January 28, 2013
Raglan George, Jr.
The last year of the Bloomberg Administration offers little hope for self-redemption. Next year will usher in a New York City Mayor, and hopefully, it will be a person of integrity, empathy and common sense politics regarding the needs of working families.
The past twenty years of Republican and so-called Independent administrations have produced great headlines and bluster for the tabloids but misery for families needing government-provided services.
Expensive high rise apartments, affluent hotels and even a high-line park come to mind as the distracting distinctions of the Bloomberg years but social achievements are scarce. For child care workers, teachers, teacher aides and now yellow-bus drivers and matrons, their worst nightmare has been in office for twelve years. The current imperial mayor does not want to give any public or public service workers a "free ride" while corporate largesse flows through schemes, like the City-Time scandal.
For youth of color, until a recent court decision halting some Stop and Frisk police practices, walking down the street became a call to be stopped, frisked and maybe arrested, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Youth, who are already fearful of what the threatening streets offer, must also be concerned that the police, who should be serving and protecting, are another obstacle in their path.
The Mayor's Preliminary Budget will be announced soon and public and public service workers can only expect the same and worse. For child care workers, his Early Learn program eliminated thousands of children from day care and Head Start, terminated more than a thousand employees, closed many long-time community-based organizations serving children and replaced them with scores of vendors who apparently have no idea what they are doing.
Even more demeaning are the millions of dollars in back vacation pay rightfully earned by these workers (particularly the workers terminated) who have no idea when the Administration will make them whole. An outrageous Administation of Children's Services' memo issued in July, 2012 to child care employers said that if the employers owed money to the city, the city will not pay the back vacation wages to its employees. The Campaign for Children, a mixed coalition of child care, after school and advocacy groups in its latest report called the transition to Early Learn unstable and warned "that the underfunded contracts and the constant need for the City Council to save programs with one-year funding gives providers no way to plan for the future, and causes children and families to suffer."
According to the NYC Administration for Children's Services, some 70 of Bloomberg's hand-picked vendors had not received required permits from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and now 5,000 eligible children cannot receive child care.
The Bloomberg Administration in its last year will only fulfill every rich Republican fantasy — Beat down the downtrodden or the 99% and exhort for less taxes for the rich and powerful.
We can expect that by slashing city-supported child care to the bones in the preliminary budget, apply the ax again and again until his departure, will make working families think about "the good old days" prior to the 1929 depression.
The Campaign for Children noted that sixty percent of the current child care workforce is being destabilized because the Administration is forcing employees to pay high medical costs and now sixty percent of the employees have opted-out of the health plan. Employers fear that many, if not most, will seek other employment.
The retention rate of day care and Head Start workers was relatively stable prior to Early Learn, but employees, particularly certified group teachers with credentials equivalent of public school teachers will leave as opportunities surface. Could this be another planned impact of Early Learn — to destabilize then gradually allow the system to fester until the system is no longer compatible to the needs of children, families, employees
This year we must look to the City Council to hold the line and hopefully restore the $150 million which funded child care and saved nearly sixty programs. But the line is frazzled and the politics are fuzzy. We are waiting for the mayoral candidates to speak earnestly about restoring New York social services to days of old. We may have to wait for months because it is difficult for candidates to talk about closing corporate loopholes, a commuter tax or any other revenue-generating plans that would hearken spending money to help communities in need.
This election should be interesting. We would like to see rational discussions by all the candidates but will the electioneering become directed by the candidates to the right who only want to continue the "good old days" of Giuliani and Bloomberg.