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Monday, April 4, 2011

Opinion: Money for Neighborhoods, Not for War and Bailouts

Editor's Note: This Op-Ed originally ran in last month's issue of the Tremont Tribune. The author, Heidi Hynes, is executive director of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center in Crotona.


In September, the City of New York demanded that the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center start paying the Department of Education rent for use of our building on Mapes Avenue. It turns out that the city which is home to Wall Street and an Education Department with a budget larger than some towns, needs the children living in the poorest urban Congressional district in the country to forgo services so that we can pay the City $30,000 per year.

Since that time I have spoken to a priest about the cuts to senior programs at his parish. I’ve been contacted to join an emergency committee of after-school program providers to stop the proposed cut of 17,000 child care vouchers for families on public assistance. I was asked to travel to Albany to testify at a public hearing in opposition to proposed cuts to Medicaid. I was provided a list of elected officials to call in response to cuts proposed for the Health Department. A coworker approached me to find out how she could get involved in any effort to save Head Start. The director of a non-profit housing company predicted that the number of apartment buildings that will go into foreclosure is going to skyrocket. And, like every other public school parent, I’m just waiting to find out how a system that is already struggling is going to handle deep budget cuts.

With all this worry and organizing to stop the cuts, it is easy to think that we are in a budget crisis. There is not enough money to provide social services, we all need to tighten our belts, the trouble is grandma’s pension or public school teachers getting paid to sit in the “rubber room.” That is one load of manure.

There is enough money. When the corporations needed to be bailed out, we had the money. Now those corporations have recovered, they are making record profits and giving out massive bonuses. Each year when the President asks for more money to fight an astronomically expensive war, we have the money. Nobody seems to mind debt if it increases the need for corporations to build more weapons and provide the infrastructure of war. It’s no problem to find the money to build and staff corporately-run prisons and detention centers. Hello people, the corporations run the show! They don’t want to pay their fair share, so they don’t. They want us to fight each other to get the little that’s left instead of banding together to take back our government and our common wealth.

There are very concrete steps that we can take to reduce the influence of corporations, increase revenue for the city, state and federal governments and hold corporations accountable for the suffering caused by the economic crisis. We can do these things independently and make a difference, but if all the non-profits, religious organizations and people of goodwill in the Bronx worked together, we would make the change we hoped for in President Obama.

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