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Rich Land, Poor Land

To The Editor:

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?

Mark A. Dunlea

Associate Director, Hunger Action Network of NYS

Albany

Flaw and Order

To the Editor:

Your 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.”

Paul Stewart

Albany

Thought for Food

To the Editor:

Miriam 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 drink.

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.

Sally Eckhoff

Saratoga Springs

Corrections

In 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.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: metroland@metroland.net. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
or e-mail us at metroland@metroland.net.


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