Once again, I stand alone as the only “No” vote on the City Budget. A city budget is not just a document of dollars and cents. It represents the morality, principles, values and priorities a city places on its people. The $66 billion Bloomberg budget that the City Council passed 49 to 1 represents Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s shameful, disgraceful disdain for Black and Latino families in particular and struggling, working-class families in general.
The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). With these cuts, Bloomberg obviously has no heart for us. It is unconscionable and unacceptable that Bloomberg has $66 billion to spend, over $2 billion still left in a so-called “rainy day fund” (mayor, it’s raining today) and a $10.2 billion city contracting budget for his rich friends to get richer. Remember the mayor’s pet project CityTime? Those greedy business cronies of his are under investigation and indictment for kickbacks and fraudulently using $600 million of city contracting money.
Bloomberg’s bogus budget lays off 1,200 city workers from the departments of Transportation and Parks and Administration for Children’s Services. Most, if not all, of these workers are Black and Latino and low-income earners.
This budget also devalues day care vouchers. They go down from $4,700 per voucher to $2,700 per voucher. Poor, struggling, working-class families are going to have to find $2,000 somewhere to continue working and have their children cared for. This budget totally eliminates the $6 million that the Peter Vallone Scholarships gave to CUNY students. The scholarships were awarded to high school students with “B” averages entering CUNY ready for success. This is happening at a time when the state has just voted to increase the SUNY and CUNY tuition by up to $300 per year for the next five years.
Perhaps the worst cut of all is the cut of 5,000 summer youth employment slots. How could you? We’re in for a long, hot summer. When I first came into the City Council in 2001, we had a $40 billion city budget and 53,000 summer youth employment slots. Last year, the youth employment slots were cut to 36,000. Now we have a $66 billion budget and the summer youth employment slots are cut down to 31,000. Shame on you! They obviously have no value for our youth. Over 140,000 youth applied for these 31,000 slots.
Don’t be fooled by the “Mike and Mike Show,” featuring Mike Mulgrew (UFT president) and Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg used the threat of closing 20 fire stations and laying off 4,600 teachers as a red herring to distract you from the aforementioned cuts in jobs and services they really wanted to make. They were never going to close the fire stations or lay off those teachers. As Malcolm X said, “You’ve been bamboozled.”
The deal that Mike made with Mike will allow the mayor, through attrition, to eliminate over 2,600 teacher positions that will become available by way of teacher retirement and resignations. This will have the same impact as layoffs. Class sizes will increase and principals will have to cut their budgets, leading to layoffs of parent coordinators and school aid workers. Us again! Furthermore, city agencies across the board will be cutting vital services like case management workers for seniors and so many other needed services.
This is not a budget of necessity; it is a budget of choice. They chose to protect the rich and devastate the poor. That’s why I voted “No.” All that needed to be done was to cut the $10.2 billion contracting budget by 10 percent. That would have given us $1.2 billion. Then take another $500 million from the so-called “rainy day” fund and that gives us a total of $1.7 billion. The rainy day budget would have had $1.5 billion left in it for future budget balancing. They should have cut corporate tax breaks and subsidies. That’s more revenue. Finally, if they would have listened to Lillian Roberts, president of DC 37, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. She had great “doable” ideas for raising more revenue. Had they done this, we would have averted service cuts and layoffs.
In closing, I must say that I am very optimistic and hopeful about our future. I believe the masses of New Yorkers will rise up as they did in Egypt and other countries around the world and demand budget justice and a regime change here in New York. Or closer to home, rise up like our youth did, as they successfully demanded that the state restore their student reduced-fare MetroCards to the MTA budget. Hundreds of thousands of the over 8 million New Yorkers must amass at City Hall and stop the city from functioning until we get budget justice. Whenever the people rise up en masse, we have victories.
Power to the People! “Remember, our struggle may be long, but the victory is certain!”