Land, Poor Land
The haunting images of poor black residents of New Orleans
awaiting assistance in the rising floodwaters reawakened America’s
consciousness of poverty. Equally shocking was the callousness
shown by key elected officials. Extended vacations and shoe
shopping sprees were more important than mobilizing assistance
to help those in desperate need.
Of course neither the pervasive existence of poverty nor the
lack of government action came as a surprise to the more than
2.5 million New Yorkers who live below the official poverty
line. Many millions more live on an income that fails to provide
enough for basic necessities.
As Jo Page pointed out [“Crisis and Change,” Reckonings, Sept.
15], there are many questions that we need answers to about
the government’s response to Katrina. But one concern is whether
the newfound interest in the plight of poor Americans recedes
along with the floodwaters as the media spins on to the next
news cycle. (Thankfully Metroland will continue to
be the notable exception.)
While politicians and media pundits love to debate the solution
to poverty, the poor always identify one key answer: more
money in their pockets. Poor people believe in the trickle-up
theory. They haven’t noticed much money flowing their way
under the trickle-down theory. And rising tides don’t help
much if you don’t have a lifeboat.
Give the poor money and they will spend it on food, housing
and energy bills. They reinvest the money immediately into
the community, helping to put people to work. While the money
ends up in the pockets of the rich, at least the rest of us
get some productive use out of it first.
A short agenda on helping to end poverty includes creating
living-wage jobs for poor people; raising the minimum wage;
enacting universal health care and child care. Making food
stamps easier to get and with benefits high enough to feed
a family for the entire month.
We need to make housing affordable, which in New York requires
a wage of $15 to $23 an hour. Instead, funding for public
housing programs has been slashed. The poor end up in decrepit
houses with poor insulation, bad wiring and in unsafe neighborhoods.
There are of course long-term solutions that are needed. We
need to strengthen our education system. We have to make college
education affordable for everyone—including the middle class.
We need economic development to be community-based, helping
small businesses—not corporate welfare for large multi-state
companies that leave as soon as the welfare checks stop. We
need to create a sustainable, local agriculture system that
supports family farmers while providing affordable, nutritious
food—not fast-food joints—to low-income residents.
Katrina exposed a lot of America’s flaws to the rest of the
world. How can the world’s richest country allow so many to
live in poverty?
Associate Director, Hunger Action Network of NYS
article mentioned Brian Scavo was running on the “Law and
Order” party in the general election against Democratic primary
winner Cathy Fahey [Loose Ends, Newsfront, Sept. 29].
Any one concerned about the quality of life in the 7th Ward,
or building a quality community, should be deeply disturbed
hat anyone should want to be represented as the “Law and Order
Party.” I remember the bombastic Spiro Agnew some decades
ago who championed the phrase “law and order” against antiwar
and civil rights demonstrators. What the phrase came to symbolize
was a code word for abusing the rights of citizens and using
the police to squash the aspirations of people who had been
traditionally disadvantaged in our society.
Everyone wants a safe community. There is disagreement over
how to arrive at one. Certainly we need a responsive and vigilant
police and citizenry to protect against crime. But building
a strong community takes more than police response, and this
is not the overriding message for Brian Scavo. The majority
of the literature he has passed door to door has emphasized
police as the solution to our community’s ills. Through this
his campaign has emphasized fear and has little substantive
agenda. The impression I have received from talking to people
in the neighborhood is that most people who had supported
him in the primary didn’t really know him or his positions
on issues. They responded to his pitch that he was a guy from
their part of the ward.
Building a safe community must include making community gatherings
possible, such as neighborhood associations, and neighborhood
watches, and participating in them. It must include farmer’s
markets and neighborhood carnivals. It must include organizing
neighborhood clean-ups and creation of park space. It includes
the creation of home-ownership programs and alerting neighbors
to home-ownership opportunities. These are things that have
been done by our neighbors through the Delaware Avenue Neighborhood
Association, a group Brian Scavo plays no significant part
in, and his opponent, Cathy Fahey does. These are important
strategies to building the quality of life in the community.
They help combat crime by making sure neighbors know each
other, know their responsibilities and help responsible homeowners
and renters find a place in our neighborhood.
Brian Scavo has campaigned stressing himself as the “average
guy” and a longtime neighborhood resident. While he is quite
ordinary in many respects, many people have questioned his
personal conduct during the campaign. Angry confrontations
and sharp verbal encounters have caused some to question if
his conduct would be appropriate to represent the people of
the 7th Ward. He apparently filed required reports for his
primary campaign late and not according to the election schedule.
He has also failed to follow requirements regarding campaign
lawn signs. The “Law and Order” candidate appears to take
election law lightly.
What is needed in a candidate is a person who shows respect
for all the people of the Ward and not someone who sees political
office as an endorsement of strong-arm behavior. People should
want to live in a neighborhood because they see it as a quality
place to live along with safety and not simply because it
is a place of “Law and Order.”
Axel-Lute gets a gold star for her column on vegetarianism,
food production, and the environment [Looking Up, Oct. 6].
I’ve been researching the small-farm situation for years as
part of my ongoing project of writing about working animals.
Axel-Lute’s column hit the nail on the head with its point
about animals sometimes being more efficient and environmentally
friendly food sources than vegetable crops can be, depending
on the land. Furthermore, animals worldwide are sometimes
more economical or feasible for poor people. As a friend of
mine (who lived in Tanzania with Maasai farmers) put it, you
can walk your cattle to water when it doesn’t rain, but you
can’t take your field of soybeans down to the creek for a
It’s crucial for us in this region to keep an eye on this
situation, and to be educated about our choices in how to
preserve the land we’ve got. We ought to throw some weight
behind small, local farms, with the understanding that some
of them will be raising animals for milk or meat. Good for
Metroland for leading the way.
the Fall/Winter 2005 Dining Guide [Oct. 13], dinner hours
for Angelo’s 677 Prime restaurant were listed incorrectly.
The restaurant serves dinner Monday through Saturday from
5 to 10 PM; it is closed on Sunday.
In “Reinventing the Sphere” [Oct. 13], the Children’s Museum
of Science and Technology was mistakenly referred to by its
former name, the Junior Museum. For more information about
the Children’s Museum or for show times for the film Molecularium,
call 235-2120 or visit www.juniormuseum.org.
In “Albany Hates History” [Oct. 13], it was reported that
Albany’s Ten Eyck Plaza was built in the 1980s. It was built
in the 1970s.
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