. Famously he promised $1.65 billion in tax breaks to Goldman Sachs to lure their headquarters to their Ground Zero site.

Bloomberg despite shedding his GOP membership to become an “independent” is of the same opinion as Bush, McCain and the Republican Party that regulation is bad and that “the market knows best.” The Bloomberg policies have brought cranes crashing down around our ears just as the financial house of cards has come tumbling down. The U.S public has been bombarded with the idea that business can fix what government screwed up. The financial crisis and the $800 billion-plus government bailout of the private banks should put that lie to rest for good. Bloomberg, however, is hoping to use this false logic one more time to get reelected in 2009. He remains the CEO Mayor.

Many people are also upset by the way the mayor wants to make the change. “People—even elected officials—are allowed to change their minds,” The Working Families Party (WFP) stated in a press release. “But doing so on a momentous, constitutional change deserves full deliberation and patience.” WFP has set up a website, which calls for New Yorkers to oppose City Council action whether or not they support term limits. They and others believe the problem is the City Council overriding the will of the people.

But that’s only part of the issue. The imposition of term limits at this time by the mayor is clearly aimed at manipulating the public fears over the financial meltdown and slipping the proposal in during the buildup to the Presidential elections. Bloomberg had time to introduce a referendum on the ballot for November, but he played coy (as he did with running for President) in order to play his advantage. The process should be slowed down and thoroughly debated.

Communists have long believed that term limits are largely undemocratic, taking away the right of the people to elect who they will. Proponents of term limits argue that incumbents have an unfair advantage and can rarely be elected out of office. They believe that term limits ensure new blood in the political arena. It may, but it also ensures that strong representatives for working-class constituencies have to leave office just as they become experienced and effective advocates.

Since term limits became law in 1993 by popular referendum, the rule has also created political seat-hopping which often pits progressives against each other for higher office once their City Council terms are up. This musical chairs scenario is costly and encourages using public office as a stepping-stone instead of encouraging elected officials to be real representatives of the people and their interests.

But the previous referenda should not necessarily the final word on the matter. It has been over a decade since the last public referendum. The vote at the time was heavily influenced by a big money public relations campaign to influence public opinion. And leaving he current matter to referendum faces the same problem. The public may swing the other way due to fear mongering and well-financed campaigning by Bloomberg and Co. Or people will support the change because of the candidate not the principle. The point is not just how term limits changes, but who it changes for and what they stand for.

At the federal level, Members of Congress and Senators face no term limits. Only the Executive Branch, the office of the Presidency is subject to term limits. This is part of the checks and balances that developed over time. The executive branch is perhaps too powerful to go on without limit, while the Congress is the voice of the people and needs stability to stand up for the people.

Perhaps the same should be true at the city level. As the real debate about term limits continues and New Yorkers decide how the city should be governed, why not propose that the Mayor’s office be limited to some number of terms while the City Council—which, of course, is much more susceptible to being voted out if they lose the favor of the people—have no limit.

Of course, the other tragedy of the timing of Bloomberg’s move is that is distracts everyone from the urgent issues facing working-class New Yorkers right now: the financial crisis and its impact on local tax revenues, jobs, etc.; the attempt to renew disastrous mayoral powers over public education; the proposed social service and jobs cuts in Albany and City Hall; negotiating fair contracts with city workers, transit workers and others; the impending crisis in public transit, etc. A decision on term limits will help determine the occupancy of the Mayor’s Office and the City Council for 2010, but working people have urgent concerns still in 2008. Finally, this is a big distraction from the most important election of our time, just weeks away.

Nonetheless, we encourage everyone to come out to the public hearings October 16 & 17 in City Hall and voice their opposition not just to the way these term changes are being introduced but also to the Bloomberg Administration and his policies. This issue is not clear-cut. Progressives, unions and grassroots organizations have ended up on both sides of the question and many others remain neutral or just downright confused. We have to approach it with an eye toward the main problem we face: a possible four more years Bloomberg Administration.

The real criteria for any decision should be, what is good for the working people of the city, the great majority of the people? What gives them the greatest voice and power in a city more and more ruled by a small set of billionaire elites, with Bloomberg as their direct representative?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Citywide tenant protest in Harlem demands Real Rent Reform!

New York City tenants and housing organizations held a rally through heavy rain at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem tonight. Called by the Metropolitan Council on Housing and the Tenant's & Neighbors, the protest rally kicked off a new "Real Rent Reform Campaign" or R3.

Participants at the rally were outraged at the increase of rents for subsidized housing in the city. It is the 20th straight year of rent increases approved by the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB). Tenants have called for the dismantling or reform of the RGB which is fundamentally flawed and stacked against renters.

Many speakers called for defeating Republicans in the State Senate in order to pass pro-tennt legislation which has been blocked in Albany for years. State Senator Bill Perkins reminded the crowd that "we need troops in the streets and we need troops at the ballot box" to expand tenants rights.

The main demands of the R3 campaign are:

• Repeal vacancy decontrol
• Home rule on rents
• Save Mithcell-Lama and Section 8
• Reform the rent Boards

You can download a PDF of the campaign platform here.

For more information, visit the webpages of Met Council and Tenants & Neighbors

Curtis Sliwa Mocks the Daily Worker

On New York 1's Inside City Hall show tonight, conservative talk show host Curtis Sliwa accused El Diario's Gerson Borrero of reading "the Daily Worker of Gus Hall." That was his retort when Borrero said he wouldn't miss the recently demised New York Sun, the rightwing daily founded in 2002.

I guess Sliwa, who is backing McCain for President, is stuck in a time warp. The Daily Worker has been gone for decades, replaced by the People's Weekly World, a critically acclaimed newspaper celebrated by broad sections of the democratic movement. Gus Hall, former chair of the Communist Party USA, passed away in 2000.

Sam Webb, the current national Chair of the CP, has recently written a series of articles on the current financial crisis.

I think I am going to send a copy of the PWW to both Sliwa and Borrero and ask them to subscribee, it might give them both some perspective on the struggles of working New Yorkers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taking it to Wall Street: Rallies vs. bailout crowd 'the street'

By Libero Della Piana

NEW YORK—Unions, civil rights groups and community organizations called a series of protest rallies on Wall Street this week in response to President George Bush’s plan to bailout financial firms with no strings attached.

“Our country is facing the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression.,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney at the New York City Central Labor Council noontime rally on Sept 25. Nearly 1,000 union members gathered within earshot of the American Stock Exchange to demand Congress “bailout Main Street not Wall Street.”

“But for working people, this crisis is not new. Working people have been living this crisis with lost jobs and stagnant wages, crumbling schools and roads, with eroding healthcare and disappearing pensions.”

Sweeney went on to say that the then proposed bailout “does not even begin to address the roots of our crisis. It’s a bailout that simply ignores the real problems of working families.”
Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott was MC at the rally, speakers at which included Randi Weingearten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York, Lillian Roberts, executive director of District Council 37 of the American Federation of State Councty and Municipal Employees, and other New York labor leaders.

The Labor Council announced in a press release the same day “Seven Conditions for $700 Billion Bailout Plan,” which includes a stop to home foreclosure, aggressive public oversight, repeal of the Bush tax cuts, and overhaul of financial governance and regulation.
Later that same day, hundreds gathered near the Wall Street Bull, a 7,000-lb bronze sculpture in the financial district, forming just one of over 250 protests held nationwide at the same time. Called by US Action, Jobs with Justice, ACORN, United for Peace & Justice and other groups, the protests declared, “No Bush bailout!”

The diverse crowd carried homemade signs, sang songs and chanted slogans. Many protestors brought “junk” from home as an ironic stunt mocking the “cash for trash” deal in which the U.S. government will buy bad loans from financial institutes in order to aid their liquidity. Some protestors made their way up Broadway to Wall Street and gathered on the steps of Federal Hall, site of George Washington’s oath of office, which is kitty-corner from the Stock Exchange.

After announcement of a deal on the bailout in Congress Sept. 29, hundreds of union members rallied again on Wall Street in a protest called by Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s RainbowPUSH Coalition.

“The plan in Washington today involves too much money, controlled by too few people, without enough transparency,” said Jackson. “We should not be panicked into signing. We need hearings now. We need to save workers now. We need to save homeowners now.”

“If you want taxpayers’ money, then you should be accountable to the taxpayers,” TWU President Roger Toussaint said to Wall Street financiers. “If you want taxpayers’ money, then taxpayers should share in the upside not just the downside. If you want taxpayers’ money, then you have to make sure there are assurances against this happening again. If you want taxpayers’ money, then you have to curb excessive CEO pay. If you want taxpayers’ money, then we want assistance given to the victims not the predators. If you want taxpayers’ money, then we want protections for public employees, private employees, working people’s pension funds. If you want taxpayers’ money, then we want the money invested in the real economy—in healthcare and education, in mass transit, in our parks, our libraries. We want money invested where it matters.”

Congressional Democrats had tacked a number of measures onto the bailout before this week’s vote to ensure some protections for taxpayers and more economic protections for average Americans.

“The bulls and the bears of Wall Street have mauled and gored the American people for the very last time,” said Arthur Cheliotes, president of Local 1180 of the Communication Workers of America. “The free market doesn’t work. The free market is the law of the jungle. And in a jungle, only the biggest and the baddest survive.”

1199 Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda added, “What we are watching is the cumulative effect of the failed policies of Bush/McCain for the last eight years. We cannot afford four more years.”

While many speakers pointed out the complicity of both major parties in the deregulation of the financial sector, they also made it clear the difference between the two presidential candidates when it comes to financial governance. “They want a McCain/Reagan moment. We want a Roosevelt/Obama moment,” said Jackson.

Jackson ended Monday’s rally by calling for a massive march on Washington demanding economic democracy regardless the outcome of the current legislation in Congress. Participants dispersed with little idea that Congress was at that moment voting down the compromise bailout.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Jesse Jackon and Unions Protest on Wall Street

Before news that the bailout package failed today in Washington, hundreds of trade union members and civil rights advocates gathered on Wall Street to protest any bailout that favored Wall Street over Main Street.

Called by the Transport Workers Union Local 100, 1199 United Healthcare Workers East and Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the rally was held within site of the New York Stock Exchange on the very day that markets had their worst one-day fall in 20 years.

Here are photos from the rally. A full article in the People's Weekly World to follow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wall Street Demos Protest Bailout

Two big rallies rocked Wall Street today as Congress debated the Bush plan to bailout the financial elites. One called by the New York City Central labor Council and the other by a broad coalition of groups including United for Peace and Justice, US Action, True Majority, Acorn, to name a few.

The main message of each demonstration was to call on Congress to refuse any bailout of Wall Street without a real bailout of Main Street, transparency, accountability and controls. A full article will follow, but for now, here are some photos from the two events held hours and blocks apart.

Labor Rally at Noon on Broad Street and Exchange Place:

4pm Rally at the Wall Street "Bull":

Friday, September 5, 2008

NYC Labor Day: Time for a Change

This Labor Day working people and their families in New York State are in an exciting and challenging moment. For the first time in years, the labor movement together with its broad movement allies, has the potential to change the course of the country in a more positive direction.

The 2008 Presidential election is historic. Not only has the Democratic Party nominated an African American as its candidate for the first time, but there have also been record turnouts in the primaries and a vibrant grassroots movement has developed.

What’s at stake for working people in the election couldn’t be starker.

McCain represents four more years of the failed Bush policies of war and aggression, tax-breaks for the rich and big corporations, and destruction of social services vital to working-class communities. On the other hand, the candidacy of Barack Obama reflects and represents the massive desire for change: for a livable environment and a sustainable world, for jobs with justice, for peace and progress, for fair taxes and a program to rebuild our cities and towns. Let's be clear, there is a big difference between these two choices. McCain is no "maverick." He is a real conservative who puts the "rights" of the rich and corporations ahead of the needs of the working majority. McCain received a dismal zero percent pro-labor voting record for 2007 while Obama has a stellar 100 percent record and said he looks forward to signing the Employee Free Choice Act into law as our next President.

25 percent of the Democratic Party’s Convention delegates were union members, while the GOP Convention speakers took turns bashing unions and blaming them for the economic crisis in the country.

Of course, deeper Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and in an increase in progressives in the Congress will also shift the terrain in Washington, opening the way for legislation to turn-back the damage of the Bush years, and to repair the country from 30 years of right-wing rule. This is no time to sit out the election.

We not only have a chance to undo the Bush Agenda, but to win big transformative victories and set the stage for higher levels of struggle. A decisive electoral victory in November will lead the way to passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, the end of the occupation of Iraq and implement some form a of national health care. The working-class has been on the defensive for decades, this election has the chance to put the movements back on offense, to set the agenda for the country.

The potential for change is not just in Washington. There is a chance for a shift in the balance of forces in Albany as well. For the first time in decades, the Republicans could lose control of the New York State Senate. No longer will they be able to block progressive legislation, block taxation on the rich, and block reform of out-of-date laws like the Taylor Law, which bans public workers from striking.

A big people’s victory in November is not the end of the struggle, but a new beginning on more favorable ground. The mass movements of the people: the peace movement, student movement, civil rights movement, women’s movement, and labor movement have to keep the pressure on to ensure a new Democratic Administration and Legislature keep the promise to meet the people’s needs.

Together, we can win in November and together we can go on the to change the world.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

$1 Billion Slashed from Budget; TAP Preserved

It's official. The New York State Assembly, Senate and Governor have agreed on a package of cuts in Albany, culminating an emergency session of the legislature.

They cut $400 million from the 2008 budget (this is on top of the big cuts made to the budget in last April) and $600 million in cuts to next year's budget. While the final agreement fell well short of the proposed $2.6 billion in cuts originally proposed by Governor William Paterson, the measures will have a devastating impact on working people in the state.

The biggest hits were to And $50 million was cut from the City University of New York (CUNY), which missed big cuts in the Spring. The state's Tuition Assistant Program (TAP), however, escaped cuts. The student groups which mobilized to oppose higher education cuts this week condemned the CUNY cuts but claimed the preservation of TAP as a victory in a press release yesterday:
While many of the cuts implemented today and in recent months have wounded higher education deeply, we were pleased to see that funding for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) was at least spared the chopping block. By not cutting TAP — even in this time of strained
resources — our legislators have demonstrated a commitment to accessible higher education.

That said, the cuts to CUNY, SUNY, community colleges and opportunity programs and the governor's recent administrative cuts to SUNY will sting. We hope that the reductions in services that the cuts bring about will be short lived, that the support structures that
opportunity programs provide to students will remain intact, that the quality of education at SUNY and CUNY will not be undermined, and that affordability will not suffer.

New York should be increasing aid to higher education. Investing in the students of New York is a sure way to help pull out of our economic tailspin.
The agreement implemented now new taxes to address the crisis. Some Democratic legislators and local advocates—including New York city Council Member Charles Barron— had pushed for various measures to tax the rich in the State.

The cuts still leave a predicted $5.4 billion deficit in the 2009 budget which means there will be pressure too come back next year and cut even deeper. We have to build a movement now to point to real solutions to the fiscal crisis: progressive taxation, which makes the ultra-rich and big corporations pay their fair share.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NY students fight higher ed cuts

NEW YORK — On Aug. 19, Governor David Paterson called the legislature into special session to address the state’s growing fiscal crisis. One of the biggest targets is the higher education system. Students are not taking it lying down.

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Student Assembly of the State University of New York (SUNY), and University Student Senate of the City University of New York (CUNY) are jointly urging legislators to reject the cuts. NYPIRG program coordinator Fran Clark called them a “buffet of awful choices.”

The student groups told legislative leaders in a letter, “We submit that the benefits of affordable, accessible, high-quality public higher education far outweigh the costs. Higher education’s power as an economic engine and its potential for workforce development and innovation… represent the state’s best chance to pull quickly out of this economic nosedive.”

Students already took a big hit last April, along with seniors, people with AIDS and millions of others receiving human services. Then, SUNY suffered a whopping $150 million in cuts. Now the governor proposes further cuts of $100 million to SUNY, $50 million to TAP (the Tuition Assistance Program), $51 million to CUNY and 6 percent to all “opportunities programs.” The proposal would even cut funding for the new Veterans Tuition Awards in half.

“When you propose cuts to financial aid you take money out of the pockets of students and their families,” Clark told the World in a phone interview. Most programs to be slashed aim to provide low-income New Yorkers with college access.

Students aren't the only ones up in arms. “Slashing the CUNY budget is a terrible policy and absolutely the wrong way to address the budget shortfall,” said Barbara Bowen, president of CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC) representing 22,000 faculty and professional staff.

The PSC and New York City Council Member Charles Barron held a press conference with students at City Hall Aug. 15. Barron was the lone city council member to vote against the recent city budget cutting many human services.

The higher education cuts are among $1 billion in cuts the governor is asking lawmakers to pass this week to stave off the $6.4 billion deficit projected for 2009.

Unions, community groups and some legislators in Albany have proposed a different course: taxing the richest New Yorkers.

Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver’s bill for a new state tax on millionaires passed the Assembly but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Now Paterson has even proposed to cap property taxes, which state teachers’ unions say would cripple K-12 public education.

A Paterson advisor, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, also recommended taxes over cuts. Stiglitz wrote in a letter to the governor published by the New York Sun, “When faced with such an unpleasant choice, economic theory and evidence gives a clear and unambiguous answer: it is economically preferable to raise taxes on those with high incomes than to cut state expenditures.”

Originally published by the People's Weekly World

Monday, August 18, 2008

One Year Since Deutsche Bank Fire

It's hard to believe it has already been one year since the tragic Deutsche Bank fire. Not only are New Yorkers memorializing Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, the two firefighters killed in the blaze, but several new developments are underway on the case.

The fire was apparently caused accidentally by construction crews while demolishing the building permanently damaged in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The contractor (which had a history of mob affiliation and corruption) cut the standpipes that bring water to each floor for fire hoses. Firefighters were stuck in the smoldering hulk with no water and no escape. The suffocated when their oxygen tanks ran out.

As we pointed out previously, this was not simply an accident, but the culmination of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement of the Ground Zero site by City officials. Now the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is considering bringing charges against the City for negligent homicide.

Also, the New York Post reports that "a grand jury has been eyeing evidence of racketeering and money laundering against the contractors in charge of the structure."

Also, the Uniformed Firefighters Association is proposing new rules that would protect the lives of firefighters and other first responders. Simply, the Fire Department of New York would have to notify firefighters when there is no water available.

This is a good beginning. The Bloomberg administration should also be investigated for awarding sweetheart contracting bids, poor building safety standards and cronyism.

For fighters and construction workers, the memory many will have of Bloomberg will be crashing cranes and the horrifying inferno of the Deutsche Bank building.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Students Protest Proposed Higher Ed Cuts in Albany

Governor David Paterson, faced with an even larger deficit than expected in 2009, seems determined to solve New York State's economic problems by cutting benefits, services, government jobs, and yes, higher education.

The Gov has called for an emergency session of the State Legislature beginning Tuesday, August 19 and has proposed $1 billion in new cuts for this year purportedly to stave off deeper cuts next year. Of course, you can't cut yourself out of the crisis. Judicious use of new taxes on the rich and the big corporations can address the immediate budget problems and help put money back into the pockets of working people, which is the only way to really help the economy in the long-run.

Unfortunately, Paterson is also proposing a cap on taxes along with the cuts. By rejecting the proposal by some Albany Democrats for a new 1 percent tax on millionaires, Paterson leaves little room to do anything more than cut.

One of the biggest proposed cuts is to higher education spending in the state. Already in the budget adopted in April, the State University of New York (SUNY) had a whopping $150 million in cuts, and now the Governor's proposal would additionally cut $50 million from TAP (Tuition Assistance Program), $51 million from the City University of New York (CUNY), and 6% across the board from all "opportunities programs." The proposal even put on the chopping block the new Veteran's Tuition Assistance Program, which stand to lose 50 percent of its budget.

But students aren't having it. The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), the Student Assembly of the State University of New York, and University Student Senate of the City University of New York have come together to call on the State Legislators to reject the Governor's cuts.

In a letter to the leadership of the State Assembly and the State Senate, they stated argued,
"Students understand the gravity of the state’s economic situation, but we submit that the benefits of affordable, accessible, high-quality public higher education far outweigh the costs. Higher education’s power as an economic engine and its potential for workforce development and innovation has been well documented, and represent the state’s best chance to pull quickly out of this economic nosedive."
The student groups point out the obvious: that cuts to higher education disproportionately impact low-income and working class youth and their families. At a time when gas, grocery, transportation and housing prices are digging deep, cutting tuition assistance programs and financial aid doesn't spread the pain, it concentrates it on this already hardest hit.
"Some students who need TAP to pay for school could end up deeper in debt or unable to pay for school at all," said Cheryl Lynch, NYPIRG's Chairperson, and Stony Brook University student in a press release. "Just as bad, students enrolled in opportunity programs could find the support structures they've come to depend on severely weakened."
Today, a press conference was held with New York City Council Member Charles Barron, the lone member of that body to vote against the recent City budget that included many cuts to human services. Students plan to lobby their representatives in Albany beginning Monday. A call from you wouldn't hurt either.

For more on the nationwide crisis of State Budgets, check out the article, "Got Money?" By Marilyn Bechtel.

Look for a full article on proposed education cuts in next week's People's Weekly World.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Judge Orders Police to Release Info on 2003 RNC Protest Arrests

Despite their many attempts to hide the details of their illegal and unethical behavior at the Republican National Convention in 2004, a judge has denied the NYPD's request to keep the information secret.

If you remember, massive protests were organized the week of the RNC here in new York city to protest President Bush and his Party's role in planning and pushing the Iraq War, their anti-immigrant policies, the curtailment of civil liberties, anti-workers policies, etc. The police responded with surveillance, spying, infiltration of peaceable organizations and then "preemptive arrests." On the second day of the Convention, hundreds of activists were rounded up and arrested, not for breaking laws, but to prevent them from breaking some future law. Bystanders who were not protesting were alsso arrested. Protesters were corralled into a makeshift holding area, where they suffered in substandard and downright dangerous conditions before being released, many held as long as 66 hours. A court order forced the police to release hundreds who remained stuck in detention as the Convention droned on.

It is this group of detainees who, together with the New York Civil Liberties Union is suing the police to release the info pursuant to their civil case charging that the arrests were unwarranted.

The police will appeal the court decisions stating against that the reams of police logs and records will expose undercover agents, police techniques, and other sensitive info. What they fail to address is that the police—under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg who pursued the RNC to come to the Big Apple and guaranteed the GOP smooth sailing in their deliberation—were engaged in political repression not peace keeping or protecting safety and security. Plus, the lawyers for the plaintiffs have agreed to redact any information about undercover agents. They only seek what information was collected about protest groups that justified the arrests.

Like the attempts to hide racial data on New York City policing, the police attempt to hide their behavior at the RNC shows that there is something afoul at the NYPD. If there is nothing to hide, why are you hiding it? Time to come out into the light.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NYCLU Sues NYPD Over Racial Data

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit yesterday against the New York City Police Department (NYPD), which refused to provide data on race related to police shootings.

An article in New York Newsday reported that the department's annual report on police shootings contained racial data up until the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, when then-Police Chief Louis Anemone was ordered to remove the data by then-Commissioner Howard Safir.

Perhaps the thinking is that if there is no evidence of racial disparities, there are no racial disparities. Or moreover, that if there is no race data, then people of color can't get angry about the department's institutional racism. The strategy hasn't worked so far.

The shooting of Sean Bell last year and the huge community response to the no guilty verdict for the police involved with the shooting show that the NYPD maintains racially tinged police practices and reenforce the experience in communities of color that the police are more likely to shoot someone who is Black or Latino than someone who is not.

The NYPD should open its books and show everyone the data. The only way to get control of the out-of-control police in the city is to begin with full information. As Anemone told Newsday,
"'Sunshine is the best disinfectant,' Anemone said, repeating a lesson he learned under a previous commissioner, Bill Bratton. 'Open the place up. We have nothing to hide.'

'This is how you get the trust of the public -- I believe in this 110 percent.'"
Whether or not the police have something to hide, revealing the full impact and racial significance of their policing is the key to addressing community concerns for real safety and fairness.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Solution to Budget Crisis Lies in Taxes Not Cuts

Governor William Patterson has called for a special session of the State Legislature to address the State's growing fiscal crisis . Unfortunately, his solution is to make one of the worst budgets ever even worse for working people by cutting deeper.

Patterson has proposed 7% across the board cuts in all programs (there goes the "restored" education budget.) and a state-wide hiring freeze. Sadly, he has simultaneously downplayed taxing the rich.

According to the New York Sun, Nobel Prize-winning economist and Patterson economic advisor Joseph Stiglitz, recommended a different solution to the gov:

"New York, like most states, is now facing an unenviable choice: either taxes have to be raised, or expenditures cut," Mr. Stiglitz wrote. "When faced with such an unpleasant choice, economic theory and evidence gives a clear and unambiguous answer: it is economically preferable to raise taxes on those with high incomes than to cut state expenditures,"
wrote Stiglitz.

Back during the budget debate, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver championed a 1% tax surcharge on millionaires which would have filled much of the budget gap. Recently departed Senate Leader Joe Bruno wouldn't let the measure come out of committee. The budget compromise included no new taxes on the mega wealthy or big corporations.

A while back the New York Times reported that many millionaires have no problem paying their fair share, especially during a recession:

“I’m happy to do it,” said Arlyn Gardner, who did not hesitate to declare herself wholly in favor of a plan to raise income taxes on New Yorkers who earn more than $1 million a year. (That would include Ms. Gardner, a prominent philanthropist who splits her time between two homes, one on Fifth Avenue and one in Rye, N.Y.)

“I read about it, and I thought, ‘A lot of people won’t agree with this.’ But I say, ‘Why not?’ We pay taxes to help those who need it.”

Donald Trump is one who does not agree with the idea. “Foolish,” as he put it in a recent telephone interview. “I think it’s a great idea — if you are looking to force rich people to move to states like Florida,” said Mr. Trump, dismissing the notion that the wealthy should be expected to shoulder the burden when times get tough.

“In times of financial distress, the rich get hurt also,” Mr. Trump added.

Poor Donald. The rich cry too, apparently.

Fact is, the debate about how to address the State's fiscal crisis and the general economic crisis in the country has been topsy-turvy. Thirty years of market extremist ideology and right wing rule has made "tax" a dirty word and narrowed the range of solutions in Washington, Albany and City Hall.

As Stiglitz points out, cutting social services is much worse for the economy than raising taxes. Government layoffs, and reductions in benefits and services that lead to less cash in the pockets of low-income and other working people all adds up to slowing the economy.

The argument that increasing taxes on the rich and the big corporations will slow the economy just don't hold up. Taxes on the rich are low. profits are up and wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. A limited tax will not drive the jet-set from their Park Avenue suites to their Summer homes on the Cape.

Remember, the way we got out of the Great Depression wasn't by trimming our way out of the crisis. The government spent its way out of the crisis. Putting people to work on government public works and public services jobs means cash in pockets of people that actually spend it. This is the way to get the economy going. It was rampant unproductive and highly speculative investment in energy, housing and financial markets which caused this crisis. The "market" on its own, won't get us out.

The main measure of the budget's success should be its impact on the working people of our state.

Let's put pressure on our State Legislators to put the millionaire's tax back on the table and to say no to any additional cuts. Then come November, let's ensure that a new President and a new Congress are motivated to put millions of Americans back to work rebuilding this country for the Green Millenium.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In the shadow of NASDAQ, Dominican Americans decry gas speculation

"RI State Senator Juan Pichardo speaks against oil
speculation surrounded by other Dominican American
elected officials and community members outside
NASDAQ in Times Square, July 30, 2008."

NEW YORK—A group of Dominican American and other Latino elected officials with dozens of community members protested petroleum speculation here in Times Square July 30. Called by the League of Dominican American Elected Officials and hosted by New York State Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat, the protest was held outside the headquarters of NASDAQ, which trades oil futures.

“We are here to address rampant unregulated speculation conducted in the NASDAQ trade market,” said Espaillat, who is co-chairman of the league. He and other speakers blamed market speculators and deregulation of the oil markets for the unprecedented oil and gas prices in working-class Dominican American communities in the U.S., and in the Dominican Republic. The national average for a gallon of gas in the United States is now $3.89 and in the Dominican Republic gas tops $6.00 a gallon, according to some reports.

Speakers blamed the staggering gas prices on the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which opened the door to speculation on energy commodities. U.S. gas prices have more than doubled since the act was passed. The league is supporting legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), which would reestablish some regulation to curb such speculation. President Bush vetoed an attempt to reform the act earlier this year. Espaillat told reporters that Congressional Republicans attempted to kill Reid’s bill by introducing offshore drilling proposals into it last week.

“This winter in New England is going to be a difficult one,” said Rhode Island State Senator Juan Pichardo, referring to predictions of high heating-oil prices next season. “We are stepping up not only for congressional action but to build an alliance with [Dominican Republic] President Fernandez.” Pichardo is the other co-chairman of the league.

In response to the global oil crisis, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez is proposing a Global Petroleum Solidarity Fund be created to assist countries with annual per capita income less than $6,000. Under the proposal, oil-producing nations would allocate 3 percent of their record earnings to the fund.

“Our goal is to let the speculators on Wall Street know, we will not be invisible. We are being impacted by oil prices not only in this country, but in the Dominican Republic,” Councilman Reynaldo Martinez of Haledon, N.J., told the World.

Elected officials from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland participated in the protest and press conference. The American Northeast is home to the majority of Dominican Americans.

The crowd chanted, “Lower the prices!” as they picketed. Some held signs reading, “Talk is cheap. Gas isn’t,” and “Wall Street gets drunk and effects everyone” in English and Spanish. Some held Dominican flags, but one protester assured a curious passerby, “This is for everyone. Gas prices are killing everyone.”

Pichardo said in a written statement, “Without a legal framework to halt market speculation, U.S. Hispanics, as well as all the most disadvantaged groups and countries around the world will end up paying for the profits of speculators who don’t see beyond their own greed.”

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

City Subways Fail to Make the Grade

Straphangers Campaign of the New York Public interest Research Group (NYPIRG) has released their annual "State of the Subways" report today.

As any regular rider of public transport in the city can tell you, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has failed to make the grade.

Combining data on the subway services as well as surveys of commuters, the report shows that the services are deteriorating as are rider's opinions of it. The report found that "car breakdowns worsened from a mechanical failure every 156,624 miles in 2006 to one every 149,646 miles in 2007." There was little improvement in clarity of subway car announcements, available seats and subway car cleanliness. Plus, service from line-to-line varies widely. Overall, commuters rate the rider unworthy of the current $2.00 fare.

Ridership is at an all-time high in the city due to gas prices and clogged freeways. Yet the subways and bus systems have not improved accordingly. Quite the contrary. In June the MTA announced that it was postponing repairs on a number of lines due to projected deficit.

This is the backdrop too the recent proposal from the MTA to increase subway fares yet again. If implemented next year's fare hike will be only the second ever back-to-back increase in the history of the system. The MTA's contract with TWU Local 100 expires early next year as well, and there will no doubt be attempt to pit low fares against transit worker's demands.

The state of the subways is clearly in decline. The main problem is that straphangers are being asked to fit the bill while the big corporations and employers in the city (who could never do business here without the subway system!) don't pay their fair share.

Plus, debt relief to pay off the loans the MTA accrued in the 1970s now adds up to nearly 20% of the budget...and growing. That's 40¢ of every farecard swipe!. The debt should be wiped clean. The banks have been more than paid back. That coupled with a targeted tax of city's biggest corporate employers can avoid a fare hike and even ensure growth of the public transport system.

We need the subways now more than ever. The public transportation system is the only way to make a city like our livable, sustainable and affordable. Riders don't mind paying their fair share, but only if corporate America pays theirs too.

Friday, June 6, 2008

NY Party Leader Featured on

From the website of "The Communist Party USA is the party of the future. A party that represents the interests of working people everywhere: The environment, civil rights, womans empowerment and a new "New Deal." We believe that the results of the November General Election will reflect as much."

Fast-Buck Construction Behind Crane Disaster

By Gabe Falsetta

NEW YORK — A crane collapse here May 30, killing two construction workers, brought the total of construction-related deaths in the city since January to 19. There have been 31 deaths of construction workers on the job here in the last seven months, a big increase over previous years.

This latest dramatic accident, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has drawn the attention and conversation of New Yorkers to the crisis brought about by out-of-control for-profit development in the city.

A previous crane collapse on Manhattan’s East Side in April killed seven people and injured several more, leading to the forced resignation of New York City Building Commissioner Patricia Lancaster. But sacrificing Lancaster as a scapegoat has not freed Mayor Michael Bloomberg from blame.

Bloomberg has been the architect of the construction boom in the city, which has emphasized for-profit residential and commercial development through tax and other incentives, rezoning and public financing of massive building projects.

High-rise building construction in particular has been growing exponentially, but not without problems. High-rise buildings require special cranes and equipment that are dangerous and require specialized training and safety measures. But city oversight offices may not be up to the challenge.

According to the Department of Buildings, the number of complaints has increased to 140,000 a year from 38,000 in 2002.

Bloomberg and acting Building Commissioner Robert Li Mandri planned to hire 63 additional inspectors for building sites, bringing the number of inspectors to 461. It was too little too late for the workers who died May 30.

Hundreds of worksites and dozens of cranes are in operation in the city. The Department of Buildings is evaluating conditions at sites across the city.

Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employer’s Association, a trade organization of unionized construction contractors, who was on a taskforce created by Lancaster earlier this year, said many small firms that use non-union labor openly flout laws and regulations. “They don’t file building permits,” said Coletti. “They don’t care about their workers. They don’t care about public safety. They want to get in, get the job done, go to the next one and put the money in their pocket.”

Of course, the contractors are not the only ones to blame. The various city agencies mandated with oversight of construction and buildings often look the other way or aid in substandard, unsafe or overtly illegal construction. After the crane collapse in April, Lancaster revealed that the high-rise being built was erroneously granted a building permit in violation of zoning laws. A complaint at the site went uninvestigated. The inspector admitted to signing off on the crane without actually visiting the site.

The site where the crane fell last week had a slew of violations and complaints against it, some related to the crane’s use. It appears that workers, nearby residents and passers-by were at risk long before the crane fell.

Local construction workers marked Workers Memorial Day (April 28) this year by mourning the loss of the many coworkers who have died in the past few months. At a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Edward Malloy, president of the New York Building and Construction Trades Council, said, “No one will forget the fallen workers because the legacy of all construction workers ... is the skyline of New York.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) called for an investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Gov. David Paterson announced a state investigation into the latest accident. Bloomberg was angered by both initiatives, insisting that the Department of Buildings was not at fault and arguing that “construction is a dangerous business and you will always have fatalities.”

Many fear that until major changes are made to slow and regulate the building boom in New York City, we are likely to have more construction workers — and perhaps bystanders — die from the construction crisis.

Libero Della Piana contributed to this article.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World.