By Sam Roberts for The New York Times

August 10, 2009

Westchester County officials have entered into a landmark desegregation agreement that would compel the county to create affordable housing in overwhelmingly white communities and aggressively market it to non-whites in the county and in neighboring New York City.

The agreement, to be formally filed Monday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, would end three years of litigation by the Anti-Discrimination Center over Westchester’s responsibility to enforce fair-housing goals.

“Residential segregation underlies virtually every racial disparity in America, from education to jobs to the delivery of health care,” said Craig Gurian, executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center, which filed the suit under the federal False Claims Act.

The agreement calls for the county to spend more than $50 million to build or acquire 750 homes or apartments, 630 of which must be provided in towns and villages where blacks constitute 3 percent or less of the population and Hispanic residents make up less than 7 percent. The county has seven years to complete the construction or acquisition of the affordable housing units.

Among the towns and villages in which blacks constitute less than 3 percent of the population and would theoretically be eligible for affordable housing under the settlement are Bedford, Bronxville., Eastchester, Hastings-on-Hudson, Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Castle, Pelham Manor and Scarsdale.

It was not immediately clear where the new houses and apartments would be placed, although the settlement says that priority should be given to sites near public transportation. The overarching goal, though, is to locate them in the least racially integrated neighborhoods.

Given that 120,000 acres of land in the county meet the criteria, Mr. Gurian said, the federal monitor “should have no difficulty making sure that Westchester ends its policy of allowing affordable housing to be off-limits in the most highly white neighborhoods in the county.”

Brokered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agreement promises to spark challenges to suburban counties across the country that have resisted pressure to undo decades of residential segregation.

“Westchester, belatedly acknowledging its authority to do so, is obligated to take legal action against resistant municipalities where needed to fulfill the affirmatively furthering fair housing purposes of the settlement,” Mr. Gurian said.

Westchester officials had originally dismissed as “garbage” the lawsuit’s premise that the county had fraudulently claimed that, as a condition of accepting federal funds, it fully complied with mandates to provide affordable housing without furthering racial segregation.

But the county’s claims were largely repudiated in February when Judge Denise L. Cote ruled that between 2000 and 2006 the county had misrepresented its efforts to desegregate overwhelmingly white communities when it applied for federal housing funds.

Judge Cote concluded that Westchester made little or no effort to find out where low-income housing was being placed, or finance homes and apartments in communities that opposed affordable housing.

Andrew Spano, the Westchester County executive, attributed the settlement” to “a historic shift of philosophy” by federal housing officials. Mr. Spano said that the settlement would have “a sweeping effect on communities nationwide” and that he signed the agreement to avoid further litigation and possible penalties.

The county admitted no wrongdoing, blamed the judge’s ruling on a technicality, said it had always given made affordable housing a priority and said that since it had previously invested in affordable housing, “what is different is the locations where the housing must be built.”

The false claims suit by the Anti-Discrimination Center, a nonprofit group, and the settlement apply to towns and villages in Westchester. The federal government deals directly with the cities in the county, among them Yonkers, which nearly went bankrupt before capitulating two years ago in a housing segregation case that dragged on for 27 years.

The agreement is to be formally announced on Monday by federal and county officials.

It is subject to approval within 45 days by the county Board of Legislators, which is also required to approve a $32.9 million bond sale to help finance the housing.

Without that approval, the litigation would resume and the county would be faced with having to prove at trial that it did not knowingly file false claims.

Federal housing officials would appoint a monitor to ensure compliance.

“Affordable” housing is defined by a complex formula, but generally it is meant for working families. In some cases, a family of four could make up to $90,000 and still qualify.

There is no minimum income level, “but it’s not going to be no-income,” Mr. Gurian said. “This agreement is not focused on facilitating housing for the poorest of the poor.”

Mr. Gurian said that while black and Hispanic residents have a disproportionate need for affordable housing, “this is an opportunity-creating agreement, not a guarantee” that the homes would go to members of minority groups.

Most of the homes would be new construction, although some existing houses and apartments could qualify if the county made them permanently affordable.

The case was litigated by Mr. Gurian and the center’s lawyer, John Relman. Their argument that the county had largely ignored local impediments to affordable housing was based, in part, on testimony by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College of the City University of New York.

Dr. Beveridge found that “racial isolation is increasing for blacks, falling slightly for whites” and that “income level has very little impact on the degree of residential racial segregation experienced by African-Americans.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/nyregion/11settle.html?hp

Please call Senator Suzi Oppenheimer today and urge her to adopt a Health Schools bill that puts child nutrition first! You can reach her district office at: 914-934-5250

Oppenheimer’s new bill is a watered down version of the original Spitzer bill and the existing (though weaker) Patterson bill.

Tell Oppenheimer that you want a bill that:

  • Strengthens the junk food ban in schools
  • Targets extra school meal dollars for buying local food
  • Sets higher nutritional standards for school meals
  • Expands the school breakfast mandate
  • Has nutritional standards which include all food served in the schools, especially meals and food served as part of the federal school meals program.

Below is the full text of the bill.

Would anyone be interested in scheduling a meeting with Oppenheimer to encourage her to strengthen the bill? If so please email me at: vmyers@hungeractionnys.org

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 5785 2009-2010 Regular Sessions IN SENATE June 4, 2009 ___________ Introduced by Sens. OPPENHEIMER, MONTGOMERY — read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Educa- tion AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to the development and implementation of statewide school nutrition standards for food and beverages that are sold to students and the review of school wellness policies The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem- bly, do enact as follows: 1 Section 1. Short title. This act shall be known and may be cited as 2 “the school nutrition act of 2009″. 3 § 2. The education law is amended by adding a new section 915-a to 4 read as follows: 5 § 915-a. Food and beverage nutrition standards. 1. a. The commission- 6 er, in consultation with the department of health, the department of 7 agriculture and markets, the office of general services and with input 8 from, including but not limited to, at least one representative each 9 from the school food service directors; school boards; school adminis- 10 trators; certified dieticians/nutritionists or registered dieticians; 11 the pediatric medical community; the public health community; comprehen- 12 sive care centers for eating disorders, established pursuant to article 13 twenty-seven-J of the public health law; and the agricultural community, 14 shall develop by December thirty-first, two thousand ten, statewide 15 school nutrition standards for food and beverages that are sold to 16 students exclusive of those provided through the federal school meal 17 programs. The commissioner shall seek to ensure that such input repres- 18 ents a balanced and comprehensive perspective. Such nutrition standards 19 shall be developed to promote a healthful diet taking into account a 20 preponderance of the nutritional, scientific and medical knowledge which 21 is current at the time recommendations are made. EXPLANATION–Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD11903-06-9 S. 5785 2 1 b. No later than June thirtieth, two thousand eleven, the board of 2 regents shall promulgate regulations based on the nutritional standards 3 recommended by the commissioner. Such regulations shall apply to school 4 meals, exclusive of those provided through federal or school meal 5 programs, entrees, snacks and beverages sold, served or offered on 6 school grounds in each school district, non-public school, board of 7 cooperative education and charter school that participates in a program 8 authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act or the 9 Child Nutrition Act of 1966, collectively referred to in this section as 10 “school districts”, during the school day from any source including, but 11 not limited to, school cafeterias, a la carte lines, school stores, or 12 vending machines. Such regulations shall be applicable in the two thou- 13 sand eleven–two thousand twelve school year. 14 c. Notwithstanding any other paragraph of this subdivision, this 15 section and regulations promulgated hereunder shall not apply to: (i) 16 foods and beverages provided under the federal child and adult care food 17 program, which shall be subject to the requirements imposed under that 18 program; (ii) foods and beverages sold, served or offered at after 19 school activities attended by both adults and students, such as concerts 20 and sporting events; or (iii) foods and beverages sold: (A) by students, 21 their immediate family members or guardians or school employees, (B) 22 through sources other than school cafeterias, a la carte lines and vend- 23 ing machines, (C) after the end of the last scheduled meal period of the 24 school day, and (D) only for the purpose of raising funds to support 25 school activities. 26 d. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, this section and regu- 27 lations promulgated hereunder shall not prohibit nor restrict the acqui- 28 sition and utilization of any food item available through federally 29 funded programs such as the USDA commodities program and Department of 30 Defense food programs. 31 2. On or before July first, two thousand eleven, the commissioner, in 32 collaboration with the department of health and including but not limit- 33 ed to, at least one representative each from the school food service 34 directors; school boards; school administrators; certified 35 dieticians/nutritionists or registered dieticians; comprehensive care 36 centers for eating disorders, established pursuant to article twenty- 37 seven-J of the public health law; and the pediatric medical community 38 shall issue recommendations for methods and the practicality of provid- 39 ing students with age appropriate information regarding the nutritional 40 content of school menu items. 41 3. On or before July first, two thousand eleven, the commissioner, in 42 collaboration with the department of agriculture and markets, and 43 including but not limited to, at least one representative each from the 44 school food service directors; school boards; school administrators; and 45 the agricultural community, shall issue recommendations on increasing 46 opportunities for New York state farms and farmers to collaborate with= /PRE> 47 school districts. 48 4. Recommendations issued pursuant to subdivisions two and three of 49 this section shall be issued in a report to the legislature and the 50 governor on or before July first, two thousand eleven. Copies of such 51 report shall be made available to school districts. 52 5. Beginning with the two thousand eleven–two thousand twelve school 53 year, and each year thereafter, school districts shall receive an addi- 54 tional fifteen cents (above the amount provided for the two thousand 55 nine–two thousand ten school year), per the number of federally reim- 56 bursable breakfasts and lunches served in the prior fiscal year to S. 5785 3 1 students, in accordance with an act of Congress entitled the “National 2 School Lunch Act”, P.L. 79-396, as amended, or the provisions of the 3 “Child Nutrition Act of 1996″, P.L. 89-642, as amended. 4 6. If at the commencement of the two thousand eleven–two thousand 5 twelve school year, a school district has an existing contract with a 6 company to provide vending or other food and beverage services which 7 would be breached by compliance with the regulations established pursu- 8 ant to this section, such standards that affect such contract shall be 9 applicable to the school district on the day following the end of the 10 current term of such contract or on the date on which the contract is 11 terminated, whichever is earlier. Such standards shall apply to all 12 contracts that are issued, renewed, modified, altered or amended after 13 the start of the two thousand eleven–two thousand twelve school year. 14 § 3. The education law is amended by adding a new section 918-a to 15 read as follows: 16 § 918-a. Local school wellness policies. 1. On or before July first, 17 two thousand ten, each school district, non-public school, board of 18 cooperative educational services and charter school that participates in 19 any program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch 20 Act or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, collectively referred to in this 21 section as “school districts”, shall begin a review of their school 22 wellness policies to determine the effectiveness and adequacy of such 23 policy. In the course of such review, the governing body or officer of 24 the school districts shall: 25 a. involve, at a minimum, parents and guardians, students, represen- 26 tatives of the school food authority, school administrators, school 27 nurses or other health staff, certified dieticians/nutritionists or 28 registered dieticians if available, physical education staff, and teach- 29 ers; 30 b. consider any recommendations made by a school district nutrition 31 advisory committee established in section nine hundred eighteen of this 32 article, if such committee has been formed by the school district; 33 c. evaluate the implementation of the district’s wellness policy; 34 d. evaluate progress in achieving goals for nutrition education, and 35 other school based activities that are designed to promote student well- 36 ness; 37 e. consider recommendations for healthy fundraising activities, class- 38 room events and celebrations; 39 f. (i) evaluate the role of health education as part of the curriculum 40 to provide knowledge and teach skills to help students adopt and main- 41 tain lifelong, healthy eating patterns in balance with physical activ- 42 ity; and 43 (ii) evaluate the relationship between the relevant components of the 44 district curriculum and wellness policy, including but not limited to 45 health education and physical education; and 46 g. evaluate opportunities for increased physical activity during the 47 day. 48 2. The review of the district wellness policy shall include at least 49 one public meeting to allow for maximum participation by the public. 50 Such public meeting may take place as part of a regularly scheduled 51 board meeting. 52&nb= sp; 3. a. The initial review of district wellness policies shall be 53 completed by July first, two thousand eleven. Following such initial 54 review, each district shall commence a subsequent review of their well- 55 ness policy, at a minimum, once every five years, in accordance with the 56 provisions of subdivision one of this section. S. 5785 4 1 b. Changes to district wellness policies as a result of these regular 2 reviews shall be adopted by the board and made available to the public 3 in a manner to be determined by the local board. 4 4. Each school district shall make the current wellness policy of the 5 district available to the department upon request. 6 § 4. Subdivision 1 of section 2854 of the education law is amended by 7 adding a new paragraph (f) to read as follows: 8 (f) A charter school shall be subject to the provisions of sections 9 nine hundred fifteen-a and nine hundred eighteen-a of this chapter. 10 § 5. This act shall take effect immediately.

On Wednesday, May 27th, Single-Payer New York is heading to Albany to lobby the state legislature to pass Single-Payer Health Care.   A rally at the Capitol and meetings with state legislators are planned.  All are invited!

If you are interested in attending, please contact Veda Myers at vmyers@hungeractionnys.org.

Join Hunger Action Network of NYS, WESPAC, and Hudson Valley Action on Saturday, May 30th from 2-4pm at the White Plains Renaissance Plaza (Mamaroneck and Main St) for a rally to support Single-Payer Health care.  This is part of a national day of action.

Join us  Saturday, May 30th  from 2pm to 4pm at Renaissance Plaza in White Plains for our National Day of Action Rally!  All are invited!  We encourage you to bring signs and chants!

View the flyer here.

Westchester Economic Security Coalition Meeting Minutes

5/5/2009

Update on Westchester Projects:

Dennis Hanratty updated on the DSS in Mt. Vernon and the meeting they had on the administration of the Welfare grant. There were about 10-15 people at the meeting and discussed the concerns about the operation. There wasn’t as much outreach for this meeting but are looking towards having a follow up meeting- perhaps at a larger/more populated venue – Church?

Nick Mottern had a few questions on outreach and Food Stamp Issues.

The issues discussed at the Mt. Vernon DSS meeting were the chain of command – line workers tend not to keep with the policy maker decisions. They do not give out receipts although they keep the originals. The are meeting with the Dir of DSS about certain issues.

Food Stamps – used to be the majority of complaints in Mt. Vernon which is what led to the support of an inquiry about the issues with DSS. Applications were not/are not accepted after 9 am although they are supposed to accept apps all day.

Follow up meeting will take place in June.

Budget Forum: successful. Approx. 50 people in attendance most were low-income people from WestHelp residence in Greenburgh on the WCC campus. Before the event, there were educational events to help the residence members learn how to speak to their legislators and what the issues were. Low Legislator attendance but Suzi Oppenheimer and George Latimer were in attendance and spoke to the crowd. This event mobilized some to attend the Lobby Day on March 17th.  A bus of about 30 people came from Westchester.

Follow up to this event could include – why didn’t the legislators come? (perhaps because it was flurrying that evening). The issues discussed were housing, jobs, childcare, welfare grant, taxing the wealthy, lack of involvement due to financial constraints/transportation. Follow up event could include a letter writing/activist skills training or forum. (led to a larger discussion about job creation event).

Statewide Lobby Day: Veda handed out an article (the tan sheet) on the success of Lobby Day including an interview of one of the WestHelp attendees.

Update on the budget: We went over the major bullet points of the Budget overview on the back of the Agenda including the Fair Share Tax Reform, Better Bottle Bill and the issue of SSI – cuts were eliminated and the State’s portion of the Supplemental Social Security Income checks were restored. That was determined a huge plus since we thought we would lose the money as it transferred over to the Welfare Grant. The Welfare Grant will see an increase after 18 years without an increase. The increase will be 10% each year for the next 3 years resulting in a small but definite increase for the Welfare Grant.

One of the major issues regarding the statewide budget is the Federal Stimulus money and how that will be distributed among the counties in the state. Veda suggested that we lobby our county legislators or DSS (and whoever else from the county who might be able to apply) for the 15 million dollars in the state budget of federal stimulus dollars that is supposed to be designated to job creation for those on public assistance and welfare.

Some major discussion about the federal stimulus money ensued – how the money is being allocated – what money is there for job creation – that there is no money to help the lowest income bracket and that the money is most likely to help curb the cuts that have already happened. It was suggested that we meet as a group with the County reps who are able to apply for the money. The group also wanted to know what this money is called/who it has been designated to/how to apply so that we can stand firm in our knowledge.

Housing update: There was a speculation that homelessness is growing in White Plains which was quickly disputed by showing that the numbers for families have not gone up but homelessness for singles has started to increase. The Rental assistance program and double shelter allowance has balanced it out a bit. A discussion surrounding those in shelters ensued describing how people who are in shelters are forced to pay the income that they receive directly to the shelter, therefore not giving them a way out of the shelter. If they go for cash income (under the table) they risk being kicked out of the shelter or forced into programming that will not allow them to work.

Dennis Hanratty discussed a meeting that MVUT will be having about the bill that will be raised to the Westchester County Board of Legislators – “Source of Income” Non-Discrimination Ordinance. This will be a public hearing on the bill on Monday, May 11th at 7:00 pm at the County Office Building in White Plains. It was suggested that County support of this bill could potentially show that they are against discrimination of any kind and help them in their current lawsuit with metro-anti-discrimination. It is widely encouraged for any and all to attend the public hearing.

State Legislative Agenda – Veda discussed how hard it is for those on public assistance and the welfare grant to get a 2 year and 4 year college degree. The push right now is to allow people to remain on public assistance while they are getting their first year of their 4 year degree to allow people an opportunity to get a better job in the future.

Health Care – Andrea Stewart-Cousins has agreed to sign a statewide single payer bill! John Hall is on the fence and we will have another meeting with him in the end of May.  He may have changed his position but he may still be open to signing on. There will be a Health Care Town Hall Meeting on May 14th at 730 pm at the Greenburgh Town Hall. This will be a meeting directed at Health Care Reform in general but strong single payer support is encouraged to attend.  Also, May 27th will be the statewide Single Payer lobby day.  Please contact Veda if you would like information on a car pooling.

What can we work on locally? These were topics we touched on throughout the meeting. When we spoke earlier about the Budget Forum follow up we spoke about Job Creation. We are listening to people and hearing what they want and need but it may be time to give low-income people some kind of programming giving them the chance to attend whatever the workshop on skill training and then also give them an opportunity to say what they might like to see in the next event rather than asking them to come to a session where they only tell us what they want to see happen. Discussion on creating an info session for what kinds of access there is to stimulus money. We also spoke about job creation in community gardens and the initiation of a CSA with a subsidized sliding scale payment option based on income level. These ideas already mirror and will continue to base themselves off of already implemented and successful CSA and community gardens in NYC (some initiated and supported by HAN). There will be a meeting on May 18th about Community Gardening at the WESPAC white plains space. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend. Surya brought out a seasoning as a testimonial to a low-income person creating his own business by creating his own seasoning, finding a bottling company and labeling it himself and employs himself. This could be used as an inspiration for a job creation workshop. There is also government funding currently coming out to support community gardening and job creation.

The meeting was small but thoroughly thoughtful and successful! Thank you to all who attended!

We will be holding a Westchester Economic Security Coalition meeting on Tuesday, May 5th at 4pm at Wespac in White Plains (255 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd, 2nd Floor).

I hope you will be able to make it.  This meeting is open to the public and I encourage you to invite anyone who may be interested.

Here is a tentative agenda.  Please let me know any additional items you would like to discuss.

1. Update on Westchester Projects

A. Mount Vernon DSS

B. Report back from February budget forum at West Help

C. Report back from statewide lobby day

2. Update on the budget

A. Follow up on implementation

3. Housing update

A. 15 million in budget for new job creations that will be given directly to counties, but they must apply.  Should we work on pressuring Westchester County to apply for these funds?

4. State legislative agenda

A. Access to education and training

B. The energy retrofit proposal by Working Families Party

5. Update on health care work

6. What can we work on locally?

A. Skills training

B. Low income group focused on job creation

C. Other ideas

7. Other

We will be holding a meeting on Single Payer Health Care on Tuesday, May 5th at 7pm at Wespac in White Plains (255 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.).  Please forward this to anyone who might be interested.  This meeting is open to the public.

Agenda

  1. Introductions
  2. Report back from legislative meetings
    1. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
    2. John Hall
    3. Next steps
    4. Meeting with Jeffery Klien on June 5th?
  3. May 14th Town hall meeting in Greenburgh

A. How can we organize a strong single payer presence?

  1. May 27th Lobby Day
    1. Organizing a bus from Westchester
  2. May 30 National Single Payer Day of Action
    1. Ideas for a public event
  3. Other

Hope you can make it!

Dear Times Union:

America’s pundits used to deride the old Soviet Union for propping up obsolete factories and industries in the name of jobs.

We don’t hear such criticisms about President Obama and the Democrats’ decision to prop up health insurance companies in the debate over universal health care. Yet our system of health insurance provides nothing of value, while costing us hundreds of billions of dollars annually, tying up the health care system in paperwork, and contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans annually.

Your April 20th article (Health Reform Tough Call) focuses on whether or not Congress will agree to the Democrats’ call for a public option, allowing Americans the choice of obtaining insurance through a government-sponsored plan. The other major change, with more bipartisan support, is to mandate that everyone has to obtain or purchase health insurance.

No where does the analysis mention single payer, the universal health care system that most of the industrial world already has. A single payer system merely means that one program pays all bills (e.g., like Medicare), eliminating the need for hundreds of private health insurance companies. Virtually every serious health policy expert, starting with President Obama, admits that single payer would be the best system, in terms of covering everyone, controlling costs, and ensuring both quality of care and freedom of choice in choosing your doctor / health care provider. The politicians just don’t believe they can stand up to the insurance companies, so they want to hide this solution from the public debate.

Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton all tried but failed to enact universal health care. President Obama’s demand that private health insurance continue to play a major role will kill universal health care once again.

In recent decades, many states have proudly announced that they have enacted “universal health care” systems. The media dutifully reports that these reforms are groundbreaking, a model for the rest of the country. In a short period of time, each of these proposals – Vermont, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Oregon, Minnesota, Florida – collapsed because costs escalated much faster than anticipated while the number of uninsured shrunk much slower than expected. They failed to control costs out of a desire to avoid taking on the insurance and drug companies as well as other special interests. And the “subsidized” insurance plans they created offered inferior coverage at prices still too high for the many Americans living from paycheck to paycheck.

Obama and the rest of the Democrats seem committed to repeating these mistakes. Once again they have pulled up chairs at the table for the insurance and drug companies to make sure they are happy with the final solution. Meanwhile, Obama has sought to exclude single payer advocates – who have the most support in Congress and among doctors, nurses and the general public – because we naively want to put the needs of patients and taxpayers ahead of the special interests.

About one in five dollars in the America economy are spent on health care – much more than the rest of the industrial countries, all of which have significantly better performing health care systems. Reforming one-fifth of the economy means that money has to be moved around. No special interest will willingly agree to a smaller share of the pie. There is where political leadership is needed.

We have witnessed a similar fight in NY in recent years as both Governors Paterson and Spitzer pushed to put patients first in Medicaid, by far the largest part of the state budget. The special interests have largely prevailed due to their campaign contributions and media ads.

Failure to confront (i.e., eliminate) the cancer of for-profit health insurance would doom us once again to lose the struggle for universal health care.

We need to define universal health care as meaning that everyone has a right to health care services, period, no discussions about creating “affordable policies.” We should also eliminate the role of profit in determining access to health care services.
President Obama needs to start listening to the American people and have the courage to stand up for real change.

Sincerely,

Mark A. Dunlea, Esq.

Co-Chair, Single Payer New York

Executive Director, Hunger Action Network of NYS

275 State St. Albany NY 12210

Welcome

April 9, 2009

This is the blog for the Westchester Empire State Economic Security Campaign.  We will frequently be posting news and events as well as updates on issues in Westchester County.  Please subscribe to our RSS feed, or check back soon for updates.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.