us you care: the People’s State of the State Rally.
Photo: Teri Currie
in New York state set their sights on health care for all
in the new year
In his State of the State address yesterday (Wednesday, Jan.
5), Gov. George Pataki said, “It’s not about government programs,
policies or agencies—they are the means, not the ends. It’s
about the people of this great state and how we can make their
New Yorkers surely agree—it is about making their lives better.
But many think that government programs, policies and even
agencies should be given more of a chance as a means to help.
Those who participated in the 16th annual People’s State of
the State Rally on Tuesday (Jan. 4) said they’d like to see
a discussion on universal health care in the Legislature,
sufficient budget funding for programs that provide basic
necessities to families, closure of corporate loopholes that
keep dollars out of the state coffers, and food programs to
provide millions of meals to the many who need them.
for show: Gov. George Pataki shakes hands with Assembly
Speaker Sheldon Silver at the State of the State Address.
yeah, and a new governor.
While the latter already looks likely—polls show Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer with a double-digit lead over Pataki,
should the latter decide to try for a fourth term (Spitzer
already has announced his gubernatorial bid)—the rest will
take some work. This is why about 60 antipoverty advocates
assembled on the steps of the Capitol for the People’s State
of the State. Between chants of “Pataki’s gotta go,” and calls
for “no more corporate welfare,” some spoke about the problem
of poverty in New York state and the Capital Region.
made it simple this year,” said Mark Dunlea, associate director
of Hunger Action Network of New York State. “We’re asking
[the Legislature] to fund a study on universal health care;
that’s one of our biggest issues this year.” Despite the win
of a moderate minimum-wage increase in 2004 (to take effect
by 2007), minimum wage still falls far short of paying for
health care, especially on top of rent, utilities, food and
Dunlea cited a June 2004 report by Citizen Action of New York,
which found that more than 5.6 million New Yorkers went without
health coverage for all or part of 2002 and 2003, 65 percent
for six months or longer. Three out of four of these people
had jobs. Dunlea said the lack of coverage, especially for
seniors, contributes to the high property-tax burden carried
by local governments, as the cost of Medicaid carried by the
counties forces local property taxes to soar. An overhaul
of the whole system could change this.
we’re saying is step back,” said Dunlea. “Everyone agrees
we need a universal health-care system. The question is how
to do it.”
Nationally, universal health care has had a number of high-profile
supporters, from recent presidential candidates Ralph Nader
and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to the late Democratic Sen.
Paul Wellstone to Republican former Sen. Bob Dole. In 2004,
the Institute of Medicine, an independent, nonprofit group
that advises Congress and the federal government on health
matters, called for universal care by 2010. But the cause
faces formidable political opposition at the federal level,
so many supporters feel the best approach is state-by-state.
health-care system is full of inefficiencies, inequities,
waste, fraud, and abuse created by having allowed health care
to be converted into a mere commodity in the marketplace,”
said state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) in a past press
release. Sen. Krueger said yesterday that New York has the
potential for starting a national push for universal care.
“We could be the tail that wags the dog if we choose, and
frankly, we have to.” Krueger fears rising prescription drug
prices and recent federal and state exploration of Medicaid
Dunlea said other states such as Maine, Oregon and Rhode Island
have looked into the issue with more depth, something we could
benefit from in New York.
Anthony Pierce, who also spoke at the rally, said he worries
about his three children at home. He works as a custodian
for the College of Saint Rose and says he faces money problems
on a day-to-day basis.
hard living check by check, trying to pay the bills,” said
Pierce. “I can’t give my kids the health care that they need.”
Pierce is all for a plan that would cover his entire family,
but right now he’d take some extra hours to work and maybe
some overtime. He hopes his daughter and two sons don’t end
up in the same situation.
don’t want them to struggle and wonder where their next dollar
is coming from.”
I guess I understand and everything, but it’s
just such a pain to get new plane tickets,
and I had my reservation to that resort in Phuket
made months ago. I just have the worst
luck with vacations.”
Woman talking to a companion at Cosi, a fancy
sandwich joint in Boston, Tuesday (Jan. 4).
you look about my wife’s size. Do you mind if
I ask what size you are?”
doing some last minute holiday shopping in Troy’s
State of Grace, to the woman behind the counter.
He was trying to decide between small, medium,
On their way home from a weekend conference on
“Reviving the Islamic Spirit” in Toronto, 34 Muslim
Americans were detained at the border for up to
six hours while border guards insisted that they
submit to fingerprinting. A representative of
the Department of Homeland Security said conferences
can be meeting places for terrorists, and that
it was their job to verify people’s identities,
even American citizens.
Refusing to give in to the rising chorus of “give
up already,” groups including the Progressive
Democrats of America, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition,
True Majority, Common Cause, and many others are
continuing to raise issues about disenfranchisement
and questionable vote count activities, especially
in Ohio. Today (Thursday, Jan. 6), they will rally
outside Congress while the electoral vote is tallied.
They are hoping that, unlike in January 2001,
at least one senator will join the representatives
who plan to object to the certification of the
vote, allowing discussion of the issue.
Publish (What We Say) or Perish
Ignacio Chapela, a University of California-Berkeley
professor of ecology, published research showing
that genetically modified corn was contaminating
native Mexican corn and vocally criticized the
university’s deal with Swiss biotechnology company
Novartis in which the company gets early review
of all papers supported by its grants. In early
December he was denied tenure, despite unanimous
recommendations from faculty in his department
and an ad hoc committee convened by the Academic
Senate. Chapela and others who have tracked the
undercover smear campaigns conducted by the biotech
industry’s PR apparatus feel he was denied tenure
because his research was threatening to a university
Just Some of the Facts
Is it unusually expensive to do business in New
York or not? The Business Council of New York
State, in its updated report Just the Facts,
says yes. But, points out the Fiscal Policy Institute,
three of the council’s four listed sources are
unabashedly right-wing ideologues and the fourth,
economy.com, actually contradicts the council’s
findings in its own ranking. Some of the number
shuffling, says the institute, has to do with
commuter tax income: If you divide New York’s
total tax income by just the number of residents,
it looks inaccurately high.
Good Home. Or Anyone Else.
years ago, Bill Miller’s father picked up this old CDTA bus
for $400 from a private home in Delmar, planning to retrofit
it as a motor home. He never got around to it, but Bill and
his siblings used the all- aluminum former Western Avenue
#905 as a clubhouse throughout their childhood, warming it
with a wood stove vented through one of the windows. Now,
however, it’s been used for storage for a long time, and Miller
has decided it’s time it should go. A few months ago he put
out a sign out in front of the 393 Krumkill Road property
offering the bus for free. He got a good number of responses
to one want ad he placed, but most people wanted to know if
the bus still ran. “They wanted the world,” said Miller. “Come
on, it’s free.” He figures it would be possible to renovate,
but expects it’s more likely that someone will make some cash
on it for scrap metal.
more than a rules dispute behind a 2-year-old fight over the
chairmanship of the city of Albany’s Republicans
Sullivan was appointed chairman of the Albany City Republican
General Committee in the late ’90s. He worked hard, recruited
a large number of new committeepeople, and tried to raise
the profile of city Republicans in a county where the Republican
presence is mostly in the suburbs. He also ran for state Assembly
in 2002 on the Right-to-Life line, against a Republican candidate,
worked for a Marijuana Reform Party candidate for governor
(there’s dispute over whether he officially endorsed him)
and ran local candidates who were not registered Republicans.
In response to these latter actions, in the last week of January
2003, the chairman of the Albany County Republican Committee,
Peter Kermani, told Sullivan he was being removed from his
position. The county informed the media and others that there
was no longer a city of Albany chair. Trouble is, the rules
of the county committee as adopted in 2000 provided for a
city committee, and said that its officers served at the pleasure
of the members of the committee—i.e. it was an elected position.
Sullivan was careful to get himself elected by the city committeepeople,
most of whom he had recruited.
So in June of this year, the county, over the strenuous objections
of Sullivan, officially changed the rules. The towns still
get to elect their own chairs, but “All of the Officers as
Chairpersons for the General Committees of the Cities of Cohoes,
Watervliet, and Albany shall be chosen by the County Committee
. . . [and] shall hold office at the pleasure of the Executive
Committee.” However, they didn’t file the rules change with
the state until November, more than a month after Sullivan
held this year’s city committee meeting and was reelected
as chair for a two-year term. Though he acknowledges this
will be his last term given the rules changes, Sullivan is
convinced that his claim to the current chairmanship would
hold up in court.
Not so, said John Tabner, longtime counsel to the County Republicans
(he stepped down Jan. 1). Once the rules were filed, they
were back-effective to the day they were approved, said Tabner.
And even if they went into effect only when filed, they still
have abolished the committee that Sullivan claims to chair,
making his election moot, said Tabner.
All this rulemaking bickering is laid over some more fundamental
differences of belief about how the party should run and what
it should stand for. Sullivan is outraged at what he says
is the disenfranchisement of city Republicans, who are being
treated as second-class citizens because they can’t elect
their own chairs as the towns can. “I think it’s a violation
of the 14th Amendment of equal protection under the law,”
he said. “The city of Albany has always been a stepchild to
the county organization.” County chair Kermani declined to
comment for this story.
Sullivan noted that while he’s built a base in the city, the
Republican Party has been losing ground in the towns. “The
Albany City Committee didn’t exist before I came on the scene,”
he said. “I’ve recruited 80 committeepeople. So you really
have to ask why people are so disgruntled [with me]? Do they
want to be losers all their lives?”
Annette DeLavallade, president of the Capital District Black
Republicans and secretary of the Albany County Republican
Committee, knows exactly why she’s disgruntled. Already active
with the black Republicans, she was one of the people Sullivan
had recruited to be a committeeperson a few years ago. She
was quickly disenchanted with how the city committee was run.
She got letters requesting that she sign a proxy so Sullivan
could cast her votes (committeepeople have a weighted vote
based on the number of votes for the Republican gubernatorial
candidate in their district) for her at a meeting of officers.
She signed the first one, but then began to grow distrustful.
The letters never included an agenda, an explanation of what
would be voted upon, or any opportunity to indicate how the
proxies should be voted.
You get more information and choice than that as a shareholder
in a multinational company, noted DeLavallade. For example,
“all of us were surprised to know we were supporting the mayor,”
she said [“Conservatively Optimistic,” Newsfront, Dec. 2].
“That was not discussed and brought to a vote. That was a
Plus, she was frustrated to hear that Sullivan was encouraging
people to vote for nonparty candidates, and said his current
refusal to admit he’s not the chair makes it “very difficult
to try to do things legitimately.”
DeLavallade showed up at the organizational meeting that Sullivan
called last year at 8 AM the morning after the September primaries.
The meeting notice said the meeting would take 15 minutes.
There were 12 people present, and Sullivan held 52 proxies.
DeLavallade was the only nay vote on Sullivan’s slate of officers.
The weighted vote came out to 2,944 to 10, because Sullivan
is, by his own description, “mindful” of recruiting people
who come from strongly Republican districts.
have the trust and confidence of the people I’ve recruited,”
said Sullivan, adding that they are willing to give him license
to vote for them because “they know what I stand for.”
But what he stands for could be part of the problem. Gregory
Fields, one of the new co-vice chairs for the city of Albany
appointed by the county, is still stung by Sullivans
comment several years ago (which Sullivan said was a joke)
that Carl Gottstein, who had served time for a bad-check spree,
might be a good representative for wards 1-5 because people
there could relate to him. Fields and DeLavallade see Sullivan’s
call for neighborhood k-8 schools as a cloaked desire to resegregate
the schools based on residential segregation (something Sullivan
The issue degenerates quickly: “He’s against progress, he’s
against growth, he’s against people from other communities
moving into his neighborhood,” said DeLavallade.
DeLavallade and the city’s other black Republicans have weighted
votes of “maybe 14,” retorted Sullivan, who has also taken
to calling the Iranian-American Kermani “Ayatollah.” “Blacks
vote overwhelmingly for Democrats and that’s not about to
change. . . . Annette and Gregory’s Republican skin is not
Sullivan “is a hard worker. He’s a really hard worker,” said
Carolyn Peterson-Vaccaro, the city’s other official cochair.
“He’s kind of like a lightning rod. He has the ability to
pull people together, and also to turn them off. You don’t
ever feel neutral about Joe. He just isn’t going along with
what the county and the state would like to see.”
But Peterson-Vaccaro, a 16-year resident of the city, is mostly
trying to stay out of the fray. She’s more interested in gathering
a planning team for the city and creating a platform for what
she hopes will be a banner year for the city’s 4,000 Republicans.
“We really want [the platform to] come from a broad base of
representation, not just a few people,” she said. “There’s
a whole big city out there, and a whole lot of people and
whole lot of issues.” Committeepeople involved in this planning
include some who have been working with Sullivan, she said.
“Most people put the pettiness aside and look at the bigger
Saratoga Springs City Council voted 3-2 on Dec.
21 to join the proposed Saratoga County water
plan that will draw from the Hudson River,
rather than use Saratoga Lake [“To the Last Drop,”
Dec. 2, 2004]. The two nay votes, Finance Commissioner
Matthew McCabe and Public Works Commissioner Thomas
McTygue, said the others would pay politically
for their votes. . . . To the disappointment of
environmental activists statewide who have been
pushing for construction alternatives to PVC piping
that are less toxic to produce and dispose of
[“Green Business is Good Business,” April 15,
2004], Gov. George Pataki on Dec. 15 vetoed the
Plastic Pipe Restriction Law, which would
have restricted the use of plastic piping, especially
PVC. Supporters said the bill also would have
protected firefighters, who are exposed to fumes
when PVC pipe burns, and said the governor caved
in to the plastics industry. Opponents of the
bill say it would have been a gift to the plumbers’
unions, who have a lock on the harder-to-install
metal piping, and would have driven up construction
costs. . . . In the decades-long fight to clean
up the PCBs GE dumped in the Hudson River, things
are actually moving toward a resolution. On Dec.
15, the EPA selected two processing and dewatering
sites for the PCB dredging project. Fort
Edward and Bethlehem have been picked from the
seven proposed over a year ago [“Waste Deep in
the Big Sludgy,” Newsfront, Sept. 18, 2003]. Despite
the contentious nature of the issue so far, it
seems that both picks are likely to stick and
allow the project to move forward.