Participatory Budgeting: A Major Victory
The public vote, which was the culmination of months of work done by thousands of New Yorkers across the city, closed this past weekend with over 5,000 of votes cast. The project was undeniably a HUGE success!
CVH has worked with a range of partners, including Council Members Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) and Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), as well as The Participatory Budgeting Project, and many other city-wide and local partners to facilitate a new process for determining how local communities directly prioritize how public funding will be invested in their community. This process, called Participatory Budgeting, allowed residents in four city council districts to directly decide how to invest more than $4 million of their own tax dollars.
CVH has served as Lead Community Engagement Partner across the city and has been leading the mobilization effort in Council District 8 alongside Council Member Mark-Viverito. Each Council Member reserved at least $1 million in discretionary capital funds for their constituents to allocate, and as final announcements were made even more resources were dedicated!
It has been a long and successful campaign and we'd like to thank all the members, allies, funders, and new friends that supported and joined us in this effort! We're already looking forward to the next cycle of PB!
You can read more about Participatory Budgeting on our website, and view the full list of winning projects on Facebook. Contact Vincent@CVHaction.org for more info.
Building the Workforce Campaign Takes the Fight to End WEP to Cuomo's Front Door!
The Building the Workforce Campaign (or, the Welfare Campaign) visited Governor Andrew Cuomo's Mt. Kisko home on the morning of Sunday, March 12, just as the daylight savings sprung ahead, to tell him it was way past time he fund Transitional Jobs. Transitional Jobs provide real experience, a real paycheck, labor protections, and the ability to pay into Social Security and receive EITC. The existing program, the Work Experience Program (WEP), doesn't provide any of those advantages.
Leaving the Governor's house, Tyletha Samuels, a long time leader at CVH said, "Governor Cuomo didn't answer his door today, but I hope he got our message that low income people need a job and are going to keep trying no matter what to make him see that we need to put money where it is really needed -- the Transitional Jobs program."
Following this, we took this message to the Governor in Albany (see below) though sadly there was $0 in the final state budget for Transitional Jobs. We've moved our focus to the NYC level, where Mayor Bloomberg has proposed $25 million in cuts to the Park Opportunity Program (POP) which has provided thousands of jobs for people on public assistance for over ten years. There were over 6,000 POP positions in 2010 and if his proposal goes through, it will be down to about 1,000 POP positions. These POP positions would be replaced with WEP workers.
In March, we released a statement outside New York City Hall calling for an end to WEP. This statement, which we organized, was signed by the presidents of Transit Workers Union Local 100, AFSCME District Council 37, the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union, and dozens of faith and elected leaders, including the Chair of the NY City Council Parks Committee (Melissa Mark-Viverito) and the Chair of the Welfare Committee (Annabell Palma) -- two committees that are critical to bringing an end to WEP.
Watch the 90-second video of our visit to Cuomo's house and take a look at the copy of the public statement around WEP in NYC on our website. Contact Jennifer@CVHaction.org for more info.
CVHers Unite in Albany to Call for Transitional Jobs and to Close Corporate "Taxholes"
On March 15, CVH members came together in Albany to face down the State Business Council, which leads the Committee to Scam New York (a/k/a Committee to SCAM New York), a major business lobby pushing for tax cuts for rich individuals and corporations, but service cuts for everyone else. New York City and Yonkers members gathered bright and early, before making stops in the Hudson Valley and, ultimately, outside the Business Council. We dropped off dozens of brightly-colored piggy banks to encourage the corporate piggies that aren't paying their taxes to finally pay up. Those corporate piggies included Verizon, News Corp., and National Fuel (the President of National Fuel leads the Business Council & the Committee to Scam NY!).
After delivering this message to Albany's corporate power-brokers, we held some legislative meetings and then gathered outside Governor Cuomo's office with "shackles" on, symbolizing the unpaid work many CVH members are forced to do under the Work Experience Program (WEP). We delivered to his office a key that would unlock those shackles, but neither the governor nor his aide who came to speak with us would accept the key and unlock the shackles. This action was hot on the heels of our visit to Gov Cuomo's Mt. Kisko home the weekend before.
It was great to have CVH members from across the state, many working across different campaign areas, join together in solidarity to demand that corporations pay their fair share and that New York State and our elected leadership create good jobs through the Transitional Jobs program!
See picture from our Albany visit to the Business Council and the Governor's office on Facebook.
Charges Dropped Against CVH Members and Allies Arrested in Civil Disobedience in Washington, DC
Last year, as debate raged around whether the "debt limit" should be raised, CVH members and allies, including many from VOCAL-NY, were arrested in the U.S. Capitol Building for disrupting the business of the Congress. CVH members and allies were arrested, some due to unjustified actions by the Capitol Police, because they wanted to let it be known that the debate that the Tea Party was forcing upon the country -- whether or not the US should pay its bills -- was irresponsible and would do incredible damage to our communities. These brave members went to Washington to make their voices heard and they helped to change the debate around the debt ceiling.
The remaining charges were finally dropped in March 2012, though some were forced to travel to Washington a number of times and were subjected to drug testing and other invasions of their privacy because of their brave stand. As a CVH community, we would like to say: THANK YOU TO EACH OF THEM!
While just over a dozen people took this stand in DC, they respresent the interests of us all!
Public Housing Campaign in the News
The Public Housing campaign has been working with the residents of Washington Houses in East Harlem to push back against an unwise plan from the City's Housing Authority to destroy a picnic area and playground and replace it with giant trash compactors.
We have secured support letters from local State Senator Jose Serrano, Borough President Scott Stringer, and effectively raised public attention on the issue through sustained media coverage, including on Fox 5, ABC 7, and the NY Daily News. This has already led NYCHA to cut in half its proposal from dumping six compactors there to proposing three.
We also continue work to demand repairs be fully funded in NYCHA. And not only that, but that the repair work itself be done by NYCHA residents. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn made an announcement that she will be including $10 million for just such a program, and we met with her office in March to discuss that and to invite her to tour public housing with us and to join us when we visit Philadelphia this summer to see their worker center that supports worker training for public housing residents.
Learn more about our work with Washington Houses' residents here. Contact Kflu@CVHaction.org for more info.
Yonkers Members Push Participatory Budgeting, Quality Jobs
This month, Yonkers members welcomed a new member of the State Assembly, Mrs. Shelley Meyer, as well as followed up on discussions with their new mayor around initiating a participatory budgeting process in Yonkers. They also spoke with Mayor Spano about expanding opportunities for jobs made available through funds that come to Yonkers from Washington, DC. Yonkers continues to lead an effort to end the unpaid Community Work Experience Program in Westchester County, just as it is a priority in New York City, with recent discussions with the County's Community Services Committee around replacing the program with quality Transitional Jobs.
Contact Juanita@CVHaction.org for more info.
Newburgh & Poughkeepsie Gear Up around Economic Development & Opening Elections to the 99%
In Newburgh this month, we worked with the Area Labor Federation on an op-ed that ran in the Poughkeepsie Journal discussing the needs for economic development in Newburgh City. This is in sharp comparison with a local effort to give a $10 million tax break to the developer of a retail project that may or may not create jobs, and if they are created, we don't know if they'll be GOOD jobs.
In Poughkeepsie, we're building momentum for our work around opening state elections to the 99%. Currently less than 1% of New Yorkers contribute to candidates running for office and if you're a candidate that isn't super-wealthy, your chances of success are grim.
If we want New York to have an economy that provides good jobs and good housing, we need a New York government that understands the needs of our community and responds to them. We need elections where the super-rich don't silence our voices with gigantic contributions to candidates. Instead we need elections where we can make our voices heard, where we cam leverage our financial resources and where we can have candidates from our communties that understand our communities run for office and win.
In the months ahead, the members of the Poughkeepsie chapter will be helping to lead this charge for CVH.
Contact Jenny@CVHaction.org for more info.
CVH Joins with NPA, Advancement Project & Human Impact Partners to Release Health Impact Assesment of HUD Proposal
CVH's Agnes Rivera, with Liz Ryan Murray of National People's Action, wrote in Politico this month:
"Just when poor people and communities of color need more stable, affordable housing, the Obama administration has chosen a pilot program that could turn the public housing system into a volatile private venture of shifting ownership and management structures."
"The most irresponsible part of the Rental Assistance Demonstration pilot program, which would allow public housing agencies and private multi-family housing owners to use public and private funds to make capital repairs, is that it exposes public housing to the risks associated with the private market — including foreclosure, bankruptcy and default. It does this by allowing public housing to access private debt and equity, and shift into a mixed-financing model, which has proven historically to be unstable for low-income families."
Find the article and full report on our Facebook page. Contact Mo@CVHaction.org.
CVH is Hiring!
Community Voices Heard is seeking an organizer to grow and facilitate the Poughkeepsie chapter. You can view the full description on our Jobs & Internships webpage. Desired start date is June 1, so get your application in ASAP! Contact cvh@CVHaction.org for more info.
As always, CVH has been very busy over the last month and there is LOTS more coming up. Be sure to stay up to date with everything going on by getting emails, following online and (the best option!) get in touch with an organizer directly!
CVH Executive Director
P.S. As always, we would love to have you out at any of the events listed on the left column up top, and welcome any financial donations from members, allies, supporters and friends! You can make an online donation to CVH here.
P.P.S. We were just honored on April 1 by the Three Parks Independent Democrats. They said they presented the, "Jesse Crawford Community Service Award to Community Voices Heard for its invaluable work improving the lives of low-income families and communities." Thanks, Three Parks! A few pictures of the afternoon are on Facebook.