NYS Gov. Paterson Faces Brooklynites With Hatchet

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budget cuts.

Congressman Ed Towns, NYS Assemblywoman Annette M. Robinson, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, NYS Assemblyman Darryl Towns, and City Councilman Al Vann hosted a community forum entitled, “Community Conversation with Governor David A. Paterson”  on Tuesday, December 1, 2009.

Hundreds of anxious constituents filled the pews at First A.M.E. Zion Church, located at 54 MacDonough Street in Brooklyn, New York, anticipating their opportunity to personally communicate  -- and have their questions answered.

In his opening remarks, the Governor stated that he will run for re-election in 2010, which resulted in an explosion of jubilant and lengthy ovations.

Stalwart City Councilmember Tish James passionately implored that the Governor not balance the budget on the backs of poor and middle class New Yorkers and demanded a broad based tax on the wealthy, rather than what she described as a “nickel and dime approach to balancing the budget,” referring to and denouncing the Governor’s proposal to tax commonalities such as movie theaters, taxis, buses, satellite, motor fuel, SUNY, CUNY, wine, beer and soda.  Alternatively, James suggested that commuters from Long Island and Westchester, private colleges, individuals who engage in cosmetic plastic surgery and developers who are building luxury housing should pay more.  “Mr. Governor, we applaud your coverage, we support you and we will stay with you and we reject the polls, the posters, the talking heads, the think tanks the political pundits and we definitely reject the New York Post,” James concluded.

Governor Paterson addressed the people stating, “We are in very difficult times and the interests who are bringing you information may not always have you in mind.  Right now in this country the amount of deficit that states have run up is twice the amount of money that we are receiving in stimulus money.  So, as people criticize the stimulus program, what they don’t understand is that without it, the problem would be twice as bad.  So, we applaud President Obama and thank him for the effort to try to put more and more Americans back to work."

"Right here in NYS we are at the epicenter of the financial crisis.  Twenty percent of the proceeds that we receive come from Wall Street and it was a Wall Street collapse that caused this national recession. So, because of that, New York has been hardest hit by the economic downturn.  New York’s revenues; taxes we collect are down twice the national average.  You would think that New York would be in the worst state of affairs compared to all the other states. But that actually is not true because we identified the national crisis first.  In July of 2008, we made it clear that there would be a recession that would hit this country worse than any other crisis since the great depression."

"In August, 2008, my legislative colleagues joined me in Albany and we not only balanced the budget in the middle of the year, we created a half a million dollar surplus. So, when the recession hit, it cushioned that blow for a period of time. But again, New York was ground zero for the recession and has actually lost more than any other state."

"However, 34 states, now, have taken drastic actions that New York has not had to take, because they couldn’t make the tough decisions when they had to.  Twenty six states have shut down and abolished all of their early childhood education and pre-kindergarten programs.  Twenty one states have laid off and furloughed workers.  Nine states have actually engaged in early release programs, reducing parole and letting people out of prison because they can’t afford to keep them there.  The state of Hawaii has, at this time, no more after school programs of any sort, so does the state of Michigan. The state of Michigan now has a 16% unemployment rate.  The state of Arizona is selling off all their state properties.  They sold their own capitol and leased it back to themselves to avoid the inability to pay their debts."

"Now, we come to the granddaddy of mismanagement, California, which has a credit rating that is called “Triple D.”  It is one level above junk bond status.  And yet, they had to borrow nine billion dollars to balance their budget in the third quarter of the year.  Now, they have a debt of a billion dollars ~ the interest on the money they borrowed.  The state of Hawaii has shortened its school week from five days to four.  New York is not in that group of 34 states that have gone through this peril.  New York is one of the 14 states that is trying to come out of the recession and move into the recovery phase if we can just continue to make difficult decisions. I’m not going to lie to you, they are going to be painful, but they will keep us out of crises."

"It’s like when you wake up in the morning and you turn on the traffic and transit reports and find out what happened to other people when they were going to work.  So, if it’s the wrong train, you don’t take it.  If it’s the wrong road, you don’t drive it. If it’s the wrong day, you don’t move at all.  Why can’t we listen to what has happened to our neighbors around the country who thought they could refinance their problems into the future and are now experiencing the terrible plight that occurs when you spend money that you don’t have.  The day of reckoning has come for New York State. So, we have introduced a deficit reduction plan – a plan that still will not be enough because our revenues continue to plummet worse than any other state. But, the hope is that we can get through this. We can solve these problems by making tough choices on the front end.”

“Before I came out, I heard Councilwoman James say that we need to tax the rich.  We are doing that right now, because nobody is going to avoid sharing this sacrifice.  We have abolished, for the time being, the rebate on property tax relief.  Upset every middle class person north of Westchester and all on Long Island. But you know what? You have to share the sacrifice” the Governor continued.  “I have marched on picket lines because we weren’t sharing the sacrifice in the ‘90s, but we are sharing it now.  We are making sure that everybody regardless of their wealth, regardless of their geographic location, regardless of their influence, will share the sacrifice.”

On education cuts, the Governor stated, "No one likes to cut money from education, especially in the middle of the school year ~ until you find this out ~ Two things: (1) 71% of all education costs go to administration. But when you see the protest commercials, all you hear is about the money being taken away from children.  Yes, 29% of it is for children, but 71% of all education costs go to administration.  (2) 95% of the districts that we cut have reserve funds; money they saved to absorb the cuts that we’ve given them.  From the poor districts, we didn’t take any money from them, because it’s a wealth based tax cut.  If you couldn’t afford it, we didn’t make you pay.  But when you watch the commercials, they talk about the poor school districts, when in fact, they are lobbying in Albany for across-the-board cuts that would destroy the poor school districts.  So, in many ways they are exploiting people in our communities to get favorable responses when the actual result is going to exacerbate the problem.”

During the Q&A session, moderated by NYS Assemblywoman Annette M. Robinson, some of the deepest community concerns were education, HIV/AIDS, false arrest and imprisonment among African Americans and Latinos, extreme punishment and male rapes in the prison industrial complexes.

City Councilman Al Vann, who described Governor Paterson as a brilliant, insightful and compassionate man who loves public service, admonished the audience in dismissal of mainstream media stating, “If we do not listen to our own voices, then we are following somebody else’s agenda . . . If you believe everything you hear, they will have you hating yourself.”

Brenda Jeanne Wyche is Managing Editor of The Black Star News and Harlem Business News.

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